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Appleseed: Ex Machina(2007)
Following the non-nuclear war that killed half the world's population, the city-nation of Olympus stands as a beacon of hope in a world of chaos and conflict. The utopian metropolis is governed by Gaia, a vast artificial intelligence, and administered by genetically engineered humanoids known as Bioroids, whose designer DNA suppresses strong emotions. With Bioroids being half of its population, peace and order are easily maintained. Deunan, a young female warrior, and Briareos, a veteran cyborg-soldier, are both partners and lovers. As members of E.S.W.A.T., the elite special forces serving Olympus, they are deployed whenever trouble strikes. The two fighters find their partnership tested in a new way by the arrival of a new member to their ranks Ś an experimental Bioroid named Tereus. Created by Gaia using DNA from Briareos, Tereus uncannily resembles Briareos before the wartime injuries that led to his becoming a cyborg. Not only does this trouble Deunan, but Briareos's DNA gives Tereus more than top-notch fighting skills; this battle-ready Bioroid is like Briareos in another way Ś he has also strong romantic feelings for Deunan!
For more about Appleseed: Ex Machina and the Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray release, see Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 4, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ai Kobayashi, Kouichi Yamadera, Yuji Kishi, Miyuki Sawashiro, Naoko Kouda
Director: Shinji Aramaki
» See full cast & crew
Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray Review
The future of anime is Blu.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 4, 2008
I'll always protect you, even if the world comes to an end.
My exposure to Anime is about akin to my exposure to watching an HD DVD product. In other words, practically nil. I've seen a few HD DVD demos scattered here and there in stores, but I've never sat down to one before. In the world of Japanese Animation, I've seen bits and pieces of a few of the classics of the genre by those trying to get me interested. Akira and Ghost in the Shell come to mind as films I've tried to watch and just couldn't get through. It was with great surprise and minor trepidation when I received a copy of Appleseed Ex Machina in the mail for review the other day. I felt a bit relieved upon seeing the cool cover art, a sticker proclaiming John Woo's involvement (a familiar name!) and reading the description on the back of the box. Still, my biggest concern was giving the movie, and the genre, a fair review, seeing as I know as much about it as I do the inner working of old Soviet nuclear reactors. Upon performing a cursory Google search about this movie, I discovered it was a sequel to a 2004 film entitled Appleseed, and I familiarized myself with the lowdown on the goings-on from that film, something I suggest anyone picking this movie up blindly (meaning never having seen it or it's predecessor) do, either via Google or by purchasing or renting the 2004 film on DVD.
In the year 2133, half of the world's population was killed in a non-nuclear war. When rebuilding began, a new utopia, known as Olympus, was created to give people a promise of hope. Humans injured in the war were reconditioned as cyborgs. Bioroids, wholly engineered humans manufactured to never be swayed by emotions such as anger or hatred, served as government leaders. A law enforcement agency with global jurisdiction, known as E.S.W.A.T., policed this new world order. Briareos and Deunan are two E.S.W.A.T. troopers, Deunan a human and Briareos a cyborg, injured in the war. They are partners on the force and romantically involved, despite the heavily-mechanized Briareos. When Briareos is injured in a terrorist attack, Deunan is assigned a new partner, Tereus, a bioroid who has been engineered using Briareos' DNA, making him a perfect clone of that pre-injury trooper. He not only looks like Briareos once did, but he has all the same mannerisms, habits, and memories, making teaming with him an emotionally troubling task for Deunan. As Briareos recovers, the trio must work together to prevent further terrorist attacks on the city. As an international conference on global security looms, the population of Olympus is turned instantly into zombie- like creatures that turn on the city, destroying everything in their path. It'll be up to our trio of heroes to unlock the mystery of the control over Olympus' citizens and put an end to the terrorism before it's too late.
Appleseed Ex Machina turned out to be a high-energy and mostly interesting movie. It's replete with very well done action sequences that definitely have John Woo's signature style all over them. The slow motion effect of magazines dropping from guns, back-to-back shooting by partners, slow motion shooting while diving, and other assorted acrobatic stunts are all on full display, and the crisp, well-defined animation suits this type of movie perfectly. There are heavy doses of Greek mythology throughout as well, and the movie definitely pays homage to the greats of the science fiction and action genres. There's a little bit of The Matrix, Aliens, and any John Woo film. Although Appleseed Ex Machina and Michael Bay's Transformers are cinematic contemporaries, these two films share several similarities as well, namely in the action scenes featuring dueling mechanized, large robotic suits.
Thankfully for people like me new to the Appleseed world, this film is very easy to get into with just a minimal knowledge of the first story. Even going in completely blind, the film offers up enough background information through dialogue and flashbacks that we are never completely lost as to what's happening, and more importantly, why. Although some scenes and dialogue struck me as somewhat generic, the characters themselves, and the story, are fairly deep and complex, but not so much so that the audience is left scratching their heads and forced to view the film multiple times to get the story. I feel strongly that, even though not animated in the same tradition as your father's anime, the Appleseed series is a great way to introduce yourself to this world, especially if you like action and science fiction films.
Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers delivers this futuristic thriller onto the next-generation Blu-ray format in a stunning 1080p high definition, 1.78:1 framed transfer. Being unfamiliar with Anime, I only have cursory knowledge of how they tend to look. This is a CGI-rendered film and as such, it translates very well to Blu-ray. Several scenes appear soft or slightly out of focus, almost as if a very fine film covers those frames. Again, not being familiar with the style, I cannot comment for certain if this is how it's supposed to look, but judging on how great the vast majority of the film looks, I would go with "intentional." Appleseed Ex Machina on Blu-ray appears very highly detailed. The animators have pulled out all the stops to make this one a top-notch visual feast, rendering everything from backgrounds, cityscapes, and vehicles to helmets, flesh, and hair with stunning attention to detail that makes for one of the finest animated experiences I've seen. Blacks are wonderful, and shadow detail is great. Dark scenes are just as vivid as bright ones, and detail and clarity is just as high, both providing clear, distortion and artifact-free images. Color reproduction is excellent. Although much of the film is dark in nature, colors really jump of the screen. The green of Briareos' eyes, for example, looks natural, bright, and vibrant. The brushed metal look of his helmet is also beautifully rendered, wonderfully detailed, and clear. Near the end of the film, a shot of Xander's eyes reveals stunning color detail in the iris, making for a small yet stunning example of the depth, color reproduction, and detail of this image. I did note a miniscule amount of contrast wavering in a few select shots, but its certainly nothing to be overly concerned with. There is no denying that this VC-1 transfer from Warner Brothers looks fantastic, and newcomers to anime and this series, as well as veterans of both, should find themselves most pleased with this transfer.
Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner Home Video delivers Appleseed Ex Machina to Blu-ray with both its original Japanese language track and an English dub track, both in Dolby Digital 5.1. Several other language options are available in 2.0 stereo. Unfortunately, this dynamic, engaging mix does not offer viewers a lossless mix. While the Dolby Digital tracks are very, very good, the lossy mixes are somewhat lacking in fidelity and strong, deep bass. This track is, however, an excellent example of a well-done lossy mix. Surrounds are active throughout, creating a sound field replete with swooshes, explosions, music, gunfire, and any other number of fun, engaging sounds. Dialogue in both the Japanese and English mixes is crystal clear and never lost underneath effects or music. Both versions sounded identical to me in volume, effects, surrounds, bass, everything, save for the language, of course. Perhaps the one misgiving I had with these lossy tracks is the lack of deep, powerful bass. While there are some scenes that rumble and work the subwoofer, others sounded a bit weak and tiny. Gunfire is mildly subdued, and scenes such as one near the end showing the collapse of a structure sounded tiny and muted compared to the shaking and rumbling seen on-screen. Overall, this is a very good track but, as usual, I am subtracting a full point for the lack of a lossless, high definition option.
Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This disc contains a very nice helping of extras sure to please both new and old fans of the series and the genre. First up is a feature commentary track with Jerry Beck from www.cartoonbrew.com, and the film's producer Joseph Chou. Chou really takes the reigns and runs, talking about both the film and the history of anime in the United States. Chou discusses the origins of the film, the differences between CGI and motion capture technology, and "3-D Live Anime." He says this film is a CGI film at heart with motion capture technology involved, using stuntmen, facial feature actors, and voice actors throughout to put the film together. The commentary is almost an interview with Chou, Beck acting more as the interviewer. It works very well. Chou is knowledgeable and passionate, and listening to him describe the story, the creation of the film, and the input from all the technical people involved makes for a fascinating listen.
Team-Up: John Woo and Shinji Aramaki (1080i, 16:29) looks at the motivations behind the film, and the hope of expanding into the Western Hemisphere to broaden its audience. John Woo's style, influence, and input into the film are discussed, as is director Shinji Aramaki's work on the film. Revolution: Animating 'Ex Machina' (1080i, 18:40) is a feature about taking the groundbreaking work from 2004's Appleseed and improving on them by bringing more in-depth emotion and realism to the screen in an animated, digital film. This is a wonderful look at the work that went into making this film. It's fascinating and breathtaking when one discovers the artistry and hard work that went into creating the end product. The Appleseed Chronicles (1080i, 19:48) is a rare glimpse into the words and works of the reclusive creator of the series, Shirow Masamune. This is a very interesting look at the history of the franchise and its creator, and a fabulous introduction to the genre, recommended for all viewers. Finally, East Meets West (1080i, 18:40) looks at the influence of each culture on the other, and the influence and acceptance of anime in both Japan and the United States.
Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
All in all, Appleseed Ex Machina entertained me. Its eclectic mix of styles from John Woo to The Matrix to Transformers was certainly different and engaging. Was it enough to get me started watching loads of Anime? Probably not. I wouldn't mind checking out the first film in the series and any subsequent sequels, but with stacks upon stacks of films to watch and review, I just don't have the time for an entirely new-to-me genre. For those looking to get into films of this genre of ever-growing popularity, or for established fans, Appleseed Ex Machina on Blu-ray will make a great addition to your library. Video and audio qualities are both very good, though I was a bit disappointed by the failure to include a lossless or uncompressed mix here, at least for the original Japanese track. The disc does offer a very nice dose of supplements that are a big help to newcomers to the series or the genre. Recommended.
Appleseed: Ex Machina Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Appleseed Ex Machina Gets Detailed - February 21, 2008
Warner Home Video has revealed the specs and extras for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Appleseed Ex Machina', due to hit store shelves March 11th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 1.78:1 VC-1 1080p with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. ...
• Appleseed Ex Machina Comes to Blu-ray - November 26, 2007
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring 'Appleseed Ex Machina' to Blu-ray on March 11th. 'Appleseed Ex Machina' is the sequel to popular anime 'Appleseed'. No specs have been announced at this time, but you can expect the usual VC-1 treatment from ...
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