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Armitage III: Poly Matrix (1997)

Armitage III: Polymatrix

If mankind hates me...then why did they create me?

Directed by:

Taro Maki

Rating: 2/10

Running Time: 92 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: Japan, United States

If you are a big-name actor and have fallen out of demand, you might want to think about doing some dub-work for Japanese animé – apart from bringing in some much-needed cash, it is unlikely ever to be noticed by anything like a mainstream audience, so there is no risk of it jeopardising any bid to revitalise your career. Take 'Armitage III: Polymatrix', a substandard, cliché-driven piece of manga tripe if ever there has been one, but with its main characters on the American version (recut from the original Japanese series into a feature-length package) voiced by, of all people, Elizabeth Berkley and Kiefer Sutherland. This was in 1996, after Sutherland's career as a slightly menacing teen heartthrob had long been over, but before '24' came along to restore his fallen star to its place in the stratosphere – and Berkley's celebrity of course both began and ended with 'Showgirls' (1995). Their work on 'Armitage III: Polymatrix' would have done them no harm, while conversely their (unseen) presence on the project will have raised its profile immeasurably in the male adolescent world of manga fandom.

The main character, Naomi Armitage, works as a police detective on Mars (clad, naturally, in bright-red hotpants and suspended stockings), but she is also a 'third', i.e. an illegally created robot passing as a human, and it is for this reason, and not (thankfully) because it is a sequel, that the film is called 'Armitage III: Polymatrix' – although it is anyone's guess what 'polymatrix' is supposed to denote. The film is an unabashed rip-off of 'Blade Runner' – for while Armitage is never actually referred to as a 'replicant' (no doubt for legal reasons), she is in essence an existentially-challenged android on a quest to find her maker, and there is even, late in the film, a gratuitous reference to her having a built-in 'expiration date'. Unfortunately, however, where Ridley Scott's original had intelligence, gravity and poetry, this film is all nonsensical guff.

Armitage is teamed up with earth cop Ross Sylibus, who has been none too fond of robots ever since his previous partner was gunned down by a cyborg (cue flashback to a scene inspired by 'The Terminator'). The duo are on the trail of René D'Anclaude – yes, all the main characters have ridiculous names – who is murdering 'thirds', whipping up public prejudice against robots, and endlessly cackling in case you have forgotten that he is the villain of the piece. There is a complicated plot involving androids capable of bearing human children, a 'strongly feminist' régime on earth, and an army of 'assassinroids', and there is even a love story between the increasingly cybernetic Ross and his annoyingly giggly partner – but things are handled so incoherently and superficially that it is hard to know – or care – what the point of it all is. Worst of all, apart from a few neat water effects, the animation is determinedly lacklustre.

So Kiefer, stick with the dayjob.

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It's Got: The line "Asakura was quite a designer, he designed the ultimate woman who could kick ass AND have children" - and a villain who says "Lets rumba!" before a fight.

It Needs: Believable characters, a less desultory script, animation that is less dull, etc.

DVD Extras Audio choice between English 2.0 and 5.1 (but no option to hear the original Japanese version); text-pages of thoughts and bio of Chiaki Konaki (screenwriter) and Hiroyuki Ochi (character design and direction); original (English-language) trailer; propaganda, i.e. trailers for further MVM releases (Ninja Scroll, Psycho Diver, Twilight of the Dark Master, Bio Hunter). DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Summary

An unengaging, incoherent, derivative mess of lacklustre animation.

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