Appleseed (2004)

Directed by
A popcorn film, but a good one
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-22

2004 saw the release of two big budget CGI-anime films... Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence and APPLESEED. Both utilised the latest in technology to produce a fully realised 3-dimensional world that resembled traditional anime but with the greater freedom of camera movements etc that a digital world allows.

INNOCENCE was a mixed bag... aesthetically stunning, but with a tendency to disappear up its own *** with overt metaphysics and philosophy. APPLESEED, based on a manga by the same author as GITS (Masamune Shirow), is a more balanced film - a relatively conventional story of humans, cyborgs, mechs and AIs getting along (or not) in a post-apocalyptic world. There's a bit of philosophy in there (musings on the human/ai condition) but nothing approaching the pretension of INNOCENCE.

APPLESEED is perhaps not as accomplished aesthetically as INNOCENCE, but it is still a phenomenally good-looking film. The environments and action are a great showcase of what the computer can bring to animation. The one area where computer animation still lags behind the hand-drawn type is human(oid) characters though... although APPLESEED uses motion-capture data for much of the movement, there are parts that are clearly hand-animated and look a bit stiff and robotic (when they're not meant to). Faces are less expressive than they would likely have been with human pen and ink drawing... it's an odd observation that plagues video games too, that the closer the visual quality gets to reality, the more humans notice flaws and find them unrealistic - sometimes even disturbing (! APPLESEED suffers from this in places, and is robbed of some emotional impact as a result.

There are other places where the film packs a fair amount of wallop though - particularly the action, which shows the computers off to much better effect. There's some very stylised combat between human/robot fighters, and some mech action which leads to some major destruction. The CGI is superlative here, and boosted by a strong DTS audio track. Impressive stuff.

The story of APPLESEED is a good one, though it is a bit underdeveloped here - one gets the impression of a larger world + narrative of which we are just getting the bare facts... which is presumably the case (I haven't read the manga, but I presume the movie has to condense the story a lot). There's enough there to be satisfying, if not profoundly moving in the way Akira or the first Ghost in the Shell films were. APPLESEED is more of a popcorn film, but a good one.