English Title: Appleseed
Original Title: Appurushido
Country of Origin: Japan
Director: Shinji Aramaki
Art Director: Shinji Aramaki
Runtime: 105 min. minutes
In the year 2131 AD, after a non-nuclear World War has nearly destroyed much of the Earth, unknown military forces search a ruined city for former special-force’s soldier Deunan Knute. They attack her, and almost succeed in killing her, but are thwarted by the arrival of power-armoured soldiers who defeat them and capture Deunan. These soldiers come from the utopian civilization of Olympus where humans, cyborgs, and cloned humans (bioroids) coexist under the authority of a supercomputer (Gaia) and the Council of Elders. Deaunan, along with her cyborg comrade, Briareos, is soon part of the elite ESWAT police force, the guardians of Olympus. However, Olympus is not as peaceful as it would first appear and under the surface, the utopia is rife with intrigue. Tensions between humans and bioroids rise, while Deunan unknowingly holds the key to the solution that both factions seek.
Appleseed featured groundbreaking animation for 2004, using the latest in computer-generated imagery coupled with standard anime artwork, and the result is a CGI marvel of mayhem and destruction with modern weaponry used to chew apart the scenery. While whatever message the original manga by Masume Shirow might have had is buried beneath the veneer of special effects, Appleseed is a visual tour-de-force that will satisfy any appetite for cyborgs, gunkata, heavy weaponry and sheer spectacle.
Much of the appeal of the film is that, to a certain degree, Briareos and Deunan are iconic characters within their tradition. For those who already recognize the main characters, much of the pleasure is in seeing how they will be animated and Appleseed opts for staying as close to the original concepts as possible. However, there is a slight feeling that even here things could have been done better, if only the filmmakers had not been so deeply in love with their hardware. The plot of Appleseed is a convoluted mess of cross and double-cross that seems designed only to allow the animators a chance to mimic hundreds of scenes that the viewer has already witnessed in other action films, only achieved here with CGI animation. Bullet casings fly through the air and sparkle and machines explode with dynamic force, yet there is little thrill in seeing a rendering perform fantastic martial arts.
When the final confrontation occurs, the story really comes off the rails by allowing a moment of magic to occur. For a film that attempts to explore the merging of the biological and technological, the addition of magic simply turns the created world upon its head and ruins its internal logic. But the intended audience will probably not care as, if they make it to the end, the appeal was in the spectacle.
Author of this review: Justin Howe