Based on the short story by Marko Kloos, “Shape-Shifters” follows two werewolf soldiers, Decker and Sobieski, who are hunting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Much like Beyond the Aquila Rift, this episode is rendered with photorealistic detail. The grounded nature of the visuals really sells the camaraderie between Decker and Sobieski. I was especially impressed by the animators’ ability to capture the nuances of Sobieski’s sarcasm. The brief scene where Sobieski is pretending to be choked up with tears was fantastic in the subtlety of his facial expressions.
At first I was a little taken aback as to why Decker’s character design was so unremarkable. He looks like a default model in a Call of Duty game. But after finishing the short film, I realized that Decker looking like the ideal soldier actually sells his isolation further. Decker’s werewolf qualities don’t manifest themselves on his outward appearance– it’s an internal struggle. This dynamic allows Shape-Shifters to act as an allegory for marginalized soldiers. It’s not as poignant as The Shape of Water, but the film is more than just cool monster fights.
Speaking of cool monster fights! Shape-Shifters has by far the best werewolf battle I’ve ever seen. Having Decker fight his opponents in the nude only heightens the feeling that they are wild animals. The action scenes also make the most out of the CGI medium. In the scene where Decker is running up the mountain to the base camp under fire, the camera is able to shift from third-person to first-person POV seamlessly.
Shape-Shifters makes the case for hyperrealistic animated films because they are able to incorporate fantastic elements and cinematography without breaking visual continuity.
Love, Death, and Robots is currently streaming on Netflix.