Appleseed Ex Machina is a sequel to 2004’s Appleseed; produced by John Woo and directed by Shinji Aramaki, the duo comes with an entertaining futuristic thriller adapted from the manga by Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell). The revolutionary CGI animation is astonishing, combined with awesome action sequences reminiscent of John Woo movies, Appleseed Ex Machina looks very promising. Thankfully, you do not need to see the 2004 film to appreciate and comprehend this new film’s premise. The plot itself lacks depth, it is so predictable that everything is laid out for the viewer; this animated feature is more about CGI and action than anything else. It definitely feels to be geared to international audiences than to Shirow’s native land.
The year is 2133, civilization is recovering from the global war that almost devastated the world. Utopian cities are on the rise, technological advancements are dominating the world and humans have a fresh new attitude to match their new surroundings. Cyborgs are very common, machine parts are used to replace severed limbs and body parts. Bioroids are being cloned from humans to use as soldiers that lack human emotion and violent tendencies that often get humanity in trouble. Quoted as “ incapable of hate and anger, will only fight and kill when absolutely necessary…” or are they? The passive bioroids are intended to keep order so that the world can maintain the peace without the hostile influences of hatred and rage.
Special forces specialist Deunan (Ai Kobayashi) and Briareos (Koichi Yamadera) are partners from the days that Briareos was human. Briareos is a special case, since he is the only human being who managed to survive being 100% cyborg without going insane. When Briareos was injured (or damaged), he becomes replaced by Tereus (Yuji Kishi), a bioroid cloned from his human DNA. When an unknown enemy plans a stealth attack by reducing common folk into technological zombies who turn the city into a war zone, the trio must settle their differences to quell this threat.
Appleseed isn’t as bad as I first thought it would be. Renowned action scribe John Woo definitely showed his hand with most (not all) of the action sequences. The action is visually stylish and definitely looks cool. Woo’s usual gimmicks are omnipresent in the proceedings; bike stunts, stylish bullet ballet and helter skelter action sequences are what’s in store for the viewer. “Ex machina” also has the same mecha action in its previous installment. The film definitely feels like it is geared towards an specific audience and therefore lost some of the atmosphere and depth that contemporary sci-fi anime has been known for. “Ex Machina” is about the action, it is a straightforward film with one-dimensional antagonists with motivations completely predictable and something that has been done through the years.
The emotional aspect of Deunan and Briareos’ relationship is quite interesting and serves as the film’s main premise. Despite the fact that Deunan has kept her humanity and Briareos has lost 85% of his body, their commitment and love for each other remains strong. However, their relationship is thrown into a loop when Tereus gets into the mix, since he is a clone from Briareos human DNA. Yes, there is a bit of a sappy love triangle here that has the same elements that we’ve all seen before.
The animation is quite good. The film sidesteps the usual anime style and effectively combines modern and contemporary anime. The backdrops are astounding and definitely catches the architecture of the future. The characters look almost photorealistic without the usual “over expressive, super fair complexioned characters. Deunan is rendered to look like a lethal but sexy woman, with the designer, Prada taking a hand in one of her outfits. The graphics are definitely an improvement over the 2004 film, but still falls short to the quality of “Final Fantasy Advent Children”.
Appleseed Ex Machina is overall a success I suppose. Fans of the 2004 film will definitely appreciate this sequel and newer fans will be impressed. I’m not saying that this film should be your first experience with anime, there are definitely more worthy titles than this film. This film is more about entertainment and not the usual philosophical and existential fare that contemporary Japanese Anime has been famous for. It fell into the usual plot holes and predictability that is so reminiscent of animated films geared for a younger audience. It is a popcorn movie more than anything else.
Recommended timidly, rent it first. [3 ½ - Stars]
I considered the fact that the entertainment value is extremely high for this film, and rated it slightly lower than ”Vexille”. “Vexille” had more of an intricate plot while “Ex Machina” is slightly better in animation.
Note: Watching this in its original Japanese Language is advisable.