The Animatrix
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.)

3 thoughts on “The Animatrix (Tablet SIFF Review)

  1. Being a Matrix geek, I had my own <cough> “private screening” of the complete Animatrix some weeks ago, and came to many of the same conclusions:

    Beyond is undoubtedly the best of show.

    If nothing else, Osiris proves to me that Bullet Time looks far less impressive when implemented in a 100% CGI environment.

    Matriculated, despite its fun machinery, was exactly like Aeon Flux, and Aeon Flux was boring pap. Also, they had a MONKEY. A futuristic space-monkey from space.

    The Second Renaissance was worthwhile for its historical context. A Detective Story was a nice change of pace. And Program, World Record and Kid’s Story were rather pointless.

    I’m still debating whether I’ll actually purchase the DVD. Perhaps if there’s a commentary track…

  2. You guys are completely missing the point here.

    Before knowing which four stories the Wachowski’s wrote, and after viewing the Animatrix entirely, it’s very obvious that the four that have true meaning were the first three, and the last one – kid’s story, which if you took the time to watch Matrix Reloaded, you would have known it was not POINTLESS. It describes how that kid who loves Neo so much after the Nebuchadnezzar returns to Zion is at Neo’s beckon call.

    And flight of the osiris has nothing to do with trying to be visually engaging – it shows how those who enter the matrix got the information that Zion would be under attack by 250,000 sentinels. I can’t believe you guys missed that!!

    The others, are all pointless. Detective Story is dumb – why would agents need a human to do what they already do good – find renegades who enter the matrix? They do a good job at finding Trinity themselves all the time.

    World Record – Dumb, pointless.

    Program – Dumb. Once you’re unplugged from the Matrix you need no further psychological training other than re-entering the Matrix traininga and combat training. That’s it!

    Matriculated – C’mon man. Absolutely meaningless. You’re going to attempt to convince a machine that HATES HUMANS that BEING A HUMAN may actually allow it to CHOOSE to kill it’s brethren for the sake of … uhh.. saving humans? Makes no sense.

  3. The monkey in “Matriculated” is called a Tarsier, they do in fact exist on this planet.

    “Matriculated” is the best of the shorts, as far as I’m concerned (Beyond is a close second). I dispute the claim that it is absolutely meaningless, but I dont doubt that people would have trouble seeing why.

    I thought that “World Record”, besides having a remarkably cool visual style, offered some interesting insight into the idea of pushing the minds boundaries and achieving a concept of true freedom. I’d figure the point was to delve into the idea of induviduals breaking out of the Matrix on their own.

    It seems strange to conclude that all the training we witness Neo endure, must be all the training anyone goes through, and thats it. Because its not true, is it? The Watchowski’s actually approoved the story of “Program”, its official.

    As for “Detective Story”, I didnt really like it, but why is it dumb? One assumes that if the agents do a good job of finding Trinity on their own, employing a detective to help might even increase their chances of catching her. Do they not consistently use humans to catch such renegades anyway?

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