From the creator of 'Ghost in the Shell' and the director of 'Appleseed' comes the intense post-apocalyptic prequel, 'Appleseed: Alpha.' Left to survive in a post-World War society, two mercenary soldiers - Deunan and her cyborg partner Briareos – are sent on a mission on the outskirts of their war-torn city. During the operation, they run into Iris and Olson, two citizens from the utopian city of Olympus, who might have a way to save the world but the ruthless Talos and the scheming warlord Two Horns have their own plans. It’s up to Deunan and Briareos to safeguard their newfound contacts and help save humanity’s last hope.
I can't believe it's been ten years since I first watched 'Appleseed', the animated post-apocalyptic action movie from Japan. I was in college at the time and I remember being blown away by its excellent animation and great story line. Needless to say, I was a fan of 'Appleseed' for life. Then a few years later in 2007, we received 'Appleseed: Ex Machina', the CG animated sequel, which was also very good. Now seven years later, we have 'Appleseed: Alpha', a prequel to the events of the 'Ex Machina' and the first 'Appleseed' film a decade ago.
Technology has come a long way in seven years, as I can easily say this is the best looking 'Appleseed' movie yet, and in my opinion, the best story so far. It was inevitable to do a prequel, but here it is done very well with tons of action and excellent CG work. This story still follows our main heroes Deunan Knute (voiced by Luci Christian) and Briareos Hecatonchires (voiced by David Matranga), who are two of very little survivors in a post-apocalyptic New York City, where they try to find a way to save humanity and restore what is left of their planet.
There is a sinister overlord in New York City named Two Horns (voiced by Wendel Calvert), who has employed Deunan and Briareos to do jobs for him. For those of you who are not familiar with the 'Appleseed' universe, Deunan is a fiery woman who has a pension for fast vehicles and action. Briareos was once fully human, but due to an explosion, his body has been replaced with a big robot body that is capable of fighting almost any enemy. When Deunan and Briareos fail a mission Two Horns tasked them with, he sends the two out to the edge of their city to take care of some drones. During an action scene, the duo come across Iris (Brina Palencia) and Olson (Adam Gibbs), two other survivors who come from a place called Olympus, which is said to be a safe zone and utopia from the evil that is plaguing the city.
Denan and Briareos decide to join Iris and Olson's mission, while trying to avoid Two Horns and the evil cyborg Talos who is trying to steal a massive secret weapon to destroy all things as we know it. But little does Deunan and Briareos know that someone close to them might be the key to survival. The pacing of the film is excellent. There are plenty of battles and fights to go around for everyone, and they are expertly choreographed and made. There are also some great characters and dialogue to keep the story moving forward. That being said, this film lacks anything of any real meaning or depth to it. Sure, on the surface level there are some key moments and tones, but it never digs deep enough to make any of us really think and question.
Sure, there are some twists and turns throughout, but it isn't anything that you can't see coming. I know it's a minor gripe, but I wish there was something deeper here, since this impressive CG animated franchise continues to be so good. The digital filmmaking, CG, and motion capture are all top notch here. Almost everything looks realistic and the detail on every futuristic suit looks fantastic. Does 'Appleseed: Alpha' change the game? Maybe not in the way of story telling, but it's a big step in the right direction for these types of CG animated films in the form of how they look and how they are made. I have no doubt that if you're a fan of the 'Appleseed' franchise or a fan of anime in general, you'll want to add this particular release to your collection.
'Appleseed: Alpha' comes with a great looking 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is an interesting video presentation in that when it's good, it's very good, but when it's bad, it's very bad. The detail of the CG feature is magnificent. Every little detail of the armor or the buildings in the background look amazing. The CG faces and humans look realistic and good, offering a good amount of detail to distinguish individual hairs and facial lines. It's quite impressive CG work.
The colors are robust, alive, and simply pop off the screen at all times as well. You will be full immersed into the Appleseed world by the colors alone. There are all well saturated and evenly balanced and simply look beautiful. This is exactly how a movie like this should look. On the other hand, there are some fairly bad problems with the image too. The black levels are never deep or inky throughout the entire film. They look grayish and muddled. You can add to that the heavy amount of aliasing, banding, and motion blur throughout, specifically during the bigger action sequences. I wish those problems were handled better and fixed, because if they were, this would be a demo-worthy video presentation.
This release comes with a very loud, robust, and explosive lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in English, French, Spanish, and German that will rattle the walls and your bones. This is how you want all of your anime movies to sound. The sound effects are amazing and just pour constantly from the rear speakers. The gunshots, explosions, trains crashes, and fist fights are well balanced and loud, packing a very powerful punch with each bang and pop.
The sound design is so intricate that you will be able to hear layers of noises during the heavier action scenes such as softer car collisions and people screaming when a subway train is in great danger. It all sounds very real. And the directionality is excellent throughout too. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, free of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The dynamic range is extremely wide and the LFE is perfect. The bass thumps hard as the score always delivers on the tone and action of the movie. This audio presentation is amazing.
Audio Commentary - Director Shinji Aramaki, Producer Joseph Chouand, and Sony Pictures' Shigeki Ishizuka all come together to discuss the making of the film, as they dive in discussing the origins of the story, the themes, the creative technicalities, voice casting, and much more. If you're a fan of the film, you'll want to listen to this fun commentary.
The Making of 'Appleseed: Alpha' (HD, 55 mins.) - Here is an 11-part feature, all viewable separately in sections that discuss and go into detail on almost every aspect of the movie. It covers how the filmmakers came up with the idea and how they translated that into a script, to discussing the new world's we see in the film, to the design, the motion capture, the animation, the characters, the visual effects, the editing, and even the music. It's a very comprehensive and great set of extras to see just how much work went into making this CG animated film. It's definitely worth the watch.
'Appleseed: Alpha' is a step in the right direction for these CG animated films. It pushes the bounds as far as action and technology goes in these types of movies, and it looks phenomenal. The movie itself has excellent action scenes, solid characters, and decent dialogue, despite a somewhat lazy overall story arc. But it's highly entertaining, and very fun to watch. The video presentation has moments of greatness and the audio is demo worthy. Plus, there are tons of excellent extras to boot. Whether you're a long time fan of 'Appleseed' or a newcomer, you'll want to add this movie to your collection. This comes Highly Recommended!