The AnimatrixDirector(s): Peter Chung, Andy Jones, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Mahiro Maeda, Kouji Morimoto, Shinichirô Watanabe
Writer(s): Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, Peter Chung, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Kouji Morimoto, Shinichirô Watanabe
Category: Action / Drama / Animation / Sci-Fi
MPAA: N/A, but intended for mature audiences
Runtime: 102 minutes
Country: USA
Language: English
Year: 2003

Plot: Anthology of nine short anime (Japanese animation) films tied in to the 1999 blockbuster “The Matrix” and its sequels. “Final Flight of the Osiris”: The crew of the hovercraft Osiris attempt to warn their city of an imminent attack. “The Second Renaissance, Parts 1 & 2”: The story behind the war between man and the machines, how mankind scorched the sky, and the creation of the Matrix. “Kid’s Story”: A teenager is contacted by Neo, and manages to escape the Matrix. “Program”: Two warriors battle in a samurai training simulation when one decides to betray his crewmates and re-enter the Matrix. “World Record”: A champion sprinter manages to break free of the Matrix by sheer physical effort during a record attempt. “Beyond”: A young girl searching for her cat discovers a haunted house caused by a glitch in the system. “A Detective Story”: Private investigator Ash tracks a hacker named Trinity through the looking glass. “Matriculated”: A group of humans capture a machine scout and insert it into a ‘human matrix’.

Review: The Matrix had a lot of firsts in it. The first movie to use bullet time, the first movie to bring comic book and anime storytelling to live action, etc. On it’s own The Matrix is a landmark film and had the Wachowski brothers left it at that, it would have been enough. Little did we know in 1999 (the year the Matrix was released) that the brothers had much more in store for us.

While doing a press junket in Japan, the Wachowski brothers took the opportunity to meet some of the directors of their favorite anime series and movies. On the plane ride back they hatched the idea that they would go beyond just the next two films that were planned to finish the trilogy. They decided to include anime and video games as additional mediums to tell their story. To my knowledge, no director has ever done this and this marks yet another first in the history of film.

The Animatrix is a collection of short stories all told through animation. Most of the directors come from Japanese animation, or anime as it is typically called. For many viewers, this was their first introduction to anime. Titles such as Cowboy BeBop, Ghost In The Shell and Blue Submarine No. 6 may be completely foreign to most American audiences, but with the Animatrix, they were being introduced to some of the best anime directors in the world.

Of the 9 segments contained in the Animatrix, only 4 of them were actually written by the Wachowski brothers. The other six were written by the Directors themselves. That being said, the Brothers did produce all of the segments to ensure that they other writers stayed true to the mythos of The Matrix. What the Wachowski brothers didn’t do however was direct any of the segments. They actually turned over the reigns to the anime directors themselves. Not many directors would have been this collaborative, but it just goes to show what huge fans of anime the two brothers are.

Now you might be thinking, “Well, this is just a cartoon, so what does it really matter?” Given the fact that they didn’t direct them and only wrote 4 of the 9 segments, the Animatrix, it might appear that this is just some marketing ploy, or some fanciful project that doesn’t relate to The Matrix Trilogy at all. That is not the case. The Animatrix contains stories that not only relate to the Matrix, but actually include story arcs that tie directly into the movies.

The following is a short breakdown of each segment and how it relates to The Matrix Trilogy:

1. Final Flight Of The Osiris
This story is actually the start of The Matrix Reloaded. That’s right, if you want to know the whole story, you need to watch this before viewing Reloaded. The story is about the hovercraft The Osiris and their crew and their final mission. If you recall at the start of The Matrix Reloaded, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) talks about scans that the Osiris took and why everyone is so worried. Do you have to see this segment of the Animatrix in order to understand what’s going on in The Matrix Reloaded? No, but if you want to know the whole story, then you do. 🙂

This segment was directed by Andy Jones, the person behind the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie and uses some of the most advanced CG animation in the world today. At times you forget that what you’re watching is animated and not live action.

2 & 3. The Second Renaissance Part I & II
These segments tell the tale of how the Matrix came to be and fill the gaps between 1999 and when The Matrix takes place. Covering several 100 years, it provides a history and explanation of how the Machines came to take over.

The director for this segment is Mahiro Maeda, most known in the anime world for Blue Submarine No. 6, takes this mythology for the Matrix and does an excellent job blending in parallels to our own history. Certain scenes are stylized to Tiananmen Square, Vietnam and many other striking visuals from our history. I don’t know why they broke out the story into two segments, but they are both masterfully done.

4. Kid’s Story
If you’ve already seen The Matrix Reloaded, then you’ve already met a new character named “Kid” who always seems to find Neo and tends to hang around a lot. In this segment, we learn about his back story and how he came to be unplugged from the Matrix. Although this is a back story, you hear Neo in The Matrix Reloaded refer to segment. So, although this story may be a back story, it is still tightly integrated with the rest of the Matrix Trilogy.

The director for this segment is Shinichiro Watanabe and he expanded on the original story provided by the Wachowski’s and uses a very old school and fluid style in this piece that works wonderfully for the story. Watanabe is most famous for Cowboy BeBop, which was both a television show and later a movie

An interesting note: the actual actor who plays Kid in the movie (Clayton Watson) does the voice over work. He’s not alone either as Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss also provide voices for their characters Neo and Trinity as well.

5. Program
One of the Wachowski’s favorite anime movies is Ninja Scroll, which was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Serving as writer and director for Program, Kawajiri provides us with a segment that feels the closest to the Matrix movies themselves. They style used is more traditional anime and of all the segments, Program is the most authentic in the anime style. All the other segments are going in new and exciting directions, but this one holds true to it’s roots and as a result has the strongest Matrix feel to it.

This is the first story in the Animatrix that doesn’t tie directly to the Matrix Trilogies, but it still has links to it and direct ones at that. I don’t wish to give anything away, but this is a must see on the DVD. Great story and great anime.

6. World Record
This story was also written by Kawajiri, but was directed by a young animator named Takeshi Koike. Clearly heavily influenced by Peter Chung’s work, World Record tells the story of a sprinter and how he comes to discover what the Matrix is. This segment is a side story and doesn’t connect, or relate to the movies, but does provide an interesting story. If you like the style Aeon Flux and don’t mind exaggerated characters, then you’re going to like this segment a lot.

7. Beyond
Of all the segments, Beyond took the longest to produce taking close to 3 years to complete. That is do in large part to the director Koji Morimoto and his working style. However I don’t think the producers minded so much given the fact that they had the Animation Supervisor for the seminal film Akira working on their project.

This story is a bit out there and deals with what happens when there’s a glitch in the Matrix. It’s masterfully animated and really sucks you into this world. I recommend viewing this segment more than once because there are a lot of little things that you might not catch the first time watching it. It’s a slower pace than what we’ve become accustomed to with the Matrix, but it’s an interesting story nonetheless.

A Detective Story
Written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, Detective Story tells a stand alone tale about Trinity. Told in a film noir style, Wantanabe provides us with an interesting story about a detective hired to find Trinity. This story doesn’t tie in directly with the movies, but it’s a nice tight story and Carrie-Anne Moss’ dialog add an authenticity to it as well. One of my favorite segments.

After another director had to drop off of the Animatrix project at the last minute, Peter Chung (of Aeon Flux fame) was brought in to contribute a story. Given that he didn’t have a lot of time and was brought in at the last moment, a lot of latitude was given to Chung and he delivers one of the trippiest stories on the DVD.

The concept for the story is what would it be like if we created a Matrix for the machines? The result is a psychedelic trip through the dreams and mind of humans and machines. Although I like Peter Chung’s work, this was my least favorite of all the segments. It made me think and ask a lot of questions, but the overall style of the piece is quite different from what we’ve come to expect from the Matrix. In other words, it seems to break the most rules

Besides the 9 segments themselves, the DVD is jam packed with bonus materials. There are director commentaries for 4 segments as well as a history of Anime and a “making-of” documentary as well. If you like bonus materials on a DVD, you won’t be disappointed in this one. There is also a package that includes a soundtrack to the Animatrix as well. The soundtrack is very good an includes some great techno music.

All in all, if you’re a fan of the Matrix, then this is a must have in your collection. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the Matrix it’s still worth a watch. The fact that the story for the Matrix Saga weaves excellently through the Animatrix, you don’t know the whole story if you haven’t seen this DVD. There are references to it in both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. You’re enjoyment of the movies will be that much more heightened as a result of it.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars(4 out 5 stars)
My IMDB Review: [link]

   » Part One – The Matrix
   » Part Two – The Animatrix
   » Part Three – Enter The Matrix (Part One)
   » Part Four – The Matrix Reloaded
   » Part Five – Enter The Matrix (Part Two)
   » Part Six – The Matrix Revolutions
   » Part Seven – Lagniappe