After a long wait, the third volume of Love, Death & Robots has finally arrived. The anthology series by Tim Miller, Joshua Donen, and David Fincher. As its title implies, it’s full of love, death, and robots but it’s grown to be more than that. Inspired by the 1981 classic Heavy Metal, it explores animation and concepts in an anthology series that have no real limitations. It’s as bloody, sex-driven, thought-provoking, or anything the creative staff wants it to be. With the involvement of various iconic animation houses like Blow Studio, Blur Studio, Axis Animation, Titmouse, Inc., and more, it offers a wide variety of animation styles. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this new batch of nine episodes and what they bring to the table.
Three Robots: Exit Strategies
While a fun re-entry into the latest Volume of Love, Death & Robots, it felt like more of the same. Even the punchline by the end was a bit of a rehash and didn’t offer much new to make you feel like there was more to the first Three Robots storyline. It still was a fun return to the goofy three we saw in the first Volume, it just lacked that punch to make it stand out from an already great first entry. Seeing mankind’s downfall and some jabs at tech millionaires are always welcome, but it sadly just didn’t do enough to make it stand out from its predecessor; no matter how loveable the three robots are.
It’s surprising David Fincher didn’t tackle an episode of Love, Death & Robots earlier considering he’s one of the producers, but it finally happened. “Bad Travelling” is a really interesting entry. A strange crab-like creature known as a Thanapod makes its home in an unknowing crew’s ship and makes a deal with one of its crew members. What ensues is the battle for survival and an ongoing mutiny that makes you question if the Thanapod will get its way by the end. It’s visually interesting with a grimy ship as its backdrop. The ocean’s current is as tumultuous as the emotions that everyone aboard feels, as the bodies start to pile on. Its unpredictability was a highlight and makes me hope Fincher decides to dedicate an entire film to this concept in the future. It was just that good and felt like it could’ve done even more.
The Very Pulse of the Machine
If you’re out of options, how far would you go for survival? That’s at least what you’d think the episode would be about at first, but it turns into something quite a bit different. I really don’t want to give it away, as it’s quite an introspective episode that scratches the surface of what my personal favorite, “Zima Blue,” portrays in its story. High concept and simple execution sometimes have the effect of elevating an experience that makes you think about your own existence. Capped off with a perfect open ending, which makes you want to rewatch and re-question every step once again.
Night of the Mini Dead
Whoever had the idea of exploring a Night of the Living Dead parody as if it was a living diorama deserves a reward. It felt like watching an episode of the Sims with everything going wrong. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel (besides the visual design) but it adds some fun flourishes. You have some little jokey clichés with the muffled miniature sounds making them feel fresh. What sells it is how over-the-top it is. At first, it seems like a miniature retelling of the original Night of the Living Dead until it just goes bananas with the concept. By the end, it feels like they just saw what stuck to the wall and it definitely worked no matter how insane it got by the end.
Kill Team Kill
“Just a fun time” is the perfect way to summarize “Kill Team Kill” as a story. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a great 2D art style. The simple concept of a ragtag team of soldiers facing off against the perfect bionic killer bear was thrilling. It surprised me this was from director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who created the iconic Kung Fu Panda trilogy, as it’s quite raunchy. Yet, it made me hope she gets a chance to direct more of this style, especially in how much energy she brings to the project. Though Volume 2’s “Pop Squad” is still my favorite entry by her in the anthology. though “Kill Team Kill” is definitely a great time I’d gladly come back to rewatch.
“Swarm” is a curious entry, as the concepts it explores are quite interesting but ends up following a predicted path. The title gives away what the scientists are exploring, but leads to its downfall at the hands of their own hubris. It’s more an exploration of the value within existence as part of a swarm or your own intelligence. The ending sequence is a highlight, especially how it combines this gruesome perspective and some haunting visuals. Yet, it could’ve used a bit more time to explore the concept, as it feels over before it even truly begins. While the open nature of the story is fitting, it does feel like there was more to get out of it than what we got.
Evolution really isn’t your friend if you’re running a farm in the middle of nowhere. When a farmer realizes his rats ate enough GMOs to learn how to use weapons, modern pest control is his only option moving forward. It’s a fun and creative concept, as the weaponry he uses gets more and more advanced, as do the rats. At first, I adored the episode but confessed that the more I thought about it, the ending was a little convenient. While the lesson of the episode is quite a strong one and it’s generally a great episode, the ending sadly takes away from it and just wraps in a nice little bow way too easy.
In Vaulted Halls Entombed
You can never go wrong with a good Lovecraftian-inspired story. A group of soldiers tries to free a hostage, but end up in a much worse scenario than anyone could’ve imagined. It’s not adding anything to the concept that we’ve seen many times before, but it doesn’t need to technically. Probably the most straightforward story of the bunch because there is no real foreshadowing to what happens, it just leads from one event to the next. Still, the ending was perfectly Lovecraftian and is something that stuck in my mind on how it could continue; even if I’ll never know.
The final entry of the anthology series, “Jibaro,” might be its most ambitious yet. While its stylized visuals aren’t too far off from Bad Travelling and Mason’s Rats, it stands out for its artistic value. The short film feels like a deadly dance is spiraling out of control between a deaf soldier and a siren of unknown origin. I don’t want to give more away, but its simple premise feels like a prelude to a metaphorical look at a deadly romance. Steeped in mythology, it uses its visuals in interesting ways. The camera does move a lot which can be quite disorienting at times, but it creates a visual panic perfect for the chaos that ensues. A high recommendation and a great finisher to what is overall a strong new volume of Love, Death & Robots.