Netflix’s Emmy-winning animated anthology series with NSFW’s collection of sci-fi dreams and nightmares, Love, Death + Robots, is one of the most provocative offerings from the streaming giant.
The latest volume, Love, Death + Robots, recently kicked off its third and arguably best season to date on May 20th with a superb selection of animated gems from every corner of the universe.
David Fincher (Se7en, Alien 3, Fight Club) and Tim Miller (Deadpool) have been executive producers on this fantasy series since it first debuted on Netflix (will open in a new tab) back in March 2019.
Volume 3 offers intrepid viewers a menagerie of monster crabs raging zombiea cyborg Grizzly, insect aliens, wise robots, demonic river spirits, evolved rats, an evil elder god, and an astronaut who senses the brain-altering effects of painkillers on Jupiter’s hostile moon Io.
Director Emily Dean (The Lego Batman Movie) is directing the third segment of Love, Death + Robots. illustrator Mobius (Jean Giraud) who never fails.
Adapted by writer Philip Gelatt and based on a Hugo Award-nominated short story by science fiction legend Michael Swanwick, “The Very Pulse of the Machine” is a poetic, trance-like journey through space exploration. The evocative title comes from a line in William Wordsworth’s love poem “She is the Ghost of Rapture”, published in 1807 and written for his wife Mary Hutchinson.
Polygon Pictures, the first Japanese studio to feature on a Netflix series, delivers striking 90s-inspired animation that captures the perfect retro psychedelic tone.
The storyline of Dean’s sci-fi fever dream begins with a lunar rover crashing on the dangerous surface of Jupiter’s moon Io. Astronaut Martha Kivelson must drag the dead body of her co-pilot Juliet Burton through inhospitable terrain back to the lander while under the influence of painkillers that leave her questioning the reality and true nature of Jupiter’s moon.
Space.com spoke with Dean about directing The Very Pulse of the Machine, what she hoped to add to the evolving Love, Death + Robots legacy, and delivering a touching ode to Moebius.
Space.com: How did you choose the award-winning source material for your segment?
Emily Dean: Three years ago, in 2019, I was invited to read a bunch of stories they were considering for volume two, and I chose The Very Pulse of the Machine. It was originally intended for the second volume, but the process took so long that it ended up in the third volume.
Space.com: What story elements did you find ideal for this animated anthology?
ED: I was drawn to her because of her fantasy element, which really excited me creatively. But I liked the metaphysical, ambiguous ending. It’s something creative for me, I like to assert in my work, a kind of quasi-spiritual science fiction. Another component was bringing a certain visual style to the project, and from the very first step, I wanted it to be a love letter to Moebius. I felt that his style was perfect for this story.
Space.com: How did the Polygon animators choose the vibrant color palette?
ED: I am drawn to the heightened color and heightened sensory experience that color can bring. What was fun to play with was the fact that the element sulfur (and Io is a sulphurous moon) is yellow when in a solid state, but when heated and melted in a liquid state, it becomes a bluish-purple color. And I thought, let’s take this as the basis of our color palette.
The story was conceived as a transition from day to night, and it was very intentional because I wanted to show something on the surface, when you look at it from one side, it can be very different from how you see it below, in depth. different times of the day. The colors are to reflect Martha’s own changing perception of what she understands as sentient life.
It was really an attempt to find that stylistic synthesis between clean line French influence and Japanese anime influence, so we sort of found a hybrid of the two.
Space.com: What inspired you to create The Very Pulse of the Machine?
ED: My godmother is actually an astronomer, she worked on the Hubble Space Telescope and worked closely with the European Space Division. So I think from an early age, hanging out with my Italian godmother, who is super cool, really opened my eyes to what’s going on in space.
Of the films that inspired me, definitely Solaris, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact, another film that I really liked as a child. Also, The Abyss, which I think Mobius was working on. From a fantastic point of view, I would say that for other inspirations growing up in Australia, I watched George Miller and Peter Weir a lot. And I still love Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, even though he’s not Australian.
Space.com: NASA is about to land the first woman on the moon as part of the upcoming Artemis mission. With Kivelson as the main character in your film, how did that influence your choice of material for animation?
ED: I wanted to portray a female character that we often see in sci-fi films. She is stronger, she is very smart, she is a scientist and very competent when facing unimaginable challenges. I felt that this is a character that we have not seen in animation, especially in American animation. For me, she is like a representative of humanity, speaking with this intelligent consciousness of Io, and I thought that it would be very beautiful if it were a woman.
Space.com: Your vocalists, Mackenzie Davis (Kivelson) and Holly Jade (Burton), give their roles the perfect tone and emotion. How were they chosen and why?
ED: I knew we wanted Mackenzie from the very beginning. She just has an incredible presence and power in all her work. And Holly, she’s fantastic. She is an Australian actress and we found her after many auditions. She really stood out because she had this sickly beauty in her voice, and because she had to speak not only for Juliet Burton, but for the voice of Io trying to find words through poetry. So we needed something very specific and we’re so excited that we found it.
I’m just waiting for the world to accept “The Very Pulse of the Machine” and I’m so glad I have the chance to do so.
“The Very Pulse of the Machine” is currently streaming as part of “Love, Death + Robots Vol. 3” exclusively on Netflix.