A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 405 – Appleseed: Ex Machina

Appleseed: Ex Machina – April 9th, 2011

After last night’s talk-fest I admit I was nervous about tonight’s movie. I didn’t have any time today to look at the books (I barely had time to breathe today, it was so busy at work) so I didn’t have that to quell my fears. Fortunately, they turned out to be unfounded. This movie is everything I wanted from the first one and didn’t get and I’m hoping that it’s a more accurate representation of the world and feel of the books on which it’s based.

The movie starts out with Deunan and Briareos on ES.W.A.T. already and we aren’t treated to endless static exposition. Instead the vital information about the city of Olympus and how it’s this bastion of hope for humanity and inhabited by engineered bioroids as well as regular humans is delivered quickly and succinctly with additional details being included in the story itself. It’s a hell of a lot more elegant and certainly more interesting to watch. Honestly, I think I could have watched this one first and gotten as much information about the world as I did last night.

One thing I really enjoy about this movie is that the emotional thread is woven into the plot right from the start and it has to do with Briareos and Deunan. Last night one of my criticisms was that the amount of plot exposition impeded the rest of the movie’s story. It ended up making the emotional impact decidedly weak and the character of Deunan unexplored. Here? We see her having some nice interaction with Briareos right from the start, so when they’re split up when Briareos is taken down in a fight I felt like it really was a big deal that ES.W.A.T. assigned Deunan a new partner. Even more so when said partner turns out to be a bioroid made with genetic material from Briareos, so he looks like Briareos did before he had to go full cyborg. That right there gives the movie some emotional tension and character dynamics that play out through the whole thing while never taking it over.

The rest of the plot focuses on the security of cyborg parts and a mad scientist’s plan for uniting the world through mind controlling bits of tech. I’ve seen this sort of plot before several times but I still like how it’s done here. Of course, both movies had a Chekhov’s Gun situation going where something seemingly innocuous was prominently introduced and mentioned so you know damn well it’ll come back later. But I can forgive that. I liked how the whole issue of control over one’s body and what makes someone human and worthwhile was all worked into the larger action plot. I liked that it figured directly into the relationships between Briareos, Deunan and the new partner, Tereus. It certainly made the movie more engaging to watch.

The action’s fun too, and a lot more involved than the first movie. It’s nothing totally new, and the final battle seemed to crib a bit from the Matrix movies, but the dynamics of the characters involved made it interesting. And it’s well done. I don’t mind some stylistic mimicry if it can be done in an engaging way, which this was. All the battles were. The fight between Briareos and his stand-in partner, Deunan facing off with a construction mech, it was all fun and I didn’t feel like it took a year of dialogue to get from scene to scene.

I feel like I’m doing a review by comparison, but I also feel it’s necessary. If you’re going to pick one or the other to watch, this would be the one I’d suggest. The story’s basic and it’s been done before but that doesn’t make it less entertaining. It’s not going into any super deep issues but it’s also not entirely shallow. There’s some nicely done world building and some excellent character interaction. The animation is smooth and visually appealing and overall it was just plain fun to watch. Of course, after it was over I immediately felt like watching some Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but I don’t think that’s a criticism so much as an acknowledgment that this movie got it a lot more right than the first.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appleseed: Ex Machina

April 9, 2011

Appleseed: Ex Machina

This movie addresses just about every problem I had with the first one. It doesn’t have to do any of the world building, so it isn’t packed with exposition. The story isn’t particularly revolutionary (I commented to Amanda as we watched it that I had just watched a Doctor Who episode with almost exactly the same plot.) It doesn’t try to be anything except a fun futuristic action story, and it’s kind of a relief.

The biggest improvement this movie makes on the one we watched yesterday is that it feels so much less ambitious. It might seem counter-intuitive that a simpler film would be more enjoyable but it’s almost relaxing to be able to simply take in the visual spectacle and not have to use my brain at all. Instead of trying to encompass the entire world of Appleseed in a single film this movie has the feeling of being simply an episode in the lives of Deunan and Briareos. Since Appleseed as a manga has a very episodic feel to it this ends up feeling quite appropriate.

At the start of this movie Deunan and Briareos are still working for eSWAT – the paramilitary police force that defends the peace of the Utopian city state of Olympus. They and their elite squad have been dealing with a recent surge in terrorist attacks which appear to be perpetrated almost exclusively by cyborgs. During the opening action scene Briareos is injured and so Duenan is assigned a new partner. This partner, Tereus is a bioroid engineered primarily from Briareos’ DNA, which means he’s a dead ringer for Briareos before he lost his original body. This is upsetting and confusing to Deunan; it’s like a ghost from her past.

Of course the whole Deunan/Briareos/Tereus triangle is just a distraction from the main plot. The central plot revolves around a scheme to use the unified satellites of all the remaining countries on Earth to turn the populace of the world into mindless zombies. It starts with just taking over cyborgs (which is a concern to Briareos since he’s having a lot of insecurity about his cyborg state) but soon it spreads to the general populace by means of little PDA earbuds.

I don’t think there’s an original idea in this entire movie, and do you know what? I don’t care. It’s full of gorgeous animation, cool action and involves Deunan being a hot-headed and unstoppable kickass killing machine. It’s just great fun watching here and Briareos working together against all odds. The world of Appleseed, even when simplified for the cinema, is such a rich and cool one that it’s just fun to visit it again. I love the futuristic tech. The landmate walking armor. The big hulking cyborgs. All the floating cars and hovering personnel carriers. It’s a world that seems designed to capture the imagination of the fifteen-year-old kid inside of me, and it works. This movie is exactly the stupid light-weight explody action movie I needed tonight.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment