Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button
If you didn’t quite get what the Matrix films were all about, this may or may not help things. On one hand you’ve got a great set of back stories that helps to add a bit more context to exactly why things are the way they are. One the other hand, however, you’ve got even more information to digest, making things a lot more complicated for those who’ve struggled with the basic story thus far.

The Animation
On the DVD we are given 9 different animations, each with their own little niche in the web that is The Matrix phenomenon. Producers Larry and Andy Wachowski have assembled some of Japanese Anime’s finest directors, each with their own team of crack animators to create some of the most impressive short sequences, both in story and in visual effects, to hit our screens. Anime fans will rejoice at the best collection of pieces ever to reach DVD, while Matrix fans will revel in even more information about one of their favourite films.

As I said, the topics covered and the animations styles used are quite diverse. The first thing you’ll notice is a trendy-looking animated menu system, which comes as no surprise considering who’s actually behind the content. Let’s take a closer look at each piece, shall we?

Animatrix, The

Final Flight Of The Osiris
The jewel in the crown of The Animatrix, this piece begins with an extravagant fight scene between a (quite sexy) young woman and a muscular male, blindfolds and all. They manage to slice each other’s clothes off for a while (proving that CGI characters can still look aesthetically pleasing) until they’re rudely interrupted by something in ‘the outside world’. We then take a Final Fantasy style trip inside what looks like a space vehicle, where one member must make the ultimate sacrifice to sort things out. Easily the best animation on the disc, one that merges well with the whole story overall. Many of you would’ve seen this one in cinemas, where it was more memorable than the dire Dreamcatcher when it ran as an accompaniment to the feature on Australian screens.

The Second Renaissance (Parts I & II)
These two pieces tell the story of man and machine, explaining how humans created the machines that eventually turned the tables on their makers. This is a great two-part story, accompanied by a haunting voiceover and some particularly violent visuals, even for animation. It may also trigger a light bulb inside some people’s heads, helping them to understand a little more of what happens in the films.

Kid’s Story
You know that little kid that keeps following Neo around in The Matrix Reloaded? Well, here’s his back story, telling us how the boy broke free of the Matrix thanks to a mixture of skateboarding prowess, a phone call from Neo and plain old luck. The animation style is an interesting one that is probably not to everyone’s tastes, but it does fit in well with the mysterious tone of the piece.

Program
This is probably one of the weaker sections of the series but is nonetheless quite engaging in its story. It’s a deceptive little piece that harks back to the traditional Anime style, with swordfighting and a lot of jumping around. Keep your wits about you and you might not be surprised by what’s to come.

World Record
Somehow a sports piece made it’s way onto the disc, but the results are outstanding. Another look at how one person breaks free from the Matrix through sheer will, World Record shows a world-class runner torn apart after he runs the race of his life, and I mean literally torn apart. Strange, but interesting.

Beyond
Using a more cartoonish animation style compared to the others, Beyond features some great-looking visuals and a brooding storyline that will suck you right in. A lost cat results in the discovery of a glitch in the Matrix by it’s owner. Haunted houses, pesky kids messing with gravity and slow-motion doves (John Woo eat your heart out) make this one among the best of the lot.

Animatrix, The

A Detective Story
This very stylish Anime noir piece is brilliant. It even comes with the familiar dark voiceover and smoky streets with men in trenchcoats. A detective is assigned to find Trinity, so he follows a series of clues like a normal person. Luckily his cat helps him out when he forgets his hat. Carrie Ann Moss reprises her role in this one, adding to the mystery of the story. “A case to end all cases...”

Matriculated
The final piece in the animation puzzle, this story delves a little further into the man vs. machine issue. Humans persuade machines to switch over to the ‘good side’ after they’ve been captured instead of making slaves out of them by way of reprogramming. The visuals look great with this one, even though the story might not have been all that exciting.

Video
The video quality of the short films is top notch, looking splendid in the 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced aspect ratio. You’ll notice it most in Final Flight Of The Osiris, where the colours and sharpness rank up there with the best of them. Some of the other animations styles are intentionally scratchy but there are no faults in the transfer whatsoever. Put simply, you won’t be focusing on anything other than the great visuals and detailed storylines with this one.

Audio
Animation is always a good platform with which to launch an immersive soundtrack, as you can get as creative with the sound as you do with the visuals. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is included on the disc was always going to be a little inconsistent, especially with a variety of director’s having their input on different pieces. Again, it’s Osiris that leads the way, with some great use of surround effects as the metal clings and clangs it’s way around the rears. Some of the others merely use the front speakers for their effects, leaving the rears to pump out the score. There is some action from the sub-woofer, but probably not enough to really push this track up with the best. The score itself is brilliant and it would be well worth the money to pick up the soundtrack along with the DVD, ‘cause I’ve heard it’s an absolute corker.

Animatrix, The

Extras
Discs like these don’t usually come with much in the way of supplements, but thankfully the trend is broken with some quality extras to keep you interested while you wait for Revolutions to surface later this year.

First up there’s a host of audio commentaries, with the directors of four pieces adding their words on the creations. They’re in Japanese (I think) so you’ll have to turn on the subtitle stream unless you’re fluent in that language. Mahiro Maeda is first, providing a track for both the Renaissance pieces. He’s quite a humble guy and does a great job at explaining his intentions as well as some of the finer points of the animation as well as a couple of in jokes here and there. The subtitles actually jump from the bottom to the top of the screen depending on where the main action is. A good little initiative that allows the viewers to still see the important action while they’re reading the subtitles.

The second director to sit in the commentary chair is Yoshiaki Kawajiri, who helmed the piece called Program. A man named Takeuchi joins him on this one, having produced the animation alongside Kawajiri. Takeuchi describes his intentions for choosing Kawajiri as director, while Kawajiri explains how he tried to push the limits of two-dimensional animation. They ask each other questions and generally get on well, with the highlight being Takeuchi’s remark that this piece “smells of Kawajiri”.

The last commentator is Takeshi Koike, director of World Record, again joined by Takeuchi. Koike explains the architectural style he used for the stadium as well as chatting a little about the characters and the pressure of concocting a workable animation with a sports theme.

The next extra feature is a documentary entitled Scrolls To Screen: The History And Culture Of Anime. Again, you’ll have to turn the subtitle track on, which can become annoying when the English speakers have subtitles also. In all this is such an interesting piece, with interviews and cut scenes from each animation as well as an incredibly amount of depth on the creation of the pieces. Executive Producer Joel Silver talks about the early schemes where the Wachowski brothers saw the films, animations and video games all rolled into one. How prophetic that turned out to be...

The creators section is a text-based extra where you can learn about all the directors and segment producers who worked on the animations. There’s a fair amount of detail in here so it’s well worth a look.

Animatrix, The

Moving on, the execution section has nothing to do with people getting shot, but it’s actually an extended making of documentary for all nine of the animations, some of which are grouped together in pairs. There are references to Final Fantasy and the steps the film took in terms of feature film animation. The test footage of Oki (from Final Fantasy) and a sentinel is great stuff, as is the rest of the information presented in this very lengthy piece. There’s something in this for everyone, providing you with enough information to make your head burst. Animation is one heavy profession, let me tell you.

The final piece is Enter The Matrix: In The Making, an extended trailer for the video game that has just hit the shelves in Australia. And boy, does it look awesome. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and give it a bash.

Overall
This is quality, there’s no doubt about it. I’m not even a hard-core Matrix fan, nor an Anime devotee, so my enjoyment out of the film should please fans of either one. The quality of the stories that is so often lacking in animation is top notch, so the visuals just speak for themselves. Add to that some creative use of the surround speakers, a rocking soundtrack and a swag of detailed extras and this is one impressive DVD. Grab it. You won’t be disappointed.


Links: