Earth’s last city, Olympus, was created as a utopia for mankind after the earth was ravaged by global war. Peace is maintained by infusing the population of Olympus with Bioroids, artificially engineered humans who have repressed emotional capacity. The harmony is shattered, however, when a group of human terrorists within the military attempt to seize control of the government and destroy the Bioroids. The only solution to the conflict lies with a mysterious program known as Appleseed. It is up to the legendary Deunan Knute to retrieve the Appleseed and unlock its secrets.
At the onset of the film I was a bit worried that the movie was going to be all style with no substance. Fortunately, after watching it in its entirety, I was pleased to find that there is a logical plot, although it?s not particularly deep.
The story basically centers on the manmade utopia of Olympus, a city that is governed by a giant supercomputer network called Gaia. As a result of a revolt to take back control of the government, the facilities needed to extend Bioroid life are destroyed. This means that the Bioroids, which compose half the city?s population, will die within hours of not receiving their scheduled treatments. In order to prevent this end, the Appleseed program must be installed into Gaia to grant the Bioroids extended life. In the movie, this is referred to as ?reproductive functions?, but it obviously entails more than that.
In any case, the story was mostly coherent and fairly easy to follow, for an animated sci-fi action flick at least. I was hoping that the relationship between Briareos and Deunan would be explored a bit more than it was, since that was one of the more engaging aspects of the story. The former lovers were separated in the midst of the war, and in that time Briareos’ body was replaced by a mechanical one after he was nearly killed.
The characters, unfortunately, are a bit lifeless, and not just because they are animated. The voice acting, especially in the first half, is very bland and uninspired, and the dialogue is sparse and vapid. Many of the characters speak in an expressionless drone, which is probably meant to emphasize the fact that they are Bioroids. It is a problem, however, when half the cast sounds like a machine. This voiceovers do improve as the movie progresses, but they are never stellar.
The writing is largely to blame, as the characters almost never say anything particularly meaningful or clever. They seem to spend most of their time explaining the plot, which helps the viewer but does little to develop the characters. As a result, the two main characters, Deunan and Briareos, feel a little underdeveloped.
Primarily, this is an action film, and the action sequences do not disappoint. The action is well-choreographed and fast-paced, and the animation is extremely vivid and lifelike. The pacing is fairly consistent throughout the film, but the climatic battle at the end is packed with a mind-boggling amount of action and enough large-scale destruction to put most live-action movies to shame. Unlike many modern Hollywood action movies, the fight scenes in Appleseed are easy to follow, despite the amount of action taking place. This is accomplished due to solid camera angles and the liberal use of slow-mo.
The setting feels well-thought out, and captures the essence of a classical anime-style metropolis. The character designs are not particularly impressive, but the stylish vehicles, especially the land mates, make up for it.
Audio quality is excellent, and the soundtrack has some upbeat tracks that suit the action very well. For some reason, there are several spots where the music becomes very bland and repetitive, though there aren’t many.
Although the main focus of the animation is showcasing state of the art CG effects, which are unquestionably impressive, the incorporation of cell-shading and CG on the characters is inconsistent and sometimes appears awkward. For instance, in one scene the cell-shading on a character may be very pronounced, but in another scene that same character may appear to be almost totally computer generated.
No doubt CG allows for more accurate movements via motion capture, but there is definitely something to be said for the expressiveness of traditional animation. The over-exaggerated facial expressions often used in cell-shaded animation may not be the most lifelike, but they certainly convey the proper emotions. The emphasis on pseudo-realism by the animation department may have actually hurt them in this regard, as the CG facial expressions fail to be either very expressive or perfectly realistic.
That being said, this is certainly one of the landmarks for the evolution of animation over the past 5 years.
Despite all these minor gripes, Appleseed is a very entertaining film that animation fans will definitely want to check out. The action sequences are stunningly directed and the animation is beautiful to watch. Despite my questions about the blend of cell-shading and CG, Appleseed is a visual feast that will leave you wanting more.–