Film · Review

Love, Death & Robots: ‘Lucky 13’ Review

I’m not sure why the relationship between a space fighter pilot and her craft exudes a strong sapphic energy but it totally does. I mean, maybe because Samira Wiley (who lends her face and voice to a mocapped performance) is openly queer. Or because my twitter feed the past month has been a constant stream of Carol Danvers fanart. Or because people give their vehicles female names and pronouns.

Like, they don’t even really make much of an attempt to humanise the ship, it don’t get a voice, it don’t get a face. The closest it gets is a HAL type eye camera, but even then when we see it’s gaze it’s steady and dispassionate. I suppose the edit serves to give us a little something, and a voiceover that hits the right melancholy beats of a closed chapter of one’s life.

The setting I suppose is suitably vague, as is the action. We see a lot of soldiers and a lot of guns. Faceless enemies in masks and dialogue that talks in the most surgical possible terms. I’ll admit to not being thrilled by any of the sequences here, even though I don’t particularly have any reason why. I guess just don’t really care about the characters, i mean the relationship is nice, but the actual folks are basically invisible.

Like Daisuke Tsuji’s Warrent Officer, who’s sorta just there to fill out the space. We’re given this tale of a life that is lived together but actually see very little of it reflected upon our characters. It’s all too airless I guess, nothing feels like it has weight. When describing her first mission you can feel the effort being put in to make it epic but there’s nothing to grab onto that truly makes one care.

I guess loving your cool space plane is a bit like loving your car, very real but not something that other people are going to be particularly interested in. It’s why films are about getaway drivers, we just care far more about the people inside. Who are these folks?

There’s a shot that we get in a montage — which like, the whole film is basically one big one — of our lead chilling in a hammock that she’s rigged up in the back of the bird during some downtime. Probably something that’s been in a hundred movies before but it actually suggests something about the character that we just don’t get anywhere else. There’s a single shot where her face crumples into a reaction that suggests there’s some complex well of emotion behind that mask.

The animation for this one is done by Sony. You’d expect it to feel more accomplished at least. It’s pretty, if again plagued by the series’ obsession with dull production design. It’s not supposed to look pretty I guess, but the dull brown alien worlds that are trod upon look nothing close to interesting either.

Maybe I’m just making excuses as to why I didn’t much like it. I keep coming back to that voiceover, and asking if the film would work without it. It wouldn’t. Wiley brings so much warmth and life and emotion that just isn’t conveyed in the picture. Her work tries to elevate something which at its core feels deeply ambivalent about humanity.

Maybe that’s the point, but if it is I’d prefer a film that actually wanted to make it.

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

Two stars
Image courtesy of Netflix

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