Love, Death + Robots - favorite picks - 04

Minor spoiler warning

LDR is an animated anthology series on Netflix. The episodes are all short format with variable run time but always less than 20 minutes, and it deals primarily with robotics and science fiction although on at least one occasion deals with myth and more down-to-earth monster horror.

The episodes do not appear to be in any way related to one another, other than theme, and one episode is live-action rather than animated.

It's produced by one of my personal favorite creatives, David Fincher (Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac, Benjamin Button, Social Network, Gone Girl; House of Cards, Mindhunter), as well as a few other notable names. An interesting note here is that LDR is a re-imagining of Fincher and Miller's incomplete reboot of Heavy Metal, the adult animated sci-fi-fantasy film from 1981. You've probably seen the posters.

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With the background out of the way, below are my favorite shorts from the anthology series.

Beyond the Aquila Rift: An error in the routing plot of a spaceship causes it to travel for centuries and end up hundreds of thousands of light years from Earth.

  • The reason I like this - the protagonist meets an old flame who, apparently, had the same thing happen to hear. It turns out that this old flame is not what she appears to be, but is the projected image of a different kind of creature, one which is well-meaning but will that be enough? We only catch a clear glimpse of this creature, of the reality behind the curtain, at the end.

Good Hunting: A family tradition of hunting shape-shifters in 20th century China gets upended by a sympathetic son and rapid advancements in technology.

  • The reason I like this - sympathetic "monsters", sympathetic hero, the mix of ancient myth / mysticism and its clash against modern technology. It's a pretty common trope that iron interferes with magical creatures in some way, repelling them or even shorting out their magic, so mystical creatures having to deal with the modern age of man isn't new ground being broken, but I particularly like the way that it's handled here. And I like how the hunter's son and the monster's daughter coexist and adapt to the changing times.

Zima Blue: A journalist interviews a reclusive artist about to unveil his final work, work that has grown from simple portraits to paintings done on building walls, then asteroids, and so on. Zima reveals that though he is now a cybernetic human, he started life as a simple machine meant to clean the ceramic Zima Blue tiles of his owner's pool; upgrades over decades made the artist that has fascinated human society for years. And his masterpiece is the end-all be-all of his work.

  • The reason I like this - The sense of timing that comes from the incremental upgrades, with Zima growing in stages like a person would rather than being a final product all at once; the idea that the robot mind is interested in, on its own impetus rather than being programmed for it, creating art, and that the human society ends up being fascinated by it; the final return to fundamentals

The Secret War: A squad of Red Army soldiers hunt demons in the Siberian forests. It is something they have been doing for a while, after experiments with demonic forces for war purposes ended up not being a good idea.

  • The reason I like this - we live in a world where supernatural forces have not been proven to exist, but if they had, I have no doubt in my mind that it would be quickly co-opted by the State (or whatever form of government is around at the time) and that one if its first applications will be in war. It tracks against similar programs throughout documented human history, not least of which would be the Nazi regime's fascinating with the occult during Hitler's reign. It's an interesting look at what could have been if our reality variables were slightly different.

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