Deunan, a young female warrior, and Briareos, a veteran cyborg-soldier, are both partners and lovers. As members of E.S.W.A.T., the elite special forces serving Olympus, they are deployed whenever trouble strikes. The two fighters find their partnership tested in a new way by the arrival of a new member to their ranks—an experimental Bioroid named Tereus.
This film starts off with the most illogical SWAT attack on a building ever, consisting of Deunan just basically throwing herself at the enemy, not a care in the world if she alerts other bad guys either through her bullets blowing crap up or the dispatched baddies not reporting in.
Why are UN diplomats even being held hostage in a cathedral? No explanation given, its all just part of this John Woo produced disastrous attempt at cool posturing. That is all that's on display here, one ridiculous pose after another.
Ex Machina goes through every cliche in the book.
Dialogue about a daughter from a secondary grunt character = person who will obviously die later on. A character who appears early on who looks like a ghoul = obvious bad guy revealed later on. There's even a scene where the main bad guy explains his entire plan FOR NO REASON.
Needless to say the story was probably ghost-written by a 12 year old relative of screenwriter Kiyoto Takeuchi. There are so many plot holes, contrived and convoluted coincidences and cringe-worthy dialogue it's like being insulted for 1 hour and 44 minutes; these people think you have no intelligence at all, it’s like everyone involved in this horrible mess of a production has only just discovered filmmaking. Who knows, maybe their next production will discover subtext? Just kidding, lets not get ahead of ourselves.
The animation in the previous film had a more refined and unique look, whereas in Ex Machina it's more polished and generic. The dip in quality from the first film to the second is heavy all across the board.
John Woo continues his reign of terror, even as producer, and to think this was the man who gave us Chow Yun Fat sliding down a banister shooting people with a toothpick in his mouth. The world weeps.
I've not seen the original Appleseed, but I've been told the two movies aren't connected at all. Still, not having seen the first meant that I had no idea what to expect for the second...
STORY - The sypnosis given on this website is crap (as is ANN's, since that's where it came from) and the information it highlights has little importance in the movie, Wikipedia's summary is a little better, though still lacking in proper details. I suppose those summaries are sub par in part because the movie's complexity, though. There are actually several smaller subplots interlinking throughout the Ex Machina, and the grand scheme
the characters must overcome is not clarified until maybe halfway through. This makes for some interesting crossover between the substories, but it also means that someone who doesn't care for the subplots could become quickly disinterested before the main one locks into place.
Neither the substories nor the main story are particularly innovative though, probably because cybernetics, war, and mind control are such frequently visited themes within the sci-fi and cyberpunk genres. They're still entertaining enough, but there's definitely nothing profoundly new or deep here. The love story is cute, but lacking substance (I always dislike it when characters' love for each other is 100% pure and lacking in any uncertainties or doubts). The villain's motivation seems a bit contrived and the automation of a mechanized disaster a cop-out. It was disappointing mostly in that there seemed to be potential for a lot more material because the environment was set up so well, but none of it was ever realized.
CHARACTER - Ex Machina is another movie that falls into the trap of a full cast of generic characters. Deunan is a femme fatale that might be called a wannabe Motoko Kusanagi except that she's completely and utterly in love with Briareos, who himself is a typical tough guy cyborg. This relationship seems to force Deunan into a more typical "female" role, placing her in situations where she inevitably needs to be saved by her man and taking away from her otherwise badass persona. This might have been a decent way to put more depth in her character and I might be less irked about it if it weren't for the fact that Deunan seems to change completely depending on whether the scene calls for her to be badass or vulnerable, and there doesn't seem to be much of a thread connecting her two sides.
The entire character of Tereus and his subsequent subplot seemed pointless to me. While it seemed to toss a wrench in the canon relationship for a little bit, it didn't last long and ultimately amounted to nothing because Deunan and Briareos's love is pure and nothing can pry them apart! As a "bioroid," he wasn't supposed to have very many emotions, but he more or less acted the part of a normal human, albeit one with a flat personality. Everyone else was very much the same -- Athena was a typical suspicious leader-type, the commander was a typical commander, the villain was a typical mad scientist that you recognized at first sight even though you probably shouldn't have, and so on. But you know what bugged me the most? That one guy that always seemed willing to ignore all rules and protocol to help out our protagonists even though he had no clear motivation or reason to do so. Come on. That's just cheap.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - Ex Machina was very beautifully animated in a style reminiscent of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The use of motion capture made the characters' movements realistic and smooth, and the highly rendered environments made sure that they fit in their surroundings. The mecha designs were unique and fun too. A few of the special effects (such as explosions) could have probably looked better, but in general, the movie was very pleasing to the eye. (Don't forget to keep an eye out for your John Woo doves!)
MUSIC - It's a pretty score, but nothing particularly noteworthy.
VOICE ACTING - I saw this movie dubbed, and I must say, it was a pretty darn good dub. The voices were appropriate (if not typecasted), anyway, and with so many Greek-themed names like Briareos and Athena, pronunciations were likely much more accurate than they were in the original. Wikipedia also notes that the movie's forward is more detailed in the English release.
OVERALL - Ex Machina wasn't a bad movie. As a cyberpunk fan, the story was alright enough, if a little lacking in originality. The characters could have definitely been better, but if nothing else, they were on par with the story's sophistication. The animation was probably its strongest point, but it was good enough that it may be worth a watch just for that.
So, which camp does “Ex Machina” fall into? Without a doubt, the “like” crowd. maybe even the “like a great deal” crowd. Possibly even the “lo-”… no, let’s not go there.
So, what’s so good about it? Well, firstly they’ve gone the 100% 3D CGI route,which, as with any technology, just keeps advancing in leaps and bounds, and the imagery used here far surpasses anything else I’ve seen to date. Buildings and backgrounds are captured in magnificent detail (the Gothic cathedral in the opening sequence has to be seen to be believed); lighting and textures are first-rate (well, to art-ignoramus me anyway), the characters are fully
integrated into their surroundings (now that I think about it, maybe Appleseed 2004 didn’t use animation for the characters, but they did often look ‘painted in’ when compared to their realistic CGI surroundings.) and for once they finally seem to have CGI humans moving as humans do. No doubt it’s due to the influence of producer/director, John Woo (who, like or hate him, knows how to put an action film together), but the fight sequences are extremely well choreographed, especially the aerial battles involving the land-mates. Not to mention the fluid motions of the characters in these scenes. The programmers really earned their keep on this show and if this is where state-of-the-art CGI stands at the moment, I wait in anticipation to see what the future has in store for us.
Story-wise, I guess it’s nothing too original. Billed as a sequel to Appleseed 2004 (more on that later), it picks up at some time not long after the last film. Deunan & Briareos (not a name I’d like to try and call out in a moment of passion) are still members of ESWAT, defending Olympus against what seems to be a string of random terrorist attacks involving cyborgs. At the same time, President Athena is pressing the remaining world powers for a unified satellite system, to further ensure world piece. Needless to say, somebody has other plans for such a unified system and it’s up to our heroes to thwart his plans for world domination.
During all this we actually get to see more of the dynamics of Deunan & Briareos’ relationship here than we did before, especially after Briareos gets injured and Deunan’s new partner, Tereus (is nobody called Bob in the future?) is a bioroid, cloned from Briareos’ genetic material, thus looking, sounding and even thinking like B did, before winding up as a walking tin-can. How the three of them deals with this adds a decent human (well, human-cyborg-bioroid) element that was missing from the first film. All the classic elements of a good old rough and tumble action film are present and fortunately, they all work. Maybe the only “meh” bit is a scene towards the end which could have been lifted straight from one of the later “Matrix” movies.
Without wanting to sound like a rabid fanboy, I’ve been trying to think about negatives to discuss, in the interests of balanced writing, of course. I’d have to say that there are precious few. True, it’s probably not the most original story you’re likely to see, but then again, I never expected to learn the meaning of life from watching this. I expected to be entertained for nearly two hours, and in that respect, it delivered. However, another potential weakness of the story is the fact that it’s a sequel and it assumes that you’ve seen the prequel. So, although all the familiar characters are present (Hitomi, Pres. Athena, et al) they aren’t re-introduced, but are just ‘there’, which could make them seem pretty insignificant to the uninitiated. It’s not a biggie, as the story really is about our three protagonists anyway, but somebody might wonder why Hitomi invites Deunan to her birthday and why she later…oops, nearly let a spoiler out the bag there.
I guess the final criticism comes down to a combination of the shortcomings of CGI (no matter how advanced it is) and budget. As good as the character design is, it’s no more than ‘realistic’. Facial expressions are minimal and often the only thing that moves on a character is their mouth. Blinking obviously wasn’t added to the jobcard, so the minute a character has a close up for longer than a few seconds, your eyes start to water in sympathy. Lastly, as good as the faces and bodies are designed and textured, hair seems to have been last on the list and in many cases looks as if they’ve had a large blob of plasticine moulded on their skull. Again, it’s a small point, but it does jar, when there’s been so much attention to detail elsewhere. Then again, I always remember comments about “they spent a quarter of the budget on her hair” when Final Fantasy was released, and yes, her hair looked great, but I wish they’d spent a bit more of that budget on the scriptwriter.
Final opinion? Even if you aren’t a fan of anime (just think of this as a Pixar CGI movie, ok) and you enjoy action or sci-fi films, you won’t be disappointed with this latest incarnation of the franchise. Anybody who saw and enjoyed the first film will lo-… er… really enjoy this one.
Let me start off by saying im a huge fan of Masamune Shirow, i have been for many years and i continue to be. Now thats out of the way, i'll start the review. Huh hem...
Terrible film. Beyond moronic in its execution, the digital acting is absolutly atrocious, it all comes off terribly cheesy like a midday japanese tv drama. Briarios ducking behind people in a suit at a party to surprise Duenan was beyond hilarious for all the wrong reasons, characters raising arms and biceps in the air shouting out their determination. Made me laugh out loud.
The film which has the legend
John Woo producing it, so you would expect alot of crazy action going into it. If i remember correctly theres only about 3
action setpieces in the movie. Story wise, you can predict everything from a long way off. I was scratching my head trying to work out how stupid the characters are in this film. Some of the crucial plot elements, like devices etc you can see about 30mins earlier than anyone in the entire movie, it just makes the characters look stupid and the whole thing unbelievable.
The team behind this film had the right idea with the love triange between Briarios, Deunan & Tereus. But its terribly executed and makes Deunan look incredibly shallow, it never really developes at. It just sort of magically fixes itself by the end. No character developement at all, which is shameful in any film. They had plenty of material to work with, to develope all of the above but they didn't.
I can't believe i bought this on blu-ray, i can't fault the picture at least it was pristine, vivid and colourful. So, overall the visuals of the film itself are really nice, there isn't much of an advancement though from the previous film in this regard, the character designs just got a little upgrade and a tweak here and there.
Most of the character designs of people in the background or secondary characters look below average, everything else looks super including the gorgeous backgrounds. The animation is alot nicer, it also has some excellent camera shots.
All the great bits of the film are the little touches that emulate some of John Woo's work like the robotic doves or the slow mo and quick stylish reloading bits. Its nowhere near the excellence of anything directed by John Woo though.
The audio, is nothing too fancy if a little generic, the voice acting in the japanese language is extremly average compared to any other hit anime film you might have seen this year.Explosions and firefights, also didn't have the right punch. The english audio on the other hand is absolutly atrocious, i just couldn't bear it before switching to the original audio track. I would have prefered to listen to it in English as the subtitles on this blu-ray release were really bad, not only does it have dubtitles but the subtitles are so white, that they blend in the background and you can't hardly see them sometimes.
The worst thing about it though, is that i acually spent £20.00 on this movie. Around $40.00 to you lovely people in the good old USofA, i was really expecting a good movie. It makes it hurt ever so much more.
This film should have had the brains of Ghost in the Shell and the dialogue to match it, which is a dead shame. As it had all the right elements to make a classic movie, but they were totally missing from the film. So we got a brainless Sci-fi movie with a little action & stiff acting. STIFF as in DEAD.
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