Posted in: Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on April 30th, 2008
A question to ponder before we head into this review. What do you get when you mix anime or japanese animation with a healthy dose of John Woo? Besides a ton of falling gun shell casing and cute characters performing acrobatics in the air while taking down a dozen bad guys? You get a movie that goes full speed for over a hundred minutes and makes you realize that this is truly the perfect avenue for John Woo and style of films. However, just don’t expect there to be a completely solid story behind it.
In the future, the world is annihilated by itself. However, out of the dust & debris, Olympus rises as a utopian society. The new society has a group of soldiers called the ESWAT (wasn’t this a game for Sega Genesis? sorry, *turns off video game knowledge*). These warriors protect the peace and serve in the utopian society’s best interest. The warriors consist of cyborgs and humans. Bioroids or genetically engineered humans serve as diplomatic leaders over ESWAT due to their calm and collective nature.
There are two very important characters within ESWAT. The first is Briareos, a cyborg who has a nose for battle and fights like no other solider. The second is Deunan, a brash and electric female human who handles her guns as good as any male or borg within the core. The two have a developed a deep relationship from the time when Briareos was fully human and not his current combination of male and metallic parts. However, when Briareos gets injured, he is replaced by a bioroid that is made up of Briareos’ DNA. The bioroid’s name is Tereus and since his DNA is an exact match, he looks like Briareos (before the cyborg infusion) and acts like him as well. But without Briareos’ hostilities and anger.
Olympus however has other issues besides an episode of Cyborg Hospital (or the Young and the Bioroids). Seems that cyborgs are trying to take over the utopian society (and surrounding areas). They are doing this through viruses within electronics which is most heavily affecting cyborgs and taking over their minds. However, it is also affecting humans and causing mass chaos in the city. Deunan and Tereus take it head on along with the rest of ESWAT to thwart whoever is behind this sinister foul play. But when Briareos is put back in action, will he be able to put away his feelings and resume his duty? Find out next in As the Olympus Turns. Sorry, one too many summers at my mom’s house.
As far as the story goes, what is there is mostly the relationship between Deunan, Briareos and Tereus. Deunan is in the middle of a conflict between herself and man or borg she loves. Sure, Tereus is exactly like Briareos and has the human face he once had. However, she wants to be with Briareos even if he is part bucket of bolts. It’s a little bizarre but also kind of touching as Briareos does feel human despite his outer mechanical shell. Tereus despite being a genetically engineered human feels more mechanical as follows his part as any good solider should.
The story does feel focused but also quite vacant. There is a backdrop of cyborgs taking over the world through electronics but it’s really secondary and feels like something that was thrown up after they put the action sequences through their paces. As mentioned, John Woo is a heavy part of this film. He is merely listed as a producer, however his signature is all over the movie. Obvious things from shell casings hitting the floor to crazy action all over the place. Cyborgs are not stick figures and can move around like Jet Li on a full pot of coffee. Then there are subtle things borrowed from Woo’s earlier movie such as gunplay from Hard Boiled or the classic face reveal from Face Off.
It’s a Woo movie up and down even if Shinji Aramaki is the director. Take the world of Appleseed and pay homage to the grand master of action films. The movie is a visual masterpiece, however the story got mostly left behind. The bad guys are hardly developed, even at the bitter end. Furthermore, the leaders of the utopian nature who govern over ESWAT seem to have conflicting motives but that is never brought to the surface. It is very fun to watch, I just wish there was something with more substance underneath.
The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film is simply amazing to look at. It has that classic anime style mixed in with a lot of realism. For a standard definition dvd, it has been a very long time before I had seen something this crisp and pure on my screen. The picture is mapped beautifully I really have a problem finding flaws of any nature. The animators that worked on this should be given a raise immediately.
I primarily listened to the audio in 5.1 English Dolby Digital with a few minutes here and there of the Japanese 5.1 track that is also included. (In addition, 2.0 is provided for Cantonese, French, Spanish and Portuguese) The sound is almost as good as the visuals. Bullets fly from speaker to speaker, action is intense (and loud), and the sound almost never stops. Dialog is crisp and clear. A very pleasing audio fest. A very slight flaw could be from the English dub where the characters were a tad too over the top. However, most of you should be used to this. Subtitles are also provided for English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese.
- Automatic Trailers: Justice League: The New Frontier & Batman: Gotham Knight(I want, I want!)
- Audio Commentary: Jerry Beck from CartoonBrew.com & producer Joseph Chou provide the backdrop for the movie. Actually it is more of an interview session with Jerry playing the part of the interviewing and Chou answering the little q&a. It’s okay I suppose, Chou has good English but it lends only so much to the film.
- Team-Up: John Woo & Shinji Aramaki 16:25: Since the movie is an obvious collaboration of John and Shinji, it only makes sense they have a featurette here. It is interesting to note that most of the John Woo-isms as we like to call it were in the movie already to some degree before John appeared on the scene. They certainly seem to appreciate his work.
- Revolution: Animating Ex Machina 18:36: A more poignant featurette on all of the work that went into animating the movie. Good stuff here, and I’ll say it again; somebody gives these folks a raise (or bonus I suppose).
- Previews: Speed Racer(sneak peek),The Sickhouse, Journey to the Center of the Earth, I am Legend, Speed Racer: The Game, & The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters(very interested in the last one)
A movie with great visuals and sound is always welcome in my library. The Toy Story movies, early Superbits, Daredevil and others are all over my swivel wooden case. However the story in this particular movie is only so-so. The relationship between the three main characters is of interest but the backdrop or the main plot seems thrown in at the last moment. Generic enemy stories are rather cliche and there is nothing here to elevate that. The dvd’s video and audio are near perfect. The extras are okay, you’ll find much better in the collector’s edition that is floating about the net. So that’s where my recommendation goes, if you are a fan of the movie; you will want to grab the collector’s edition. This particular edition while rich has story and extras that is only okay at best.
- DvdVerdict.com – “A glorious presentation and an achievement in animation style to be sure, but it sure is hard to get too excited about Appleseed: Ex Machina.”
- IGN.com – “If there is still any problem with Ex Machina, it would be that the movie still doesn’t want to fully depict Briareos and Deunan as a couple and goes for angst and dramatic tension rather than the fantastic material about what the characters achieve as a couple. ”