SXSW Review: LOVE, DEATH, & ROBOTS Is Beautiful And Bonkers

It's also pretty much what you'd expect.

Love, Death, & Robots is more Tim Miller's baby than David Fincher's – which is to say that, although both filmmakers are executive producers on the new animated anthology series, the tone skews more toward Deadpool, than, say, Fight Club. This isn't a criticism, necessarily, but there is a certain regressive masculine aesthetic and perspective at play in the episodes Netflix screened at SXSW. The studio – along with Miller and Fincher – showed six of the eighteen episodes, in no particular order, and it's worth noting that none of the episodes we watched were directed by women, though women do feature prominently as characters in some of the shorts, like "Sonnie's Edge" – which feels like someone stuck Pacific Rim and Resident Evil in a blender while watching L.A. Confidential. That first short, which also happens to be the first episode of Love, Death, & Robots, centers on a woman named Sonnie who uses underground monster battles to seek revenge on the men who raped and mutilated her... or so some people would have you think. "When the Yogurt Took Over" is much more simple and straightforward; it's only three minutes long and it's incredibly hilarious. 

"Alternate Histories" feels like a clever riff on tired historical hypotheticals – namely "What if Hitler had been killed early on?" As it turns out, there are multiple answers and possibilities, each more humorous and inventive than the last. A premise that basic and familiar needs to be consistently engaging, and this one certainly is; it's also thankfully short. The real standout, at least on a visual level, was "The Witness" – about a woman who witnesses the murder of someone who looks an awful lot like herself and is subsequently pursued by the killer. The animation was truly the most fantastic and dynamic of the bunch; it was like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but for guys who still have subscriptions to Suicide Girls. 

Fincher and Miller's original plan was to make a new Heavy Metal anthology. That didn't pan out, but you can still feel that vibe throughout Love, Death, & Robots, which definitely exists in the same juvenile fantasy realm. It's fun, weird, gross, cute, horrific, and kinda sexy. Like a Gore Verbinski film, if you don't like what's happening on the screen, just wait five minutes and it'll turn into something else entirely. My one complaint about the six episodes that were screened is the lack of shorts directed by women. The male gaze is pervasive throughout this series – even in the fluffier, sillier stuff. Sonnie's refusal to adhere to a very specific victim/survivor narrative in "Sonnie's Edge" feels like a man's oversimplified idea of a "strong woman." And "The Witness" goes through some weird hoops to make its protagonist naked for 95% of its runtime; in the midst of being pursued by a probable murderer, she pops in to deliver an orgiastic exotic dance performance at her place of work. To be fair, this is America and no one can afford to take a day off in this economy. 

Despite the glaring absence of female directors, Love, Death, & Robots is a damn good time – and one that should benefit from the Netflix model. Watch a few. Watch all 18. Watch one and give up. These episodes are designed in such an unconventional sense that it's almost novel to think you might watch like, four and then not think about it again for a month.