Love, Death & Robots: Sonnie’s Edge Review

Still from Love Death & Robots Episode 1: Sonnie's Edge

The next week is looking pretty sparse as far as films go so I’ll be throwing up reviews of the new animated Netflix anthology series from producers David Fincher and Tim Miller Love, Death & Robots. The shorts themselves are only like 10-15 minutes in length so it’s probably best you watch before reading, I’ll try my best but will usually end up being pretty loose with spoilers. Enjoy.

If you run in certain circles of trans twitter you’ll have encountered a lot of talk about Titanfall 2 recently. It’s just what everybody seems to be playing right now. It didn’t long for it to be decided that in the game, all pilots are trans.

Because that’s what the narrative is always about isn’t it? Plugging into something bigger than oneself becoming, in a very literal way, more than the limitations of your body. Pacific Rim‘s take is symbiosis, that one must discard the notion of the self in order to interface with it’s Jagers, Evangelion‘s that the pain of the experience is an escape from a world even harder to bear.

Stories about becoming something else are stories that deliberately critique normative notions of identity. We’ve seen it before.

Back like, jesus, maybe six seven years ago, was the time when reddit was hounding the tumblr otherkin community. I never really joined in, but did enjoy watching the sport. Who are these people, who can just say something so concrete and unbelievable about themselves with such conviction? I realised later that I was reading with an embarrassing lack of nuance. I would out of hand immediately discard the words of someone begging to be understood, just because they had phrased it in a way I found unsympathetic.

Sonnie’s Edge tells the story of competitors in an underground fighting ring. Like forgotten 2011 Hugh Jackman vehicle Real Steel the competitors jack into the minds of their avatars to do battle in the ring. These creations are far squishier though, as the beatdown commences the ring is quickly splattered with their blood and entrails.

The fighting is fun and flashy, kinda reminiscent of what you’d expect from the most grimdark Pokemon fan film, but the film exists in the margins of the title bout. Approaching an arena in the slums outside a future London, Sonnie and her team are confronted by the organiser, he’ll pay a lot for them to lose this time.

Her team refuses: Sonnie is a victim of kidnapping, rape, bodily mutilation, she’s not fighting for money, she’s the only woman in this game and she’s fighting for revenge. It’s what gives her the edge.

It’s a nice story, true she’s better than everyone else but she keeps her mouth shut regarding this element of her past. For her part, she moves quietly, glares cooly out from under a hood. Maybe it’s easier to be what everyone thinks she is. After the round she’s approached by the man’s trophy wife. It would seem that she too is not entirely as she appears.

That’s all that it’s playing at though, appearance. Who is how they seem and who isn’t. There’s this recurring motif of ultraviolet fashion, how stepping under a blacklight can reveal more than meets the eye. Even with the final twist though, it’s not revealing anything about the nature of identity aside from this supposed immutability. That if we can dig down far enough, what makes someone themselves can be a solved problem.

The surface level take is pretty aptly matched by how the thing looks and sounds — like an unconvincing PS4 cutscene. I’ve been replaying Deus Ex: Human Revolution recently and the whole thing looks like that but more deliberately gritty. It’s tiresome kinda, the introduction to a new ‘adult’ series feeling like it’s got to somehow earn that title, and choosing to go about it through the most cliche means.

The woman gets her boobs out. Wow, thanks, I’m so impressed by your audacity. If you can’t be original, try skate through on audacity. It’s not working.

I’m hoping there was deliberation into how to string these short films together as a series. That this could be an easy introduction to the audience, superficially shocking, but a none too challenging work. I hope, otherwise it’s making for a pretty unconvincing start.

Love Death & Robots is currently available to stream via Netflix.

Two Stars

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