Thursday, 19 May 2016

Appleseed Ex Machina (JP, 2007)

This is the sequel to the 2004 'Appleseed' movie which was itself a slightly rejigged version of the original 1988 animated version. One major difference with this CGI animated sequel is the producer being action maestro John Woo, where as the director is once again Shinji Aramaki, from the 2004 movie.

This story takes place two years after the incidents revolving around the bioroids in the city of Olympus. Deunan and Briareos rescue some officials from cyborg terrorists but in the process Briareos is injured. Whilst Briareos is out of action, Deunan is introduced to her new partner, Tereus, a bioroid that looks and sounds exactly like her old lover Briareos in his human form. Turns out that this is a new prototype bioroid soldier with no negative emotions to hinder its fighting ability. Briareos' DNA was chosen because of his  mental and physical strength. Naturally this leaves Deunan confused and frustrated with the whole situation. This is more of a subplot really, character building.

The real meat of the plot involves the increase of terrorist attacks that have been committed by cyborgs, made by a certain company, Poseidon. The terrorist attacks have been getting more confusing and frequent as both cyborgs and non-cybernetic humans have been attacking in a zombie-like fashion. It is also noted early on by Deunan that many people seem to be wearing electronic head wear called Connexus, a visor type gadget that projects holographic information in front of the users eyes. Anyway, basically a section of the company Poseidon (Halcon) was once a leading scientific laboratory until they started playing in the field of mind control. Poseidon shut them down after the apparent death of a young woman called Elizabeth Xander, the project head. Back in the present, world leaders introduce a global security network by merging all satellites around the Earth to create one large net, thus trying to eliminate potential terrorist attacks before they happen. Are these zombie-like attacks by cyborgs and Connexus wearing humans connected to Halcon and their mind control antics? Is the global satellite network somehow being abused by Halcon to control masses of people and cyborgs? And who exactly is controlling all this, and why?

So its pretty clear even to me that the franchise has taken a decidedly easy western focused route this time. The previous movie was an in depth look at human nature, ethics and all kinds of very real moral dilemmas. This sequel is clearly more of an outright sci-fi thriller with a rather bog standard plot about an evil company controlling peoples minds for nefarious purposes. In other words its almost like another yarn from the Resident Evil franchise, it could quite easily be this what with the zombie-esque notion and creepy mysterious company that offers no information about its past. To matters even worse (yes worse), they have brought in John Woo! the action genre whore. Oh boy can you instantly tell its Woo-influenced, sheesh! Literally the first action sequence we see at the start contains doves flying around in slow motion, and both Deunan and Braireos dual wielding guns, leaping about the place (in slow motion of course) with bullets raining down like confetti. I will fully admit it looks cool at times of course, Braireos launching himself into the air and taking out terrorists with two guns blazing, only to land perfectly and reload his weapons in an ultra cool manner, is indeed saucy stuff...but really?

That aside there isn't too much Woo-ness on show thank God, it seems they let him get it out of his system early on, and then told him to get on with the rest of the show sensibly. That being said, its all so very westernised here, all the characters are beautiful and muscular, including Braireos, despite being a cyborg (look at his robot biceps!). There are some cheesy fight training sequences in a dojo showing off lots of slow motion martial arts and yet more big muscles. ESWAT team members seem to be rather stereotypical characters that we've all encountered before, dare I say 'Aliens' influenced? Manuel Aeacus is a good example of such a character, unsure if he's from the original material or made for this movie alone. The way in which the mind control effects people visually looks like some kind of alien infection or slow growing mutation in the face. The hidden fortress of Halcon is pretty ridiculous in the fact that its a floating fortress...and made up entirely of cubes varying in size? (very Matrix-esque action). And lastly (spoiler alert!), the final showdown against the robotic, tentacle, zombie hybrid is quite literally an out and out Resident Evil type scenario, it virtually all is, its pretty obvious really.

Again the visuals appear to be a combination of cel shaded CG anime which are much smoother than the 2004 movie, but less realistic in my view. The CG anime in the 2004 movie looked more hand drawn with cel shaded CGI over the top, it looked a bit rough but it looked like anime/manga. This movie is much neater, smoother and slicker looking that's for sure, but at the same time it loses that anime/manga vibe if you ask me, it looks too smooth and glossy, almost too perfect really. In essence, for the most part, this movie kinda looked like an in-game sequence for a videogame, yeah I know that's a common saying for things like this but its very true here. The fighting sequences with Braireos looked like sequences from a Tekken game, especially in the dojo against Tereus. Most other scenes in the film could easily be any futuristic action shooter for the latest console, it all looked very meh to me, the original art source, slightly drained away. Don't get me wrong, had this been any other sci-fi animation I'd be saying the opposite as its not terrible looking, but when compared to the 2004 movie and the original source material, it just doesn't look right, to me at least.

I dunno, in the end I just felt this was too much of a cookie cutter western thriller, devoid of any real innovation that you would come to expect from a Japanese futuristic fantasy epic. Clearly its gone for a much wider, broader appeal which I'm sure many will prefer, but I'm also sure many fanboys will not. After the amazing plot we got in the 2004 movie I really expected a continuation in the same vein, another deep, methodical story with layers, sensible and, if I can say it...grown-up. Instead we get a silly zombie-esque,Matrix-like videogame thriller which just feels more like a spin-off than a full sequel. Yes it looks lush, admittedly they have bolstered the characters, mainly Braireos, and overall the imagination on show is impressive (if a little too common to other big sci-fi franchises). I'm not a fanboy who knows every little detail about this franchise, but even I was left wanting more here, even I could see how the fanbase might not like this particular path. But despite all that its still solid enough if you're into the genre as a whole.