The original Appleseed was a fantastic movie that featured stunning visuals, good action and interesting concepts. I was therefore rather excited to be able to go on another adventure with Deunan and Briareos in Appleseed Ex Machina. So was it a worthwhile journey, and how does the sequel compare with the original? Here are my thoughts.
Besides Deunan and Briareos both returning for more action, this time the film also introduces us to a new and key character, Tereus, who became Deunan’s new partner in the elite task force ES.W.A.T. When a series of mysterious terrorist attacks broke out, the trio went on a mission to investigate. In the process, they found themselves having to deal with their own internal conflicts, while trying to work together to overcome a new and dangerous threat…
On a technical level, the film is simply superb. It looks amazing and sounds terrific, and even surpasses the first film in these aspects. The animation is amongst the most beautiful that I have seen, and is clearly the result of filmmakers spending lots of time, effort and money. The attention to details is incredible, and even the backgrounds are meticulously drawn. The characters also look great, perhaps with the one exception of their hair, which looks more like wigs. Apart from this minor criticism, the characters are life-like, and their facial expressions and body language are impressively drawn and portrayed. The sound effects are also great, with the explosive soundtrack matching the spectacular action scenes perfectly.
With Hong Kong director John Woo acting as the producer, it should come as no surprise that Ex Machina excels in the action department. His influence is easily appreciated in the film. In fact, the movie has John Woo’s signatures written all over it. The acrobatic moves, the firing of bullets by characters in mid-air, and the use of birds in action scenes, could all be found. My favourite action scene is actually the opening sequence with the attack at the cathedral, which is one tense, exciting and entertaining introduction to the movie.
The only thing that has prevented Ex Machina from becoming an instant classic is the lack of a great story line. Themes introduced in the first film, such as the relation between human beings and products of technology, are not expanded upon in this sequel. The idea of relationships between the 3 main characters, i.e. a human, a cyborg and a ‘bioroid’ (a genetically engineered human) is a good one, and it is a shame that this has only been explored superficially. As a result, this subplot is neither very engaging nor really convincing, and in the end, the filmmakers have only managed to interest, but sadly failed to intrigue.
Having said all this, I think fans of good action movies, of works by John Woo, and of the first Appleseed movie should be thrilled by Appleseed Ex Machina. Audience looking for a thought provoking piece of cinema should stay away, but those in the mood for a bit of mindless entertainment need to look no further than this film.