The Animatrix

The Animatrix
Larry and Andy Wachoski's domination continues unabated with the release of The Animatrix just a few shorts weeks after the staggering initial success of The Matrix Reloaded. Add the videogame and the impending follow-up of The Matrix Revolutions and it is a good time to be a geek. And while The Matrix movies appealed beyond just geekdom, The Animatrix is sort of a tribute to the influence of Japanese anime on the brothers' style. Collecting nine animated shorts, done with a number of different methods by some of the most talented animation artists in their field, The Animatrix tells a variety of tales that add history to The Matrix-verse while offering almost universally impeccable visuals. The four Wachowski-penned stories are the most relevant to the films, with Final Flight of the Osiris setting up Reloaded, Kid's Story explaining one of the new peripheral characters and The Second Renaissance Part I and II giving the back-story of the war between the humans and the machines. The strongest of the non-Wachowski-penned stories is A Detective Story, which is also one of the best looking shorts, featuring a brilliant crime-noir, black and white style and sweet story. The Animatrix, true to its title, features some of the genre's best directors, writers, animators and studio houses (Akira, Ninja Scroll, Final Fantasy, Macross Plus), and the stunning CGI work of Osiris, the feudal anime of Program, the supernatural and lush Beyond and the stark graininess of A Detective Story are all exceptional. And while a narrative isn't present to connect the works, they are stand-alone pieces that flesh out the Wachowski's world. Even the failures are engaging, with Matriculated (from Aeon Flux director Peter Chung) losing its story, and art, to the esoteric, and World Record to its inky, exaggerated design. Extras: "The History and Culture of Anime" documentary; seven "making of" featurettes, director interviews and profiles; four audio commentaries; videogame trailer. (Warner)