Appleseed Ex Machina—Warner Bros. (Blu-ray)
In 2004 Appleseed was released as a groundbreaking CG animation feature. The CG animation style was cutting edge and the action of the film was a lot of fun. While I enjoyed that film I thought the overall story was a bit lacking. This follow up is a step up in almost every department. The new story is a lot better in my opinion, but the film does remind me of a video game at times. The scope is larger, but the way the action progresses and some of the dialogue make me feel like I'm watching cut scenes from a game more than a full length feature every once in awhile. The animation has been supercharged since the first release. The characters and animation in general is far more dimensional and the attention to detail is incredible. Fans of anime in general will definitely want to check this one out.
This is one of the more disappointing animation releases I've seen on HD so far. The source material looks like it may have been video based to begin with. I'm not positive about this as I cannot find any technical details about the source, but most of the artifacts on screen lead me to believe this 24p presentation was not 24fps to begin with. The image has a lot of line twitter and diagonal line jaggies throughout. This is usually an issue when proper video processing is not applied to a video based source. The detail also wavers significantly throughout with some sequences looking blatantly out of focus, which is distracting to say the least. Colors are muted compared to most of the CG animation we see, but in line with what the first film looked like. Banding was evident quite a bit and I spotted some slight blocking from time to time. Compared to most of the animation we've been seeing in HD I think most would be pretty disappointed in the quality of this presentation. The animation style is incredible, as are the character models, but the playback could use some definite improvement.
I think a lot of people were pretty disappointed when Warner released the final technical specs for this one. Originally I'd seen some info saying this would have a full lossless audio soundtrack, but Warner has yet again failed to deliver a next generation soundtrack. Their consistency on this is downright frustrating. The packaging is also mislabeled. It lists a stereo soundtrack for the original Japanese dub but the included soundtrack is actually a 5.1 mix. The English dub is on the cheesy side so I would highly recommend sticking with the Japanese soundtrack with English subs. The voice work is the only difference, but if you're like me it makes all the difference in the world. Dynamics are excellent and the sound design was a lot of fun. Deep bass is a constant participant in the mix and I was impressed with the open soundstage and spatial mix. Surround use is aggressive and sidewall imaging is more in line with what we've seen from the better high resolution mixes out there. The film's score is also quite effective with nice use of discrete touches in all channels.
Extras include a feature commentary and a few production features. I liked the production feature that delves into animating the film. It shows a lot of comparisons to the animation style of the first film and what went into this sequel. There is also a feature on the history of this franchise including the much older animated feature.
I enjoyed this sequel far more than the original film, which is a rarity. The animation took a big step up and the story was a lot more satisfying. The video presentation could use some work though and I continue to be disappointed by Warner in their back and forth stance in audio presentation. For a company that is doing everything it can to bring a next generation experience to consumers, they need to start supporting next generation features more consistently.