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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

REVIEW: Appleseed: Ex Machina

NEW YORK, March 8 — Appleseed: Ex Machina is the latest sequel to the popular Appleseed franchise. I had the opportunity to view the limited theatrical release of the film at the Independent Film Center (IFC) Center (323 Sixth Avenue). The IFC Center only showed two midnight screenings of Appleseed: Ex Machina on Friday (March 7) and Saturday (March 8). I attended the Friday midnight showing with a couple of my otaku friends.

After the screening, I walked out of the small theater with mixed feelings about the film. It seemed pretty standard for the 3D anime genre (Appleseed and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children). The action and special effects scenes were amazing, but the computerized acting was stiff and unimpressive.

In terms of hardcore actions, Appleseed: Ex Machina does deliver the high intensity action scenes. Deunan’s firefights were completely adrenaline pumping. She would leap headlong into combat with guns blazing. The most energetic points of the action would be accompanied by slow motion. During the first few action scenes, the acrobatic gunplay and slow motion seemed very John Woo, but I felt something missing. I said to myself, "this film needs some white birds to fly across the frame in order to make it a Woo film." At about midway point through the film, Briareos had an amazing aerial fight scene and white doves fly across the screen several times. I almost shouted, "that's the Woo".

The character development and dialogue were very rough. The digital characters looked like lifeless dolls trying to act. The dialogue sequences seemed closer to puppeteering than live action acting. The humor was also a little forced. For example, the film had small comedic moments between the main characters, but the CGI expressions and physical acting failed to carry the jokes. The film was littered with these failed joke deliveries. In its defense, very few 3D animated films can capture the flow and grace of live action acting.

In a technical sense, there are a few visual improvements in the movie. The 3D skins were amazing. The textured clothing skins were very tactile. The leather materials looked like leather. The lighting was a huge improvement over the 2004 Appleseed film. Shinji Aramaki tried to implement a softer natural light instead of stark lighting in the previous Appleseed movie. They also greatly improved the cell shading used on the 3D models.

On another note, this film is stacked with a lot of talented creators. Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed and Metal Skin Panic: MADOX-01) directed, and John Woo (A Better Tomorrow and A Better Tomorrow III) produced. Masaki Yamada (Samurai Champloo and Ergo Proxy) did the character designs. They also managed to get Atsushi Takeuchi (Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion, Naruto: Konoha Sports Festival, and Patlabor 2: The Movie) and some members of Production I.G. to do a few sequences and storyboards on the film.

Appleseed: Ex Machina - Trailer

Overall, Appleseed: Ex Machina was a very exciting and enjoyable film with some minor problems. If you want to just strap into a seat and enjoy an action packed ride, this is the movie for you. Most otaku will enjoy the amazing action and computerized sets. It was a feast for the eyes.

The official Appleseed: Ex Machina DVD release date is March 11, 2008. The movie will be available in both standard DVD and Blu-ray DVD formats.

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