Appleseed EX Machina

Appleseed Ex Machina DVD Cover ArtDeus ex machina. “God out of a machine”. A device used heavily in Greek plays to resolve situations by interjecting them with a solution from the heavens. In the latest Appleseed movie, Appleseed EX Machina, based off the manga by Ghost in the Shell creator, Masamune Shirow, the term “ex machina” has a more sinister meaning.

plot summary

In the aftermath of a non-nuclear World War III, the city of Olympus shines brightly against the starkness of a decrepit world. Within Olympus’ boundaries, technology both biological and mechanical flourish, yet the city teeters on the brink of destruction from within and without. Protecting this fragile bubble of humanity and technology are the bioroids and ESWAT.

Bioroids are humanoid creatures designed in a lab to have no negative human emotions, yet possess high levels of intelligence and more. They run the government and are in places of diplomacy and power. ESWAT is a team of highly trained specialists adept at diffusing threats to the safety of Olympus and her citizens.

ESWAT is called in for an operation to take down a group of terrorists holed up in a church with a group of hostages. Two of ESWAT’s finest, Deunan Knute, and her cyborg partner/ lover, Briareos Hecatonchires, rescue the hostages, but Briareos is badly wounded in the operation.

While her lover heals, Deunan is paired up with a new partner, Tereus, one who looks a lot like Briareos did before the accident which made him a cyborg. Tereus and Deunan must work together to solve the latest outbreaks of cyborg terrorism. The incidents become more and more violent and Olympus quickly descends into chaos. But are cyborgs really to blame? Who’s pulling the strings behind these waves of mass violence and what is their purpose?

Deuna struggles to untangle her emotions toward the man who wears her lover’s face and fights to discover the true threat behind the terrorists.

Review

I thought Appleseed: EX Machina would escape unscathed by the taint of film director John Woo, the man who helmed the movie. I believed in my heart of hearts there would be no slow-mo bullet casings falling to the ground, no slow-mo doves fluttering by the camera, no slo-mo fight scenes. I was wrong, and how.

Within the first ten minutes of the movies, most of John Woo’s trademarks are thrown on the screen in a most distracting manner. Within the first twenty minutes, it becomes apparent John Woo’s style clashes massively with the anime style. Within the next thirty minutes, I declare, “Get your John Woo out of my anime!

Not only is there an overabundance of slowly falling bullet casings, the amount of time doves are on the screen is ridiculous. A dove is even a part of the plot for chrissakes. There really was no need to rub the audience’s faces into the fact John Woo directed produced Appleseed. Fine. We get John Woo did the movie, can we get back to the story now?

But that was impossible, because while the concept for the movie was decent, the story itself wasn’t. It all felt too familiar and too rehashed, which it shouldn’t have. This was a chance to do something new with Appleseed, something daring, something that would have never worked anywhere else but here. Yet, that didn’t happen. The love story between Briareos and Deuane was a good addition, and it didn’t feel too forced. Most of the other story, however, felt too rote and recycled. At the end of the movie, for example, is a blatant ripoff from a famous American sci-fi series story arc. Incredibly blatant.

Character Development Icon Character Development

Appleseed EX Machina didn’t have much character development. The relationship between Deunan and Briareos was given some depth and back story, but the development pretty much ended there. No explanation was given for the relationship between Hitomi and Deunan, which was pretty important in the first movie.

Appleseed EX Machina takes much for granted on the part of the viewer, as in not giving them details on people and relationships. Watching the first movie takes care of that, however. Although, that shouldn’t be necessary with some well placed commentary in the second movie.

Anime Character Design Icon Character Design

Masamune Shirow’s designs for technology are always tight and Appleseed is no exception. All his concepts feel as though they could become a reality in the future. The airships look much like giant fireflies, taking a page from nature, and the armor is a change of pace from the seemingly cloned mechs which infest the anime world. Shirow’s designs are inspiring to say the least, and are a reflection of a tomorrow which is highly probable.

Animation Icon Animation

The CG work for Appleseed was mediocre to fair. Everything seemed to have a rubbery, fake cast to it and was very noticeable. If this look was what the studio, Micott & Bassara, was aiming for, they achieved it. It wasn’t a good fit for the movie, though, and felt very cheap. All the characters looked like a figurine shop come to life, so the animation also had a slightly creepy effect.

Music Icon Music

The music for Appleseed was probably the least average of the lot. It was a mix of techno, electronic, trance, and heavy rock and was a perfect fit for the movie.

Voice Acting Icon Voice Acting

English voice work was also mediocre to fair. Deunan’s actress, Luci Christian was a good match for the character as was Briareos’, David Matranga. Other voice work landed in the realm of Okay.

The Japanese voice cast was decent to good but we watched the movie with the English dub.

Conclusion

Appleseed EX Machina did entertain, but it only did a mediocre job of it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this movie, but neither would I decry it as being garbage. It was an average movie; neither fantastic nor bad. I can’t fully blame John Woo for the so-so nature of Appleseed. Even if he hadn’t come on as director producer, the story probably would have remained unchanged and would have suffered from its own ills just the same. That said, it was difficult to get beyond the visuals John Woo is (in)famous for. It all adds up to a movie with a good premise being executed averagely and directed passably.

Rating Icon Rating

The Anime Blog Whole RatingThe Anime Blog Whole RatingThe Anime Blog One-Half RatingThe Anime Blog Zero Rating
Appleseed EX Machina gets 2.5 outta 4 Hammies!

Retail Info

  • Publisher:Warner Home Video
  • Release Date: March 11, 2008
  • Retail Price: $19.99
  • Number of discs:1
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Rating:PG-13
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Format: Animated, Color, Closed Caption, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

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3 Comments to “ Appleseed EX Machina ”

  1. nckl

    I’m like you in that I’m on the fence on this one. I also didn’t think it was bad, but wasn’t great either. But would I recommend it? For the people who like seeing guns and stuff blow up, absolutely. But for people who want some emotional depth, nope.

    About the character animation, there’s no doubt in my mind that it is a huge improvement over the first movie. The shading was better, and *some* of the characters looked like they had more depth to them. I was also quite surprised at how well they animated some of the more subtle facial expressions during certain scenes. On the downside, I agree that some of the characters looked creepy because they were so shiny, almost like they were all walking and talking barbie dolls.

    And finally …

    *SPOILER AHEAD*
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    I would’ve liked to have read your thoughts on the whole “everyone turns into a zombie!” thing. That screamed cheezy B-movie to me. :D

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  2. Rachel

    @nckl, I was disappointed with the movie, mainly because of the lack of depth or cautionary note. I suppose if one were to look at this as an action film, it would be OK.

    As to answer your spoiler question- It was lame, lame lame. David has much more to say about that than I do however. My main beef was with ***SPOILER****
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    the weak Borg reference at the end. What the hell? That sucked harder than the zombies. It also reminded me of a boss fight from FF VIII. Gah, that was horrible.
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    *END SPOILAGE

  3. Edrei

    I watched this a couple of weeks back and I have to say I enjoyed the first movie better. There is just something seriously lacking in this movie, whether it be the John Woo direction or the overabundance of CG in it.

    The whole plot has less of a hold on to it. I expected the same solid, deep plots as Masamune Shirow’s previous works. In this movie I guess, the Deus Ex Machina moments are a little too far fetched for me.

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