Love, Death & Robots: ‘Beyond the Aquila Rift’ Review

A still from the Love, Death & Robots episode: Beyond the Aquila Rift

Fitting that a trip to the skies should bring us back down to Earth. This short was directed by Léon Bérelle, Dominique Boidin, Rémi Kozyra & Maxime Luère from a script by Philip Gelatt. This review contains spoilers.

The centrepiece of this short film is a sex scene. The filmmakers obviously feel very proud of that and for the first time in this collection the care is taken to actually construct a situation in which sex is treated in a vaguely adult manner. Yet the heart clearly wasn’t in it.

I imagine if you got on a set with Hugh Jackman and Charlize Theron, as these folks so obviously wanted to be, it might actually turn into something fun. Like, I’ve never gotten anywhere near it so far, but have had to make out with folks on stage and it always feels kinda awkward and exciting and tense. There’s an energy that comes out of sharing yourself with an audience, a camera that is impossible to deny.

I don’t think you get that when you’re spending days painstakingly animating each thrust of the computer man’s hips. The sex is lifeless, which could be excused if the way that it was presented it us weren’t so bland. They seem almost ashamed of the fact that it’s there, presenting a series of cliches that exist entirely apart from the characters that we’ve started to meet.

Like, they don’t even want it to be sexy. That’s the only reason I can think of behind the godawful needledrop that oppressively sat over the whole thing. Like, I’ve watched Source animated porn gifs that were more compelling — because at least you can tell they were directed with specific intent. I suppose how wrong the mouths look when they meet cigarettes, drinks, and breasts should make me thankful that we don’t see that much more.

Of course I got thinking about video games right from the get go because the setup is so Mass Effect. A crew prepare to hop their cargo ship through a relay and settle down for the long sleep as they speed back to Earth, only to find that a system error has left them stranded on the edge of the galaxy at a space station constructed by everyone else that the computer shot off to this corner of nowhere.

Fortunately, a ex of his — fortunately they parted on good and mutual terms — is also stuck out there and they contemplate for a while the nature of being lost. This is another time we’re given a short with suitable ideas for a 15 minute runtime, but with a script that so desperately wants to be longer.

It seems watching this that just about every other scene represents a new big twist for our lead to uncover. You get the sense of his frustration at the constant worsening of the news, yet we are never allowed the time to let any of these reveals properly register. The mounting horror that we are being exposed to, and the relationship between a man and this woman who kinda just keeps lying to him should be interesting to explore. But he’s choking her out and slamming her against the wall at like 12 minutes in and you haven’t had the chance to really get invested in either of them.

Turns out his ship went so far off course that he’s actually being kept alive in a simulation being run by sentient benevolent space spiders. Would be pretty twisted if I actually cared at all. Besides Mass Effect did the friendly psychic space ants thing a decade ago, if we’re counting.

Maybe it would feel more impactful if its version of the future weren’t so generic. They sit down for drinks in what looks like the bar of a very fancy hotel. They go to sleep in like the platonic ideal of a sleeping pod, even the cutesy touch of a crew member who’s stuck glow in the dark stars to their feels familiar.

The photoreal aesthetic is very fancy I guess, too bad that it’s not actually in service of anything.

Love, Death & Robots is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Image courtesy of Netflix

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