Appleseed Alpha (2014)

With the best will in the world, whatever one of them is dodging is going to kill the other.
With the best will in the world, whatever one of them is dodging is going to kill the other.

“To find Olympus, they must fight to survive.”

Directed by Shinji Aramaki
Starring Luci Christian, David Matranga and Wendel Calvert (English language version)

Briareos (Matranga) and Deunan (Christian) are mercenaries in a post-Apocalyptic New York. She’s human, he’s a cyborg; they are apparently an item, although frankly it’s never explored in much depth. They’re partners, and I guess that’s what counts. They’re working off debts to a crime boss named Two-Horns (Calvert), a cyborg with horns, and dreaming of finding their way to the fabled utopia of Olympus, where… Umm…

Okay, they’re never entirely clear on that. I guess they expect it to be shiny, with clean walls and clothes that cover your abs.

They hook up with Olson and Iris, a cyborg and a bioroid (clone cyborg, I think) on a mission, and decide to help them, because… Olympus? Anyway, they’re being pursued by a robot (they say cyborg) named Talos, who wants to control the superweapon they’ve been sent to destroy because, umm… power, I guess? The superweapon turns out to be a supertank/walking bomb, so the reuse value and thus the ultimate return is pretty limited.

Appleseed - Talos
War machines everywhere. King in trouble. Talos, not a robot.

They blow it up and destroy the bad guys. Yay! Only Olson is killed and Iris sacrifices herself, and Deunan is sad because they bonded so much in their twenty minutes of non-shooting-things shared screentime.

Then the Olympian officer Iris was modeled after decides that saying thank you by picking up Deunan and Briareos and bringing them to Olympus would be a bad move, because they can do more good walking the Earth and being ‘appleseeds’, bringing hope and inspiring others to look for Olympus, and presumably be kept out for the same bullshit reason.

What’s wrong with it?

You realise, right, that an appleseed doesn’t do shit until it stops somewhere? Your title is bullshit.

Appleseed Alpha is a reboot of two films based on the OVA of a Manga, and it fails to perform one of the key functions of a reboot, leaning on a certain basic understanding of the setting. It mostly works on its own in terms of setting, as vague as Olympus is, but the characters aren’t much more than sketches if you don’t already know who they’re pictures of.

The spider-tank-fortress-bomb is… a little perplexing. It’s supposed to be the weapon to end all weapons, but its default setting is to explode.

Talos’ lieutenant is a ‘cyborg’ called Nyx. A deadly, military machine… with boobies!

Practical, military lines.
Practical, military lines.

Two Horns is an irritating chucklehead with complete plot immunity. I think he’s supposed to be charming.

The ruins of New York appear to host two mercenaries and some crime gangs and… no-one else. Given the scale of the criminal organisations, it’s hard to see how they subsist without a significant civic body to exploit.

What’s right with it?

The animation is spectacular. It’s on much the same level as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but now that level of animation is appearing in direct digital release movies.

How bad is it really?

Maybe it’s just me and anime, but I just don’t get it; this film in particular, I mean. While the animation and action set-pieces are amazing, the story hangs on the interactions and relationships of characters with so little definition that it’s hard to give a crap.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The action scenes are really pretty good, although there is no singular standout.

What’s up with…?

  • Cy-boobs? Talos and Nyx are bascially cyborg supremacists, so heavily augmented as to be as near to robot as makes no odds, yet Nyx has breasts. What the fuck?
  • The post-apocalyptic mafia? Crime is hard to make a living from when there is no law.

Ratings

Production values – Man, it’s a bit crazy how pervasive this level of computer animation has become. It’s beautiful, if still a little soulless. 4
Dialogue and performances – The performers are serious voice actors, and do a great job, but the script is nothing outstanding. Now, in fairness, that could be a translation issue; the film is a Japanese-American production and it’s not clear if it was written in one and then translated to the other. Either way, it’s pretty generic. 11
Plot and execution – The plot is simple, but Two-Horns is a walking digression and the character relationships fall flat. 12
Randomness – The randomness is generally low, but the reliance on knowledge of the previous incarnations of Appleseed score a few points. 6
Waste of potential – The Appleseed manga is noted for its depth and subtexts. Appleseed Alpha is basically an extended fight scene, so… yeah, it feels that they could have done more. 15

Overall 48%

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