'Love, Death & Robots' Review: A Beautifully Absurd NSFW Carnival

Anthologies by their very nature can be hit and miss as casting a wider narrative net will metaphorically create larger holes, and essentially leave audiences with less to latch onto. With such a wide variety of stories, each one would need to work that much harder to leave an impression. Love, Death & Robots absolutely accomplishes this feat by delivering a beautifully absurd carnival of nudity, gore, and fun. But, most importantly, there is a compelling, tragically human core underneath it all.

Produced by Tim Miller and David Fincher, Love, Death & Robots is an anthology of 18 short animated films. They range from about 6-to-15 minutes each, and each story in the series is delivered by a different writing team, animation studio, and animation style. The narratives themselves span from absurdist premises such as killing Hitler in various ways to heartbreaking and sobering storytelling with isolationist space horror.

While each of the stories is wildly different from one another, there is a strong thread tying them altogether. Each short film has one distinct human element that keeps it grounded and centralized despite the ever-evolving world on the outside. This is particularly a strong trait to have in the highly experimental shorts like "The Witness" and "Fish Night." Those shorts bend the fabric and rules of a traditional "reality" within their narratives, but there's a tether in the emotion of the main characters.

There's a tangible sense of "love" baked into each of these short productions as well. Whether or not a particular narrative strikes a chord, each production is excellently crafted. Every short can be seen as an animated marvel in its own right, with some of the films such as "Beyond the Aquila Rift," "Sonnie's Edge," and "Suits" presenting jaw-dropping visuals and world design.

But this animated anthology is arguably held back slightly by its overall presentation. Given the random nature of each story, there is no sense of overall direction or scale when watching the films. While "Sonnie's Edge" provides the perfect introduction into this series with its intense tale of sexual violence -- as it serves as a good gauge whether or not the rest of the anthology will click for you -- the anthology rarely matches its distinct intensity.

Lacking a traditional rhythm, this causes some of the later shorts to feel lacking compared to what's come before. Even so, Love, Death & Robots still makes every one of its short films feel complete even when its overall package fails it; each film is not out to be one in a series, but instead striving to leave its own unique imprint on audiences. In this regard, Love, Death & Robots excels without question.

The beautiful, yet tragic nature of a good anthology is that no matter how great you may find one of the particular stories, when it's over, it's over. A magnificently constructed short story will leave you with both a sense of fulfillment and wanting -- the sense that you just experienced something great, would love more, yet know you'll never quite get it.

That's Love, Death & Robots. An anthology of ups, downs, and pure unadulterated fun; a carnival ride that's so fun you can't help but be heartbroken when it's over. Just... maybe avoid watching it at work.


Rating 5 out of 5

Love, Death & Robots is now streaming on Netflix.