The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Appleseed: Ex Machina

Title: Appleseed: Ex Machina
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi
Company: Digital Frontier Inc.
Format: Movie; 105 minutes.
Dates: 20 Oct 2007

Synopsis: Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires are members of ESWAT, a counter-terrorism unit in Olympus. They are also lovers, and their relationship has spanned since before Briareos was turned into a cyborg. When Briareos got injured and hospitalized after a mission, Deunan was introduced to her new partner, an experimental Bioroid named Tereus. Bearing a striking resemblance to Briareos, Deunan was vehemently against the new partnership but her disapproval falls on deaf ears. She soon realizes that her partnership and relationship with Tereus and Briareos respectively are put to the ultimate test, when the latter becomes the centrepiece of a terrorist plot of catastrophic proportions.

The Highlights
Characters: Still stereotypical and lacking development, but Briareos’ new role is a big plus.
Visuals: Pushes CGI to the limit; improvements both major and subtle.
Style: Oozing from every pixel on screen from start to finish.
John Woo: His talents paid off; renders movie more entertaining than Appleseed.

Appleseed was an entertaining, albeit run-of-the-mill movie originally penned by Masamune Shirow, the mastermind behind the widely acclaimed Ghost in the Shell franchise. It boasted over-the-top cyberpunk action sequences and a fashionable cast that predictably lacked emotional depth, all of which are synonymous with Shirow‘s works. Appleseed‘s sequel Ex Machina doesn’t seem to be substantially different: it is also a showcase of flamboyant adrenaline rush and passive characters, but what sets it apart from its prequel is its execution and flair.

What grabbed my attention a few minutes into Ex Machina is John Woo as the producer. A live-action director/producer behind Hollywood action films such as Face/Off, Mission Impossible II and The Replacement Killers, seeing his name in the opening credit made me wonder just how outrageously stylish the action sequences are going, and indeed, I was not disappointed. The movie is loaded with his trademark slow-motion and explosive sequences, all of which are made possible with CGI that is both drastically and subtly from Appleseed. From the toning and shadowing to the depth and richness of the visuals, the CGI is eye candy and also gives the movie more life and an added human touch.

The visuals are not the only aspect that gives Ex Machina the upper hand over the prequel; the story is more intriguing, as well. The cast itself is no different from the prequel: it is the same old physically flawless bunch with an amazing fashion sense. However, one character does have a more prominent role. Rather than being a supporting character, Briareos is now much more influential as he becomes the core of the plot and has more significance as a character than even the protagonist Deunan. In fact, things could have been much better with the addition of new character Tereus, whose role could have spiced things up by adding more complications between Deunan and Briareos. Unfortunately, instead of adding more emotional dimension between the two and helping their characterization, he predictably ends up being their impassive support.

It’s no surprise to see that Ex Machina is yet another sleek addition to the cyberpunk genre. Having a prominent individual to produce it and pushing the limits of visual and special effects gives the movie more flair and renders it more entertaining than its predecessor. But I cannot say that it has outdone itself in terms of presenting something novel. It is more of the same in its genre, and in the big picture, it illustrates how cyberpunk has reached the ceiling in reinvention. I still have a soft spot for cyberpunk, but deep inside, I look forward to the day when it can present to me a title that is dramatically different from the rest. In the meantime, one does not need to look any further than this if you want a high-octane action flick.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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