Sci-Fi Storm

Appleseed Ex Machina review

by on Mar.09, 2008, under General News

The sequel to 2004’s Appleseed, Appleseed Ex Machina continues the story of the the city-state of Olympus, born out of the ruins of a devastating world war, along with ESWAT officer Deunan and her partner Briareos, a “hecatonchires” cyborg. Read More for a review. It comes out this Tuesday on single-disc DVD, two-disc Special Edition DVD, combo HD-DVD/DVD and Blu-Ray Disc.

In the year 2133, a war killed off half the population of Earth, plunging the world into chaos and despair. In OLYMPUS, a utopian city-state and the last true bastion of culture and civilization, the ESWAT police force holds the peace. The two star members of this Special Ops team are Deunan Knute and her cyborg partner (both in the force and in life) Briareos. Their relationship is threatened when the government reveals a prototype combat clone, named Tereus, who is a clone of Briareos. However, a strange electronic virus begins turning citizens into violent zombies and the trio must team up to track down the terrorists behind this brutal attack before it tears the peaceful utopia apart.

I just recently watched the original 1988 Appleseed anime film, but have not yet seen the 2004 CGI film, so this is my first look at the interesting blending of CGI and anime. The style was very unique to me. It appeared almost as if it was rotoscoped (hand-drawn over live-action footage), but in 3D. It seems to allow the uniqueness of anime cel animation, while using CGI for rendering.

Although this was directed (as was the 2004 film) by Shinji Aramaki, John Woo (Mission Impossible 2) was added as a producer and you can see his influence, even though some of this may be anime cliches as well – the acrobatic fighting, slow motion gunfights, and the birds.

In general, the animation was spectacular. There were a few times I noticed what didn’t seem to be natural movements, but they are easily overlooked.

The storyline was good – you don’t need to have seen the first film to understand this one – there is a short narration at the start that explains the setting. About the only thing you may need to understand is that cyborgs, especially partial enhancements (usually to repair damaged body parts), are common – but the hecatonchires system, a full cybernetic enhancement system, is not. Briareos, severely wounded in the war, is the only one where the system worked. The system allows him to interface with and control large numbers of systems simultaneously. The name derives from the 100-armed giants of Greek mythology (used for various things in the story) – Briareos is likewise the name of one of them.

Olympus wished to act as the focal point in stopping the terrorists that have been causing problems there and in other city-states by linking all the independently-managed satellites into a single network, controlled by Olympus (since Olympus is controlled by the emotion-supressed Bioroids, and therefore less likely to allow emotions to dictate actions). In the meantime, ESWAT is investigating terrorist activities, and during a battle with cyborgs Briareos is injured. Deunan is given a new partner – Tereus, an experimental Bioroid derived mostly from Briareos’ DNA. This creates emotional conflicts for Deunan, who sees the pre-cyborg Briareos when she looks at Tereus. They even act the same.

When a new technology that has become incredibly popular appears to in fact allow mind control, linked with the now-global satellite network creates worldwide chaos, Deunan, Briareos, and Tereus must search for the source, a mysterious entity called Halcon.

I like stories that have some level of backstory – why Olympus and the Bioroids were created, etc. However, I seen a number of futuristic/post-apocalyptic anime films that seem like they could expose a whole huge epic story – but don’t last more than one film, which has prevented me from getting too into them. I feel let down when I want more, and it never comes. I’ve always been an anime fan (as a kid I drew pictures of the Mach 5 from Speed Racer), but after the mid-90s kind of gave up on it. With this, I may finally be able to re-enter the anime world without feeling that something was missing.

As for the DVD:

The packaging was nothing special. Standard plastic case, with an image of Deunan, Briareos and Tereus (in a pose that I’m starting to call the Charlie’s Angels pose). The DVD itself is screen-printed black with the logo and some styling, with a version of the promotional image of Deunan in Briareos’ arms, both with weapons drawn.

The disc loads and starts with previews for Justice League: New Frontier and the upcoming Batman: Gotham Knight. This leads to static menus with simple images from the feature.

Special features include:

“Team-Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki”: Comments from the crew and columnists about the blending of these two directors.

“Revolution: Animating Ex Machina”: The technical advances that allowed them to create even more realism.

“Commentary”: A commentary track featuring Jerry Beck of and Joseph Chou, one of the producers.

Trailers for several films, including:

All in all, this is a great sci-fi anime film. If you haven’t seen the first one, you can still pick up this one without fear. I’m hoping there will be more Appleseed to come…

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