November 14, 2019

Love, Death & Robots “Three Robots” Review | Off the Beaten Path

Now that we’ve covered our first action filled episode, I think we could use a bit of a breather. Luckily for us, LDR has us covered with episode two, Three Robots. If you didn’t heed my advice in watching Sonnie’s Edge before my review of it, that’s cool, you do you reader. That said this episode is only 10 minutes long, so I don’t really see why you wouldn’t watch it, but again, you do you reader. But enough preamble, let’s talk about Three Robots.

Based on a short story of the same name by John Scalzi, it follows three robots (XBOT 4000, K-VRC, and an unnamed monolithic Alexa) in the distant future over a day of sightseeing a post-apocalyptic human metropolis. They visit a number of popular tourist destinations, each with their own dark post-apocalyptic flavor (namely desiccated corpses they treat with true indifference), including a basketball gym, a diner, a hotel, a shopping center, and a military base. While experiencing these truly human installations, they comment on the illogical nature of humanity, pick up a cat while thinking it could be a bomb, and learn about their own pasts.

When I first watched Three Robots back in March, it was the first short I truly enjoyed (my initial opinion of Sonnie’s Edge is given in greater detail in its review). Actually, if I had to describe my opinion in one word, it would be “charmed”. While the episode doesn’t really have a narrative backbone or arc, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I enjoyed watching the three robots go about their vacation getting in the sights and making pithy comments; in other words, I felt like a tourist watching tourists. Also, unlike other episodes (I’m looking at you The Witness), the episode is comparatively audience friendly. Other than some strong language, it doesn’t feature violence and sex, yet alone gratuitous violence and sex, making it something I feel even the harshest critics of the show could easily enjoy, and one I’d suggest to random people to ease them into the show. My only real complaints about the episode on my first watch was the cat and the ending, which features the cat. That fucking cat. Otherwise, I’d say it was probably one of my favorite of the comedy episodes of the season.

On rewatch, my opinions haven’t really changed; I found the humor both nice and dark yet endearingly innocent, I hate the cat, and so on. What I did get from the rewatch is a deeper understanding why I liked what I liked and why I hated what I hated. So with that in mind, let me dive into why I liked what I liked. 

Since there is no definable narrative arc in my mind, the robots of course are the lifeblood of the short; if they didn’t work, the short wouldn’t work. Safe to say, they work very well. Their dynamic and characterization falls into the style of the comic trio so well it’s even built into their physical designs, helping us viewers plug into their dynamics and allowing us to quickly absorb the humor: XBOT 4000 (voiced by Gary Anthony Williams) is the leader, the most humanlike and serious of the robots yet also the one who consistently questions why humans were the way they were; K-VRC (voiced by Josh Brenner) is the fool, the lackadaisical one who is there just to have fun, and poke and prod at XBOT; the Alexa (easily my favorite of the three) is the smart one, explaining humanity’s foibles and giving bitingly funny hot takes while reenacting human things itself. While you can tell that the trio is my favorite part of the episode, I also liked the animation (for the most part). The animation, provided by Studio Blow, is 3D CGI just like Sonnie’s Edge, but it fits better in my mind. Likely this is because other than cats, everything that’s animated is either a robot, dead, or landscape; in other words, stuff that’s easy to make look good with cg animation.

Let’s go over what’s wrong with the short, namely the cat. That fucking cat.

Now, this can’t be a total gush fest (that’ll be for some episodes I’ll get to in time), since this episode isn’t perfect by any means, so let’s go over what’s wrong with the short, namely the cat. That fucking cat. Not to say the cat is wholly negative. When it first appeared and shortly afterwards, there were some solid jokes made about the cat (like the belief that the cat would explode based on historical records of the game Exploding Kittens), but something about it felt off the longer it was on screen. At first, it was only the animation, which while looking good was off just enough to make it look uncanny. It was really the ending when (spoiler alert!) the cat reveals it can talk (voiced by Chris Parnell no less) that the unsettling feeling really took hold, and cranked to eleven when the nuclear silo they were in was filled with cats like some kind of furry tidal wave. Even on rewatch the speaking cat ending came out of nowhere, so it didn’t help itself. That said, it really does come down to personal opinion about the cat. I could honestly see some people loving the cat ending, and the cat until the end is a small enough figure that it doesn’t drag down the quality of the short that much despite my complaints.

To conclude my rewatch of Three Robots, despite the cat dragging it down some, this episode is one of my favorite of the comedy episodes, and one I would recommend to anyone.

Final Rating: B+

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by Joseph MacMaster

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