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Three-Robots-Still
Publicity still from "Three Robots", a chapter of Love, Death, + Robots. From imdb.com.

A Mind Matters Review: Love, Death, & Robots

Despite the trash and ruined expectations, several shorts were enjoyable and downright fun to watch

I would like to begin by saying that Netflix’s Love, Death, & Robots is not exactly a series that I would watch around the office; in fact, if I were not a critic, I would hesitate to watch it at all. The explicit sex and violence originally caught me by surprise, but the more I considered it, the less it shocked me. LD&R is an animated anthology of short stories produced by a variety of directors, including David Fincher and Deadpool’s Tim Miller. I’m not sure why I was expecting something deeply enjoyable and thoughtfully reflective from this recent release; high hopes, I suppose. If you love sci-fi like me, however, you might still want to give it a watch in hopes that not all of it is bad. Let’s separate the trash from the treasure.

Trash: The overwhelming majority of the 18 short animated films contained explicit and gratuitous nudity. This, together with the ramped-up, tacked-on violence, left me scratching my head at the series title: Love, Death, & Robots is rather ambiguous. Perhaps a more descriptive title would be Blood, Butts, and Some Sci-Fi Thrown In. That disappointed me because I was eager to order up a pizza, settle into my arm chair, and binge watch all 18 shorts. Instead, I skimmed every one and skipped several. The question that has always haunted me reappeared, “Why???” I don’t work in Hollywood or at Netflix so I don’t know where or how these conversations happen. But who is the person who decides to saturate an otherwise perfectly decent story with unnecessary sex and violence? In no way did it add to the stories or become an integral part of the narrative.

Treasure: Despite the trash and ruined expectations, several shorts were enjoyable and downright fun to watch. Some of these touched on issues that I’ve explored before (human exceptionalism, artificial intelligence, etc.) Below are the handful of tales from Love, Death, & Robots that I would suggest watching. Skip the others.

Three Robots

In Episode 2, John Scalzi gives us a comic look at the curiosity of three robots confronting the death of humanity. The trio walk among the rubble of a long-gone society. Near the middle, they recount in some detail what went wrong. Before the answer was even uttered, I thought, “Of course it’s climate change.” Sure enough, I was right. It’s not only funny but somewhat sad how predictable these narratives are becoming nowadays. In one scene, the robots rant about what human beings were. One asks, “Who even designed them?” to which the short, orange, and spastic robot responds, “It’s unclear, we checked their code… no creator signature.” What a cliché.

  • Cleanliness: 2.5/5 stars
  • Language: Heavily Explicit
  • Nudity: None
  • AI Religion: 4/5 stars
  • Would I Recommend? 3/5 stars

Suits

Directed by Frank Balson, this wonderfully animated short, Episode 4, follows the struggle of a group of farmers as they look to protect their farms and families from a horde of alien invaders. If you geek out over mech suits and giant killer robots, you’ll love this one.

  • Cleanliness: 3.5/5 stars
  • Language: Mildly Explicit
  • Nudity: None
  • AI Religion: 0/5 stars
  • Would I Recommend? 4/5 stars

Helping Hand

This space short, Episode 11, directed by Jon Yeo, reminds me of a certain scene from Snowpiercer (when a man’s arm is shattered after being frozen). It’s beautiful for sure. The rendering, texturing, and lighting was very impressive.

  • Cleanliness: 3/5 stars
  • Language: Explicit
  • Nudity: None
  • AI Religion: 0/5 stars
  • Would I Recommend? 3.5/5 stars

Ice Age

This curious short (Episode 16), directed by Tim Miller, tells the story of a civilization growing inside an old freezer. It is the only one in the series to use real actors. In the span of a day, a couple watches as a small human civilization flourishes in the ice cabinet of their freezer. As the civilization grows, it eventually surpasses the modern world and creates futuristic technologies. By the end, the small freezer civilization reaches an ambiguous state of enlightenment that ends in its departure.

  • Cleanliness: 4/5
  • Language: Mild
  • Nudity: None
  • AI Religion: 0/5 stars
  • Would I Recommend? 4/5 stars

Here is a complete list of the episodes to date.

Also by Adam Nieri: A Mind Matters Review: AI Week at DUST, the sci-fi short films channel Adam Nieri: Films you have time to see and think about

and

Alita: Battle Angel (2019): A Mind Matters Review Adam Nieri: If you love anime and felt betrayed by the flop of Ghost, I would highly recommend Alita


Adam Nieri

Adam Nieri, Program Assistant, has interests in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, and he holds an MA in Science and Religion from Biola University. He has background in social media and marketing, photography/graphic design, IT, and teaching.

A Mind Matters Review: Love, Death, & Robots