I’m not a big fan of The Matrix trilogy, one of the more mainstream science fiction spectacles of the past twenty years. When I was a kid, I loved it. It was my first R-rated movie, it was dark and edgy like any kid is bound to like, and it had neat martial arts action. But as I grew older I finally watched the second and third films and began to hate the series. Anymore, probably thirteen or so years after watching The Matrix for the first time, I think it’s overrated and I can’t see the appeal. It hasn’t aged well and that, on top of pretty bad storytelling as the movies continued, led me to neglect the series for years…
Until now. I never watched the Animatrix, I don’t think I had any intention to after Revolutions. So now, years later, allow me to break down the pieces that comprise the Animatrix and tell you which are good and which are bad.
Final Flight of the Osiris-Written by the Wachowski brothers and animated by Square, this nine minute segment looks like the opening cutscene of a PS2 game. It starts with an entirely pointless fight where two characters cut the clothes off each other. They are suddenly pulled out of the simulation as Sentinels are chasing down their ship in the real world. What follows is a six minute sequence ending in a climax that isn’t satisfying, nor really matters. This entire short is nothing more than an introduction to the style of The Matrix rather than pulling us in early on. The writing is lame, the CG is very dated, and you’ll find nothing of value here.
The Second Renaissance Part I-The second short details events before The Matrix, namely the divide between humans and machines. What you’ll find here is an interesting background story about humans and machines having a schism that leads to animosity and violence. The machines build their own nation, wind up creating better technologies and having more valuable currency, which doesn’t make humanity happy at all. This is all visualized stunningly, with many disturbing images as well as copies of real life historical moments such as the tank running a robot down a la Tienanmen Square. A fan of the movies will enjoy this history lesson.
The Second Renaissance Part II-While containing some of the fantastic visuals of part one, part two is a lot less compelling. The humans put a dome around the Earth so the machines can’t operate on solar power leading to a war that ends with the machines realizing they can harvest energy from human brains. Thus the Matrix was born. This part was pretty stupid. While the first part set up the idea of a smart science fiction story, the second reveals how ridiculous the plot of the series really is and how much the Wachowski’s love to ruin good ideas with nonsense. If you watched the first part, watch the second, but be forewarned, it’s stupid.
Kid’s Story-The first visually appealing short from an artistic standpoint, Kid’s Story is directed by my biggest adversary in the directing world, Shinichiro Watanabe. A high school kid realizes he’s inside of the Matrix, leading to agents coming after him while Neo guides him toward escape. While not the most impressive in plot, the animation is gorgeous. For style alone, I’d suggest this segment. It’s the best of the bunch.
Program-A shorter piece, this one is another visual feast that concentrates on two people fighting over ideologies in a feudal Japanese setting. The action here is crisp, the dialogue is pretty smart, but it, penultimately, doesn’t matter. I feel that to have a good short here, you need a beginning, middle, and end, not just a singular idea that doesn’t go anywhere. Program is nice, but I still don’t see how this is enriching me any further in the world of The Matrix.
World Record-Here is the story of an Olympic racer who runs so fast he breaks the Matrix while some agents go after him to keep him locked within the program. That’s it. The animation isn’t that great, the story isn’t exciting, and I think this may have been the weakest segment so far.
Beyond-A pretty good short about a group of kids discovering a glitchy area in their town and exploiting the glitches for fun. While again not telling a compelling story this one does give us an idea of the process that is gone through to repair problems in the Matrix. It has good animation and ideas, but it’s an otherwise unremarkable piece.
A Detective Story-Another piece from Shinichiro Watanabe, this one is a noir adventure about a detective who is recruited to track down the hacker known as Trinity. From the outset you can see and hear the style (of course, very typical of Watanabe). This one’s a good short with an actual plot, neat design, and it ties into the movies, making it feel more relevant.
Natriculated-This one is made by the people who gave us Aeon Flux and is another eh on my part. It’s got the trademark style of Flux but I wasn’t impressed by the story nor did I find it to be exciting in any regard. As a finale, it’s weak.
The Animatrix is a very mixed bag. There are a couple of notable segments but it’s just about as underwhelming as the actual Matrix movies. If you’re a fan of the movie series, then you’ll find some enjoyment here, but if not it’s an lame grab bag of great talents producing mostly half-assed shorts.