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The Animatrix (2003)

impressive anime-style animation

Directed by:

Andy Jones

Koji Morimoto

Mahiro Maedo

Peter Chung

Shinichiro Watanabe

Takeshi Koike

Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 102 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

Released officially as an accompaniment to this year’s brace of sequels to ‘The Matrix’ (and not just a cynical attempt at squeezing a wee bit more money out of the public, honest!), ‘The Animatrix’ could well be something you’ll pass by on the shelves of your local DVD store. After all, despite featuring a bit of voice-over work from saga regulars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss, it’s not exactly the most high profile release of 2003.

But, if you’re a ‘Matrix’ enthusiast AND a bit of a fan of Japanese animation – in which case your already part of a pretty select group – then this is definitely a disc that’s worth a butcher’s.

Rather than subjecting us to another feature-length dive into virtual reality tedium, ‘The Animatrix’ is divided up into nine separate stories, each told in a slightly different way and each coming in at just over 10 minutes long. Some are better than others, but all offer some sort of insight into life either within the matrix or outside in what, for the purposes of these films, is the “real world”.

‘The Second Renaissance’, for example, plays like an historical documentary taking us through the robot revolt and subsequent war between man and machine. ‘Program’, meanwhile, touches on the longing of “freed” individuals to return to the bliss ignorance of the matrix. And ‘Kid’s Story’ is about agents chasing a bloke on a skateboard.

The first segment, ‘Final Flight of the Osiris’, was first seen by the elite few of us who went to see the abysmal ‘Dreamcatcher’ in theatres earlier this year. Featuring a fight-come-strip-show followed by a hi-tech battle with sentinels, it was easily the best thing about that particular trip to the cinema. It’s not, however, the best thing about this disc – for my money that distinction is reserved for ‘Beyond’, the tale of a young girl who inadvertently discovers a rupture in the matrix program whilst searching for her lost moggy.

The anime-style animation is pretty impressive right across the board, but the quality of the story-telling fluctuates and in some places the point is unclear. It’s also aimed at an extremely narrow market, and those of you who aren’t bang up to speed with what the movies are all about might as well forget even trying to watch this one. But, if you reckon you’re part of that small target audience, by all means give it a whirl – you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

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It's Got: A bush baby in a jar. At least I think it’s a bush baby. It could be a very small monkey.

It Needs: A bit more consistency with the quality of the stories.

DVD Extras Audio commentary from the directors (in Japanese with subtitles), ‘Scrolls to Screen’ documentary about the history of anime, info on the creators, an individual ‘Making Of’ featurette for each of the nine segments, a handful of DVD-Rom goodies, and a shameless plug for the ‘Enter the Matrix’ video game. The nine short films included are: ‘Final Flight of the Osiris’, ‘The Second Renaissance Parts I and II’, ‘Kid’s Story’, ‘Program’, ‘World Record’, ‘Beyond’, ‘A Detective Story’, and ‘Matriculated’. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

The Matrix, The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix: Reloaded, Transformers: The Movie

Summary

Not bad, but really just for die-hard ‘Matrix’ fans.

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