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DVD REVIEW

Animatrix, The  (2003)

 

Rating: NR (except where noted)

Studio: Warner Bros.

Release Date: 6.03.03

Review Posted: 5.23.03

Spoilers: Minor

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

Synopsis

 

A collection of nine animated short films, detailing the backstory of the "Matrix" universe, and the original war between man and machines which led to the creation of the Matrix.

 

Critique

 

Final Flight of the Osiris

Director Andy Jones and his team, responsible for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, take the script, written by the Wachowski Bros, and create a visually stunning 9-minute short. The Osiris is a ship similar to Morpheus’ and after it discovers a swarm of Sentinels in pursuit, the crew’s only chance to safe Zion is if someone enters the Matrix to warn the others. Final Flight of the Osiris is completely computer animated and looks damn realistic. This short is very good. As a side note, Osiris also sets the stage for The Matrix Reloaded and Enter the Matrix video game. 8/10

 

The Second Renaissance Part I & II

Mahiro Maeda directs the two shorts about the background of the Matrix. It features incredible animation and a really good script by the Wachowski Bros. The Second Renaissance chronicles how man creates the machine, machine revolts against oppression, and the impending differences and war between man and machine. The battle scenes in Part 2 are especially cool. This short is very good and visually stunning. 9.5/10

 

Kid’s Story

Director Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop) directs the Wachowski’s script about a high-school boy who discovers the Matrix and evades Agents to get to the real world. The animation is the most abstract from all the other shorts, but works well considering the tone of the script. Overall, Kid’s Story is good, but not great. As a side note, Keanu Reeves provides his voice for Neo. 8/10

 

Program

Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Vampire Hunter D) writes and directs Program, a simulation program featuring a battle between good and bad, so to speak. Compelling swordplay and action make this one of the more exciting shorts. The animation, by Madhouse Studios, Tokyo, is totally cool. Overall, Program is very good. 8/10

 

World Record

Yoshiaki Kawajiri writes and Takeshi Koike directs World Record, which is about a professional runner as he achieves perfection in his technique, but his skill begins to see the world for what it really is, an illusion. The question is, does he make it out the Matrix alive? You’ll have to watch this short to find out. The animation is a little abstract, but done well. I appreciate the concept of World Record, but it is not as good as the rest. 7/10

 

Beyond

A young girl searches for her runaway cat and teams up with a group of kids. Their search leads them to a Haunted House where the girl finds her cat, but they fail to realize the place is actually a glitch in the Matrix. Beyond, written and directed by Koji Morimoto, is the most character-driven short of them all. The animation is very good, not abstract in any way, and serves the story well. Beyond is the most engaging short of them and I like a lot. 10/10

 

A Detective Story

Shinichiro Watanabe writes and directs this short, which is about a detective hired to find Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss provides her voice). The animation is very dark and subdued, like a film noir type. A Detective Story runs a little too short, but overall it is very cool. 8/10

 

Matriculated

Written and directed by Peter Chung, Matriculated is about a group of liberated humans who capture and interface with enemy robots in an effort to turn them to their cause. The animation is superb and colors are almost used to the extreme. This is the longest short of all, running some fifteen minutes. I appreciate the philosophical outlook of Matriculated, but didn’t think too much of it in the end. Basically, it just isn’t very engaging. 7/10

 

The Video

 

The Animatrix is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen format and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The transfer looks pretty good, but black level and dark tones are not consistent. The color palette depends on the animation of each short, but most of the colors are vibrant, some are subdued. Color detail is very nice and strong. I think some dirt popped up in a few places, but nothing major. There’s also some evidence of edge enhancement, but it doesn’t distract. The video presentation is very good and accentuates the experience of The Animatrix.

 

The Audio

 

The Animatrix is available in English and Japanese Dolby Surround. Sound effects come off very strong and the music soundtrack is handled well. Dialog is crisp and clear. Much of the noise is concentrated on the front speakers, but the rear speakers give off their steam, too. Overall, the audio presentation is handled very well and makes for a fun experience.

 

The Extras

 

Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Animé (~22 mins) – This featurette explores the phenomenon of this exploding worldwide art form through glimpses of the genre’s greatest achievements and the observations of creators, historians and other leaders in the field. Making an appearance, among others, are Todd MacFarlane (creator of Spawn) and Harry Knowles (creator of you-know-what). All in all, Scrolls to Screen is a very good retrospective and includes cool film clips and interviews.

 

Making-of Documentary (~55 mins) – This documentary chronicles the process of each short film, reflecting on the challenges, intentions and feelings of the production. We get interviews with each of the directors and producers. Much of what we see is actual behind-the-scenes footage of the drawings and work ethics of the individual director. The documentary goes in-depth into the process of creating the shorts, but fails to get the Wachowski Bros. to make an appearance. However, Joel Silver (producer of The Matrix trilogy) is kind enough to reference them in his discussion. All in all, this making-of documentary is well produced and directed.

 

Voices/Commentaries – Three directors speak about their work on The Animatrix in their native language, which is Warner Bros. includes yellow subtitles at the bottom. The first commentary is for The Second Renaissance Part I & II by Director Mahiro Maeda. The second commentary is for Program by Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Lastly, Director Takeshi Koike comments on World Record. All three have interesting things to say, such as their intentions and thoughts about the project.

 

You also get an exclusive look (~3 mins) at the trailer for the video game "Enter the Matrix," filled with exciting footage of game play and brand-new scenes, created especially for the game, featuring cast members of The Matrix Reloaded. In addition, you can access biographical profiles of the directors and animation producers. DVD-ROM features include? The Animatrix supports optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. The DVD’s menus are animated. You can choose to view the 89-minute feature either by playing them individually or selecting the "Play All" option to view them all at once.

 

Overall

 

The Animatrix is a really cool concept and most of the short films have a lot to show for it. Fans of animé and The Matrix will definitely enjoy this product and DVD release. The special features section is really nice as it includes cool bonus material. The Animatrix comes recommended. Buy it.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE SHORTS 8
THE VIDEO 8

THE AUDIO

8

THE EXTRAS

7

OVERALL (average)

8

 


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