Please note: I received the single disc version of Appleseed Ex Machina to review. A two-disc collector's edition is also available, and so this review doesn't consider the extras that are on that disc.
I had not seen the 2004 Appleseed - nor the original 1988 version for that matter - and thus was a little trepid in approaching Appleseed Ex Machina. Would I be completely lost in seeing this followup to a legendary anime title?
Luckily, I'm happy to report that Appleseed Ex Machina not only stands alone as an independent movie but it delivers some high octane animated treats. This is a fun movie full of kinetic energy, replete with stunning cityscapes and backgrounds, and backed by a solid and diverse soundtrack.
The year is 2133 AD. The main character of this movie is Deunan Knute, a tough cop in the futuristic city of Olympus. Her partner is Briareos, someone who used to be human but is now some kind of cyborg machine. Both kick ass as members of ES.W.A.T. - think S.W.A.T. of the future. When Briareos is severely injured (or damaged?) in action, he's temporarily replaced by Tereus, a clone of Briareos's human self. A love triangle is hinted at, but there's not a lot of room for melodrama in this movie. Something is causing cyborgs and humans to go crazy while a summit goes on to decide the future of the nations' security and all those satellites spinning around the globe. Oh yes, and a suspicious corporation is involved. What would a futuristic movie be without a suspicious corporation? There's a plot point involving a mad doctor who wants to, well, I guess that would be spoiling things.
In any case, it's ultimately up to the movie's three heroes - Deunan, Briareos, and Tereus - to save the day. Many nifty animated action sequences ensue.
There are all sorts of obvious influences in this movie. Olympus, the futuristic city, is reminiscent of Neo-Tokyo that arises out of the ashes of the third World War in Akira. The cityscapes reflect those of Blade Runner and even Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The future tech of Robotech and I'm sure dozens of other anime titles may be seen in this flick's hardware. The major "villain" at the end of the movie looks like a cross between the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact and Doctor Octopus, the infamous Spider-Man nemesis.
However, Appleseed Ex Machina takes these derivative elements and, well, maybe doesn't make them seem fresh so much as incorporate the elements into a streamlined product that's visually stimulating and engaging as a storyline.
Not only would I highly recommend this for the anime fans, but I think the casual viewer would get a kick out of this flick as well.
Wow! This is one visually stunning film! Colors are bright; details are wonderful. Warner Brothers presents the film in widescreen and enhanced for widescreen TVs. I was often impressed with the visual acuity of this movie, especially during scenes that involved the cityscape.
There are no less than six spoken language tracks on this DVD! These are English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese. The English track is given the Dolby Surround 5.1 treatment; the other five language tracks are in Dolby Surround Stereo. The English language track is the default setting and the one I listened to. In general, it sounds terrific. My only quibble is that the dialogue could have been a little stronger - especially after loud action sequences when it seemed a little muted.
In addition to the language tracks, subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese. Thus, purists can watch this in Japanese and follow along with English subtitles.
When the disc is played, trailers automatically begin for Justice League: New Frontier and Batman: Gotham Knight. There's a Trailers link under a Special Features submenu, but strangely the aforementioned trailers do not appear. What does appear are trailers for The Sickhouse, Journey to the Center of the Earth, I Am Legend, Speed Racer: The Game, and The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. In addition, a Speed Racer Sneak Peek option is included - although it's just a trailer in all but name only.
Two featurettes are also available in the Special Features submenu, and they're both competently produced, if a bit too rapidly edited (guys, these are meant to be informative - it's okay to have a shot that lasts more than 4 - 5 seconds). Team-Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki runs about 16 minutes and Revolution: Animating Ex Machina lasts just over 18 minutes. Both should be of interest to fans of this movie.
The most significant extra is a feature-length commentary track with Jerry Beck from cartoonbrew.com and Joseph Chou, one of the producers of the film. It's a lively and thoughtful track - very informative.
Appleseed Ex Machina has a lot of derivative elements, but they're presented in such a dynamic and exciting manner that it doesn't matter. The visuals are cool, the action is frenetic, and this DVD comes highly recommended.