'Appleseed Ex Machina [Blu-ray]'
(Kara Greenberg, et al / DVD / PG-13 / (2007) 2008 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Produced by John Woo and directed by Shinji Aramaki, Appleseed Ex Machina (2007) ranks as the most elaborate, stylish, and violent of the three adaptations of Masamune Shirow's manga. When it was released in 1988, the original Appleseed felt like a summary of anime's past, while Akira pointed the way to the future. The second Appleseed (2004), also directed by Aramaki, was an unimpressive motion-capture CG feature that borrowed elements from other sci-fi anime. In this latest incarnation, Deunan, Briareos, and Tereus of the E.S.W.A.T. team are charged with preserving the peace of the city-state of Olympus, a hi-tech paradise on a largely ruined Earth.
DVD Verdict: The visuals are nothing short of stunning, especially in HD. It's worth the download just to check out how beautifully the cg animation is rendered. The action scenes are tight, with Matrix-esque slow motion shots, crazy camera angles and an emphasis on heavy gun play, indicative of producer John Woo's style. One drawback on the cg animation though is that when characters interact with each other physically it seems awkward. They don't feel like they are touching. I imagine that when you make something with animation like that you'd run into clipping issues when the characters intereact heavily. In fact, it reminded me of cut scenes from Eternal Sonata, a video game using similar animation techniques but on a bigger scale obviously.
The story is an upgrade from the first movie, although the main antagonist borrows heavily from classic Star Trek villain, the Borg. There's even a Borg like cube of sorts that serves as it's foundation. The subplot consists of a triangle between Deunan, Briareos (the main protagonists from the first movie) and Tereus, a biroid created mostly from Briareos's DNA who becomes Deunan's new partner after her lover falls in battle.
If I were to make a criticism I'd say that the main antagonist was revealed a tad too late, making the final resolution a little anti-climactic. At a runtime of about an hour and 40 minutes I felt like another 20 minutes would have been justified. When it was over, I couldn't quite believe it at first. Also, and this may be a good thing, events from the first movie go almost completely without mention. This means that you won't have to have seen the first one to appreciate this, but at the same time there is a lack of continuity for those that did.
All in all though, it's a good film and worth a watch. "Appleseed Ex Machina" is a worthy sequel that actually tops the preceding film -- a stunning CGI shell around a solid sci-fi/love story. Definitely worth checking out. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
Audio Commentary with the Filmmakers
Team-Up: John Woo & Shinji Aramaki - Featurette
Revolution: Animating Ex Machina - Featurette
The Appleseed Chronicles: The Definitive History
East Meets West: How the art form is viewed in different cultures
Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD), is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of the world's leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers (including Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson). The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (HD), as well as storing large amounts of data. The format offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs and can hold up to 25GB on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc. This extra capacity combined with the use of advanced video and audio codecs will offer consumers an unprecedented HD experience.