Sunday, 15 May 2016

Appleseed (JP, 2004)

Based on the original manga series, this is a new movie with a re-interpretation of the original storyline, apparently, it is not an exact adaptation. That being said, it makes absolutely no difference to me because I'm completely new to this franchise having never seen anything related to it ever. Sure I've heard of this series, I've seen the imagery before, but that's all. So bare in mind this review is coming from a complete newbie, not to manga, but just to this particular material.

So the story goes, Deunan Knute is a young female soldier fighting in the last global war (WWIII). She is rescued from certain death by Hitomi and her former lover Briareos (who is now a cyborg), then whisked away to the utopian city of Olympus. It is explained that Deunan was sort after for her battle skills, naturally backed up by Briareos, they want her for the cities counter-terrorist organisation ESWAT. Upon arrival in Olympus Deunan discovers a world where humans coexist with bioroids, genetically-engineered clones of humans. The young female Hitomi is a bioroid, as is the President of Olympus, and everything is overseen by an all powerful A.I. called Gaia. Bioroids are essentially manufactured humans, but a highly advanced hybrid species, their purpose to keep human society stable, peaceful, free from aggression or violence. Conveniently originally created by Deunan's mother using her fathers DNA as a template. The one difference being, the bioroids are unable to reproduce and have shorter life spans, every aspect of emotion being controlled by Gaia. Neutered and sterile, but aware, happy and free from heartache. The only way for them to survive is undergoing a periodic life extension process. Alternatively, it is believed that the only way to bring down all bioroids sits on top of the city in the D-tank, which supposedly contains a virus.

Anyway, everything is not all smiles and blowjobs in the city of Olympus after a terrorist attack against the bioroid life extension facility leaves it in ruins. In the aftermath the elders wish to restore the bioroids reproductive functions asap due to the obvious pending crisis, and supposedly with the full consent of Gaia. However, in order to do this the elders need the Appleseed data, data which contains the information required to restore bioroid reproduction. But! the leader of the Olympian regular army (made up of humans), General Edward Uranus III, is against these actions, he wants to take down all bioroids because he believes they are a risk to mankind. He fears they will replace the human race over time, hence he is quietly a suspect of the attack. Deunan is tasked with finding the Appleseed data before it supposedly falls into the wrong hands (General Uranus) which could lead to the end of all bioroids. Alas for Deunan all is not what it seems, can the elders be trusted? is Uranus right? what exactly is contained within the D-tank? and what does the bioroid President know?

The plot had me thinking, thinking hard! It really did feel like I had landed with a thud, right in the middle of a well used, fully expanded universe. For starters the movie kicks off without any real explanation as to what is going, or what has happened before. Sure you get snippets of information as the plot proceeds but for a newbie such as myself I found myself asking many questions. At the start we see Deunan in full combat, amongst the ruins of civilisation, fighting...someone or something, I have no idea what. We later find out that the world had been at war and Deunan was one of the last remaining humans fighting. So how can the entire globe be at war and yet it hasn't affected the city of Olympus? When Deunan reaches Olympus she knows nothing, no clue about bioroids, ESWAT, modern technology etc...but how? Is the rest of the world supposed to be far behind in terms of technology? Has the war been going on for so long that over time the people of Olympus have simply advanced? Why doesn't Olympus help with the war? their soldiers appear to be very powerful. Deunan seems surprised by everything she sees but not by the fact her former lover has been turned into a large cyborg, shocked yes, but not by the tech involved (I guess its a standard thing?).

The futuristic city of Olympus was a predictable looking utopia in all fairness, clean, green, lots of hover cars, neon by night and a forest of sparkling skyscrapers. Even thought there are various angles contained within this complex story, some did stand out to me more than others. The fact that around 50% of the population are bioroid does actually make you lean towards General Uranus though, truth be told. I mean lets look at the evidence presented here, the entire city is controlled by one giant A.I. computer, which in turn controls the bioroids. The bioroids make up 50% of the cities population, biologically superior artificial humans created to keep normal humans in check so to speak. Many politicians and world leaders, including the Olympian Prime Minister, are bioroids, and you also have various human/cyborg hybrids. So upon reflection you can see how Uranus is opposed to bioroids and why he (and others) might feel threatened by their ever growing expanse. Yes the bioroids keep humans from acting stupid, preventing conflict, supposedly, but you can also see how that might be seen as a kind of repression, a stifling of human expression whatever it may be. Its almost as though humans don't have a real say in their own future, however positive or negative they might make it. Essentially you feel as if Uranus is on the right track but maybe misguided, but ultimately his stance is too extreme.

At the same time the elders (who appear to be part cyborg or enhanced themselves) frustrate you with their wilfulness to abandon the human race and push for an all out bioroid society. Is there a reason why all the elders are wise old oriental men? Surely that in itself is sexism within this futuristic society, that only men are in this special assembly of elders that clearly have much sway over the city. Anyway their double dealings and involvement within the cities numerous issues are slightly obvious from the start, but nevertheless still annoying with their reckless treatment of all mankind. One could almost compare it to modern day liberal extremists that protest and demonstrate for open door immigration policy within certain countries, the same reckless disregard for their own people, but lets not go down that route eh. I mean sure, you can let bioroids reproduce, but there is no need to slowly eradicate humans over generations by making them infertile, just because as a race we are volatile.

Being a Japanese manga the lead character is of course a slim framed, sexy female in a tight fitting military outfit. She's virtually an unstoppable ass-kicking machine that, at times, will break rank because its cool for a character to do that. Naturally she is linked to all the bioroids biologically because her mother created them using her fathers DNA, and naturally her mother was mysteriously killed for her work (kinda predictable, cliched stuff that). Her close partner Briareos is the huge muscular cyborg hybrid that is the epitome of a Japanese mech/bio suit warrior type, indeed it was this characters look that got me intrigued in the first place. This character is undeniable cool looking, his design being fluid, sturdy and sleek despite having those long wing-like rabbit ears and the large bug-like eye arrangement on his faceplate. Briareos is essentially the muscle in this duo, the brawn, the intimidating factor visually at least, you've always gotta have some beef with big guns it seems. Naturally both of these characters look fecking awesome when sporting a huge weapon of some kind, as do all the other ESWAT team members and other police units in their mech suits cradling massive sniper cannons (or whatever).

Everything being CGI of course enhances the silky futuristic atmosphere tenfold. This isn't a rusty, old, used future, this is a sterile, shiny, clean, polished, glossy future where people are clean cut and don't behave badly. So in that sense the blemish free CGI approach does fit the bill, but its not entirely pleasing in my opinion. The inclusion of motion capture, cel shading and traditional anime along with the CGI does make for a very realistic look for sure, It takes the sting off the CGI meaning there is less of a plastic look and a bit more of a hand drawn look around the edges. Images of men in mech suits taking aim with their ultra cool guns does look very very sweet indeed, Olympus looks nice and shiny, much neon glows in the night, vistas are sharp...but still it does have that CGI vibe about it, I still find myself preferring well crafted hand drawn animation.

The philosophical effect is grand in scale in my opinion. Themes of human nature, what it is to be human, the human soul, the effects of technology on humans, racism, terrorism etc...its a veritable Arthur C. Clarke/Asimov hotpot. Considering the franchise has been around since 1985 its impressive that the stories main themes are still relevant today, maybe even more so now actually. Not only that but the amount of behind the scenes politics, differing factions, factions within factions, betrayal, revelations, democratic viewpoints, conservative viewpoints quite frankly mind blowing! I haven't even touched on the ethical issues when it comes down to the bioroids. Originally, genetically engineered, man-made, emotionless clones that require life extension check-ups, but once appleseed is activated and the bioroids are able to reproduce, does that make them fully human? Once they can reproduce then surely emotions will soon follow, so then you have to ask yourself, were the elders right after all? Will (or could) the bioroids be the perfect race?