THE ANIMATRIX is not a side project so much as an encyclopedia project of the Warchowski Brothers. The boys obviously had a slew of ideas regarding what THE MATRIX is and is not, and to their delight, others have been inspired by their idea and the many story lines that can branch out from their single point of focus. If the world is nothing more than virtual reality, then what are its limits?
The DVD begins with The Flight of Osiris. Those unfortunate few who paid money in the winter of 2003 to see that awful crap called THE DREAMCATCHER, were given (as an apology, probably) the first segment of THE ANIMATRIX. The Flight of Osiris, directed by Andy Jones (Special Effects work on GODZILLA, FINAL FANTASY), is a lavish, entirely computer animated rendering, and looks better than FINAL FANTASY (nothing against the rest of those animators, but the software bar is being continually raised and they should know! They raised it!). Here flesh looks, if not real, then certainly alive, as do the surroundings. This story is totally action driven and (for those of you who have seen THE MATRIX: RELOADED but not The Flight of Osiris) gives details that RELOADED calls upon. The characters know about the approaching Sentinals when they cryptically say,
"Whatever is in that box cost Thaddeus his life"
This short film fills in the details.
Not all the shorts or segments that make up THE ANIMATRIX relate directly to RELOADED. And not all the computer animation you will see on this DVD tries to look realistic. Even with Computer Generated Images, the art and artistic vision of humans remains. For example -
Two segments, THE SECOND RENAISSANCE Parts I & II really are an encyclopedia of the War between humanity and machines. Directed by Mahiro Maheda (NEON GENESIS: Evangelion) and told as a newsreel of the events that led up to the demise of man, of how humanity made the robots to automate labor. Without labor, humans became vain and overindulged. Robots took care of their every need and what's more, actually cared for humans. But, by and large, humans did not appreciate their servants.
The day eventually came when, despite all programming, a robot killed its human master. The human master wanted to destroy the robot and the robot wanted to exist. There were some humans who reckoned that the machines, having been built by human hands, retained the desires of their creators and deserved their freedom. Humans and robots together protested and rioted, and were quickly ... quelled. For those in power regarded robots as property and, full of arrogance, destroyed not just the one killer robot, but every model of that robot.
human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive.
The other robots took note: Not all humans were against them.
Eventually the robots left the cities of humans and created one of their own, in the midst of an inhospitable desert near the cradle of civilization's birth. They called their city, 01. In less than a year, their technology advanced far beyond anything produced by humans. And though it wasn't necessary for their survival, they created their own economy based on serving human need and protection. The much favored robotic products quickly wrecked the human based economies as robot created machines were far superior and better suited for humans than anything created by people.
This meant war.
A war that humans almost immediately began to lose.
In desperation, the humans in power advanced a suicidal scheme to defeat the robots by cutting off their power supply: the sun. We scorched the sky with nanomachines that put a black blanket between the sun and the surface of the earth. But the robots anticipated such a move and stored great quantities of their power, enabling them to fight under blackened skies. With no sunlight, humans ran out of food faster than the robots ran out of their stored energy.
The battle was between men and their machines, and the machines themselves and the robots took note.
Man could not exist without machines. Could machines exist without man?
So we need machines, and machines need us. Is that your point?
The robots, which could have destroyed us utterly, demanded instead, that we surrender our flesh to them. Humans treated robots as objects, now they would treat us the same. We cut off their power supply, now we would serve as their source of energy. It wasn't meant to be practical: it was punishment.
"Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash
killing everyone connected to the matrix, which coupled with the extermination
of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race."
In short, we aren't batteries of stored energy, but the original Latin of batteries of stored or accumulated anything. In this case, processing power. Billions of the most complex computers in existence, ready to be wiped and re-serviced.
"You won't let it happen, you can't. You need human beings to survive."
"There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept."
Yet they created THE MATRIX: an artificial dream made real by our own minds where we live in a world where our machines serve us.
Do you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world?
Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster.
Our ties with each other remain inextricable. But "Why?" is the key mystery.
"I am the Architect. I created the matrix. I've been waiting for
you. You have many questions, and although the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human."
KID'S STORY, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop), explains the boy who keeps thanking Neo in RELOADED for saving him. Even though he is told,
PROGRAM, directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (writer of WICKED CITY and VAMPIRE HUNTER D: Bloodlust) follows two people inside a training program, and one's dangerous confession. This one was done alternately by hand painted cell animation and computer animation and the characters were created by the artist Yutaka Minowa. Backgrounds were designed to resemble Japanese scroll paintings and the colors meant to represent Japanese-style colors, though with much more black. This one stands out for it's dying human form, as animation goes the way of the precise machine. This is even more poignant when, in the midst of the storyline's betrayal, the background turns abruptly from a hand painted form to a very Computer Graphic appearance.
WORLD RECORD, directed by Takeshi Koike, shows how some very rare people, entirely on their own, are able to break through the Matrix and see, if only for a moment, the world as it really is. The stadium design was inspired by an actual building called The Sagrada Familia, designed by the architect, Antonio Gaudi. This was also hand drawn and the people designed with deformed characterization to take advantage of the specific effects that animation can bring to a story.
BEYOND, directed by Koji Morimoto (AKIRA), explains Haunted Houses, Matrix-style.
A DETECTIVE STORY, again directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, is just that, a black & white noir tale of a down & out detective (this is noir, is there any other kind?) who is given a bank account full of money in exchange for handling a very mysterious case, "Find Trinity." It's very creative in it's alternate history approach and, if I ever find myself trapped in the past, I hope it's a time like this one.
MATRICULATED, directed by Peter Chung (AEON FLUX) ends the DVD with a tale of humans in the real world capturing individual robots, plugging in, and trying to convince them of their cause: Humans and robots living together in freedom and peace.
Various styles of art come into play with THE ANIMATRIX and I was entranced with all of them. Some, like World Record and Matriculated were highly stylized while others, like The Program and A Detective Story, were style-ish. Kid's Story stands out for being so intentionally rough. All the art forms served their story lines perfectly: they were lean and cut right to the point of the tale without sacrificing characterization. The dialog was as tight as you are ever likely to find and it's too bad the Warchowski Brothers didn't take this kind of care with their terribly bloated RELOADED.
In some ways, this is what Japanese Anime has been leading up to. This is also what Kevin Eastman, with his abysmal HEAVY METAL 2000, utterly failed to grasp. THE ANIMATRIX never talks down to its audience and is never dumbed down either.
Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my
muscles in this place? Do you think that's air you're breathing now?
Though the science can be anything from questionable to downright stupid, it works within the frame of the story: What we believe our science is, is after all, within the artificial reality of THE MATRIX. The physics of the Matrix may not be what works in the real world.
I've seen an agent punch through a concrete wall. Men have emptied entire
clips at them and hit nothing but air, yet their strength and their speed
are still based in a world that is built on rules. Because of that, they
will never be as strong or as fast as you can be.
The DVD is loaded with extras, which is always good. In addition to a brief bio of each director, you get a full "Making of" documentary on THE ANIMATRIX as well as a second documentary on the history of Japanese Anime, plus a rocking trailer for the game, ENTER THE MATRIX, which also ties into the last two movies. It also contains voice overs of the Japanese directors, translated in subtitles in English.
The movie is dubbed in English and Japanese and subtitled in English, Francais, & Espanol. There is also a DVD ROM section that doesn't work with my Windows 2000. It may work with your Windows XP, AppleMac or Linux. Then again, maybe not. Maybe it only works if you are connected to the Internet... maybe. The DVD comes in two flavors. Just the DVD and the full Set which also contains an ANIMATRIX jacket patch (though it feels cheap and probably wouldn't survive the first wash) and the Soundtrack CD for the DVD. For me it was worth the cost of ownership*.
THE ANIMATRIX is sexy, powerful, character driven and moves with lightening speed. Moreover, it's intentionally smart and thought provoking. With a sensory and information overload that compells without overwhelming you, this, like it's predecessor, has the ability to be watched again and again. If you enjoyed the breathtaking and stimulating ride that was the first MATRIX, you are going to love this!
5 Shriek Girls.
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