Like many science fiction fans, I have been eagerly awaiting the dual sequels to 1999 sleeper hit The Matrix. The brothers W (both Warner and Wachowski) have given fans like us a rare treat: “The Animatrix.”
“The Animatrix” is a series of short films, under ten minutes each, set in the universe of The Matrix. Some of these films are presented as background to the features. Others are obvious devices to plant plot points for the upcoming release of “The Matrix Reloaded.” Still others are stand-alone stories simply set in the world of this future history.
The episodes of “The Animatrix” have been handed over to the visionary directors of anime, including Mahiro Maeda and Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Shinichiro Watanabe, Takeshi Koike, Koji Morimoto and Peter Chung. With the exception of Final Flight of the Osiris (which is brought to you by Square USA, the animation team that produced Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within) these new short films are presented as anime.
The first in this series is “Second Renaissance Part I,” which is a literal future history lesson on how the machines managed to take over the world. It provides an excellent blend of anime and the high concept of classic science fiction writing that goes back to the days of the golden age sci-fi magazines like Astounding, Galaxy and Amazing Stories.
Originally created in our own image as servants, robots soon became the slaves of a new generation. After years of abuse and discrimination, the robots revolt. Eventually, the issue of robot rights and sovereignty become international political hot buttons. Shunned from societies around the world, the machine make their own city, named 01, and become a massive economic force by entering the manufacturing industry.
“Second Renaissance Part I” tells its story from the point of view of someone going to the historical archives in Zion, the last human city deep underground. The oracle at the archives brings up news footage and commentary to tell its story, which reminds me of the old mock news stories the Sci-Fi Channel used to run in its infancy.
Of course, there are some portions or this film that reek of political correctness, most notably a scene in which machine representatives appeal for admission to the United Nations. After recent inaction by the U.N., it has become more obvious than ever that it is a powerless body in terms of international politics. Of course, what possibly pissed off the machines more than anything was that unstable nations like Chad and Cameroon are granted access while the machines were shut out.
“The Animatrix” kicks off with a bang and promises to release a new episode each month, leading up to “The Matrix Reloaded” release. Additionally, all “Animatrix” episodes will be available on DVD in June. Until then, you’ll have to catch them on the web at www.theanimatrix.com. However, be prepared to wait, even if you have a broadband connection. Their large QuickTime files top out at over 100 megabytes, and if you’re gonna watch them, it’s worth the wait for the big ones.
Read the reviews for Final Flight of the Osiris and Program>>>