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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Animatrix (2003)



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The Animatrix is a collection of nine short animated films set in the world of The Matrix. They serve well as a companion to the live action films and expand upon the world and ideas in them, but they can't stand on their own legs. Some are better than others, but none of them are as accomplished as they should be.

The first, The Final Flight of the Osiris, has a nondescript storyline but has groundbreaking computer animation that is absolutely dazzling. Made by the crew that produced Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, it features the most realistic skin textures, hair, and clothing seen in any animated film to date, and the characters have convincing weight and mass, one of the most difficult challenges of computer animation.

The Second Renaissance, Parts I & II function as a historical documentary, chronicling the events that link the present day to the world of the Matrix. It feels like it belongs more in The Terminator franchise than here. In any case, the appeal of the Matrix films is not the world, which is flawed and silly, but the dazzling stylized adventures that occur within it. Backstory like this is unnecessary if not subtly damaging by distracting the focus of the franchise from what's fun about it and focusing attention on what isn't.

Kid's Story has an interesting if uninspired storyline but terrible animation. World Record has a terrible storyline and worse animation. A Detective Story has the most intriguing approach of any of the nine shorts -- it's a mini-noir about a Sam Spade-like detective on the trail of Trinity -- but is nevertheless one of the least satisfying.

The remaining three are the best, excluding The Final Flight of the Osiris which is in a class of its own. Program, animated in the style of Japanese anime, has some exciting action and a fun couple of twists. Beyond has an innovative idea explored in an innovative manner, though its dramatic impact is confused. Matriculated also has an innovative premise but a confused narrative, and it feels a lot like an excuse for artistic dreamlike sequences. All three of these have creative and/or beautiful imagery.

Together, these animated shorts flesh out the world of the Matrix in an intriguing manner for Matrix fans, but they are unlikely to draw much of a crossover audience.

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