Appleseed Saga: Ex Machina (2007) (DVD)

There’s simply no denying it; “Appleseed Ex Machina” has some utterly incredible animation with some of the best character designs I’ve seen in the CGI field in years. The landscapes are extraordinary, the visuals are absolutely dazzling, and much of the action is committed with a tight editing brilliance that keeps the action in a constant rapid fire pace. The “Appleseed” films always have the most dazzling computer animation, even if you don’t always receive the most enriching experience. If you recall our early review of the first “Appleseed” movie, you’ll remember that we pretty much disliked everything it stood for. It was overly complicated, cliché, tedious as all hell, and was pretty much existent for its incredible animation with zero substance to provide its audience. Okay, so John Woo allegedly produced this sequel, so what? “Appleseed Ex Machina” is just the same movie as its predecessor, except just boring with a little more to offer, which isn’t saying much when you consider the first film’s goals.

Cyborgs threaten to overtake humanity, technology has reached such an advancement it will overcome its owners, the robotic population are more like cults than machines, and it’s the same old formulaic doldrums we’ve seen a thousand times. Even with Woo as an attempted name credit, “Ex Machina” is just more of the same stuff that we’ve seen a thousand times before with the same mystical themes we endured in the first film. And just when you think the proceedings can’t get lazier, “Ex Machina” feeds us an awfully predictable mini-mystery that involves people suddenly becoming violent in behavior and the rather obvious connection it has to a specific electronic device that audiences will solve two minutes into the introduction while our characters are still trying to uncover it. “Ex Machina” has a very bland attitude about itself unwilling to expose us to anything original or innovative.

Instead, like its predecessor, it’s still just an incredible light show with almost zero substance to take away from it. How many times can we see robots trying to become more than their masters? How many times can mysticism and technology go hand in hand? And what’s the point of watching people flip unnecessarily while shooting when we’ve seen it performed with much better skill in previous films? If the obvious link to the electronic device sparking bouts of violence isn’t obvious enough, we’re then introduced to a new character who is assigned as Deunan’s new partner.

He incidentally thinks, acts, and fights like Briareous and attains the same mannerisms, which eventually leads us to the eventual “surprise” twist that rarely manages to shock let alone keep us guessing. “Ex Machina” is clearly not as bad as the first film, but it’s nowhere near being a strong contender for a top notch anime entry into the genre. As a sequel it only barely rises above the first film’s quality and lack thereof, and that’s not good enough to warrant a recommendation. This sequel is better than the first film in the franchise but with only a slightly more interesting storyline. Either way, when you’re done oohing and aahing at the animation, it’s still as tedious, empty, and boring as the first film with “mysteries” that are as painfully predictable as the recycled concept.