Can’t say that David Fincher Y Tim Miller did not go with the truth ahead when they proposed the idea of Love, Death + Robots to Netflix. What Miller wanted, and Fincher supported him, was to adapt Heavy Metal for the new generations, keeping their interest in ultraviolence, eroticism and fantasy. In short, the pulp. The magazine opened in the mid-70s had already given rise in 1981 to a cult film that had not lowered the dose of blood and sex at all, taking refuge in a boom of animation for adults that then had as its main banner Ralph Bakshi. Miller wanted to pick up the baton, but the years went by and he didn’t get funding.

Heavy Metal was the origin of Love, Death + Robots. That is to say, it was not a commendable intention of Miller and Fincher to honor hard science fiction or horror anthologies. All they wanted was, well, have a laugh. Cool animations. Show blood and guts. If new sensibilities backed him up, put a lot of ladies naked. In short, honor the late-adolescent spirit of Heavy Metal. It was up to Netflix to redirect the idea to a new Black Mirror that happened to the own Black Mirror when this anthology had entered into frank decline. And thing of the spectators, in short, face Love, Death + Robots as something more than that spree.

It was difficult for us to get out of the deception in the first volume, but the new short films of Love, Death+Robots They have confirmed it in the most spectacular of ways.

Off masks

In 2017 the fourth season of Black Mirror, with criticisms that already warned of the decline into which the series of Charlie Brooker. Among all these stories, it was particularly interesting Metal head. Not because it started with a great idea or was excellently solved, but because of the minimalism that Brooker had chosen when setting up the story. Metal head, directed by David Slade, was limited to narrating the persecution of a group of human beings by some killer robots. That was all the high concept. Killer robots chasing humans.

The funny thing about the story was its relationship with everything seen in Black Mirror up to now. Due to its synthetic condition. Hadn’t it always been as simple as that: humans versus dangerous artificial intelligences? Wasn’t it funny that Brooker had ended up choosing to reduce the identity of Black Mirror to its smallest essence? Metal head was not particularly well received by viewers, nor has it been within Love, Death + Robots 2 the short film titled Shelter. Shelter has a minimal plot: an astronaut embodied by Michael B. Jordan by means of motion capture passing them canutas because of a robot. The short narrates their confrontation. And that’s it.

Michael B. Jordan in ‘Shelter’

It is curious that Love, Death + Robots it took half of what it took Black Mirror in going through this self-conscious synthesis, which in both cases illustrates how basic its scaffolding has always been. And, also in both cases, a familiar exhaustion. TO Love, Death + Robots he has run out of ideas for the second attack, and that is why he has had to take the most literal possible hand of death and the robots of the title.

Thus, practically none of the eight new short films stands out for the initial idea. And nothing happens. The stomach pretensions of the first volume have been for the most part blurred to return to the pitch Miller’s initial, and allow filmmakers and animators to enjoy fantastic worlds and powerful visuals with no more pretense than to have fun and the public to have fun with them. The selection of stories to adapt (there is none from the original script) is due to the desire for play, and there is no better proof of how well it can work than the piece entitled All over the house.

Still from 'Throughout the House'
Still from ‘Throughout the House’

This short can be summed up as a joke, and recklessly disdains positioning itself as a reflection on the human race, our place in the world and the kind of questions that serious science fiction usually asks to which this anthology is supposed to belong. A mold that sits better Evolutionary response, where we do find a rather suggestive approach: in an indeterminate future, humans have found the secret of immortality and this has become a fundamental element of social dynamics, which leads to both newborns and those who want to reproduce must be unceremoniously killed.

The original idea is from Paolo Bacigalupi, and is a perfect starting point to discuss human selfishness and the cult of the self. What is the problem? What Evolutionary response It doesn’t live up to the concept. Neither at a rhetorical level (the characters continually verbalize the conclusions the viewer should reach) nor at the execution level, with a development of the idea that quickly deflates. And it has merit, barely lasting 15 minutes.

Evolutionary response, directed by Jennifer Yuh, is a perfect example of the problems that this Volume 2 from Love, Death + Robots, because apart from the fact that the vocation is great scifi (as it has always come to the series), it turns out that in this case it is not even capable of entering us through the eyes.

Still from 'Evolutionary Response'
Still from ‘Evolutionary Response’

The limits of realism

The world cyberpunk that presents us Evolutionary response is as terribly generic as it could only be if you had directly resorted to Blade Runner as the main source of inspiration. And it is just what it does. The atmosphere noir, with those raincoats and those distressed researchers, she is well known to us, in such a way that she remains in a derivative without much imagination; one that as if that were not enough ends up being finished off with the element that has done the most damage to this new anthology: hyper-realistic animation in three dimensions.

Evolutionary response It is not the short film most affected by an animated technique that, from trying so hard to adjust to our reality, ends up being inexpressive, since it has before it Shelter (where the face of Michael B. Jordan refers us to a disturbing valley that we did not travel from Final Fantasy: The Strength Within or the attempts of Robert Zemeckis within this field) the Snow in the desert, an eminently failed piece for channeling an overloaded story through a dingy formal apparatus, where only outbursts of gore manage to make an impression.

Still from 'Snow in the desert'
Still from ‘Snow in the desert’

Gone are the times when the highest aspiration of 3D was to emulate reality. Not only because of the advances of Pixar (which has been forced to focus on lighting work or other types of animation to have something more complex to render), but also because of video games, to which several shorts of Love, Death + Robots they long to resemble each other without offering a single visual idea to justify this transfer. The hyper-realism that has placed 3D animation at an ungrateful crossroads even detracts from what, despite everything, is still the best short film in the world. Volume 2, The drowned giant.

Directed by Tim Miller himself and based on a short story by J.G. Ballard, the evocative charge of the story that tells The drowned giant is monumental, and at the script level it is a very resounding work, no matter how excessive its attachment to the literary medium may be offered (with a voice in off constant). However, the type of animation chosen is the fearsome hyper-realistic 3D, spoiling the poetry of several of its sections based on mechanical movements and landscape recreations as detailed as they are inane. If there was a short that deserved a risky and spontaneous visual bet, this was it.

Still from 'The Drowned Giant'
Still from ‘The Drowned Giant’

Of course, 3D does not imply that the finish of the work will be automatically insufficient: only a poor understanding of its possibilities does. The aforementioned All over the house employ a stop motion faked that looks great on your particular Santa Claus, while the design of Automated customer service (as unnerving as its development may be) it undoubtedly has a distinct personality. Among the successes, we must also talk about what is proposed in In the tall grass, whose winks at H.P. Lovecraft they bathe in a kind of oil recreation reminiscent of what was developed in the video game Disco Elysium.

Still from 'In the tall grass'
Still from ‘In the tall grass’

None of these short films stands out within the narrative, but the potential of animation to amaze us can breathe, as it does in Ice. This short stands out in Love, Death + Robots for subscribing to an authorial vision already strongly defined; specifically that of its director Robert Valley. After working on Aeon Flux Y Tron: The Resistance, this artist preserved his recognizable designs in the most widely praised short of the first batch of Love, Death + Robots, by title Winter Blue, and in Ice delivers a fairly minor work but fully retains its stamp.

Still from 'Ice'
Still from ‘Ice’

Selected passages from Ice, in the tall grass O All over the house show that Love, Death + Robots it can still be an exhilarating work. Perhaps, rather than adapting complex stories like The drowned giant with the idea that the text prevails over the formal, this is the way forward for the anthology in the future.

Because human thought has limits, but animation does not. Animation, if it is not vainly constrained to earthly imaginaries, is characterized precisely by not having them. And hopefully Love, Death + Robots get it fully in your next volume.

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