The Animatrix is a compilation companion piece to the Matrix films that collects nine short animated films set in the world of the Matrix. While it helps broaden and inform the world of the Matrix, the individual segments vary in their success in storytelling.
"Final Flight of the Osiris" opens up the film and is the CG animated number. In itself, it's just a short story about events that occur off- screen during the second Matrix film. At it mostly acts as backstory, it doesn't lend itself very much dramatic weight and spends a whole lot of time at the beginning showing off CGI attempts at life-like animation as well as CGI skin. While the visuals themselves are fairly impressive, I was ultimately underwhelmed. 5/10.
"The Second Renaissance Parts I & II" are two short films that chronicle the events leading up to the dystopia of The Matrix. An animated fauxcumentary, it sets the background of the Matrix world, step by step, showing how humans created the machines and the machines beat the humans after tons of abuse. While it's all quite well drawn (and contains dozens upon dozens of references to other films), I found it about as interesting as reading a poorly written history textbook. It does contain more interesting text than "Final Flight", especially as it deals with humanity's errors, but I have to say that despite it's strong visual style, it edged on being a yawnfest. And it doesn't pull punches. Another downside is that the more it exposed some of the backstory about how the world of the Matrix happened, the harder I found to buy it, which consequently had a negative effect on how I view the original Matrix movie. 6/10.
"Kid's Story" is really where this collection begins to pick up. I found it's hand-drawn blurry style to be rather catching, especially in capturing the waking-dream-like world of the Matrix. While the story mostly just deals with a kid's escape from The Matrix, it holds some interesting subtext about the nature of dreams (even within dreams) and ideas of fate. Not to say that this is masterful, but rather, it's a decent little piece, for what it is. 7/10.
"Program" is a piece that left me unsatisfied, because it raised questions that it failed to resolve. Essentially set within a swords- and-samurai simulation, the protagonist encounters a friend-as-adversary in the program. They talk about the nature of reality as they fight and as her friend lets her in on a dark secret. But the ending creates serious doubts in the believability of the confrontation within. Again, interesting art, but the story has large enough issues that it was hard to enjoy. 5/10.
"World Record" was actually kind of interesting. It deals with a world class runner who, in breaking records, begins to see cracks in his reality. It's quite simple and fortunately it's short, so it doesn't overstay its welcome. 7/10.
"Beyond" is by far my favorite piece of the bunch. A teenage girl starts looking for her cat, Yuki, and meets some boys who she follows to a local "haunted house", where she discovers both Yuki and an apparent glitch in the Matrix. The glitch makes some rather strange things happen, like gravity working weird and reality fading in and out. It works as an exploration of finding the strange and wonderful things in life and how reality/society/etc tries to "erase" these mistakes. Fantastic, even if it has the least to do with the Matrix mythology. 8/10.
"A Detective Story" deals with a detective named Ash who gets hired to find the hacker Trinity. His explorations lead him to some rather strange discoveries about reality. Working as an homage to hard-boiled detective films, I found it pretty interesting and it very strongly reminded me of Cowboy Bebop, including it's protagonist, who sort of reminded me of Spike. 7/10.
"Matriculation" left me with mixed feelings. Reminding me strongly of Aeon Flux in its art style (I'm guessing it's the same director), the film ultimately deals with the attempts of Zion to create machine "rebels". The Zion folk capture a runner-robot and plug it into their own Matrix and interact with it in a somewhat strange world. Unfortunately, for me, not much happens narratively within this machine- Matrix except for a series of somewhat interesting visuals and this segment goes on for quite a while. I got bored. But then it gets interesting and darker at the end and I found the ending to be rather interesting itself. So a mixed bag. 6/10.
All in all, the Animatrix is mostly watchable, but doesn't have as many highs as it just sits in the middle. The art is mostly gorgeous, but many of the stories overstay their welcome or reveal gaps in logic, whether inside the story itself or in the mythology of the Matrix. As a companion piece to The Matrix, it works all right, even if it might show off huge cracks in the Matrix mythology. As such, I have to say it's really more of a work for fans, although I think "Beyond" is solid enough in itself to watch on its own. It's okay.
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