The 2nd Dimension

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Viewing Journal: Appleseed - Ex Machina

Movie Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B
Story = B-
Video = B+
Audio = B

Deunan, a young female warrior, and Briareos, a veteran cyborg-soldier, are both partners and lovers. As members of E.S.W.A.T., the elite special forces serving Olympus, they are deployed whenever trouble strikes. The two fighters find their partnership tested in a new way by the arrival of a new member to their ranks - an experimental Bioroid named Tereus. (Source: ANN)

This is a big improvement on the first Appleseed movie in both the story and the animation. That probably has something to do with the fact that this one was directed by acclaimed Chinese filmmaker John Woo. Although I have only seen a handful of his movies and -- other than his tendency to use doves -- can't say that I'm an expert on his style; but regardless, he definitely did a better job with characterization and keeping the visuals and action consistent, especially compared to that first movie.

The plot has something to do with a device that causes people to go out of control (or something like that... it's actually been a while since I saw this), and Deunan, Briareos and the rest of the ESWAT crew need to find out what's going on. But what's more is that Deunan has to take on a new partner: a Bioroid (artificial human) named Tereus who looks just like Briareos did before he became cyborg. It's a pretty cool twist on the story that gives a lot of opportunity for emotionally charged back and forth between the trio, and a good amount of drama -- or at least as much as you can have a in a CG movie.

And that's where the real draw of this movie comes in: it actually does a good job of giving the CG characters enough personality and expression to make seem incredibly sympathetic. The improved CG itself is part of that. The visuals are actually consistent instead of the half-realistic, half-computer-shade that there was in the first movie. The facial expressions of the characters are more natural and not as rigid or awkward as they were in the first movie. Same thing with the body movements. The characters look relaxed and -- well, like actual characters.

Even the costumes add to the their personalities. When you see Deunan in that dress at the birthday party, or Tereus walk in in his tux, or Briareos in his military t-shirts, it seems so familiar for a sci-fi CG-animated movie that catches you off guard.

But it's as much the writing as the visuals that make the characters come alive. The dialogue isn't quite as cliche or predicable as it was in the original. And the interaction between characters is natural. There is a lot of casual back and forth and guys chucking each other on the shoulder, stuff like that makes the interaction more sympathetic, believable, and relatable.

Of course, what you probably are REALLY going to see this movie for is the crazy shoot-em-up, sci-fi tech action, and there is plenty of it here to please. Everything from the landmate robotic armor whizzing all over the place and blasting everything, to Deunan and Birareos in the church doing all kinds of unexpected gun tricks and acrobatics to catch the bad guys. Both in terms of the art and the action, it is all a lot of fun to watch.

The music works well too. Both in terms of intensifying both the action and the drama, it does a good job of enhancing each scene.

My only major gripe about the movie is that the ending requires that you have seen the first movie in order to understand what is going on. And it has been so long since I saw that first one that I couldn't remember who was who or why certain things were happening. So the ending didn't seem as climactic as maybe it was supposed to be.

In a lot of ways this seems like a typical action movie, but it doesn't seem as much like the typical animated action movie because of the smart writing and well-choreographed action. So I'd definitely recommend it, even if you have seen the first one and were put off by the story and visuals, this is enough of an improvement to make it worth checking out. The action is fun, and the characterization really warms up the rather cold medium of CG-animation.

1 comment:

neelabh said...

Indeed,Appleseed-Ex Machina with the 1st part or the pre-logue directed by John Woo and the main story"AppleSeed" refering to the apple in garden of eden virus with the typical storyline of sceince gone bad is a treat for all anim enthusiasts.The movie based on the manga has the smooth action scene topped with the above par animation.the 3some-a human,a bio-tron and an android;make the world of this Ex-Machina class.Its the only anim I liked;1st being The Ghost In The Shell-part 1&2.If u havent seen TGITS and ExMachina then u have'nt seen the inspiration behind THE MATRIX Trilogy.