Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
See what I mean about little festivals? I’ve never heard of the Boston Fantastic Film Festival, but if it’s showing APPLESEED, chances are there’s other good stuff playing, too.
I just finished watching the new 'Appleseed', which was showing at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA for the Boston Fantastic Film Festival. I'm not a film festival hound, but am an anime fan, so it was a great new experience watching the film with a theater full of like-minded geeks.
A great new take on a manga classic with jaw-dropping, top-of-the-line CG and fantastically choreographed mecha action scenes which was marred by cheesy end-of-the-world catastrophe movie cliches in the last quarter of the film. 3.5 stars out of 4.
The film opens, just like in the manga, with Deunan fighting a gatling gun tank, but with some major changes. Briareos isn't with her and cyborgs assasins come in on the attack with the tank. Nevertheless, the action was amazing and everyone was totally hyped up by the coolness of it all. This is no-holds-barred mecha CG action with amazing production value. It's as good as anything I've ever seen.
A word here about the graphics - As people have probably heard about and seen in the trailers, this movie has a new twist in that the background and mecha are all standard CG, but the human characters are created with motion captured 3D renderings drawn over in traditional cel-animation style. The result is incredible. I think this combination is a winner and we'll see more of it in the future. It overcomes the main problem in all-CG movies: the human characters. In movies like 'Final Fantasy', once the attempt is made to make the characters look photo-realistic, we immediately pick up on all the ways they don't look human enough. In 'Appleseed', it's the opposite. The characters look like they should be the flat 2D characters we're used to, but their movements are so realistic that it's a complete shock. I remember when I first saw 'Akira' years ago, just seeing the punk walk down the stairs into the bar in the first scene -seeing how smoothly his motion was drawn - told me that I was in for something special. The same with 'Appleseed'. I just kept on thinking, "cel-anime characters aren't supposed to look this real!" I saw in the credits at the end that each of the main characters had two actors behind them: one for the motion capture and one for the voice acting. A note to Anime fetishists: Deunan looks great. There is even one "fan-service" scene with her in underwear that was so blatant the whole theater burst out in knowing chuckles.
The plot is played around with quite a bit to make the story fit nicely into a 2-hour movie, but the basic points are kept. Deunan is taken to the city of Olympus which is the new technological utopia that arose out the ashes of another world war and is recruited into the city's ESWAT anti-terrorist unit. The city is populated both by humans and by bioroids, who are clones with muted emotions. Half of the population are bioroids, and they are meant to have a pacifying effect on the human population to minimize violence and stop the possibility of another war. But to keep the bioroids from taking over, they are kept sterile and have to undergo a maintenance procedure regularly. Without it, they die within a few days. Seven Elders (the old guys in the floating wheelchairs) and a supercomputer named Gaia are entrusted to maintain the proper balance between humans and bioroids. Most of the human are happy with this arrangement, but some, espcially in the all-human Army, want to get rid of the bioroids altogether. The main story revolves around the attempts by the Army to destroy the infrastucture that supports bioroid production and maintenance, and the efforts of the ESWAT to stop them.
*minor spoilers ahead*
All this puts into place the setting of a great sci-fi political thriller with awesome action... then the movie pulled the rug from under us by linking up Deunan's personal history with these political developments. I won't go into the details, but it resulted in a lot of unintentional humor. Tears, flashbacks to Deunan's childhood with her mother, a final gift given to Deunan by her mother moments before her death, etc. etc. Once they started with the cliches, they just wouldn't let up. Even the final giant action scene was marred by scenes like the main bad guy (won't give away who) explaining his evil-genius plan to our heroes while having his finger over the switch that would activate the doomsday device.
All in all, though, the movie pulls through. The voice acting (in Japanese) was solid, and the pacing of the movie, between the exposition of the plot and politics on one hand, and the action scenes on the other, was handled very well. Also, the melodramatic moments can be forgiven, since the plot itself is fine, with no gaping holes in its internal logic. This might not be the best movie to introduce anime, but for someone who is already a fan, it's not to be missed!
Thanks, man. Did you see anything else at the fest worth mentioning?