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Animatrix, The

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 07/11/03 13:30:50

"Like MATRIX RELOADED, it's hit and miss - but the hits are solid"
3 stars (Average)

There's been plenty of hype surrounding the Matrix in this Year of our Architect 2003. And while the ANIMATRIX series was primarily a marketing tool geared to fuel the hype machine, some of its segments are brilliant and breathtaking examples of animation. Unfortunately, like the average music CD, for every great track there's usually a "filler" song.

This isn't going to be a review, so much as nine capsule reviews with the final rating taken from the mean average score. So without further adieu . . .

Final Flight of the Osiris: The crowning gem of the collection. The characters, though short lived, are interesting (and sexy - especially that Jue. Whoa.). The action sequences are as exciting as anything in the films, and the animation is damn near flawless. Several scenes look absolutely lifelike. For my full ravings about this piece, look up the seperate review on this site. This one almost makes the set worth having on its own. Funny that it's the first chapter in the collection. You'd think they would have saved the best for last. *****

Second Renaissance Part 1: Visually, it doesn't really match the universe of The Matrix at all. However, it is a gorgeous bit of animation with a fairly profound and, at times, viscerally disturbing plot. You may feel a particular chill go up your spine as a gang of humans smash a female robot to death, while she cries out "Please, I'm real!", and the Schindler's List holocaust theme of humans persecuting millions of sentient machines is handled very well. *****

Second Renaissance Part 2: The conclusion that shows us how man eventually brought about his own downfall by making machines more powerful than himself. Not quite as gripping as part 1, and some of the music video battle sequences were a little over the top and reminded me of the campy animation style of Heavy Metal. Still, it's an intriguing follow up. ****

Program: A standard Samurai-theme training simulation goes horribly wrong, and a soldier of Zion has both her prowess and her loyalty put to the ultimate test. Again, the visual style doesn't quite mesh, and the outcome is a bit of a cop out. Not bad, but rather forgettable. ***

World Record: An athlete pushes himself to the limit, and begins to see beyond the veil of the Matrix when his adrenaline reaches critical levels. Interesting idea, but poorly executed, and while most of these segments can be accused of having a visual style that doesn't quite fit the Matrix universe, this one garishly clashes with it. Too many hard lines and square features make the characters look unappealing, the athlete's Slim Shady wannabe sidekick is annoying as hell, and what is up with the agents in this one? The way they dress and wear their hair, they look more like the Joker's henchmen from a second-rate Batman cartoon. Pass. **

Beyond: Set in an unnamed city that looks like a hybrid of Tokyo and Los Angeles, a teenage girl named Yoko loses her cat. A trio of neighborhood kids think they saw it wandering into the neighborhood "haunted house" - which, unbeknowst to them, is a malfunctioning segment of the Matrix. Once inside, one can bend the laws of gravity and physics, and program malfunctions manifest themselves as strange and ghostly apparations. A pretty cool idea, with some cute characters, but it does lag in places. Not bad. ***

Kid's story: Why the tagalong kid in Matrix Reloaded got as much screen time as he did is a mystery to me. Not only was the kid annoying, but his character made no sense to viewers because his back story hadn't even been released yet. Surprisingly, though, Kid's Story is a pretty decent installment. When a teenager begins to sense that his "real world" may not be so real after all, he begins to scour chat rooms looking for the answer. But when he gets a phone call from Neo in the middle of class, and suddenly finds his school surrounded by agents - well, what's a boy to do but make one hell of an escape on his skateboard? While the story really isn't all that interesting, the animation is gripping - especially the skateboarding scenes with lots of blurry lines to accentuate motion and speed. ****

Detective Story: Apparently, part of the Matrix is an anachronistic world of 1940's clothing styles and architecture, meshed with computers and hacking. When a private detective is hired to track down a hacker named "Trinity", his investigation leads him all over the city trying to pick up "his" trail. "A case to end all cases," he calls it. Well, let's not overdramatize things. Again, we have an interesting premise, and watching a fedora-wearing gumshoe meet Trinity all decked out in her black leather is kind of cool. Also, the scenes of a snowy New York City with towering skyscrapers that look more like something out of Metropolis is a nice touch. But the story just didn't quite convince me, the ending was a bit flat, and all the anachronisms just didn't quite fit. Earns points for trying something different, but ultimately files itself under "nice try". ***

Matriculated: Since they put the best segment on the DVD first, it's only fitting that the worst is on last. I couldn't even tell you what the story is really about, as convoluted as it was. From what I could gather, some people from Zion capture a machine and jack into a simulation program with it, hoping to convert it to their human way of thinking. The plan backfires. Nobody cares. Again, the animation doesn't remotely resemble anything from The Matrix, and while it is certainly busy and eye-catching, it can't hide the fact that the story is dull and incompetently told. And what is up with these new "sentinels" that chirp and walk around with big antennae and look about as menacing as a cybernetic Jiminy Cricket? Once you get through chapter 8, just turn the DVD player off. *

So, by my calculations, adding up the score for each segment and dividing it by 9 gives us an average of 3.333333333333333333(okay, you get the idea) stars. Of course, it doesn't take a mathematician to tell you that in its whole, THE ANIMATRIX is pretty average (and it's a good thing, because I'm not a mathematician, nor do I know any). Rent it, burn the good ones to DIVX, return it.

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