The Animatrix review by The Grim Ringler

Ok, I will begin with this caveat I dont really like Anime. I know, boo, hiss, I hear ya, I hear ya. I certainly appreciate the art of it, and there are some I do like (Akira, Wings of Honnemaise to name a couple), and yes, I have seen some, but they never did a lot for me. More than anything its the storylines that turn me off. But I went into Animatrix with an open mind, a strong love of the base mythology and movies, and a desire to see how deep the rabbit hole went.

The Animatrix consists of nine short animated films done by some of the most influential and loved animators that work in the Anime style, and were made in order to give flesh to some of the other stories that reside within the mythology of The Matrix. The brothers Wachowski who are the lords and masters of the Matrix realm wrote the stories for many of the shorts and had a very firm hand in seeing that all was well with each tale and that they were all complimentary to the base mythos.

The first film, entitled The Last Flight of the Osiris tells the tale of a ship of Zion that comes across a plot that the Matrix has hatched in which its sentinels are digging from the surface of earth down to Zion to halt the human resistance. Seeing that word must get back to Zion before its too late, a woman is sent into the Matrix to relay a message as her shipmates fight off a vast army of sentinels. This is easily the best and most accomplished of the short films and really shows what could have been. The animation here is stunning, and is as close to life-like as I have ever seen in any form of animation. Its a hard movie to follow up because it is so good and because it is a lead in to Matrix Reloaded and sadly, the others never seem to live up to the standard set by this one film.

The next two films are an interconnected history of how Man lost the war with the machines called The Second Renaissance 1 + 2. The story here is how Man, in its greed and foolishness, began to use machines to do everything, as virtual slaves, until the day came to pass that one stood up to Man and began a revolution that ended in the destruction of all things we hold dear. The animation is very good, and the story very dark and gritty as it shows Mankind forging a vast and hopeless war with the machines we had created. These are very well done shorts and almost create their own mythos unto themselveswhich is the problem. I didnt find at all that I believed the story they were telling and, while interesting, I find it doesnt seem to fit into the whole idea of the Matrix for me. I justcall me mad but why on earth would you build robots to work at plants buthave them go home at night! Isnt the point of a machine that you dont have to send them home? Hmm. But there is some incredible imagery and as a stand-alone, its a great story, but as part of the mythos, I find it a bit lacking.

The third film is one entitled Kids Story and tells the tale of a minor character from Reloaded, a boy that claims to have been saved by Neo thus ensuring his undying loyalty. The story is of how the kid in question has figured out that reality aint quite what it seems to be and how he seeks out someone Neo to help him figure out what is going on. In so doing though the kid reveals himself to the Agents and must escape the grasp of the Matrix or be pulled under its control for good. This is when the downward spiral begins because as interesting as it is to know this back-story, nothing new is really learned so that all it ends up as is some weird kid skateboarding away from authorities for five minutes.

The next story is Program, which is the most traditionally Anime of the bunch, and which is really the last glimmer of interest I got from the films. Beginning as a dueling practice for a woman dressed in traditional Asian garb, this entry soon becomes a desperate battle between two lovers struggling with their feelings and their suddenly changed ideologies. The ending isnt nearly as good as the rest of the film but its a neat entry because it actually brings you into the story and the animation is actually well done and doesnt make my eyes want to bleed, which they did a lot during the course of the Animatrix.

Next up is World Record, which is easily the worst entry in the bunch. Focusing on an Olympic runner trying to beat his own world record, and the deadly effects his athleticism and his defiance of the very laws of the Matrix become. Terribly uninteresting and just seeming like a waste, this is the heaviest anchor around Animatrix throat, and thats a shame. It adds nothing to the mythos and isnt even more than a curiosity piece.

Beyond tells the story of a haunted house in the Matrix that a young woman and three children happen upon. The house, which turn out to be more of a glitch in the Matrix than a haunted house, seems to defy all laws of logic and gravity and which seems to hold a brief glimmer of magic in an otherwise darkened world. This magic is quick to fade though as the Agents learn of this glitch and quickly make plans to eliminate this problem. An interesting short, it is interesting to see how an anomaly would appear in the Matrix, and what people would perceive this glitch as. But again, as with most of the stories here, it doesnt really further anything in the movies and, while interesting, never really makes you feel anything. Which I will say most of the shorts do, they manipulate you like mad, pulling you down the path they want you down. Not awful at all, but not terribly gripping, this one is sort of in the middle of the road.

Detective Story is a hardboiled noir detective tale in which a nameless gumshoe must track down a mysterious hacker named Trinity for a secretive group of people that wish to see her eliminated. The art in this one is very well done and lends itself well to the story, making this a very interesting short to watch. I liked that it gave you a glimpse of Trinity before she met Neo but I have to say, the noir shtick just doesnt work well here. There are some interesting things about it but, sigh, we have seen this genre homaged to death, I think they coulda done something new with this. Oh well. Not bad, but not great at all.

The final episode on the disc is Matriculated, and is perhaps the most intriguing but most frustrating. It focuses on a group of humans that engage the machines and then capture them in the hopes that they can re-program their enemies to be their allies. This is a great concept and would make a great movie in and of itself but the film mires itself half-way through in a bizarre computer world which is supposed to symbolize the re-programming of one machine but that just begins to annoy the viewer and makes you feel as if you just dropped acid and are listening to some bad Doors song. The finale for the piece is very dark and has a very bittersweet feel to it but sadly it doesnt wash the bad taste of the rest of the work out of your mouth and ultimately fails, despite having the most intriguing premise here.

I really wish I liked The Animatrix. I have a friend that loves Anime that did and I am sure lots of people do. Hell, the critics seem to love it. But I am not them. The idea behind this project is great because I think there are a lot of fascinating stories that might have been told as well as some great storytellers that might have told them. It makes no sense though to 1. use the same animation team on more than one story because the point is that each team presents a new approach, and offers a new take on it, but if you have the same people doing more than one episode, well, it just hurts the entire projects originality. Hell, the thing about the Matrix is that each person has a unique experience with it so each person would have a different take on it. Its hard to see that when you have the same eyes showing you the same things over and over again. And 2. I think that the stories should have had more structure to them and at least be more in tune with the universe they serve. I hope that this does well though, I must admit, because I would like to see more stories about this universe brought to life, perhaps with more work put into the stories and into finding some more varied talents.

Me, I didnt like Animatrix. I found it boring and just a generally huge disappointment. Some of the animation is breathtaking, sure, but there are too many stories here that are all style and no substance, and for me, that doesnt make these worthy of purchase, let alone a second helping. You ask me, I say rent it first and see what ya think.


5 out of 10 Jackasses
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