Reviews of Love, Death & Robots (2019) and related work

Love, Death & Robots (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

A compilation of animated shorts.

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“Alternate Histories” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

The plot could have been a late entry to the Merrie Melodies (1931). It’s gleefully Hitler-centric and in that way a metafictive comment on alternate history, with a couple of good ideas hidden away in its cartoon logic.

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“Beyond the Aquila Rift” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

The character animation still looks as loose as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005), including the sex scene, but it’s Alastair Reynolds.

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“Blind Spot” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Boring writing and animation in this US pastiche of Kawajiri Yoshiaki.

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“Fish Night” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Palaeontoloical ghosts.

An intelligent fusion of a conservative anti-transgression ghost story with a joyful and dysteleological fantasy of nature.

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“Good Hunting” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

A colonial steampunk “Blood: The Last Vampire” (2000), set up like a superhero origin story.

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“Helping Hand” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

The ambition was a simple hard-SF scenario, touching on the “mistreated working class in outer space” motif. That’s a good ambition, but the writers neither bothered with realistic precautionary measures (i.e. rope, anchoring, remote control), nor understood what would happen to a naked limb in a vacuum. Such ignorance is common and often deliberate in straight-up horror, but not in hard SF.

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“Ice Age” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

A couple find a miniature wooly mammoth in an ice cube in their new home’s old freezer.

It reminds me of the 1995 adaptation of Sandkings (1979), but it doesn’t have any depth; it’s very much a fantasy without extrapolation.

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“Lucky 13” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Some neat designs and animation, but dehumanizing video-game violence takes the place of any driving idea, as in “The Secret War” (2019).

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“Shape-Shifters” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Relatively well conceived for a modern fantasy action piece. It alludes to Dog Soldiers (2002) and has the inherent, glaring implausibility of the werewolf myth, but the script skillfully weaves werewolves living openly (a homosexuality metaphor) into the culture of competence, machismo and terror in the films of the War on Terror, such as The Hurt Locker (2008). This works because the US army has a long-standing infatuation with unintellectual warrior cultures, to such an extent that it probably would hire werewolves to spot snipers if it could. The Afghan werewolves don’t fit into this thematic structure—the Taliban would surely persecute them—and the animation is boring.

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“Sonnie’s Edge” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Altered Carbon (2002) meets Pacific Rim (2013).

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“Sucker of Souls” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Scholars and mercenaries find a version of Dracula (1897).

Some neat character designs and animation, but everything else is mediocre.

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“Suits” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

The beautiful visual design work makes the unusual influences blend: Scrappy US mecha, Starship Troopers aliens, video-game violence and a ludicrous premise, where people still raise cows for slaughter on some far-future world where cows are grossly maladapted.

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“The Dump” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

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“The Secret War” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

The creatures are almost Lovecraft’s ghouls from “The Rats in the Walls” (1924), but turn out to be mere demons. The Russians are almost Delta Green’s version of SMERSH, but turn out to be completely generic tough guys. The visual execution is that of a US shoot-’em-up video game. It is especially wasteful to have the Siberian sinkhole lead nowhere interesting.

References here: “Lucky 13” (2019).

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“The Witness” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

An exotic dancer sees a murder across the street of the megacity. The killer recognizes her.

The script is dumb but the implementation isn’t bad.

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“Three Robots” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Three robots derived from household items tour the post-apocalypse and talk shit about humans.

Based on a John Scalzi short. I wonder whether the original also refers to Matthew Inman & co.’s inane Exploding Kittens.

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“When the Yogurt Took Over” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

Scalzi gloated to a friend that even this, perhaps his worst story, had been optioned for an adaptation. The adaptation is in the style of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009), a case of imitation without ambition.

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“Zima Blue” (2019) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

It’s based on one of Alastair Reynolds’s short stories, and it has that classic SF short-story vibe, but the concept is largely nonsensical: A pool-cleaning robot becomes a sort of R. Daneel Olivaw figure, then a mimetic 2D artist, then a non-mimetic landscape artist like a future Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and then finally it reverts back to its pool-cleaning original version. As a game with telos, it doesn’t make sense, because it isn’t clear that the robot was actually programmed for Zima Blue; it seems to have been mere imprinting for no apparent reason. There is more sense in Rick’s remark to his latest creation that “You pass butter” in Rick and Morty (2013), which also has better character design and animation.

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