5/31, the Egyptian, 9:30 pm, limited availabliity
Segment, Director (notes)
1. The Second Renaissance Part 1*, Mahiro Maeda (both segments, limited previous US release credits)
2. The Second Renaissance Part 2*
3. Program, Yoshiaki Kawajiri (a Vampire Hunter D film, Bloodlust)
4. Beyond, Kouji Morimoto (animator on Kiki’s Delivery Service)
5. World Record, Takeshi Koike
6. Kid’s Story*, Shinichiro Watanabe (Vampire Hunter D, more)
7. Matriculated, Peter Chung (Aeon Flux)
8. A Detective Story, Shinichiro Watanabe (Vampire Hunter D, more)
9. Final Flight of the Osiris*, Andy Jones (animation supervisor or contributor to Final Fantasy, Titanic)
*Written by Matrix creators Joel and Andy Wachowski
The May 31 screening of all nine Animatrix shorts at the Egyptian is likely to be one of the most coveted tickets at SIFF this year, coming four days prior to the release date of the Animatrix DVD on June 3. The print I saw at the press screening was on film, which surprised and pleased me. On the whole, the shorts will appeal most strongly to hard-core Matrix fans; but there are works of genuine merit as animated short films in the mix.
The Miyazaki-esque Beyond and the previously-released hyper-realist CG work, The Final Flight of The Osiris, benefited most from the large-screen showing. Osiris was presented in February with Dreamcatcher and looks very much like the CG animated film Final Fantasy. That’s no accident, as the director, Andy Jones, was the animation supervisor for Final Fantasy. We learn how the denizens of Zion gain knowledge of the robot army that menaces them in Matrix Reloaded. While the film succeeds, I was still annoyed by the CGI synthespians. Why not just use real actors, instead of failing with these digital dolls as we’ve seen repeatedly over the last few years?
The best film of the set is Beyond, in which a glitch in the Matrix’s rendering software creates a haunted house that is gleefully explored by some Japanese kids. Director Kouji Morimoto, who worked on Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, creates an affecting, beautifully imagined and visualized vignette of urban Japanese life.
With the good comes the mundane and the bad, and this set is no exception. It came as a surprise to me that the film that stood out as at least ill-advised and at worst lawsuit bait had been scripted by the Wachowskis. Kid’s Story directly equates teen suicide with joining the rebellion against the Matrix. I winced, and so will others, until one day we read about it in the paper. I have no idea what they were thinking.
I could go on, but SIFF has requested pre-release reviews remain capsules, so I’ll hold my peace for now. All in all, no surprises, and film snobs might have a better time elsewhere. Matrix geeks, however, won’t care what film snobs think, and so it ever shall be.
Originally written for and posted to the Tablet SIFF Reviews board.
(I’ll be writing a longer review of the films for Cinescape as well.)