The Japanese have long held an affinity for cartoons, and over the last 30 years or so, animation coming out of the country has evolved into a distinctive visual medium. With developments in computer-generated imagery, hand-crafted animation has become something of a novelty here in the west, and it’s these contrasting factors that have influenced the design of Appleseed Ex Machina. Based on the graphic novels by Shirow Masamune, Shinji Aramaki’s sequel to his own 2004 adaptation Appleseed, Ex Machina follows its predecessor in attempting to combine the cel-shaded look of traditional animé with cutting edge motion-captured CG techniques. The overall effect, (which wasn’t overly convincing in the first film) has been refined and the action scenes that keep the film moving look outstanding. Set in the utopian city of Olympus in 2133, the film picks up the story of Deunan and her cyborg partner Briareos – now settled as members of an elite Special Forces unit during a climate of global political unrest in the aftermath of World War III. When terrorist incidents threaten the peace, the duo (plus artificially created soldier Tereus) investigates the cause of the phenomenon that’s turning the population of Olympus into violent automatons. Although there are a number of subplots, including the government attempting to take control of a global satellite network, and Tereus’ artificial origins causing unease, the weightier themes do nothing to detract from the hi-octane action. Producer John Woo’s influence is evident in numerous scenes, but especially those involving gun-play, with plenty of the action gurus signature moves on show. Although the visuals are packed with incredible detail, the amount of post-processing applied to the average shot (mostly consisting of motion blur) means that on Blu-ray Appleseed Ex Machina looks pretty soft, and in attempting to incorporate a pseudo-cel shaded look, the VC-1 encode lacks the sort of ‘pop’ present on other animation titles. Although the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track does an okay job of balancing bullets, explosions, music, and dialogue, purists out there will want to watch the film with subtitles and the original Japanese audio – they’ll have to make do with two channel audio. Although the featurettes presented here are in standard definition, they provide a rounded insight into the history of Appleseed, and while the fluent English commentary track with producer Joseph Chou is massively informative, anyone wanting to hear the thoughts of Shinji Aramaki or John Woo will be disappointed.
Feature: Extras: Picture: Audio:
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Starring: Luci Christian, David Matranga, Illich Guardiola
Released: Out Now