post-apocalyptic world that thankfully didn't pull
the trigger on the nukes, a shining city called Olympus
floats above the squalor. Mankind's last and best hope for
world peace while competing with other last and best hopes,
the city uses as its police a combination of armored humans,
armored cyborgs and armored genetically engineered clones
you're a fan of the long-running manga series Appleseed,
then you already knew this. Long considered a classic, it's
been adapted to anime a few times before. None of those
efforts, however, have had the pedigree of the just-released
DVD Appleseed Ex Machina. A CG animated effort overseen
by anime master Shinji Aramaki with action film genius John
Woo producing, the film doesn't so much break new ground
as finally secure the perimeter for animated action films.
like this has a difficult challenge, which is to make its
mythology readily accessible to new audiences while moving
the story along significantly enough to please long-time
fans. This Appleseed Ex Machina does quite well,
establishing the central emotional conflict efficiently
and more clearly than the first volume of the manga does.
(Yes, it's one I have read.)
Forces officers Deunan and Briareos have a partnership that
extends well beyond that of being a good fighting team.
Unfortunately, somewhere in the apocalypse Briareos suffered
an injury so debilitating that his brain and heart now inhabit
an android body that looks like Bugs Bunny went mecha. It's
another Beauty and the Beast story, with the insanely attractive
Deunan forever unable to touch more than her lover's heart.
course, few versions have Beauty able to kick as much ass
as Deunan can, and the infusion of Woo's sensibilities make
this a really fun action film to counterbalance what is
a rather predictable romantic predicament. This installment
also ratchets up the tension by forcing Deunan to take a
new partner - Tereus, a bioroid grown from Briareos' DNA.
a small stretch of the film, it seems that this might create
some incredible tension, as both Briareos and Deunan realize
that Tereus can give her everything the cyborg can't - and
since he's an exact duplicate, it's almost like it's not
really cheating. Before that can get too tense, however,
the film's major plot kicks in, leaving no time for emotional
you think I'm coming down too harshly - as an action film,
this really works. Aramaki lets Woo's language come through
with trademark (and actually useful) slow motion shots.
You can even see those doves fly by. But it's clever action,
absolutely pulse-pounding and in its own strange way beautiful
and gracefully balletic. That real humans couldn't achieve
it is both its strength and a bit of a weakness.
character design and animation, the film suffers a bit in
that the humans have the videogame cut scene look. They're
not really humans; they're animated action figures. Though
shot over live action actors for a good portion, this isn't
concerned with the ripples of musculature and skin like
a Pixar movie would be. Everyone looks plastic, right down
to their doll eyes, moving in a slightly inhuman way.
that works for Briareos, who comes across as the most real
character for precisely the same reason. He is a
giant doll, frustrated by that reality. His five-eyed mask/helmet
carries volumes of expression, though one does have to wonder
what exactly the advantage of the strange headgear would
the extras, animation expert Jerry Beck provides English
language commentary with one of the film's producers, and
their conversation about trying to make the film palatable
for Western audiences does highlight a big difference in
cultural entertainment expectations. That gets underscored
by a documentary on the bonus disc, "East Meets West." If
you want to dive deeper into Appleseed's history,
that's on the second disc, too.
the Two-Disc Collector's Edition, though you can get a bare
bones single disc edition. The movie would be entertaining
enough. Because I like those little extras, though, the
two-disc is pretty alluring, contained in nifty metal packaging
that makes up for the early years of Warner Home Video putting
their discs in the lamest containers possible.
course, if you're otaku - and know what that term means
- you're going for that two-disc package. You guys haven't
quite convinced me to take on that title, but I'll admit
that this foray into anime was well worth my while.
Ex Machina (Two-Disc Special Edition)