The trailer for Netflix’s animated anthology ‘Love, Death + Robots’ volume 3 looked so freaking good, it automatically makes fans hope for an installation that will blow their minds away. First off, they should probably start calling it ‘Sex, Death + Robots’, because there’s no romance at all in any of the stories in this edition, and not like anybody is asking for it, but the sheer scale of depressing dystopian drama served makes one want to have something fluffy as a break.
The first short film titled ‘3 Robots: Exit Strategies’ starring familiar characters from the first two season sets a deceptively fun pace for the series. Directed by Patrick Osborne, the 15-minute short has a trio of droids studying the survival strategies of human beings, before they became extinct. This one was enjoyable, witty, breezy and with an end that will leave you with a smile. It’s a biting satire, a subtle entertaining lesson in ‘things not do if humans don’t want to go extinct’, which touches briefly upon a lot of global issues plaguing the world today.
Next up is ‘Bad Traveling’, where a giant monstrous man-eating crab terrorizes a boat, then strikes a deal with a member of the crew – to take it to an island where it can feast on humans. Dark, terrifying, with a ‘holier than thou’ protagonist, this short makes for an interesting watch and is reminiscent of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ due to its setting.
Episode/Short-film 3 ‘The Very Pulse of the Machine’ has some great animated artwork. Directed by Emily Dean and based on a story by Michael Swanwick, the story follows an astronaut’s battle for survival during an expedition gone fatally wrong. She is on the surface of an unexplored moon, running out of oxygen and has to get back to her rover. It’s hard to understand why she insists on dragging the body of her dead co-pilot, but well, that little oversight helps in pushing the plot forward. If not for the gorgeous animation, this short felt a little pointless.
As a horror fan, I was super hyped to watch short-film number 4 titled ‘Night of the Mini Dead’, which turned out to be a mildly hilarious parody of the Zombie genre. It all starts with some wild sex at a cemetery, in a strange turn of events, the pointless copulation leads to the planet’s destruction. Less than seven minutes short, this stop-motion-work captures the madness and mayhem of a zombie apocalypse and the makers of ‘The Walking Dead’ series should take notes on how to make their episodes shorter from this one.
Episode 5 ‘Kill Team Kill’ turned out to be my favorite short in volume three, like the title suggests, the story is packed with action, blood, gore and deaths. What kind of animation fan doesn’t dig that? Okay, fine, no generalizations. Anyway… a group of U.S soldiers are faced with a killing-bear gone rogue, made by the CIA to be practically unbeatable, it’s a gory clash of man vs man-made bear. The animation has a very American comic-book vibe to it, and the story-telling is crisp.
In a completely change of pace and mood, the next short titled ‘Swarm’ is a bit of a mind-bending space-dystopian-fantasy which is just gloomy as hell. “Human beings are assholes” is the overarching theme of the series, and in ‘Swarm’ too – a certain doctor is studying an alien species which has achieved perfect synchronization in their functioning and he hopes to use them to benefit his own species. Will he be successful forms the rest of the plot? It feels like ‘Avatar’ meets ‘Star Wars’, but the end result is a quick mundane chapter of human betrayal.
Episode 7 focuses on a ‘Ratpocalypse!’, titled ‘Mason’s Rats’ it tells the bizarre tale of Mason who owns a giant farm that’s infested with armed rats who are trying to take over his land. The artwork on this one is distinctly different from the others, it has a more Disney/Pixar style, with old man Mason weirdly reminding me of the grandfather from ‘Up’, even though they look nothing alike. This one too had a surprising amount of gore and a generous dose of dark humor. It’s probably the only short that doesn’t end with a tragic overtone, although the climax isn’t a typical happy ending either, but at least it’s fun.
‘In Vaulted Halls Entombed’ was a mixed bag, it starts off on an intriguing note, then comes the familiar twist of alien creatures and you are just not surprised anymore. An armed squad is on a hostage rescue mission that requires them to enter a cave, which is filled with flesh-eating creatures that are guarding a bigger threat. The action in this one wasn’t engaging, nor were the characters and an abrupt climax meant to maybe shock the viewers will only elicit an ‘eh’ from seasoned action/animation enthusiasts.
The last short called ‘Jibaro’ was extremely disappointing, despite some fantastic visual elements. From the trailer, it promised to be a story that would combine history, folklore and mystical ingredients, instead we get a fleeting meaningless dance face-off, where the steps might give you a headache. The camera movements were jarring, making the viewing experience annoying. By this short, the ‘nature versus mankind/greed’ gets too repetitive and mind-numbingly boring. A slight diversion into other themes or at least a little more storytelling than just a massive abstract art overdose would’ve been nice.
Overall, volume three of ‘Love, Death + Robots’ felt like a rehash of second season in parts. It’s a 6.5/10 from me. It would probably be best not to binge-watch all the short films, due to the dark themes, so it will feel like an overkill if you stream all nine of them together.