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Werthead

Love, Death & Robots: major SF authors in a new anthology Netflix series

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Netflix has launched - today! - a new animated anthology series called Love, Death and Robots. It has 18 episodes, ranging from 6 to 20 minutes in length in a variety of styles. Two are original, the rest are based on existing SF short fiction, including three stories by John Scalzi, two by Alastair Reynolds, one by Mark Kloos, one by Joe Lansdale and one by Peter F. Hamilton (Sonnie's Edge from the Second Chance at Eden collection, set in the Night's Dawn universe).

I've seen the first three and very impressed so far. The animation is excellent, the scripts are pretty good and the stories quite effective. Hoping the rest keep up the good work.

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I just watched the first one. Excellent animation, indeed, and I liked the story. I couldn't help think that if that was a video game cinematic, people would lose their minds.

There does look to be some live-action mixed in there in some of the episodes.

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Posted (edited)

The full story roster: 

  • Sonnie's Edge by Peter F. Hamilton
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift by Alastair Reynolds
  • Three Robots by John Scalzi
  • Fish Night by Joe Lansdale
  • Secret War by David W. Amendola
  • Ice Age by Michael Swanwick
  • The Witness by Alberto Mieglo*
  • Suits by Steven Lewis
  • Sucker of Souls by Kirsten Cross
  • When the Yogurt Took Over by John Scalzi
  • Good Hunting by Ken Liu
  • The Dump by Joe Landsale
  • Shape Shifters by Marko Kloos
  • Helping Hand by Claudine Griggs
  • Lucky 13 by Marko Kloos
  • Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds
  • Blindspot by Vitaliy Shushko*
  • Alternate Histories by John Scalzi

* are stories written especially for this series

Edited by Werthead

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Posted (edited)

"The Witness" had really remarkable animation. It wasn't mo cap, per Alberto Mielgo (director/writer/artist). Some kind of crazy rotoscoping blending CG and real action and sets seems right, but I admit, I don't think I've ever seen anyone do it in quite that way. A Scanner Darkly did it, of course, but with traditional animation rather than CG.

ETA: Nope, not rotoscoping either, Mielgo said. 100% fully animated. How in the world...

Edited by Ran

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Posted (edited)

Huh. Apparently originally Tim Miller and David Fincher were going to do a new Heavy Metal film but it didn't work out. Also apparently Peter Chung was commissioned to do a brand new Aeon Flux story for said abortive effort. Darn, why didn't that become a part of Love, Death, & Robots?

Finished watching all of these. "The Witness" really sticks out as a cut above for its amazing visuals and editing, even if the story itself is thin. Its propulsive energy reminds me a little bit of Run, Lola, Run. And those visuals... a lot of VFX pros are scratching their heads trying to figure out the pipeline that created that remarkable look. Everything was apparently painstakingly keyframed in Maya, so traditional animation but with a weight and quality to the movement that stuff like the hyper-real, motion captured pieces Blur Animation did don't quite match. Reference actors are mentioned, three women, but apparently _not_ for rotoscoping _or_ mocap... yeah, really hoping for a "making of"!

Alberto Mielgo is going to get a lot more attention in the industry, when combined with his foundational impact on the award-winning visuals of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.

As far as best story goes, I found "Zima Blue" quite profound. "Good Hunting" was excellent as well. "Beyond the Aquila Rift" had that hyper-real look, but the story itself did not surprise me at all. "Lucky 13" also managed that hyper-real look but really hung together well. 

The clear worst of them was "The Dump" (the other Lansdale, "Fish Night" is something else entirely though -- quite beautiful and had a nice turn). I wasn't too fond of "Suits",  it was very light-weight and cliche, and visually didn't really leap out. I didn't much care for "Sucker of Souls" either, though apparently Tim Miller says he enjoyed the characters so much that he asked Kirsten Cross to write another story featuring them in case they get a second season. 

I do hope there's a second season. If anyone has Tim Miller's ear, send "Meathouse Man" his way!

Edited by Ran

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Seen about half of them and I'm enjoying the variety in animation and story style. A bit like "black mirror" but with the benefits that animation brings.

I'm a bit surprised at how graphic it is in places regarding nudity and violence. I think that will be a shock for those not familiar with anime - although i guess Netflix has been hosting a fair amount of adult anime. I have to admit that the gore in the the stories featuring almost life-like cgi is pretty stomach churning in places eg sonnies edge and the witness and does mske me wonder where the limit is when you can depict virtually life-like violence. Will watch the rest today hopefully

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I want a full series of Sonnie, that drew me in so much so fast

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Zima Blue is the clear winner if we're evaluating the overall best story. Really looking forward to discussions on this one. 

 

In terms of visuals alone though, I guess the Witness would be the winner (whatever was that club dance scene) followed closely by Beyond the Aquilla Rift.

 

Also Netflix, we get it, this is a NSFW series, you don't need to hit the viewer with it over the head every single episode.

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6 hours ago, karaddin said:

I want a full series of Sonnie, that drew me in so much so fast

There are numerous short stories in the same collection (A Second Chance at Eden) that they can pick from, and more in Hamilton's non-Night's Dawn universe collection, Manhattan in Reverse. None with the same characters though.

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Posted (edited)

Not having read the original story from Reynolds, a question about "Beyond the Aquila Rift":

Spoiler

To me it feels like the Greta-entity is basically like a trapdoor spider, and that it's apparent empathic attempts to soothe Thom is probably nefarious rather than  any genuine kind of love. I know it's aiming for ambiguity, but it just seems weird that many vessels end up with a "routing error" to the same spot.

How does the original story play it? Similarly?

And a cute detail I realized about "Alternate Histories": ending each of them with the first person to step on the moon is a nod to Heinlein, who played up the multiverse in his later years and had individuals from different timelines identify their particular strand of the multiverse by the name of the first person to set foot on the moon. As all good fictions also form their own realities, there's a timeline where John Carter is the first man on the moon, a timeline where Cyrano de Bergerac is the first, etc. 

Edited by Ran

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2 hours ago, Ran said:

 

And a cute detail I realized about "Alternate Histories": ending each of them with the first person to step on the moon is a nod to Heinlein, who played up the multiverse in his later years and had individuals from different timelines identify their particular strand of the multiverse by the name of the first person to set foot on the moon. As all good fictions also form their own realities, there's a timeline where John Carter is the first man on the moon, a timeline where Cyrano de Bergerac is the first, etc. 

Scalzi has never been shy about homaging his influences.

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3 hours ago, Werthead said:

There are numerous short stories in the same collection (A Second Chance at Eden) that they can pick from, and more in Hamilton's non-Night's Dawn universe collection, Manhattan in Reverse. None with the same characters though.

Yeah it's specifically the character I wanted more of, that itch won't get scratched by other short stories in that setting. 

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Gosh, "Beyond the Aquila Rift" is worth rewatching. Little hints at the 5:30 and 12:00 marks that completely passed me by.

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Watched most of this last night. Animation is amazing in many of these stories. Some really good little tales. I plan on a rewatch of a few episodes because I was distracted quite often and missed a few things that I really didn’t want to miss. 

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Posted (edited)

I was very impressed with the first three episodes: Sonnie's Edge, Three Robots and Witness. The animation was impressive in all three, especially in Witness. Great humor in Three Robots.

Edited by Astromech

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My thoughts by episode order:

Sonnie’s Edge – This is probably my favorite. Has both exceptional animation, and a strong story.

Three Robots – Humorous, good animation; certainly not surprised it was written by Scalzi; among my favorites.

Witness – I agree that its animation is the strong part. Really surreal, almost to a creepy level. Its story is ok, trippy, but not much there.

Suits – Really enjoyed this one, too. Good animation and story. I liked they showed the gritty frontier farm life in a SF space setting. Plus, I usually like anything with giant mechs. Overall, it reminded me of Starcraft, especially since the main character was voiced by Neil Kaplan, who voiced several characters in Starcraft II, including Tychus Findlay.

Sucker of Souls – Didn’t like this one. A more pedestrian animation, and an unoriginal story, though the cat part was funny. Most archaeologists don’t need a mercenary escort, unless they go in a dangerous country and have the financial backup. The setting of this story was unknown.

When the Yogurt Took Over – I purposefully ate yogurt while watching this. I wonder what Scalzi’s thought process is when he makes this stuff up.

Beyond the Aquila Rift

Spoiler

Kinda doubles as anime porn, but interesting story. I liked the animation, and the twist was fucking freaky. I expected the simulation part, didn’t expect the reveal to be so horrifying.

Good Hunting – Not a fan of the animation style, but the story was good; an interesting steampunk tale.

The Dump – Yeah, this one was a bit dumb on the plot. I didn’t mind the animation.

Spoiler

But if a giant sentient being made of trash acts a bit like what it ingests, ie the dog we see, why didn’t start acting the human in ingested, too? Or did, and I missed it?

Shape-shifters – Another one with great animation, and I liked the story, though the ending was a bit weak.

Helping Hand – I like the title’s irony, and how it ties in with the plot’s resolution, but the premise is off.

Spoiler

No way that would be a one-person mission, and where did the sheared bolt come from?

Fish Night – Trippy, and the animation was fine, but little substance here.

Lucky 13 – Between the animation and the story, this one’s another solid one. I think I understand the end, and I like it.

Zima Blue – A thought provoking story, well done. I’d almost say the animation isn’t up to par, considering other episodes here, but it doesn’t diminish the story’s quality.

Blindspot – Weak. Fast & Furious with cyborgs. I don’t know there was any message here; the animation was just ok.

Ice Age – This one was kinda meh. I thought the dialogue between the live people wasn’t very good. I’m not sure if the story is hinting at climate change or what?

Alternate Histories – Humorous, because, again Scalzi…

Spoiler

I particularly liked the death scenarios, and that the constant was Hitler being always an angry little twerp. The follow ups were ludicrous, of course, though the blue screen of death was brilliant.

Secret War – Great animation here, too, while the story was the typical soldiers v. monsters stuff, though the setting was not something we usually see. It seemed to me some of the voice acting was off. Stefan Kapičić (Colossus from Deadpool) voiced the lead, but his deep voice didn’t quite fit the guy’s look. Maybe I shouldn’t judge, but I would have preferred a raspier voice for that character. I did like there was a variety of Russian faces among the characters. Also, the whole thing made me think of Bakker – The Slog of Slogs, boys!

Overall, a good anthology show, in the vein of Heavy Metal and Black Mirror.

Sonnie's Edge, Lucky 13, and Suits are the ones where I would see more of those worlds.

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5 hours ago, Astromech said:

I was very impressed with the first three episodes: Sonnie's Edge, Three Robots and Witness. The animation was impressive in all three, especially in Witness. Great humor in Three Robots.

That's not the order Netflix played them for me...apropos of nothing...

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Yeah, Netflix appears to be experimenting with the order it shows them based on...something. Dunno.

3 Robots was a great standout, Witness was pretty but dull with a crazy amount of male gaze thrown in, Sonnie's Edge was the best all around, and Secret War made me want a whole lot more in that universe. Aquila Rift was also super male gazy and I wish had a bit more questions answered. 

I really like the format and the different styles, even if some felt entirely like they came out of Call of Duty's animation desk. More variation would be great here. 

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I've seen a few articles pop up today about the male gaze thing, but as I don't have netflix I really can't offer an opinion. Seems to have rubbed some people the wrong way, but these days a chicken nugget will do that.

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