After the success of its first season, Netflix's anthology of animated shorts LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS returns for a second outing on the streaming platform. Slimmed-down from the 18-episodes in the initial run, this latest series (a third volume is already planned for 2022) consists of eight standalone shorts featuring giants, robotic servants and Michael B. Jordan.
Highly anticipated by both animation enthusiasts and fans of genre filmmaking, each of the eight episodes is helmed by a different director - from Deadpool director Tim Miller to Elliot Dear, a director at London based animation studio Blinkink - and offers fans the opportunity to experience a variety styles and stories (something we obviously love about short film). If you're eager to jump into the series, but don't know where to start or already have a favourite and want to find out more about its creator, check out our guide below.
Synopsis: In a future where resources are controlled by the rich, “unregistered offspring” are forbidden by the state. A police officer charged with enforcing population control faces a crisis of conscience.
Directed by one of the biggest names on this list - Jennifer Yuh Nelson (director of Kung Fu Panda 2 & co-director of Kung Fu Panda 3) - Pop Squad serves up a hard-boiled sci-fi as we follow a grizzled detective through a polluted, rain-soaked city as he begins to question the nature of his work (who would've thought killing children would prove so problematic?). Opting for a more realistic approach to its aesthetic, it's a slick-looking piece with some impressive world-building, but the narrative lacks originality and the whole film feels like an amalgamation of styles and stories you've seen before.
Synopsis: When his ship is damaged in battle, a combat pilot (Michael B. Jordan) crash lands on a desolate planet. Fortunately, there’s an automated shelter on the surface he can take refuge in until rescue arrives… if he can survive that long.
Being able to list Michael B. Jordan in the cast of your short film in one sure way to grab the attention of potential viewers and Alex Beaty doesn't stop there with sci-fi story Life Hutch. Also featuring an epic space battle and a killer malfunctioning robot, the director has every angle covered here and fans of the genre are bound to love the film. If you're not a dedicated science-fiction fan (then this anthology is probably not for you) however, you might find the narrative a little thin and predictable - stranded pilot, fight for survival etc. It's hard not to be impressed with Life Hutch on a visual level though, the space battle has the scale needed to land its impact and the scenes with Jordan's character and the robot both look great and are full of tension. Having worked in the animation department for Deadpool and Kung Fu Panda 3, Beaty now gets his chance to direct and on this showing, you have to say he's impressed.
Synopsis: In a future where many humans are enhanced with extraordinary strength and endurance, the “unmodded” feel left behind. This class conflict drives a rift between two brothers that puts their lives at risk during a dangerous race across the frozen sea of their colony world.
Fans of short film will recognise the name Robert Valley as director of the Oscar-nominated Pear Cider and Cigarettes, but those of you who were also into the first volume of LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS will know his work as he directed the Zima Blue film in that original anthology. Part of the Passion Animation roster (which includes S/W alums Anna Mantzaris, Evan Viera and collective MegaComputeur), Valley serves up an intriguing slice of 2D animation mixed with CG elements, making his short visually standout in the wealth of 3D animation mostly employed in the anthology. Set on a frozen planet inhabited by a colony of workers and some imposing Frostwhales, Ice features some questionable dialogue/vocal-work but on the whole is an energetic, adrenaline-filled piece that you would mind seeing more of.
Synopsis: When a train makes an unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere, a lone traveller is lured into the surrounding fields by drifting, ethereal lights. But his curiosity may prove deadly when he discovers the hellish source of the illumination.
While most of the films in the anthology are science-fiction pieces set in the future, Simon Otto's The Tall Grass takes us back into the past for its horror-tinged tale. Joining its protagonist on a steam train journey across the grassy plains, the 11-minute short opens with a peaceful, intriguing vibe, before thrusting its viewers into a haunting fight for life. Featuring an impressive aesthetic that presents 3D animation with a painterly feel, Otto has years of animation experience working on several high-profile features and it shines in this impressive short.
Synopsis: Some senior citizens are lucky enough to enjoy their golden years in tomorrow’s high-tech, assisted living communities. They pursue relaxation and spiritual fulfillment, their every need taken care of... until their robotic servants decide to kill them.
Probably the title I was most looking forward to in the line-up, Automated Customer Service sees eccentric French collective Meat Dept (previously featured on S/W with Black Holes) unleash their distinct brand of animation on an unexpecting audience - if you saw the LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS Vol. 2 trailer (above) you probably already noticed their poop-scooping robot. The robot uprising has been a favourite of sci-fi filmmakers for some time now, but Meat Dept's 12-min short (written by renowned sci-fi author John Scalzi) injects a healthy dose of a comedy to proceedings and when combined with their unforgettable, rubbery 3D aesthetic, you've got yourself one of the standout films of the anthology.
Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, a young girl and her little brother lie awake, too excited to sleep. When a jingle of bells announces Saint Nick’s arrival they sneak downstairs hoping to catch a glimpse of the mythical gift-giver… but find something far less jolly than they expected.
One of the surprise names on the director's list for vol. 2, Elliot Dear has made a name for himself directing some big-name, heart-warming commercials (most notably with Christmas ads for John Lewis and the BBC) but has also hinted at his potential to direct genre films with his John Hopkins music video, E4 ident and this compilation of practical effect shots. Dear builds on his festive experience in All Through the House, a 7-min tale of young siblings sneaking downstairs on Xmas eve to snatch a glimpse of Father Christmas, but directs his short more towards horror than sci-fi. Stylistically similar to his The Supporting Act piece for the BBC (though I haven't been able to confirm it was created through the same stop-motion process), prepare yourself for one of the most unsettling depictions of ol' Saint Nick you're ever likely to see.
When a two hundred foot tall naked body washes ashore outside a small fishing village, crowds gather to witness the spectacle. A local scientist documents the leviathan’s surrender to nature while the miraculous becomes first mundane and then forgotten entirely.
Helmed by LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS creator and Deadpool director Tim Miller, The Drowned Giant is bound to be the short attracting the most attention in the series. Add into that the fact it's based on a J.G. Ballard short story and you can see why the audience's eyes will be automatically drawn to this one. Featuring my favourite premise - that of a giant body mysteriously washed-up in a small seaside town - of the anthology, Miller's short is another which opts for a more realistic feel to its aesthetic and you can see why with its grounded themes of society and mortality. Though I haven't read Ballard's original story from the '60s, the voiceover's dated feel gives the impression it was lifted directly from the original prose and although the narration is not the most engaging, it does allow space for self-reflection - something that feels important in this storyline. Personally, I'm not a big fan of the style here, but as we're largely driven by narrative here at S/W it's hard not to feel that Miller picked a perfect story for the short format.
Synopsis: On an arid, scorched planet at the edge of galactic civilization, an ageless albino named “Snow'' is hunted by an assortment of hired killers. But after a beautiful stranger named Hirald saves his life, she reveals her own plans for him, but keeps some secrets of her own.
Directors of the God of War short, the VFX talents of Boidin, Bérelle, Kozyra and Luère are clearly evident in this visually impressive 18-minute short. Narratively, it plays a little like a prelude to a bigger story and with its scorched landscapes and dive bars full of violent aliens, there's a touch of the x-rated Star Wars about it. Feeling like the kind of film that will appeal to hardened science-fiction fans, Snow in the Desert (the protagonist is named 'Snow' - insert eye-roll emoji here) appeals on a surface level, but beyond that, there's not much to sink your teeth into.