Sunday, April 27, 2008

Appleseed: Ex Machina

Well, I finally got around to checking this movie out. I swear I added it to my Netflix queue not long after I first got a PS3, but it took forever for it to become available. In fact, even this copy had to be mailed from Massachusetts or somewhere like that, which means that they didn't have it in stock anywhere closer to me, and probably that they had gotten tired of it sitting at the top of my queue and had given up on it showing up anywhere closer to me. I was, of course, pissed at them for sending it across the country because that takes an extra couple of days.

I was extra annoyed, though, because it also takes them an extra day just to ship it (so it didn't even get shipped until I was expecting it to arrive and then didn't arrive until around the time that I would normally expect to be receiving the next movie on my queue after returning it). Oh, yeah, they actually did that with two of my movies this past week, so I pretty much lost that week as far as movie watching is concerned.

On the other hand, Persona 3: FES came out on Tuesday, so it's probably not a bad thing that I didn't have any movies to distract me from the game (it's looking grim, I'm starting back over from the beginning, which means I'm planning to sink at least another 80+ hours into it, not to mention the 30+ hours of additional content they've added).

Not that this is relevant at all, but the other movie was Dan in Real Life. I actually wasn't able to watch it all the way through. It's a very painful movie to watch. So, yeah, if you ever plan to see it, make sure that the option to just stop it is available, because I swear there must be a point where everyone has to just say, "Wait, I can't handle anymore uncomfortable situations. Please, just stop. Seriously." Or maybe it's just me. But whatever, I'm supposed to be talking about Appleseed: Ex Machina. not Dan in Real Life.

So, yeah, Appleseed. It was an interesting experience. I remember watching the first one, probably two years ago. I remember not recommending it to friends. Or rather, I remember not recommending it to people who like movies as a storytelling medium. I probably told most people who asked that it was visually extremely interesting, if also rather schizophrenic. But, so if you haven't seen it, and, well, you probably haven't, then I should warn you that the story sucks. This made watching the sequel a little challenging because I had more or less forgotten the story, because it sucked. Luckily, they gave a 15 second or so recap of what was going on: you know, some sort of dystopian, post-apocalypse world with an isolated utopia populated by the survivors of the devastating world war, run by synthetically designed and produced humanoids incapable of emotions and protected by cyborgs and human piloted robot suits (because there's always robot suits, or samurai, which is why that series Samurai 7 was such a breakthrough, you know, having samurai fighting robot suits, that's on the same order as pirates fighting ninjas). Anyways, I felt right back up to speed.

But, lets forget about the story for a moment (ha, I already did). That first one was an interesting experience because of the visuals. The idea behind it was to try to combine three different animation styles in one movie. There were normal, hand drawn anime visuals, computer generated visuals, and then this third thing that's a mixture of the two (which is also done with computers...I don't know what it's called, but if you've seen Richard Linklater's movies Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly, then it's kind of like that only not trippy). The result was kind of odd. Now, it's fairly common to see the robots and spaceships and stuff done with computers while the characters and backgrounds are animated. The difference here was that they thought they could switch between the two using that third style.

The best example of this would be when the main character, some cute chick who kicks lots of ass, pulls out a gun. She's an anime character, so when she pulls it out, it appears hand-drawn. However, as she pulls it out and the lights shine on it, the metal glistens, which is done using that third strategy. Then, the camera cuts to her firing it and it's fully computer generated against the anime background, and, for that matter, attached to an anime arm.

So, I've now seen the next one, but in high definition, which is clearly worth something. From the looks of it, the producer people made the command decision to cut down on the anime-style stuff and do most things either with that in-between option or full CG. The main difference, though, is that this in-between option has gotten significantly more advanced since the previous one. The result is that it's really more CG, only it ends up with a very hand drawn look. The only way I can describe it is to tell you to go check out the cut scenes from that game Rogue Galaxy that I talked about a while ago, because it used the same style in its CG cut scenes.

So, this one primarily uses that style for its characters, instead of the anime style, and then switches back and forth on the backgrounds between CG and a hand drawn style. So, it's still fairly schizophrenic, but overall the look is a bit more unified.

Anyways, it was a rather odd experience to watch it. This animation style comes out looking very, very similar to today's graphics quality on a PS3 game. I very much imagine that most of the action we see in the movie could be done in real time during gameplay on the PS3, with a fairly minimal drop in quality. So, watching it felt a lot like watching the cut scenes from a game (for that matter, the story could have come from a game too, a bad game, just to be clear). I think I preferred the style from the first one, since at least it was unique, even though it was uneven.

The other kind of weird thing to realize is that I am totally a sucker for video game girls. Because every single girl in this movie looks like she could have come out of a video game, I was pretty much thinking to myself, "Oh, she's cute" over and over and over again. It was kind of surreal. I'm not sure if it was the hair (the classic, this is CG so we're not going to waste our time trying to render millions of individual strands), or the super smooth skin, but they all reminded me of Rinoa Heartilly (FFVIII, which is not to say that I'm any particular fan of her or even that game, she would just be the video game cutie that they all reminded me of).

One cool thing about it, though, was that John Woo was involved. So, of course, there had to be doves somewhere. And, so, well, it was a robot dove sending out some signal to take control of the general population and have them attack some building or other. I smiled. Also, the actions scenes in general were cool and well choreographed and stuff. I'm almost certain I liked the action in this one a lot more (I'll admit I don't really remember the action scenes from the first one...yeah, I don't really remember anything from it). Definitely the main advantage to doing CG action movies like this is that you can really play with the camera and this did a very good job of that. Of course, there were still times when the characters seemed weightless, especially the robot suits (you have to wonder how maneuverable a giant robot suit really is, especially if that means it's capable of dodging bullets in a mid-air battle), but at least the actions was gorgeously done.

But, yeah, otherwise it wasn't too memorable. I guess if they make another one, I'll add it to my queue. I don't have the will power to stop myself. And, besides, every single female character in it is cute, that's worth something.

That is all.


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