HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Appleseed Alpha
HTS Overall Score:81
Animation has certainly come a long way since the original “Appleseed” films. In 1988, it was mostly hand drawn, but with the 2004 release, it was fully computer animated. Back in those days, CGI was mainly a novelty and really didn’t feel as good as good old-fashioned hand drawn animation, especially when it was used EXCLUSIVELY instead of complimenting hand drawn art like so many Anime had succeeded in doing. The motion was off, the CGI looked blocky, and there was just something “off” to the artwork. Even in “Appleseed Ex Machina” in 2007, the CGI had its flaws. With “Appleseed Alpha,” I have to say CGI has leapt forward in quality to the point that it can almost pass for realism, especially aided with modern motion capture. Being a prequel to the previous 3 films and the Anime series, “Appleseed Alpha” has the advantage of being able to lay the groundwork for new-time viewers as well as still have that same “feel” that will welcome back long-time viewers. It’s not as great and epic as the first films, but they did a good job in keeping a self-contained origins story that will appeal to new and old alike.
The story starts out when human Duenan (Luci Christian) and her Cyborg partner Briareos (David Mantranga) are still working as hired muscle for Two Horns (Wendel Calvert), a mob boss for the now destroyed city of New York. Years after a world war that has completely devastated mankind, there is only a fraction of the Earth’s population left and it’s your basic post-apocalyptic world. Technology from the past is lost and much of the population struggles to use the scraps that were left behind. Briareos is one of the oldest and best combat cyborgs in existence, but his power source has been damaged and he’s nowhere near his full capacity. In a “final” mission for Two Horns, Duenan and Briareous run across a couple of fugitives in the form of a young girl named Iris (Brina Palencia) and semi cyborg by the name of Olson (Adam Gibbs). Terrified and desperate, the two fugitives prey on the sympathy of our two heroes in an effort to complete their mission. The only problem: they’re being tracked by a crew of highly trained mercenaries who want Iris for the mission she’s keeping a secret.
Hunted and tracked to a standoff, Duenan and Briareos watch as Iris is captured by the mercs and realize that sometimes hope is a good thing. Pulling out all the stops, they hunt down and find their prey along with Iris, only to find out that her mission was a lot bigger than she had let on. It seems that a weapon of mass destruction, a relic from the war that was cutting edge, is the target and it has a pre-programmed mission that even the Mercs don’t know about. To keep the world from being destroyed a second time, Duenan, Briarieos and Two horns have to team up to rescue Iris and complete her mission.
“Alpha” is a fun little animated romp that gives us a look into the past, before they became cops in the fabled city of Olympus, and gives us a glimpse at some of the more desolate regions in this bleak future. The animation is top notch and cutting edge, giving us a fluidity and precision that hasn’t been seen in past installments. The fight scenes look incredible and the motion capture ability is flawless, at times making it hard to realize you’re watching digital animation instead of real life people. The funny thing is that it makes the “future” installments (or previous films really) look pedestrian in comparison, which is usually the case with prequels that come years after the original. This still doesn’t take away from the fact that “Alpha” is a fun little romp with a lot to offer, in the way of story. It keeps itself pretty well contained and doesn’t rely too much on previous knowledge of the characters. The personalities and style of the other films are still there for fans of the original movies and the TV series from a few years ago, but newcomers will have no problem keeping up, as the origins of the characters don’t rely on a lot of previous knowledge and the mission at hand is a time in to the other movies, giving them an introduction that allows them to seamlessly go from here into the other movies without feeling like they’re missing something.
While the story is certainly entertaining, it does have its flaws, as the clichés present in Anime and animated stories pop up. Iris is a bit overacted, and her facial animation is the weak point in the story. Had they given a bit more time together before being kidnapped by the Mercs I could have understood Briareos’ compulsion to rescue her, but it was only one night of contact and he was all gung ho to rescue her, even though HE is the skeptic of the pair. I felt a bit more interaction and time getting to know Iris and Olson would have helped a lot in terms of creating an emotional bond that would have felt relevant to the story. On the up side, the relationship between Briareos and Duenan is very nicely done, giving us a little glimpse into the odd relationship that borders on romance between the Cyborg and the girl. Something that will be explored more heavily in the series “Appleseed XIII”. Still the film is a lot of fun and serves as a great standalone adventure that can be seen as an introduction to the rest of the series, or seen on its own merits for fans of great animation.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence throughout, and a sexual reference
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=22954[/img]“Oooooooooooooooooo shiny!” is all I can say after watching this stunning 1.78:1 AVC transfer. Sony knows how to do their day and date titles (I have very little poor to ever say about their catalog releases), and here is no different. “Appleseed Alpha” is given an incredible encode with some serious bitrate to back it up. The animation is flawless and the transfer is ALMOST 100% perfect. The colors pop off the screen as the rich reds, greens and blues of the Cyborg bodies glimmer in the sunlight and the blues sky looks almost photorealistic. Detail is off the charts as you can see every animated strand of hair on Duenan’s head and the nicely detailed cybernetic parts on Briareos’ body shift and turn as he moves. Black levels are very very good and show no abnormalities that I can pick up. There are no jaggies or poorly connected lines to be seen anywhere and the ONLY complaint I can muster to bring this movie down from a perfect 5/5 is some intermittent banding. It’s not a lot, but you can notice it if you look in the dark underground opening scene and in the clouds of the brightly lit sky during the rest of the film. It’s not imposing or annoying, but it’s JUST enough that I can’t give a perfect score to the transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=22962[/img]Sony has gone above and beyond by providing not one, but THREE lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks for us to enjoy. Most of the time, the primary English track is the only lossless one and people who view in different languages have to make due with lossy DTS or Dolby Digital tracks, but here we have an English, German and French set of lossless tracks that all are pretty similar. Being that the movie is a heavily action oriented film, the aggressive level of the DTS-HD MA track is certainly going to satisfy all your home theater nuts. The dialogue is nice and crisp, with nothing to complain about and the dynamic range is excellent. Now the real fun comes with the heavy surround usage and bombastic LFE. Those surrounds are used extensively and, much to my pleasure, extremely detailed. You can hear the sounds of individual bullets plinking off of different surfaces and each surface reflecting a different tonal quality to them so you can actually WHAT is being hit by the sound. LFE is pounding and impressive as Briareos sniper rifle pushes you back in your seat with each shell shot. The helos and the score all reverberate with that same powerful throb and gives the track a very weighty feel. The LFE is powerful and precise, but never goes into the overbearing stage, kept well under control, but still feels like a lion, taught and powerful, only unleashing its true strength when it goes in for the kill. Simply beautiful, I can’t complain about the track in any way besides MAYBE I could have done with a little more LFE in one or two spots (minor complaints, and really only because I’m being a bit OCD).
• Filmmakers Commentary
• 11 part Documentary
“Appleseed Alpha” isn’t a fantastic piece of storytelling, but it’s a lot of fun and really showcases just how excellent modern CGI animation has gotten. From the trailer, I had a friend tell me that it looked like a cut scene from a modern video game, but after viewing I have to say that the animation is better than any video cut scene I have ever seen. I wanted to see it again just so I could see the fight scene between Briareos and Nyx again, a great highlight of the movies. Add that to the fact that the transfer is top notch and the audio will blow you away, this is definitely a watch for fans of animated movies, and as an “Appleseed” fan myself, it’s a must buy for fans of the series and previous movies.
Starring: Luci Christian, David Matranga, Brina Palencia
Directed by: Shinji Aramaki
Written by: Marianne Krawczyk,
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH, FRENCH, German: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Blu-ray Release Date: July 22nd, 2014
Buy Appleseed Alpha Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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