It’s a new year and I wanted to tackle something modern along with our review of the classics. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Netflix series Love, Death and Robots so I decided to check it out. The very day I had viewed this, my wife made a recommendation: her dad is a fan of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly so she thought that idea would make a compelling format for one of our article series. That night, when I watched Three Robots, it was like mana from heaven. Some time later, I recommended this series to Roger, having only seen two episodes. To my shock, what he described to me was not what I had seen. And then I did a bit of digging…
I think Netflix might have forgotten the value of the watercooler because, what I learned is that most people who gave this show a chance did not see it in the same order. My first episode (still listed as the first on my Netflix page) is not what Wikipedia lists as episode one. For the purpose of these reviews, I will follow the order I saw them in which was mostly the correct order once I had learned of the mistake. In other words, my viewing now matches Wikipedia’s listing, but the first two will be out of sync.
Three Robots opens with some dramatic music and an ominous Terminator-like sequence of a robot walking over a field of the dead before we hear the first words…
Within seconds, I was laughing at the dialogue between the three titular robots. This is not what I was expecting and that subversion of expectation was exactly what I needed. Each robot is very different in appearance, each has distinct personalities, and each carry the story forward as they tour the destruction of mankind. Learning about the robots, we discover one was related to baby monitors and the other is a descendant of X-Bot 3. (Yes, Bot but clearly intended to be a representation of the XBox.) I was never sure what the robot was with the female voice, but she is probably the funniest of the three robots, looking like a mix of Hal-9000 and a Dalek. (Ironically, this is the only one that wasn’t acted by a human being and was totally synthesized!)
Considering none of these episodes are the same length, it means this series can be digested in bite-size chunks. This episode is a mere 9 minutes long. The visuals are fantastic and reminiscent of many video games I’ve played over the years. (I suppose that could be bad if one were looking for traditional animation but I was extremely impressed by the artwork.)
The biggest downside to the episode is the language. I thought this was an outstandingly good short video but the language makes it prohibitive to the younger crowd. The subject matter is also a dark one as it takes place after the destruction of mankind so there are dead bodies to be encountered throughout, include at least one suicide by hanging. As the robots don’t really think particularly highly of our species, that adds a morbidity to the story. There’s also at least 2 instances of the middle finger being stuck up. Again, if computer graphic aren’t your cuppa, then that too will fall into the bad category. I suppose that’s no different than if foul language bothers you.
The real beauty of the episode lies in its commentary. Let’s be honest, 9 minutes to establish location, character, comedy and still have time to offer some thoughts on different subjects means we’re not going to get a lecture, which is good, but what they give us is wonderful. Perhaps a bit of a dig on the sports fan in that humans did plenty with balls that would totally max out their mental capacity is funny. I’m often confused by it myself, if I’m honest! There’s a brief bit about intelligent design and having a creator; one might call this section “food for thought”. It does ask a very interesting question, but I’ll leave that to the viewer. And I especially loved the commentary about cats, calling them murder machines. Why did humans have anything to do with them? “Kindred spirits,” suggests our synthesized friend.
Perhaps the biggest commentary focuses on why humanity is gone, as the robots stand next to a nuclear bomb. It turns out, that isn’t why mankind is missing in this timeline, but that we destroyed the environment and ourselves with it. It’s dark and provides more food for thought which is, in my book, exactly why I love science fiction. You can tell a real story in an enjoyable way without necessarily offending anyone.
Each episode has a coded image at the start – three icons to represent the episode. I’ve included them in order under each category. It’s like a mini-game to figure out what they mean and how they relate to the episodes. I’ll do my best but will be open to other thoughts in the comments section. This adds an extra layer to each episode that I really appreciate, even if this one was easy. Two represent the robots, while the other is the food being prepared at a diner as they discuss intelligent design. Still loads of fun to try to make sense of.
“Welcome to humans!” I don’t know if each episode can capture so much in such little time, but this was a powerhouse opener for me enhanced by the opening “game” with the images. This story was short, funny, thought-provoking… really well done and just what I was looking for. It even makes a few good cracks about cats – a fair target if I’m honest – including a comment about the game Exploding Kittens which leads to a worrisome moment for our three protagonists. Again, very funny stuff. I instantly understand why this series is so talked about. I just wish it were all shown the same way so we could have gotten proper water-cooler banter around it. ML