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Date: September 17, 2003
The animated series
based on The Matrix trilogy is a victory of style over substance.
on the DVD cover above to order The Animatrix and raise money for Christian Aid
'Matrix fans, generally speaking, fall into two camps: those
who are drawn to the high concept philosophical debate that underpins the movies,
and those who don't care about the intellectual stuff, but love the martial arts,
guns and cars.'
Reviewed by Steve Couch
While the world waited for The Matrix Reloaded, some
of the leading artists of Japanese anime created these nine short films.
Matrix creators Larry and Andy Wachowski are involved as writers on some,
while elsewhere they simply gave their permission for other talents to run amok
in the playroom of their fictional universe. As you would expect, the animation
is uniformly excellent, but overall the Animatrix is a victory of style over substance.
first three titles, The Final Flight of the Osiris, and The Second Renaissance
parts 1 and 2, fill in background material around the three full length Matrix
movies. Other shorts feature characters from the movies, but many are simply isolated
stories set in the Wachowski's world, with little else to connect them to the
full length films.
One tale that benefits from a closer
tie to the original - so much so that it's probably the best of the bunch - is
Detective Story, where a Private Investigator is called in to track down an illusive
computer hacker by the name of Trinity (yes, that one). Shot in black and white,
this is an animated film noir, complete with namechecks for Philip Marlow and
Sam Spade. It sits well in their atmospheric shadow, with both script and score
managing to keep the retro and futuristic elements nicely balanced.
fans, generally speaking, fall into two camps: those who are drawn to the high
concept philosophical debate that underpins the movies, and those who don't care
about the intellectual stuff, but love the martial arts, guns and cars. Which
group is the Animatrix better suited for? It's hard to say. Several of the shorts
contain action scenes, but they lack the impact of their (more or less) live action
But the Animatrix tales are also found wanting in terms
of content. With most of the shorts lasting less than ten minutes, there isn't
time for involved storytelling or profound thought. All of the stories hold the
attention, but when they end, the viewer can be left wondering if there was any
point to them. Where the full length films wrestle with issues of truth, freewill
and identity, the most that the Animatrix does is nod vaguely in the direction
of a question.
The films give the impression of being made by artists
who are burning to tell their story and engage with the mind; the Animatrix collection
seems like it was a cool marketing idea. If you are searching for more clues as
to where the trilogy is headed following the excellent (if frustratingly enigmatic)
conclusion to the Matrix Reloaded, this isn't the place to look.
it's harsh to judge the shorts for what they aren't. At times, particularly in
The Final Flight of the Osiris, you can forget that what you are watching is computer
generated rather than real flesh, blood, metal and stone - which is appropriate,
given the franchises central concept of a world where machines have pulled the
virtual wool over mankind's eyes.