Monday, August 14, 2006

Movie Review: Appleseed

Seems kind of wrong to go from Hotel Rwanda to this movie, but what are you going to do. I've seen a few episodes from the Appleseed series here and there. I'm not very knowledgeable about the series, other than there was tough chick who hung out with her "lover" who had been turned into a machine when he was severely damaged, thus ending their physical relationship.

fortunately for me Appleseed The Movie was a retelling of the origination of the series. This made things much easier to understand since it introduced all of the characters and the overall situation the world is dealing with. Before going into that, I want to take some time to set a few things up.

I've always been a fan of Japanese animation. Maybe it first started with Voltron, perhaps it was Robotech, but whatever the reason I've always popped for it. Let me justify that statement, I've popped for the more mainstream stuff. As with any niche product there are weird subversions of Japanese animation I just don't get, nor do I want to get understand. This stuff is created for the Japanese culture, and with that are things that don't translate into American culture. That can sometimes be no more evident than with their animation. Some of the stuff is just plain weird. While I don't consider myself an expert, I'm pretty well versed in several major series and movies and can usually "hang" with the anime dorks when need be.

Appleseed is the story of Dunan Knute and her introduction to the post apocalyptic utopian city known as Olympus. Evidently there was this big war (which they hint was WWIII), and most of the world is just in shambles. They don't mention nukes, but one can assume to some degree those were used. The war is still being fought although there are no "winners" but due to it's length it's degraded to nothing more than small skirmished between heavily armed guerilla forces. Dunan is one of these guerilla fighters, and the best one at that, and her skills are well known and admired.

Unbeknownst to her, as well as other guerilla fighters, there has been a city constructed to act as a new utopia, or a harbringer of change, for humans on this planet. It's called Olympus and although it's location isn't pointed out explicitly (if it was I missed it) one can assume it's a refuge from the fighting and likely terraformed from a large mountain. Olympus was constructed with a giant computer named Gaia, and all the generals and whatnot that run the place have various Greek names (i.e. Uranus, Nike, Athena).

In Olympus theses "wise men" have designed this race of artificial humans called bioroids, who are sort of controlled by Gaia but yet are independent at the same time. Basically, they're genetically engineered humans that have certain thoughts/emotions prevented, such as love and hate. They are also not allowed to reproduce and they have a limited life span before they must be "recharged." If they're not recharged they will age super fast and die within a week.

Obviously, there are people who resent these bioroids and want them destroyed. That's where the conflict comes in. Dunan teams up with E.S.W.A.T., the cities special police force who has these neat mech suits they wear. The bad guys are the Olympus regular Army, which I assume are actually there to protect the city from the war outside, although they seem more interested in concentrating on what is going on inside the city instead of leaving that up to E.S.W.A.T.

This anime uses a new technique that seems to be getting more and more popular. Basically they use motion capture suits to capture the movements of actors and then populate that into a CGI program with prerendered characters and backgrounds. The character are not shaded with textures like Final Fantasy or Shrek, but are instead cell shaded so they look like regular animation. This leaves a neat looking color palate and style that seems familiar yet new at the same time. It takes a few minutes to get used to since when you first see you your head wants to assume it's regular animation but your eyes pick up on things that tell you that it isn't.

The sound track includes well known producer Paul Oakenfeld, and a Japanese group called Boom Boom Satellites. The music is techo/industrial and fits the mood of the film quite nicely.

The action sequences are great, almost on par with Final fantasy Advent Children. The mechas punch and kick with the force you want to see them use. The final sequence with these giant land walking cannons is great, with the look and feel of the machines seeming very realistic.

The art direction of the flick is very cyber punk, but with heavy industrial and neofuture elements that brings it all together. The parts that are supposed to look dark look dark, and the parts that should look light look light. The director uses this to show "good" and "bad" parts as well as "despair" and "hope." I could go into this more but I think you get what I'm saying.

I'd give this a 8 out of 10. Good story. Interesting characters. Great action. A worthwhile rent, or if you're into it purchase.



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