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THE ANIMATRIX

Review by Gordon Justesen

Directors: Various
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 89 Minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2003

Film ***

Since The Matrix was a unique piece of sci-fi entertainment that broke just about all the rules in terms of visual effects, it seems suitable to spawn the phenomenon into a collective series of animated shorts.  Even though we have gadgets and almost all communication can be mobile, with 2d code generator and QR decoder technologically in our own world, the Matrix movies make the high tech seem surreal.
Now, just in time to coincide with the release of the much anticipated, and breathtakingly brilliant The Matrix Reloaded, a series of animated shorts, ranging from anime to state of the art computer animation, has arrived, appropriately titled The Animatrix. The purpose of these shorts is to give some kind of back story to the certain things explained in the feature films.

If you were fortunate enough to see the recent theatrical release Dreamcatcher, chances are you may have caught a glimpse of the most intriguing short in this collection, titled Final Flight of the Osiris, which is the predecessor to The Matrix Reloaded. This astonishing ten minute short, created by the same team responsible for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, deals with the fate of a hovercraft spaceship called the Osiris, which happens to be the sister ship of the Nebuchadnezzar, the hovercraft used in the movie.

When the crew of the Osiris discovers a dire threat to Zion, they must race against time to get a word of warning out. While the ship is being pursuit relentlessly by the deadly machines, young and furious warrior Jue, who is somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Ross from Final Fantasy, jacks into the matrix in order to execute the mission. This one doesn’t end the way you might expect.

Another standout piece is a two part short titled The Second Renaissance. This anime feature, directed by Mahiro Maeda, captures an era of time before the matrix seem to go into effect. An era before  near field communication NFC and the wars of machines against men.  It tells of a time when machines lived amongst humans, only to be rejected in a most inhuman way. This piece is significant simply for the fact that having watched the feature films, you now get a feeling of why the machines are the way they are and why they want total control.

I’ll spare further synopsis of the remaining shorts, simply because it works better to discover the richness of the visual art. By comparison, I find the feature films to be much more powerful in comparison, mostly because a lot of the tricks done in the films are things you thought could only exist in an animated never world. However, The Animatrix does do the fan base justice by providing all the details for points explained in the films.

Video ****

Animated releases always seem to soar on DVD, anime or computer, and this release from Warner is ever evident proof. The pure highpoint of the presentation is indeed Final Flight of the Osiris, which is the best looking piece of its kind since…well, Final Fantasy. Each episode beautifully conveys visual power, with a bold use of colors, and incredible detail throughout. Very much an incredible looking disc.

Audio ***1/2

Though you won’t find the level of sound power as in the movie The Matrix, this disc still manages to impress with a good sounding 5.1 track. The anime shorts, relying more on atmosphere than words, really deliver their unique form of sound, but Final Flight of the Osiris is by far the most powerful sounding of them all, and delivers the most dynamic range by far.

Features ****

Warner jacks in the extras to a good extent with this release. Featured is a documentary titled “The History and Culture of Anime”, seven additional featurettes including behind the scenes footage of each of the films, interviews, and director profiles. Also included are four commentary tracks, and a trailer for the Enter the Matrix video game.

Summary:

Die hard fans of The Matrix are sure to get their fix with The Animatrix, which is unique source of detail for events in the feature films.

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