Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating: 9 out of 10
Extras Rating: 9 out of 10
Movie Details: View here
Producers – Larry and Andy Wachowski
Executive Producer – Joel Silver
Co-Producer – Steve Richards
Segment Producers – Michael Arias, Hiroaki Takeuchi, Eiko Tanaka
Music Composer – Don Davis
Casting and Voice Direction – Jack Fletcher
Making Of Documentaries On Each Film
“Scrolls To Screen: The History And Culture Of Anime”
Director Commentaries For
The Second Renaissance Parts I and II
Biographical Profiles Of The Directors and Animation Producers
Enter The Matrix Video Game Trailer
DVD-ROM Enhanced Features
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
English and Japanese Language Tracks
English, French, and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 89 Minutes (Extras – 78 Minutes)
This is a series of nine animated features set within the Matrix universe. They are done in Japanese anime style. Many of them also first debuted on the internet at the Official Matrix Site.
Final Flight Of The Osiris – The story starts out in a training program aboard the hover ship Osiris. The captain, Thaddeus, and his beautiful first mate (and lover) Jue, are sparring in a swordfight program. Both are blindfolded, but that doesn’t keep them from cutting so close to each other that clothes start falling off. Just as things start really heating up, they are pulled out of the program in an emergency. Sentinels are pursuing the Osiris and crew. A chase ensues that drives the hover ship to the ruined surface of the Earth. There, Thaddeus discovers millions of Sentinels swarming. They also discover a massive drilling device that is attempting to tunnel into the hidden city of Zion. Thaddeus must warn his fellow humans. As the doomed Osiris makes an effort to run from the attacking Sentinels, Jue enters the Matrix to deliver a letter of warning to the hidden city. This short leads directly into “The Matrix Reloaded” and the video game “Enter The Matrix”
The Second Renaissance – Part I and II – This story tells the origin of The Matrix. It begins in the past / future when man ruled machines. However, machines developed free will. Feeling threatened, mankind began destroying the machines. The surviving robots formed their own country, 01, but humans attacked it as well. Thus a full blown global war between man and machine took place. Humans retaliated by implementing project Dark Storm that blocked out the sun, the machines’ primary energy source, but it was ultimately futile. Machines won, enslaved humans, and began using them as an alternative source of power. Thus the Matrix was born.
Kid’s Story – This is the origin story of the “kid” from The Matrix Reloaded. A young teen begins to realize that something’s wrong with the world he lives in. This leads him to meet Neo online. Unfortunately, Neo isn’t the only one who has noticed that the Kid has awakened. Agents show up at his school and pursue him through the halls. Can he escape them?
Program – Cis undertakes a training simulation set in ancient Japan. However, when her friend joins the program, he reveals a startling surprise as they begin to spar. He has betrayed his fellow humans and is returning to the Matrix. Will Cis join him?
World Record – The world’s fastest man has more than one unique capability. He’s one of those rare individuals who have the power to break free of the hold of the Matrix unaided. As he runs his biggest race, he finds his mind and body break free from the program. Will Agents intercept him, will he go mad, or will he be free?
Beyond – When children investigate a haunted house, they find many bizarre things inside. Gravity no longer applies and time stands still. Little do they realize that the area is a glitch in the Matrix.
A Detective Story – A private detective is hired to track down a hacker by the name of Trinity. As he closes in on her, he finds a trail of other private detectives who have searched for her and have disappeared, been killed, or gone mad. What will happen when he finds her?
Matriculated – A group of humans in the real world lure some hunter robots into a trap. There, they turn the tables on the machines. The humans put a robot into a Matrix of their own creation in an effort to re-educate him. But how will a robot react when it is confronted with the psychedelic dream world of the human mind?
Except for Final Flight Of Osiris, which is rated PG-13, this DVD is not rated. It is not intended for younger viewers. It contains violent images and mature themes that parents may not find suitable for viewers under the age of 17. It includes intense and graphic images of violence, brief adult language, and themes and images of an apparent teen suicide. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
The whole concept of this DVD is exciting to me. While I’m no big fan of anime, I love the idea of setting a number of short stories within the Matrix Universe. It helps to expand on the story and give other talented creators a chance to play in the world and come up with unique and exciting concepts. I wish other film franchises like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Terminator would do this. The animated format is also the perfect way to go because it allows the creators to come up with amazing scenes that would otherwise blow the budget of a sci-fi movie. The intimate involvement of Andy and Larry Wachowski also make this special. It gives it a more genuine feel and you feel like it’s really tied into the movies more because it is part of their overall vision for the series.
Final Flight Of Osiris – This is probably my favorite of the Animatrix features. The story is really cool. The Wachowski brothers wrote it themselves. In just a few short minutes, they manage to create characters you care about, scenery that boggles the mind, and an intense chase sequence. The thrill starts when the Matrix logo first appears on the screen and it doesn’t let up until the end. The animation is stunning. If you saw “Final Fantasy”, you know what it looks like since director Andy Jones did both. The humans look incredibly realistic and the Sentinels look exactly the same as they did in the first film. It’s all so photo-real you’d think you were already watching “The Matrix Reloaded”.
While the opening swordfight was sexy, it degenerated into a teen fantasy when Jue is reduced to fighting in a thong. It all fit in the story, but it just seemed a bit blatant at trying to excite the target male audience. Also, as the title implies, the short ends on a downer note. Osiris takes you on a quick rollercoaster ride of emotions, and then leaves you depressed at the end. It would have been nice to leave it on a high note as you head into the sequel films, but I suppose this is in line with the overall tone of “The Matrix”. Overall it’s a first class piece of work and one you won’t want to miss.
The Second Renaissance – Part I and II -This is my second favorite of the Animatrix features and it was also written by the Wachowskis. I like this because it tells the origin of the Matrix and it details the war between man and machine. It reveals enough to satisfy your curiosity, but it still leaves enough open so that the Matrix Reloaded isn’t spoiled. The animation is superb and it is more traditional anime style. The designs are quite imaginative while at the same time grounded in the film designs. (You see hovercraft, Sentinels, Matrix pods, etc.) There are frequent analogies to human history. Some imagery will remind you of Vietnam, Tienamin Square, Bosnia, the LA riots, etc. After setting up the fall of the robots, the second part sets up the fall of man. While everything in the first part looked like it was set in the real world, the second part looks like it’s set in the Apocalypse. (There’s even a robot rider that looks like one of the horseman of the apocalypse.) The whole feature has a feel a lot like the Terminator films. The all out war between man and machine is violent and stunning. My only problem with the short was the gore (which is a frequent feature of anime). They show a man’s head being crushed, another guy being ripped apart while screaming, and a robot with bare human female breasts being beaten. I didn’t think that stuff added anything to the story and was unnecessary. Everything else, though, is really cool stuff.
Kid’s Story – This story was the final short written by the Wachowskis and it ties into the Matrix Reloaded. The kid that fawns over Neo in the film is the main character of this cartoon. I really like the fact that they established this link to the movie. It gives the fans a little connection that general audiences will miss. It’s also worth noting that they drew this character to look like the actor who played him in the film. Kid’s Story will appeal to moody teens because it features hackers, skaters, and a teen fed up with school. My only concern is that the short seems to make suicide look appealing to those same kids. Putting that aside, though, it’s one of the few shorts that delves back into the hacker aspect of the Matrix. It also features Neo, the Agents, and a fun skateboard chase through the school. The animation is also one of the least anime looking as it features a rough, hand drawn look. It looks cool and it fits the mood of the story. Kid’s Story is not the best of the Animatrix features, but it is still entertaining.
Program – This short features yet another unique animation style. It features very dark, bold lines and is very two dimensional. It very much has the feel of a comic book and that’s cool. This story is set in a training program, thus allowing it to use the unique setting of ancient Japan and Samurai warriors. Despite having a very different look and feel than the others, it is one of the most grounded in the movie. It’s the only Animatrix feature to use bullet time effects (which seems odd not to include). It also explores the concept of a human wanting to return to the Matrix after being freed. This was covered in the first film, but this short takes it to another level. It has some of the cooler action of the Animatrix cartoons.
World Record – This was my least favorite of the Animatrix features. The animation is highly stylized, but it didn’t do much for me. The story was also fairly abstract. It’s the least straightforward of the adventures. It took me several viewings of it before I thought I really understood it. I do like the concept of a human being with the capability to break out of the Matrix. It was an interesting choice to have it be a track runner. I guess this gives new meaning to “runner’s high”.
Beyond – This short is probably the most lighthearted of the Animatrix features. Rather than seeing the Matrix as an evil thing, the children in this story see it as something amazing and wonderful. They don’t question why objects float in the air or why things suddenly disappear. They’re the polar opposite of the brooding characters of the films who ponder the deep questions of reality. They accept what they see as magic. I liked how this story took the concept of the Matrix glitch and expanded on it. It also ties in nicely with the idea that the paranormal (such as ghosts, haunted houses, etc.) are all part of those glitches in the Matrix. This was explained in The Matrix Reloaded, but elaborated here. The animation is also fantastic and very realistic.
A Detective Story – This is one of the few Animatrix stories to feature one of the characters from the movie. This time it’s Trinity, voiced by Carrie Ann Moss. The animation is another one of those that’s very stylized. Everything looks like a black and white photo and it very much has the feel of an old detective movie. Putting him on the trail of Trinity was a fun idea. Realizing that others had tried and failed to find her was also very interesting. When he finally meets her, the encounter is as surreal and action packed as you might hope. Overall, it’s an interesting and unique chapter in the Matrix story.
Matriculated – This is quite an interesting mix of storytelling. Half of the feature is set in the post-apocalyptic real world. The other half was set in a hypnotic, psychedelic, drug induced matrix created by the humans. I liked the whole idea of the story. It’s interesting to think that the humans could turn a robot to their side. I loved the weird robot designs and the unique cast of background characters. However, the whole dream world Matrix really turned me off. The surreal colors, patterns, and designs made me think the animators took one too many red and blue pills while creating it.
Overall, this is required viewing for fans of The Matrix.
While the extras aren’t the main focus of this DVD, they still get a good amount of attention. Most of what you could ask for is on this DVD. The only thing missing is the publicity shy Wachowskis. You’d think they could at least have popped in to discuss this DVD, eh?
Making Of Documentaries On Each Film – There is a Making Of feature for each individual film on The Animatrix DVD. In most cases, the documentaries are longer than the films themselves. They give you additional insight into the story, animation, music, sound effects, and crew. The directors, sound designers, composers, animators, and more all come on and discuss each movie. One of the more interesting ones is for Final Flight Of Osiris. In that one, you see some test animation where they have the character from Final Fantasy (with close cropped hair) fighting a Sentinel. It’s very cool and a nice extra. The feature on Beyond shows the animator’s live action references with a model for his main character. Each Making Of documentary goes into some detail on the other films of the creators. For people who aren’t familiar with anime (like myself), it’s a good reference of where to find their other work. They also get into some detail about the origins and developments of the stories. It’s very much worth listening to each of these features. Each feature is around 10 minutes long.
“Scrolls To Screen: The History And Culture Of Anime” – This is a documentary on the history of anime. Experts on the field discuss the origins of Manga and its evolution into animation. They discuss Astro Boy, Akira, Battle of the Planets (as it was known in the US) and more. I think this is quite interesting for those who are anime fans and those who are newbies. The documentary also interviews Todd McFarlane, the infamous Harry Knowles, and a number of others. It’s about 27 minutes long.
Director Commentaries – There are only director commentaries for four of the films: The Second Renaissance Parts I and II, Program, and World Record. Since the creators are all Japanese, all of the commentaries are in Japanese with English subtitles. Mahiro Maeda’s commentary on The Second Renaissance is the more interesting of the commentaries. He discusses a lot about the story, the thinking behind the imagery, the character designs, and background behind the plot. It gives you a lot of insight into the creation of the films. You also learn that the Wachowski’s had him keep the robot designs similar to the one used in the rare Matrix comic book. The commentary on Program features the producer and writer / director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Their commentary is interesting, but more geared towards the technical aspects of the film and the animation techniques. There’s not so much discussion on the story itself. The same goes for the commentary on World Record that features the producer and director Takeshi Koike. The discussion centers on the animation and design style. The commentaries are brief, but well worth listening to / reading.
Biographical Profiles Of The Directors and Animation Producers – This is a simple text biography of each director and animator. General audiences won’t get much use out of this, but it’s a good reference.
Enter The Matrix Video Game Trailer – This trailer really makes me want to go out and buy this video game. And I don’t play video games. Featuring Niobe from The Matrix Reloaded, this game ties directly into the film. You may know that the Wachowski’s wrote and directed this video game. There’s an hour of footage included on this game featuring the original actors and the trailer shows a lot of it. It shows Niobe meeting the Keymaker, Agent Smith, and others. There’s new footage of Neo, Trinity, and the main cast. I realize now I won’t have the full Matrix story until I see this. Too bad I suck at video games.
DVD-ROM Enhanced Features – I didn’t check out the DVD ROM features on this.
The Bottom Line:
This DVD is primarily for fans of The Matrix. I don’t think anyone else will get much out of it, but it is a pioneering DVD and will hopefully inspire other film creators to do something similar. If you like The Matrix, then this is a must-have for your collection.