Anime: Appleseed Ex Machina
So completely uninformed was I, regarding the APPLESEED movies, that I didn’t even realize that the next DVD sitting in my review box was in fact a new film. Some time ago I stumbled upon the first Appleseed movie when it aired on SBS (or was it ABC1? I can never tell). I have to admit that i was pretty impressed by that movie — at least on a visual level — and despite the fact that the story was fairly well trodden sci-fi fodder I still found it entertaining enough to have recommended it to my better half… who, like most times when I recommend for her to watch something, promptly ignored me.
As it turned out the DVD I sat down to watch wasn’t the same Shinji Aramaki directed 2004 Appleseed, but an entirely new Shinji Aramaki directed film, titled APPLESEED EX MACHINA. With vastly improved visuals and the addition of Hong Kong action master, John Woo, as producer this film stands head and shoulders above its predecessor.
Sure it suffers from many of the things that niggle at me in just about all of the action-orented anime I’ve seen — and just about all of the John Woo movies too, come to think of it — but because this film is such beautifully rendered CGI the overly acrobatic and over the top action scenes don’t seem to snap you out of the film as much as they may in a live action movie.
At the core of the Appleseed Ex Machina story (see what I did there?) is the relationship between the tough, but sexy Deunan and the ‘more machine than man’, Briareos. Both are members of the elite E.S.W.A.T, and their unusual relationship becomes even more unusualer when Tereus joins the squad.
Appleseed Ex Machina, like the previous film, is set in the (attempted) utopia of Olympas, a nation-city which was established after the third world war wiped out half of the world’s population. After the war the decision was made to hand control of human affairs over to Bioroids, genetically engineered humans who have had their extreme emotions (Anger, Aggression, etc) suppressed. As you’d expect with this kind of techno-punk, cyber-shenanigans there are all sorts of futuristic and far fetched problems to deal with. And set against an action backdrop of mind control and lots of easily compromised security networks, Deunan’s problem is that she’s been partnered with the new, genetically engineered member of E.S.W.A.T, Tereus.
Tereus isn’t incapable in anyway, his skills are at the top of the scale. The problem is that he’s almost as good an agent / fighter as Briareos… in fact, he almost IS Briareos. Unique genetics have meant that Briareos has been the only person capable of adapting to new, advanced, cyborg technology and in an attempt to advance the capabilities of E.S.W.A.T new Bioroids have been created using Briareos’ DNA. Deunan finds herself torn between the real Briareos, who has been injured and rebuild so many times the he is barely human anymore, and the new, fleshier, copy.
Don’t be fooled though, there’s stacks of action in this film and most of it filled with bloody-explosiony-goodness… There’s even some pseudo-zombie action thrown in for good measure!
Some of the attempts at emotional dialogue are a little heavy handed, but nothing that can’t be overlooked. My biggest complaint is once again with the English dub! Even with my struggling eyesight, after only a few minutes of the English dub, I opted for the japanese language version, with English subtitles. Some titles get it right (Deathnote is a great example) and others fail to create a connection to the characters on screen, such is the case for Appleseed Ex Machina (in my opinion).
There are a bunch of great extras that come with this 2 Disc DVD set, particularly the short feature on John Woo’s involvement and influence on the film some of which is also covered in a pretty informative commentary.
You don’t have to have seen the first Appleseed movie to know what’s going on in this one, and the good news is that these movies do stand on their own, so you can go back and watch the first movie after seeing this one and not feel like anything is out of order… in fact, I’d recommend watching Ex Machina first and then pretend that the 2004 movie is a prequel. [source] [buy]