Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DVD review: The Animatrix

Friend of the blog Kevin C., who is a longtime anime fan, loaned me his copy of the Wachowski brothers' The Animatrix, a compendium of animated shorts based on and supplementing the Matrix trilogy.

An incredibly brief rundown of the nine stories:
  • Final Flight of the Osiris - what happened to the ship Osiris, the aftermath of which was dealt with in the last Matrix movie and the subsequent Matrix videogame. CG-animation a la Beowulf
  • The Second Renaissance Parts I and II - the story of how the machines came to rise up and create the Matrix. Traditional Japanimation.
  • Kid's Story - a high school student self-actualizes himself out of the Matrix and into reality, looking for Neo (who is impressed). Rougher animation showing the pencil-strokes in the drawings.
  • Program - a training simulation in which a rebel is faced with a friend who wishes to give up the fight and return to the Matrix. Traditional anime with ancient Japanese imagery (quite beautiful).
  • World Record - an athlete on the verge of self-actualization has agents trying to keep him in control. Stylized, almost grotesque animation (my least favorite of the bunch).
  • Beyond - a lost cat leads to a "haunted house" where the Matrix code is starting to wear thin. Traditional animation with near-photorealism at times.
  • A Detective Story - agents try to catch Trinity. Black and white animation with a heavy noir feeling - very cool.
  • Matriculated - rebels catch and attempt to recondition some of the machines. This looked like a sophisticated Aeon Flux (not surprisingly as the writer/director, Peter Chung, is one and the same) plus a fair bit of CG-animation.

The DVD has a bunch of extras: "making of" documentaries for each short, including discussion of the animation style (in case you want something more than my poor attempts at description above); a very interesting piece called "Scrolls to Screen: the History and Culture of Anime" which I found very informative; director commentaries on four of the shorts (note: each of the short films was directed by a different anime director, hence the wondrous array of styles); director and animation producer bios; and a trailer for the videogame. There are plenty of subtitles (English, Spanish and French) and you can hear the films in either English or Japanese.

This is a must-see for Matrix fans and animation fans alike, although I would really recommend seeing all three Matrix movies (diminishing returns and all) before delving into this disk.

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