I'm real

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * · )

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Wachowski brothers, not content with three movies released in the theaters to tell their whole story, outsourced their ideas to top animators in the Japanese anime world and came out with Animatrix. This 90 minute feature is broken up into nine short films, all animated, that fill out the matrix world. For a fan of the films or anime in general, Animatrix is an excellent DVD.

The top films in the collection are Second Renaissance 1 and 2 by Mahiro Maeda. This is a history of the world before the Matrix was created. The Second Renaissance is the most powerful 20 minute animated story I have ever seen. The powerful imagery shocked, horrified, and forever changed me after my initial viewing. Images like the robotic horse rider storming across the nuclear battlefield or the televised execution of robot protestors show us a future that is terrible to behold. Second Renaissance brings about a new emotion towards the machines, sympathy. In the first Matrix movie, our only view of the machine's personality is through Agent Smith. His short efficient speeches don't invoke much sympathy for the robotic plight. Second Renaissance shows us that we were the ones who screwed up and we paid for it with our souls.

The other animated features lack the sheer power of Second Renaissance but are still amazing visual works. The various types of animation change from piece to piece, though all are excellent representations of their individual styles. Final Flight of the Osirus uses the high-tech CG animation of Aeon Flux fame, one of my favorite animated shows back in the days of Liquid Television on MTV. Matriculated may be the most visually inspired and deepest of the features next to Second Renaissance.

Animation is an untapped medium of expression in the US. Not since Heavy Metal have I felt such an emotional grip, a feeling that I was watching something different than anything else I had ever seen. Perhaps it is the use of a medium almost exclusivly used for children's work used to show a robot prostitute being crushed with a hammer while begging for her life. Perhaps the use of surrealistic imagery is a better vehicle for emotional direction than live film. Think of the emotion portrayed in Van Gogh or Serat paintings. They would not quite work as live action photographs. Whatever it is, animated movies for audience members older than 17 are sorely lacking in American film, something that I hope this DVD can fix.

The DVD of Animatrix is excellent. Most of the films are shot at a 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio and are 16x9 enhanced for widescreen TVs. The sound is all Dolby Digital 5.1 with some extensive use of surround channels and low frequency effects. There are commentaries for the features as well as an excellent documentary on the background of Anime and processes used to make the films.

I can't get enough of the Matrix. Animatrix, along with the recent release of Matrix Reloaded in the theater, regenerated my love of these films and the entire concept of the story. Animated films in America seem to be forever filed under "kids movies", but DVDs like Animatrix can help to break this stereotype. The more releases we see like this, the more this stereotype can be broken. The Animatrix DVD is a keeper for Matrix and anime fans alike.