(region 1 edition)

Warner Home Video
RRP $24.98
Certificate: Not Rated (but 17+ recommendation)
Available now

Before viewing The Animatrix I had assumed it was an animated version of the original groundbreaking SF film. Thankfully, it avoids falling into that trap, instead opting to tell separate stories set in and around the world of The Matrix. To give credence and an added authenticity to the project, The Animatrix is produced by Larry and Andy Wachowski, creators and directors of the film trilogy. The first four of nine segments are also written by the successful partnership.

First up is Final Flight of the Osiris. This is entirely computer generated, and the superb quality and attention to detail is almost worth the money alone. Remember the "I know kung fu" training sequence from the first instalment? This begins with a sensual samurai sword fight, before we're thrust into a high-speed chase aboard the Osiris. The crew are forced to flee when they witness giant drilling machines attempting to bore through the surface to the human refuge. In an original twist, the mission is a disaster, and they are unable to issue a warning.

There is a dark and downbeat atmosphere to most of the stories here, which in this instance is as it should be; major turning points in life and the consequences of war seldom have a happy theme. And talking of war, The Second Renaissance Part I & II shows the events surrounding the war with the machines, created by man. After one robot kills and becomes a martyr, political 'do-gooders' decide that machines have rights too. The robots construct their own city, and their economy threatens that of the humans so severely that man launches an attack on the city, with devastating reprisals.

There are some serious images here, not seen in animation outside of Manga and Pink Floyd's The Wall. During riot scenes a woman's clothes are ripped off and she is violently clubbed, revealing a robot body beneath her outwardly human appearance. Robot bodies are bulldozed into a mass grave, a particularly poignant depiction after news stories in recent years from war-torn countries.

Whereas Renaissance is a mix of Japanese anime and CGI, Kid's Story is animated using a modern comic book style, with quick cuts and streaks successfully creating effective flowing movement. A new slant is put on an early scene in The Matrix. A high school boy is receiving answers to his questions via computer, but then the agents arrive for him. An escape is attempted via skateboard, and the boy is obliged to take a literal leap of faith.

In Program an ancient Japanese combat simulation proves to be a fight for survival when a friend appears to turn rogue. World Record is a strange one. A runner, attempting to beat his own best time, sustains a serious injury and briefly wakes up in the real world. The machines put him under again, but the athlete appears to suspect a new enlightenment.

Beyond is one of the best here. A girl loses her cat and traces it to a run-down and abandoned warehouse building, which the local kids insist is haunted. A broken lightbulb flashes on and off, it rains perpetually on one part of the building, and in one area the kids have fun in an antigravity field. The anomalies are a glitch in the Matrix program. An imposing truck arrives with a cleanup team.

A Detective Story is an anime version of film noir, with a private eye being tricked into tracking down a top hacker known as Trinity. If there is one example here which lets the side down slightly, it's Matriculated, wherein a group of humans attempt to capture and convert machines to their way of thinking. A good idea in principle; however, the virtual reality-like program utilised is just an excuse for some smart-arse kaleidoscopic computer animation running around, which lasts far too long.

Over all, The Animatrix is an original concept and an exceptional package. With extras including director commentaries, making-of documentaries on each segment, biographical profiles, a video game trailer, a documentary on anime, and DVD-ROM features, it's well worth anyone's interest. And the sound quality takes some beating.

Ty Power

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