Back to the Backstory

Whoa, but is The Animatrix art or commerce?

Forthcoming is an impressive collection of expensive junk amassed for a movie The New York Timespredicted four years ago had "big prospects as a cult classic," most notably a video game (Enter the Matrix, its very title a command to reach into your back pocket) and a DVD collection of nine short films intended to flesh out The Matrix (The Animatrix, and just where's the genius working on The Claymatrixstarring Davy and Goliath?). The former, ominously featuring two hours of new footage starring Jada Pinkett Smith, will be released the same day as The Matrix Reloaded; beware any video game touting its cinematics, which inevitably slow game play to a bullet-time crawl. The latter isn't out till June 3, though several of its shorts have been streaming at www.theanimatrix.com for months. Dude, if you are reading this, you knowyou've downloaded 'em all.

The DVD's strictly fanboy stuff, all backstory and sidestory irrelevant to the filmgoer who's not living with Mom; with an action movie as pretentious and talktalktalky as Reloaded, the last thing you need is morenonsensical exposition to confuse you. Not surprisingly, the collection--fashioned by top-notch anime practitioners inspired by Matrixcreators Larry and Andy Wachowski, would-be philosophers raised on comic books--is quite pleasant to look at, especially Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe's "A Detective Story," featuring Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity, and Takeshi Koike's "World Record," which resembles something comic-book legend Jack Kirby might have done for Nike. But what's visually entertaining is narratively engaging only to the audience member who wants to sit through Reloadedand annoy his pals with useless nuggets of trivia. (Chief among them is the identity of the kid who hounds Keanu Reeves early during Reloaded; according to one short, appropriately titled "The Kid," he was rescued from the Matrix by Neo, who...aw, look at me getting all dorked up in this piece. Forget it.)

"Final Flight of the Osiris" bridges the 1999 original and the first of its two sequels; it lays out the plot of Reloaded, detailing the upcoming robot-squid invasion of the human city of Zion. Most annoying is the two-part "The Second Renaissance," written by the Wachowskis and directed by Mahiro Maeda, which takes 25 minutes to tell you what the first film detailed in three: how humans built the very machines that enslaved them, a story as common in science fiction as the rocket ship. And, truth told, there's nothing less exciting than seeing an animated version of a live-action film; like, you knowhow they did it in the cartoon.

 
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