As a companion piece to THE MATRIX trilogy, THE ANIMATRIX ($25) is not only a brilliant piece of marketing, it is one of the most ambitious collections of animated films culled together to flesh out the mythology of a popular science fiction universe. On top of that, THE ANIMATRIX is probably the coolest direct-to-video animated release in the history of home entertainment. This extension of the movie trilogy created by brothers Andy & Larry Wachowski, features nine short animated films that fill in some of the back story on how "The Matrix" came to be, as well as providing additional detail to certain characters and situations from THE MATRIX RELOADED. Coming from different directors and production teams, each of the nine films that comprise THE ANIMATRIX are as stylistically different as one could imagine, yet create a cohesive whole due to the commonality of the universe they depict.
Produced in full CGI, The Final Flight Of The Osiris is the most ambitious, erotic and beautiful of the nine shorts that make up THE ANIMATRIX. Set on a sister ship to Morpheus' Nebuchadnezzar, The Final Flight Of The Osiris tells a story that is tied directly into events that come to pass in THE MATRIX RELOADED. The second and third films comprise two halves of a story called The Second Renaissance, which depicts the rise of the machine and the fall of mankind. Kid's Story ties directly into THE MATRIX RELOADED, with its tale of a teenager, whose Internet activities attract the attention of a hacker named Neo, as well as some unstoppable gentlemen in dark suits.
In the film Program, we find two samurai warriors facing off in a training simulation, due to the fact that one of these freed minds has grown weary of their existence outside of The Matrix. World Record features a driven athlete, who discovers the true nature of reality by pushing his "body" beyond the limits of physical endurance. In Beyond, a young woman searching for her missing cat discovers a place where the laws of physics have seemingly broken down. A Detective Story is a noir-ish tale, in which a private investigator is put on the case to find a hacker named Trinity. Matriculated is the final segment; one that depicts the human resistance using an interesting technique to create a rapport with captured robots, so they will help to defend humanity against their own kind.
Warner Home Video has made THE ANIMATRIX available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is nothing short of a superb DVD presentation- kudos to the folks at Warner! The image is a crisp and highly defined as cell animation can possibly be, while the initial CGI segment proves to be a phenomenal sight to behold. Color reproduction is excellent- vibrant hues are rendered without noise or defect. Blacks can appear velvety or just perfectly inky- depending upon the sequence, while whites are always clean and stable. Contrast is superb for the varying forms of animation, plus the CGI sequence produces a terrific illusion of dimensionality and depth. Digital compression artifacts are virtually non-existent on the dual layer DVD.
Wow is about the best way to describe the excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that is featured on the DVD. THE ANIMATRIX features a highly aggressive and highly immersive sound mix that is certain to give oneís sound system a real workout. Obviously, the sound designers allowed themselves extra leeway to fully complement the films imaginative visuals- and the entire film is all the better for it. Sound effects emanate from everywhere and effortlessly go everywhere, thus affording surround junkies the kind of aural "high" that they crave. Dialogue reproduction is crisp and always fully understandable, even during the filmís most intense sonic barrages. The bass channel is deep and full-bodied, which complements both sound effects and music. Speaking of the music, it is rendered with excellent fidelity and a genuine sense of presence. A Japanese 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus, which supply access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Four of the animated films feature running audio commentaries- The Second Renaissance Part I & Part II, Program and World Record, all of which are in Japanese with English subtitles. Anime fans should find the commentaries very interesting, as they will the following featurette: Scrolls To The Screen: The History And Culture Of Anime a twenty-two minute program that looks at the Japanese animation phenomenon and its effect on filmmakers Andy & Larry Wachowski. The Creators section of the supplements offers biographical data on the directors and producers associated with THE ANIMATRIX. Execution offers nearly an hourís worth of material that covers the "making of" the various short films. Closing out the supplements is Enter The Matrix: In The Making, which is a preview of the video game version of the universe created by the Brothers Wachowski.
THE ANIMATRIX is one hell of a cool animated film based upon science fiction universe of THE MATRIX. Warnerís DVD looks and sounds phenomenal, so if you are a fan of the movie series this is a must have disc. Very highly recommended.
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