The groundbreaking anthology series of animated shorts, produced by David Fincher and Tim Miller, is a collection of true gems. Here’s the ranking of all shorts in “Love, Death & Robots”.
Netflix knows how to organise your weekend.
My weekend time was reduced to devouring one short after another, all of which constitute the first season of “Love, Death & Robots”. In these 18 short features, Tim Miller and David Fincher (producers of the show) gathered a fantastic crew to deliver something truly outstanding, a concept that has a wildly bright future ahead.
But without further ado, here’s the ranking of all shorts from the first season. If you don’t feel like spending just too much time on the entire season, check which stories are most probable to get you hooked.
#18 Ice Age
“Ice Age” is about a couple that moves to a new house, only to discover that their refrigerators is, in fact, a minute ice-age world.
The only short in “Love, Death & Robots” that includes real actors, is also its weakest spot. The idea of tiny world that illustrates a rapid growth of civilisation simply feels like it’s developed during the lunch in-between working on other parts of the show. Or, a result of just too much Sims gameplay.
Nothing more is to tell here really. There is much more goodies waiting further down.
#17 Alternate Histories
An app that alters history? That’s the topic of “Alternate Histories”, where Adolf Hitler’s various deaths lead to incredible changes in the world history.
Let’s state the obvious – if you question just anyone “what would be the one thing you change in the history of the world if you could?”, the majority would say “kill Adolf Hitler”. Add to it the so-called butterfly effect and here’s a neat idea for a short.
However, this is exactly the reason why, given the brilliance of almost every single piece in this Netflix anthology, “Alternate Histories” lands somewhere at the bottom. It’s too simple and silly to leave a long-lasting impression.
#16 Helping Hand
An astronaut working alone in a station that drifts in space, needs to repair part of her ship. An unexpected accident forces the protagonist to sacrifice her arm in order to survive.
“Helping Hand” was probably one of the most derivative ideas that Miller and Fincher had on the table. The story leads to an end that winks at the title of the story, and plays out more as a sarcastic space-set gig about working alone, rather than anything deeper. Again, like the two previously mentioned shorts, “Helping Hand” offers little insights, contrary to the offerings at the bottom of this ranking.
#15 The Dump
When an eviction “knocks” on the door of an old timer’s dumpster hut, the government’s representative is forced to listen to the story of a strange creature living in the trash.
While I appreciate the imaginative power of “The Dump”, particularly meaning the meticulous design of garbage piling everywhere, the story itself falls flat.
The main character – a bag of old bones and a probable trail of stink that follows him – isn’t particularly likeable, and this causes “The Dump” to lack anything to root for.
Moreover, the meaning of the story – the subjectivity of what we call home – speaks faintly too. A guy living in a trash site is rather depressing and repulsive and leaves a bitter taste, contrary to the dark comedy vibe that “The Dump” strives for.
As a consequence this short adds little to the canvas of “Love, Death & Robots”.
#14 Sucker of souls
Did you ever imagine Indiana Jones in a gore version? Well, Tim Miller and David Fincher did.
“Sucker of souls” is about an archeologist and a few mercenaries, who look for Dracula – an ancient evil spirit. When they find the legendary monster, the being begins its hunt.
“Sucker of souls” left me quite baffled. As it follows “Suits” – a short with a similar animation aesthetic (you’ll find it later on here) – there is no novelty or surprise on that level. The characters, the gritty mercenaries and a defenceless scientist, are quite likeable thought and their simple chemistry provides fun.
The slaughter is on-point too (a thing that’s quite universal for all shorts in the anthology), but after a few violent predecessors, “Sucker of souls” offers little to bedazzle.
“Suits” is more of a no-brainer to me – a story that encapsulates the idea of “A Quiet Place” in less than 20 minutes (proving that was, indeed, a material for a short feature).
A few farmers, living in an idyllic land of juicy-green farms, are attacked by a swarm of alien creatures that devour everything on their way.
If you liked “Pacific Rim”, “Suits” is the part of “Love, Death & Robots” you’ll definitely fall in love with. The animation brings a stop-motion kind to mind, and “Suits” benefits from the less smooth & vintage style, giving it a chance to showcase the action-packed invasion in every detail (and not a hastened slideshow with blurred colors).
#12 Blind Spot
A group of cyborg crooks tries to steal a special shipment from a well-fortified train.
“Blind Spot” belongs to the part of simpler short features in the entire anthology.
Miller and Fincher aren’t playful with deeper meaning here – instead, it’s just pure fun, a pleasure deriving from the present SNAFU state. A dynamic story with corny jokes, reminding of an old action movie and a bunch of hot-headed cyborgs to bring mayhem, are enough reason to give “Blind Spot” a shot.
#11 “When The Yogurt Took Over”
Much in the vibe of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs”, the one of the shorter offerings in the anthology series is also a brisk and joyful absurdity.
Long story short – what if our scientists mutated bacteria to give yogurt voice and intelligence?
It’s a ridiculous concept, but the animation, bringing to mind Pixar’s “Up”, elevates this funny piece into a joyful in-betweener. Among the stories of rape, deaths and monsters, a yogurt that writes with cereal and finds a neat way to end poverty brings nothing but a light-hearted smile.
#10 Fish Night
Two unsuccessful salesmen find themselves stranded in the bezkresne barrens, and need to stay there for the night. When one of them mentions that the surroundings used to be the bottom of an ocean, the ghosts of the sea creatures suddenly emerge.
The sheer brilliance of the idea explored in “Fish Night” had me hooked. A playful idea of a mirage built of a great array of sea creatures in a fluorescent form made me think “I’d love to be there”.
It’s a very concise story, where I believe a bit more story could have been great. Nonetheless, it’s more of a win than a failure.
#9 Three robots
The titular robots embark on a journey into a post-apocalyptic ruin, where they learn about the extinction of the human race.
”Three robots”, the second short in queue, switches the gears from the opening “Sonnie’s Edge” – a violent, blood-stained beginning.
The titular machines aren’t given much time to be developed, but they’re an immediate “like magnet”. Three varying personalities, each one eloquent and distinct, make up for enough fuel to make this short movie stand out.
“Three Robots” is a warning sign that conveys an essential message concerning our ways of self-destruction. The ruins, humanity’s leftovers are a haunting view to see, even when served with a comedic vibe of the three robots and their discussions. Within a few minutes, Miller and Fincher say more than any Global Environment Summit in a couple of days.
Additionally, I loved the reference to Cards Against Humanity!
#8 Lucky 13
In this world, being a rookie pilot means getting the most rusty ship. The protagonist of “Lucky 13”, on top of flying an old rusty junk, gets the only ship that carries ghosts of war casualties – an omen that nobody wants to operate on.
“Lucky 13” is a feminine version of Han Solo and his affection for Millenium Falcon. The pilot needs to believe in her ship, face her own fears and prove her worth to the squadron too. The gorgeously looking animation is therefore weaven with a meaningful story, one that nicely fits into the pattern of “Love, Death & Robots”. Bad luck can be turned into a four-leaf clovers, but only if there’s enough heart and faith that follow.
#7 The Witness
“The Witness” is a concept similar to “Source Code” (the movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal) – a young Asian girl witnesses a murder and runs away from the killer chasing her.
Setting the overly simple story aside, “The Witness” is a true marvel of animation. The cyberpunk vibe is strong here, with an incredible attention to detail that causes the vicinity look like a modernized version of favelas. I was overblown by the meticulous design here. “The Witness” gets a bit disturbing at some point (which I personally liked a lot), with a BDSM thingy going on and lots of nudity, but that is an obvious Tim Miller serenade right here.
The pacing is also great and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will the killer finally find her or not? See for yourself.
#6 Sonnie’s Edge
Sonnie and her team participate in the illegal beast fights. Her puppet is an unbeatable monster, but there is much more at stake than just her winning again.
The opening short of “Love, Death & Robots” is a gore-filled, blood-draining story, where an abundance of f-bombs meets a sharp, delicious animation. I believe that Miller and Fincher deliberately chose this one to start the season, because it sets the mood perfectly – it’s dark, its stylish and non-conformist.
“Sonnie’s Edge” enthralls with its visionary image, throwing the viewer into a maddening, underground world we could imagine in a hardcore version of “Blade Runner”.
#5 Beyond the Aquila Rift
A crew of a ship falls asleep as they’re about to jump into a long-lasting, intergalactic trip. Things go south, but soon they find a drifting repair station.
“Beyond the Aquila Rift” is one of the most ambitious stories told in the anthology of Miller and Fincher. The animation style is a game cinematic, that feels incredibly real, thanks to the overwhelming attention to detail. The characters, even in close-ups, look stunning – from visible crow’s feet to interior designs, there is an overwhelming visual rigour here. And it’s those little details that make your jaw drop.
The story’s skewed toward an erotic sci-fi (thought of “Ederlezi Rising” here), with the ship’s captain meeting his ex-lover on the station. The nudity is, to say the least, bold. Furthermore, “Beyond the Aquila Rift” offers a hell of an ending that combines the striking visual inspiration from Bagiński’s “Cathedral” with a grim, horroresque concept.
#4 Good Hunting
Many great things happen in the filmmaking industry, when stories mix folk and culture roots with something nuanced. In “Good Hunting”, a Chinese boy, a son of a witch hunter, becomes close to a spirit called huli jing, a fox-looking entity that turns into a woman.
The story of “Good Hunting” brings the Asian classic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to mind, thanks to the spiritual mood of the story, along with the remarkable “running on rooftops” parts. The sequences of the titular hunt, taking place in the beginning of the short, are flawless too.
In terms of its message, “Good Hunting” mixes few ideas in the small pot – an alternative version of the future, with mechanical, steampunk creations, as well as a strong feminist motif, present thanks to the spirit that the protagonist befriends.
The result is a short that by adding the mechanic whirring to the Chinese culture and a subliminal message of hunters becoming the hunted in the woman-exploitative world, “Good Hunting” was elevated to a shining diamond of “Love, Death & Robots”.
#3 The Secret War
The Red Army’s squadron marches through Siberia to get rid off ghouls that terrorize the locals.
Much in the vibe of another gaming experience, “The Secret War” is an original twist on the World War history. The audiovisual execution is, again, flawless here and makes one of the pinnacles of a detailed and imaginative approach in “Love, Death & Robots”.
I particularly liked how “The Secret War” linked its horror themes with the well-known pride of the Russian army, capturing the soldiers’ readiness to die for the higher cause. There is a “comrade spirit” in the air, a motif that’s rarely given anything else than a strongly pejorative meaning.
Despite the slight flaws – like the soldiers speaking with an unnecessary Russian accent – “The Secret War” outdistanced most of other shorts in the season of ‘Love, Death & Robots”.
#2 Shape Shifters
US Marines are partially comprised of werewolf hunters, incredibly strong creatures that cause rozlam among the troops. Two soldiers – Sobieski and Decker – are discriminated by their fellow brothers in arms, but soon their unique abilities become essential for the whole team.
“Shape Shifters” joins the league of pieces driven by game cinematics. The degree of visual precision is bedazzling. The camera, swiftly following the werewolves as they fight or scout is riveting, if a bit closer to a gaming experience (rather than a cinematic one).
As a story, “Shape Shifters” brings a deeper meaning concerning racism among the US soldiers. The werewolves are clearly treated with hostility, even despite their obvious value as fellow troopers. This is a short tale of fear-induced prejudices, very much understandable and up-to-date. And given the spectacular visuals (the Afghan desserts make for an impressive setting), “Shape Shifters” was one of the most stellar parts of “Love, Death & Robots”.
#1 Zima Blue
A world-famed artist called Zima Blue (known specifically for the use of a particular shade of blue) invites a journalist to tell his unusual story – a unique quest to understand the world throughout art.
“Zima Blue” is a marvelous example of a short animation – one that’s moving, beautifully executed and leaving you with a hungry-for-more sensation.
At its core, “Zima Blue” does a little pun-game toward modern art. Zima Blue paints makes his art more and more spectacular, reaching ridiculous sizes. However, in each and every piece, there is place for a geometric, puzzling figure – obviously in this peculiar, mellow tone of blue.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, but the way “Zima Blue” loops its own story is one of the most beautiful metaphors of art reaching its absolute form. I was moved and hope that one day, maybe one day, “Zima Blue” would get its chance to become a bigger piece.
What were your favorite parts of “Love, Death & Robots”? Which episode tops your list? Share in the comments!