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Film Review: The Animatrix
The Animatrix is a movie that's beautiful, easy to get immersed in, and thrilling. I think it surpasses the original Matrix trilogy in terms of creativity. With animation, they were more unlimited with the kinds of stories they could create, and how real they could make the Matrix seem.
The Animatrix is broken up into several animated shorts, all tied together by the theme of taking place in the world of the Matrix. There is the story of man's last hope in "Final Flight of the Osiris". "The Second Renaissance" tells about how the Matrix was born from a gripping war between mankind and man-made machines. A few other stories following are independent, tales of people who become aware of the Matrix or who deal in some way with their relationship to it. Then we end with the curious story of a machine being manipulated by humans into joining the humans' side. Is this the start of a new era in which man and machine will no longer be enemies?
The Matrix trilogy could be a whole philosophy class. It not only focuses on the relationship between Man and Machine, but it questions the nature of reality, the nature of existence. It makes me think of Plato's allegory of the cave. In that, the basic idea is that if people had lived their whole lives shackled to the wall of a cave, only ever seeing shadows on that wall, they would think that the shadows were reality. This gets into epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge. Epistemology asks questions like how would we know our reality was truer than the shadows of reality the people saw in the cave? What is real knowledge and what is not?
The Matrix also touches on the nature of human existence. French philosopher Rene Descartes was famous for his phrase, "I think, therefore I am.". This means that, since one cannot be sure of whether anything exists outside of the mind that is there to perceive and reflect upon its existence, only one's mind is sure to actually exist. That's where the thrills of the Matrix set in, because it makes one doubt one's mind on top of doubting reality. If the mind can be fooled by sufficiently advanced artificial imagery, is anything provably real?
The "Second Renaissance" in The Animatrix is my favorite part of it, because it tells how mankind, as the narrator says, "became the architect of his own demise". It touches on how oppressing sentient life and denying them rights will only lead to them believing it is ok to do the same to us if they are able to battle us and win. It shows about how we were greedy, merciless, and arrogant, sure of our superiority to the machines simply because we had built them. But as the machine-led colony in the Arabian desert, 01, became more affluent and powerful, mankind first attacked it with economic sanctions, then with war. This points to the sad fact that human nature is too often prone to war, jealousy, and hysteria. Many of the war and rioting scenes in the movie were all too grimly familiar from things we regularly see in the news, it was a true reflection of real political tragedy upon tragedy.
I'm somewhat in love with this movie. I'd call it a kind of cyber-punk Fantasia, an epic fantasy playground with a dark sci-fi underlying reality. It's a movie that is so much more than epic, beautiful looking fight sequences, but those are there in spades. It's a movie that manages to be philosophical and political without being boring, obvious, or preachy about it. It explores the themes relevant to the genre and trilogy, but it doesn't burden the new stories excessively by forcing them all to be heavily tied in with the original trilogy, just with the general themes surrounding the Matrix.
Interestingly, for a movie about artificial reality, nothing about it feels that artificial in the movie, it feels like we really get to know various living,breathing people and understand their struggles. Unlike other Matrix movies, where the robots are just a faceless onslaught of attacking monsters, this one goes back in time and into the mind of a machine in the present to show the similarities between man and machine and how machines have the power to be beneficial allies to humans instead of their enemies. I really liked that about it. I'd recommend this to anyone, but especially to fans of the Matrix trilogy.
The Animatrix is a spectacular series of animated stories having to do with the Matrix. My favorite part is "The Second Renaissance", which deals with the history of how the machines were built and oppressed by man as they gained budding sentience and self-awareness. Mankind attempted to destroy them when they became jealous and fearful, and they fought back. Mankind lost a long war for its life, and became enslaved in the Matrix, plugged into machines, enchanted in the mind by a fake reality while their bodies were being used as an energy source. The massive scale of this conflict and resulting enslavement was jarring to look at. But, like other Matrix movies, The Animatrix is a movie that has hope for mankind to break free from its oppressed state. What this takes in the universe of the Matrix is sensitivity, a questioning nature. Are you brave enough to question things in your own reality?