Love, Death & Robots: Automated Customer Service

Love, Death & Robots: Automated Customer Service ★★★★

This was even better than the first season in almost every way. There’s half as many stories this time around, but there’s no glaring weak links—save for perhaps the last short, which was effective in a completely different way you'd expect (I go in more detail below). Like last time, I’ll just write a brief review on each of the shorts here, so as not to clutter up my feed.

AUTOMATED CUSTOMER SERVICE

A strong entry right up front that would’ve been one of the best from last season. It has a Pixar-style animation, and it blended its premise with an exaggerated, cartoonish sense of humor extremely well. It kinda-sorta has a bit of social commentary going on with the ubiquity of machines, appliances etc in our everyday lives, but that’s absolutely not one of its strong points. A solid, entertaining piece that served as a great opening for the rest of the series. Rating: 4/5

ICE

The animation style was jagged and moody--more expressionistic in feel, which matched the atmosphere of the story. It was about a pair of brother’s living on a backwater ice planet who undertake a dangerous rite-of-passage. That particular sequence was both exhilarating and beautiful and saved this despite its lack of substance in its story and characters. Rating: 3.5/5

POP SQUAD

The animation style was realistic and gritty, and the created world here seemed like it was heavily influenced by “Blade Runner” and the “Ghost in the Shell” movies. The premise is one we’ve seen before in many other sci-fi stories, yet it still managed to evoke a couple of powerful moments. It's about a police officer who has to descend into the lower, poorer areas of his city with the horrible asigned task of eliminating children due to a in imposed quota due to overpopulation. I feel the setting was the stand out thing here. Rating: 4/5

SNOW IN THE DESERT

Wow. Including last season, nearly all of the best entries worked because they were shorts, and utilized their shorter runtime expertly. Very few made you wish for an extended, full-length version. This is one of them. Everything about this was intriguing. The animation style was done in a hyper-realistic manner, and the main character, setting, and hints of the political and social mechanisms that make up this world were all fascinating and made you beg for more. It takes place on a harsh alien planet where a mysterious character (who seems hunted by various groups) takes on an escort mission across an impassable desert. It’s the best short out of both seasons, and I wish I could see more of the brilliantly drawn world and characters in a longer series or feature. Rating: 5/5

THE TALL GRASS

The animation style was unique with a subtle pastel look that gave a slight smearing effect to the character’s faces. Short and sweet, it’s about a train journey that stops in a mysterious spot in the middle of nowhere obscured by endless rows of tall grass. A middling piece but still effective in the action/horror sequences. Rating: 3/5

ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE

This is probably the best self-contained short, in that it's built around one single premise, and executes it perfectly. A simple riff on the child-like wonderment of Christmas, this twists things up a bit with a slight horror element thrown in. Solid, and simple. Rating: 3.5/5

LIFE HUTCH

This made me think of this paired analogue with opening short. Unlike that, this had a realistic animation style and didn’t try for any humor. It felt somewhat thin overall, but the interplay between the main character and the main obstacle he’s fighting against managed to be tense and dramatic as as needed. Still solid overall, but probably one of the bottom entries of this season. Rating: 3/5

THE DROWNED GIANT

This is surely going to be seen as the least liked and most ill-fitting entry. It doesn’t seem to have anything to tie into the series overall “robot” theme either. However, it’s also the only short that seems to have any kind of lasting message—besides the super-obvious moralizing done in something like “Pop Squad.” It’s about a small, quaint town that reacts to the sudden arrival of a giant, dead human that washes onto its shores. Just like “Titanic,” there seems to be an elegiac connection made between the destruction of something gigantic and awe-inspiring and the epochal ending of an era. This symbol of grandness being broken down into smaller elements represents a a feeling of loss, nostalgia, and perhaps even the hope of new possibilities with the transition from one era to the next. I can’t help but feel a connection to the monumental impact of the pandemic from the past year or so, and the lingering after-effects it’ll continue to have in an innumerable number of ways in the coming years. This was probably the weakest entry, but was by far the most provoking in both feeling and thought in what it’s possibly mirroring (at least emotionally) on a wide-scale, both now and what is to come. Rating: 3.5/5

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