Love, Death & Robots: review

Love Death & Robots: il trailer della serie Netflix creata ...

The latest Cyberpunk series, Love, Death & Robots, is finally out! Or rather, the latest sci-fi/fantasy animated short anthology is out.

Love, Death & Robots is a wonderful combination of short films loosely connected around the theme of the title, combining visually stunning stories from some deep concepts to ridiculous tales of sentient yoghurt.

No, I’m not kidding. It’s episode 6 and is called “When the Yoghurt Took Over”.

With 18 episodes in total running between 6 minutes and 17 minutes, there are only four stories that could truly be considered “Cyberpunk”, with a few others similar and style and then the rest that are simply unrelated.

One of the best, in my opinion, is the very first episode: Sonnie’s Edge. A well-delivered tale in an interesting world, it reminded me of Pacific Rim meets Altered Carbon a la death cage match. Visually stunning, this first episode set the bar too high for me, resulting in my somewhat disappointment that (practically) no other episode could compete in quality and themes it touched upon. It has the Cyberpunk visuals, the Punk vibe, Cybernetics and Sexuality to make it an excellent first episode. I’ve purposely decided not to share the premise, since it does a great job world-building and part of the fun is finding out how the world works.

The second Cyberpunk-like tale is Suits, and tells the tale of a community of farmers from the south US that need to protect their turf against alien creatures that threaten to invade their land and destroy their crops. It’s basically what would happen if the deep south had to contend with alien wolves attacking their farms, but instead of guns, they were equipped with lasers, mech suits and overpowered artillery. A lot of fun, and a heart-warming tale of killing and community.

The next Cyberpunk tale, Beyond the Aquilus Rift, is more Pseudo-cyberpunk and feels more like a tale of “Aliens” if you added a layer of fractured reality. It involves a ship’s crew who begin a routine deep-freeze to travel a long distance through space, only to end up widely off-course upon their awakening. This episode felt more like a Black-Mirror type animated short, with a tale that starts off well enough but slowly gets worse and worse as the episode continues. Great story-telling and visual effects again, but personally not my cup of tea.

Zima Blue is my favorite episode of the entire first season of Love, Death & Robots. Its premise is simple: a reporter is invited to interview a famous artist who is about to reveal his latest piece of work. Although a lot more animated cartoon than digital CGI (it felt reminiscent of Samurai Jack in terms of sharp ages and defined exaggerated features full of vibrant colors and beautiful shapes), the short tale comes full circle in a way that surprised me in the end, and although devoid of action or any fast pacing, replaces it again with a tranquil simplicity in the metaphor it tells of life. Definitely the most profound episode for me, which is perhaps why it’s the one that left the most lasting impact.

Finally, Blind Spot is the second perfect example of Cyberpunk, featuring a high-octane heist of punks trying to steal a valuable microchip from a convoy protected by robots. Another great set of visuals with a fun twist at the end, the artistic style of this episode reminded me more of Cartoon Network’s cartoons, and perhaps something that might show up on Toonami. No CGI digital effects here but also very stylistically different from Zima Blue. It’s a fun fast-paced tale with the right amounts of action and punk attitude.

Overall Love, Death & Robots is a great series highly worth a couple of hours to watch. I would give Sonnie’s Edge 9/10, Suits 7/10, Beyond the Aquilus Rift 6.5/10 simply because I don’t like those kinds of stories as much, Zima Blue 9/10, and Blind Spot 8.5/10.

You can watch Love, Death & Robots streaming on Netflix.

 

Replicas: A Review

Replicas Review

Well, it took me about a month to be able to get a copy of it and watch it, but I’ve finally been able to see one of the latest Cyberpunk movies of 2019, Replicas.

In case you missed my pre-release post about this indie movie coming out in theaters, here’s another summary of the plot. Neuroscientist William Foster is on the verge of a breakthrough in transferring human consciousness to robot bodies when his family is suddenly and tragically killed in a car accident. As a result, Foster decides to take the already developing technology of organic cloning and combine it with his human consciousness work in order to attempt to create flash clones of his family and then imprint their minds on their subsequent clone bodies in time. Not all goes according to plan, however, and not all is at it seems as the corporation he works for starts to suspect something wrong is afoot.

Relatively short in length, Replicas tries to attempt many different things at the same time, and I would venture to say it was fairly successful in doing so. Despite relatively poor CGI for their robot bodies by today’s standards, I thoroughly enjoyed this Cyberpunk take on digitizing consciousness and cloning. Keanu Reeves does a great job of being a harried scientist that has to race against time to solve problem after problem in order to try to bring his family back to life.

I really don’t know why this movie got so poorly reviewed online. Perhaps because of high expectations for some reason? Or maybe because of the relatively flimsy nature of the antagonists in the story? Although I would argue that the real antagonist here is fate. Replicas feels like a Cyberpunk tale of a scientist problem-solving his way through an impossible task, much like Matt Damon did in The Martian. It’s not an action film, if that’s what you were expecting, and it’s nothing deep philosophically like the Matrix was. However, it does an interesting job of asking the question: how would biological bodies interface with mental minds and human brains, in order to have a digital copy of consciousness take on a body or even a clone body? And how would these clones of real life deal with the ethical and philosophical implications of them existing only as a copy of someone or something else?

Overall I would give Replicas a solid 8/10. Go into the movie expecting a race against time and problem-solving story, with little action, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 4 of 4)

C-3: The Golden age of Cyberpunk

C-3 is the current age that we now find ourselves in, or as I like to call it, the Golden Age of Cyberpunk. Why is it the Golden Age, you ask? Because of the amount of Cyberpunk content that is being published, and the quality of content, really makes one feel that Cyberpunk is now.

The Golden Age started with Tron: Legacy in 2010. In my opinion another breakthrough in special effects, Tron: Legacy was a sequel to the original Disney Tron live-action, which was based off an old videogame. This time featuring Jeff Bridges and Michael Sheen, it also had the legendary Daft Punk composing the musical score, as well as having a cameo in the film itself.

After Tron: Legacy, You will want to watch the Total Recall reboot featuring Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel. With great special effects and visuals, this film is heavier on action but a lot lighter on the deeper issues at its source material contained.

Next, following the trend of reboots, watch the Ghost in the Shell live-action adaptation with the controversial casting of Scarlett Johannsen. With an excellent score and amazing visuals, you can decide whether or not the film was better, or worse, than the source material.

After Ghost in the Shell, you will want to watch a sequel to the titular Blade Runner movie, called Blade Runner 2049. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and scored by none other than Hans Zimmer himself, Blade Runner 2049 features Ryan Gosling as the new Blade Runner, while bringing back the legendary Harrison Ford himself. They join a great cast of Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, and Robin Wright, and the visuals are once again incredible.

Next in line in the Cyberpunk list is to read Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon before watching the Netflix series from Laeta Kalogridis that premiered on Netflix in February of 2018. Make sure to read the book before watching Season 1, as there are significant differences. Season 2 is current in production, and the novel Altered Carbon is actually book 1 of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, which is where the series is drawing a lot of its source material. You will probably want to read books 2 and 3 of the series before seeing further seasons. While Ghost in the Shell the previous year was a reminder that Cyberpunk still existed, it was the return of Blade Runner 2049 combined with this highly successful series that cemented the return of the genre to mainstream again.

This was further cemented by the subsequent live-action adaptation of Ready Player One by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, and is next on your list of Cyberpunk classics. You can’t get more mainstream than Spielberg. Read Ernest Cline’s book before watching the movie, as there are some differences, but both are excellent and Cline was actually a very active part in the creative direction of the film.

Finally, finish the Golden Age by reading the manga and watching the live action adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel from James Cameron. This movie is likely to have sequels follow, and in our opinion has already made a substantial impact on pop culture with its recent success.

There were many Cyberpunk films and works that were released during the Golden Age that are very much worth your time as well, but did not make it to the must-view or must-read list above. They include the live-action reboot of Judge dredd (2012, earlier C-3) as well as Elysium and Chappie by Neil Blomkamp, Anon (a Netflix original with Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried), and Upgrade.

So, to recap, this is the order I would suggest for C-3:

  1. Tron: Legacy
  2. Total Recall
  3. Ghost in the Shell
  4. Blade Runner 2049
  5. Altered Carbon (Novel and Netflix series)
  6. Ready Player One (Novel and movie)
  7. Alita: Battle Angel (manga and movie)

Some Additional excellent Cyberpunk films:

  1. Judge Dredd
  2. Elysium
  3. Chappie
  4. Anon
  5. Upgrade

I hope this beginner’s guide to Cyberpunk was useful. If you think I left something out, make sure to let me know in the comments below!