Not sure how many of you even know there was a thing called The Animatrix. It was a collection of animated short stories that either pertained to the main story of the trilogy, or were simply supplemental. I loved it, and I loved all the music used in it. So much so, in fact, that I bought or downloaded albums from most of the artists on it. Most of it is underground electronic music; some of it jazzy and downtempo, some of it more dark and uptempo. Anyway, watch The Animatrix, or listen to the album, or both. Great stuff all around.
The Animatrix (アニマトリックス Animatorikkusu?) is a 2003 American-Japanese-Australian best-selling direct-to-video anthology film based on The Matrix trilogy produced by The Wachowskis, who wrote and directed the trilogy. The film is a compilation of nine animated short films, including four written by the Wachowskis. It details the backstory of the Matrix universe, including the original war between man and machines which led to the creation of the Matrix.
The plot-summaries of the shorts are listed below in the order that they run in the DVD release, which is not the chronological order. Chronologically, the order would be:
- “The Second Renaissance” – an electronic library entry which appears to serve a world after the Matrix movie timeline. It describes history generations before the original film, The Matrix, relating how humans built artificially intelligent Machines, the apocalyptic war between the two, ending with the Machines enslaving the human race and the initial creation of The Matrix virtual reality.
- “A Detective Story” – a stand-alone story in which the character Trinity appears, but independently of any other characters. Because Trinity is present it takes place at least within several years of the films, and though it is not made clear within the anime if it takes place before or after Trinity met Neo in the original film, another official source places it before the events of The Matrix.
- “Kid’s Story” – set during the six-month gap between the events of the first and second films, after Neo joins the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar in freeing other humans from the Matrix. Its events are briefly alluded to in dialogue at the beginning of The Matrix Reloaded.
- “Final Flight of the Osiris” – takes place directly before The Matrix Reloaded, as the hovercraft Osiris stumbles upon the Sentinel army digging to Zion. At the beginning ofThe Matrix Reloaded, Niobe mentions that their reconnaissance photos of the Machine army were transmitted from the Osiris.
The other four shorts (“Program”, “World Record”, “Beyond”, and “Matriculated”) are independent of the events of any other installment. While they generically deal with the virtual reality of the Matrix, and the Zion rebels, conceivably they could take place at any point in the generations-long struggle between the human rebels and the Machines running the Matrix.
“Final Flight of the Osiris”
“Final Flight of the Osiris” was written by The Wachowskis and directed by Andy Jones, with CG-animation production and design bySquare Pictures, this segment is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for “Sci-Fi Violence, Sensuality and Language”. The short is a direct prequel leading into the events of The Matrix Reloaded.
Captain Thadeus (Kevin Michael Richardson) and Jue (Pamela Adlon) engage in a blindfolded sword fight in a virtual-reality dojo. With each slice of their swords, they remove another piece of each other’s clothing. Immediately after cutting the other down to their underwear, they lift their blindfolds to peek at the other. As the two are about to kiss, they are interrupted by an alarm and the simulation ends.
In the next scene, the ship Osiris is headed for Junction 21 when Robbie (Tom Kenny), the operator, picks up an army of Sentinels on his HR scans. The ship flees into an uncharted tunnel, where it encounters a smaller group of Sentinels patrolling the area. The crew members man the onboard guns and destroy the patrol. The ship then emerges on the surface, four kilometers directly above Zion and close to the Sentinel army. There, the crew members see that the Machines are using gigantic drills to tunnel their way down to Zion. The Sentinel army soon detects the Osiris and pursues the ship.
Thadeus decides Zion must be warned, and his shipmate Jue volunteers to broadcast herself into the Matrix to deliver the warning while the ship is doggedly pursued. Jue and Thadeus admit to peeking at each other in the VR simulation. Entering the Matrix on a high rooftop, Jue jumps off and acrobatically makes her way down through power poles between two buildings. When she lands in the alley below, a ripple effect is created by her impact. She drops off a package into a mail box; the package sets the prologue for the video game Enter the Matrix. She attempts to contact Thadeus via a cell phone as the Osiris is overcome by Sentinels and crashes. The Sentinels tear their way into the ship. At the time of the call, Thadeus is making a last stand to hold off the Sentinels. Shortly after Jue says “Thadeus” over her cell phone, the Osiris explodes, destroying many of the pursuing Sentinels. In the Matrix, Jue falls to the ground, dead, her body having been destroyed on the ship.
“The Second Renaissance Part I”
“The Second Renaissance” is a two-part film written and directed by Mahiro Maeda. He used Bits and Pieces of Information written byThe Wachowskis as a prequel to the series as a base for the first part.
In the early-to-mid twenty-first century, humanity successfully develops Artificial intelligence, and soon builds an entire race of sentient AI robots to serve them. Many of these robots are domestic servants meant to interact with humans, so they are built in “man’s own image” (a humanoid form). With increasing numbers of people released from all labor, the human population has become lazy, arrogant, and corrupt. Despite this, the machines were content with serving humanity and, as the narrator states, “for a time, it [the status quo] was good”. This phrase is a reference to one of the most famous phrases of Genesis, consistent with the Biblical references seen throughout the original Matrix films, and is one of numerous references to Genesis in particular present in “Second Renaissance”.
The relationship between humans and machines changes in the year 2090, when a domestic android is threatened by its owner. The android, named B1-66ER, then kills the owner, his pets, and a mechanic instructed to deactivate the robot. This murder is the first incident of an artificially intelligent machine killing a human. B1-66ER is arrested and put on trial, but justifies the crime as self-defense, stating that it “did not want to die”. During the trial scene, there is a voice-over of Clarence Darrow (the defense attorney) quoting a famous line from the Dred Scott v. Sandford case in 1856 in his closing statement, which implicitly ruled that African Americans were not entitled to citizenship under United States law. Using this as a precedent, the prosecution argues that machines are not entitled to the same rights as human beings, and specifically that human beings have a right to destroy their property, while the defense urges the listener not to repeat history, and to judge B1-66ER as a human and not a machine (a longer version of Darrow’s closing statement can be read in the comic Bits and Pieces of Information from The Matrix Comics Volume 1).
“We think they are not, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings…
B1-66ER loses the court case and is destroyed. Across the industrialized world, mass civil disturbances erupt when robots and their human sympathizers rise in protest. World leaders fear a robot rebellion, and governments across the planet initiate a major program to destroy all humanoid machines. Some robots escape destruction, however, because humans still want or need them to produce things. The surviving robots leave in a mass exodus and build their own new nation in the desert of the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, (which is noted as the “cradle of human civilization”). They name their new nation Zero One (or “01”, the numerals used in binarynotation). Zero One prospers, and the machines begin to produce efficient, highly advanced artificial intelligence that finds itself in all facets of global consumer products, which further bolsters the fledgling nation’s economy, while the economies of human nations suffer severely.
The United Nations Security Council calls an emergency economic summit at UN headquarters in New York City, resulting in UN delegates approving of a global economic blockade of Zero One. Zero One sends two ambassadors to the U.N. to request the admission of their state to the United Nations, to peacefully solve the crisis, but their application is rejected. However, it is narrated, this would not be the last time the machines would take the floor there.
“The Second Renaissance Part II”
United Nations aircraft unleash a massive nuclear bombardment on Zero One, devastating the nation, but failing to wipe out the robotic race, as the robots were invulnerable to the heat and radiation of such weapons. The robots retaliate by declaring war on the rest of the planet, and their armies advance in all directions. The human nations are hampered by the fact that so much of their industrial base had already become reliant upon Zero One, and one by one, mankind surrendered each of its territories. As the machines advance into Eastern Europe, the desperate humans seek a final solution: “Operation Dark Storm”, which covers the sky in a shroud of nanites, blocking out the Sun to deprive the machines of their primary energy source. The human armies simultaneously launch a ground offensive against the robots. Heavy losses are suffered by both sides, but the Machines gradually gain the upper hand.
Legions of a new model of machine, no longer in humanoid form and appearing more like the insectoid or cephalopod-like Sentinels and others of the Matrix films, overrun the human armies. This coincides with the destruction of original man-made robots at the hands of human forces and, as a result, the further dehumanization of the rapidly emerging machine collective. As the machine armies swarm across the human defenses, the United Nations, in desperation, fires nuclear missiles directly at the machine armies, vaporizing their own troops in the process. The machines eventually unleash lethal biological weapons which further ravage humanity, and when the humans are defeated, the machines make up for the lack of solar power by using the bioelectric, thermal and kinetic energies of the human body, forging a new, symbiotic relationship between the two adversaries. These start out as massive hovering artillery robots powered by human bodies kept in pods, but in time this technology is adapted to make the massive power plants seen in The Matrixfilms.
Eventually brought to its knees by the might of the machines, the U.N. signs an armistice with them. However, after the machines’ representative to the U.N. signs the treaty, it detonates a nuclear bomb in the meeting chamber, killing the assembled leaders and destroying New York City, one of the few remaining human settlements, and ending the war.
To keep their prisoners sedated, the machines create the computer-generated virtual reality of the Matrix, by feeding the virtual world into the prisoners’ brains, starting with the first prototype Matrix.
“Kid’s Story” was written by The Wachowskis and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, with animations by Kazuto Nakazawa and production design by Studio 4°C, Tokyo. It is the only one of the animated shorts contained in The Animatrix in which Neo appears. The scene takes place during the six-month gap between The Matrix and The Matrix: Reloaded, during which time Neo has joined the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar and is helping the rebels to free other humans from the Matrix. Kid (Clayton Watson) is a disaffected teenager who feels there is something wrong with the world, frequenting hacker chat rooms on the internet and wondering if he is alone. In school, he absent-mindendly scribbles “Neo lives” in his notebook. One day he receives a personal invitation from Neo (Keanu Reeves) to escape the Matrix (much as Morpheus invited Neo himself to escape it). The following day, he receives a call from Neo on his cell phone, and is chased through his high school by a band of Agents, before ultimately being cornered on the roof. He asserts his faith in Neo, and throws himself from the roof, whereupon the other characters are shown holding his funeral. The scene fades up from black as the Kid awakens in the real world to see Neo and Trinity watching over him. They remark that he has achieved “self substantiation” (removing oneself from the Matrix without external aid), which was considered impossible. In both the scene itself and The Matrix Reloaded, however, the Kid seems to believe it was Neo’s actions, not his own, that saved him.
Self-substantiation is never thoroughly discussed in any part of the series. Morpheus speaks of the founder of Zion who freed himself, presumably without external help. However, this was revealed to be a ruse by the machines. Kid’s Story and World Record both heavily hint at this being a lie, as the viewer wonders how a man being awoken from one of those pods, apparently helpless, could somehow build and start a city, though clearly it suggests that it’s possible.
“Program” was written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. The character designs were done by Yutaka Minowa. It follows the protagonist, “Cis” (Hedy Burress), who is engaged in her “favorite simulation”: a battle program set in feudal Japan. After successfully eliminating an attacking enemy cavalry, a lone samurai appears whom Cis recognizes as “Duo” (Phil LaMarr). “Cis” made her first appearance as an image in The Matrix Revisited.
Initially, the two duel as allies, testing one another’s fighting abilities. During the course of their duel, Duo briefly disarms Cis. He questions her concentration and wonders whether she regrets taking the Red Pill that took them out of the “peaceful life of the virtual world”. They continue fighting until she finally overpowers Duo and is poised for the ‘kill’. It is at this point that Duo states that he has “something to say”. She sarcastically assumes that he wants to propose [marriage]; but instead he admits a desire to return to the Matrix; incredulous, Cis nevertheless responds that doing so is impossible as ‘the truth’ is already known to them, forbidding their re-integration. Duo reasons that reality is harsh and that he is tired of it. He adds that the Machines can make the both of them forget the truth.
Duo then states that he has disabled or killed the other crewmembers and contacted the Machines. He asks Cis to return with him to the Matrix, but she continues to refuse. As Duo becomes more aggressive in his arguments for returning, Cis attempts to escape while simultaneously warding off his attacks. Becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the situation, Cis requests an operator in order to exit the simulation. Duo tells her that no one can hear her and reiterates that it “is already done…[the machines] are on their way”. Thereafter their fighting becomes much more serious and forceful as they move from rooftop to rooftop.
Duo, in a flying leap, attacks her from above with his sword. As the blade comes towards her, Cis, standing her ground, concentrates and halts its forward motion inches from her face and breaks it. She takes the broken end of the blade and thrusts it into Duo. Duo states his love for her as he dies.
Suddenly, she wakes from the program and discovers that the encounter with Duo was a test program devised for training purposes. A man named “Kaiser” (John DiMaggio) unsuccessfully assures her that she acted appropriately during the test and met the test’s targets. Clearly upset, she punches him in the face and walks away. He remarks that “aside from that last part”, she passed the test.
“World Record” was created by Madhouse and directed by Takeshi Koike, with a screenplay by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. The beginning of this short includes a short narration from the Instructor (implying that this short is a Zion Archive file) explaining details behind the discovery of the Matrix by “plugged-in” humans. Only exceptional humans tend to become aware of the Matrix, who have “a rare degree of intuition, sensitivity, and a questioning nature”, all qualities which are used to identify inconsistencies in the Matrix. This is not without exceptions, given that “Some attain this wisdom through wholly different means.”
The story is about Dan Davis, a track athlete, who is competing in the 100m in the Summer Olympic Games. He has set a world record time of 8.99 seconds, but his subsequent gold medal was revoked for drug use. He decides to compete again and break his own record to “prove them wrong.” Despite support from his father and a young reporter, Dan’s trainer tells him that he is physically unfit to race and that pushing himself too hard will cause a career-ending injury. Dan is adamant on racing.
On the day of the race, he is monitored by four agents located in the stadium. The race begins and Dan starts off strong. However, the muscles in his leg violently rupture, putting him at a setback and scaring many of the people in the stands. Through strong willpower, Dan ignores the injury and runs much faster than he did before, easily passing the other athletes. Before he can cross the finish line, three of the agents possess the three closest runners and try and stop him, but are unable to catch up to him.
Dan’s massive burst of energy in the Matrix causes his real-world counterpart (the Dan in the power-station pods) to rip apart the plug connecting him to the Matrix, causing him to see the real world through his pod. A Sentinel restrains him back in his pod and violently shocks him with electrified restraints.
Dan’s mind is thrown back into the Matrix, but his body is exhausted from the race and what he has just seen, causing him to tumble to the ground at high speeds. Despite this, he easily wins the race and breaks his original time of 8.99 seconds with a time of 8.72 seconds.
The next scene shows a crippled Dan being wheeled through a hospital. A nearby agent calls his other agents to tell them that they erased Dan’s memory of the race and that he will never walk again, nor be an issue for them. However, Dan quietly whispers the word “Free”, angering the agent. Dan then effortlessly stands, breaking the metal screws that bind his restraints to his wheelchair, and takes a few steps before falling down again and being helped up by a nurse.
“Beyond” is written and directed by Kōji Morimoto. It follows a teenage girl, Yoko (Hedy Burress), looking for her cat Yuki. While asking around the neighborhood, indicatively somewhere in Japan, she meets some younger boys. One of them tells her Yuki is inside a “haunted house” and invites her to see it.
The children have stumbled across an amalgamation of anomalies within an old, dilapidated building. They have learned to exploit thisglitch in the Matrix for their own enjoyment, through several areas which seem to defy real-world physics: glass bottles reassemble after being shattered, rain falls from a sunny sky, broken lightbulbs flicker briefly (during which they seem intact), a door which opens into an endless dark void, shadows which do not align with their physical origins, and a dove’s feather that rotates rapidly in place in mid-air. There is a large open space in the middle of the run-down building where they take turns jumping off a high point and falling towards the ground, yet somehow stopping inches before impact. This proves amusing and they do not seem to be bothered by the inherent strangeness of the place.
Throughout the film, brief sequences show that Agents are aware of the problem in the Matrix, and a truck is seen driving toward the site to presumably deal with the problem. It arrives while the children are still playing, and an Agent-led team of “rodent exterminators” moves in to clear everybody out of it. The story ends when Yoko and the others return to the area the next day and find the site has been turned into an unremarkable parking lot. They unsuccessfully attempt to re-create the bizarre occurrences of yesterday and soon go in search of something else to do.
“A Detective Story”
“A Detective Story” is written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, with animation by Kazuto Nakazawa and is a direct prequel to the first film. It follows the story of a down-on-his-luck private detective, Ash (James Arnold Taylor), on what he calls the “case to end all cases”. Ash receives an anonymous phone call to search for a hacker that goes by the alias “Trinity” (Carrie-Anne Moss). Ash traces Trinity and learns that other detectives have failed in the same task before him; one had committed suicide, one had gone missing, and one had gone insane. He then attempts to speak with the insane detective but cannot get anything substantial out of him. This detective is an African American with a thin mustache who shows a resemblance to Walter Mosley‘s detective character ‘Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins‘. This is a possible homage to the character as Mosley’s detective series is set in a similar Noir type setting and there were not many black detectives at the time.
Eventually Ash finds Trinity after deducing that he should communicate using phrases and facts from Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She proposes a meeting, and he successfully finds the location. At the meeting she removes a “bug” from his eye, planted by Agents earlier in an “eye exam dream”. Agents appear and attempt to apprehend Trinity in a shoot-out with her and Ash. While the two fugitives are trying to escape the train, an Agent attempts to take over Ash’s body, forcing Trinity to shoot him in order to prevent the Agent from appearing. Ash is wounded, whereupon he and Trinity bid farewells without malice. Trinity escapes, telling Ash that she thinks he could have handled the truth. Agents enter the car to find Ash, who points his gun at them while looking in the other direction and lighting a cigarette. The Agents turn to Ash who, even though he is armed, will likely die. With this apparent no-win situation, the film ends with Ash’s line (“A case to end all cases”) as his lighter flame goes out.
“Matriculated” was written and directed by Korean American director Peter Chung, widely known for his work on Aeon Flux. The film starts with one of the humans looking out over the sea, watching for incoming machines. The film deals with a group of above-ground human rebels who lure hostile intelligent machines to their laboratory in order to capture them and insert them into a “matrix” of their own design. Within this matrix, the humans attempt to teach the captured machines some of the positive traits of humanity, primarily compassion and empathy. The ultimate goal of this project is to help the intelligent machines develop free will in order to overcome their original “search-and-destroy” programming, rather than reprogramming it by force.
The rebels’ hope is that, once converted of its own volition (a key point discussed in the film), an “enlightened” machine will assist Zionin its struggle against the machine-controlled totalitarianism which currently dominates the Earth. After capturing one of the “runner” robots, the rebels insert the machine into their matrix. The experience of the robot leads it to believe it may have a relationship with one of the female rebels, Alexa (Melinda Clarke), either friendship or something deeper.
However, the rebel group is attacked by the Machines and unplug themselves to defend their headquarters, but they experience what might be considered a Pyrrhic Victory: all the onscreen rebels are killed but the single robot captured in the film successfully ‘reprogrammed’, indicated by the machine’s mechanical eye changing from red to green. The robot plugs the dying Alexa into their matrix with itself, the only two things left surviving. Much to the machine’s dismay, when the rebel realizes she is trapped inside the matrix with the “friendly” robot, she turns horrified and her avatar dissolves screaming as she clutches her head, and the robot exits from the rebels’ matrix to see a motionless Alexa in front of him in the real world.
The film ends with the ‘converted’ robot standing outside, looking out over the sea.
Development of the Animatrix project began when the film series’ writers and directors, The Wachowskis, were in Japan promoting thefirst Matrix film. While in the country, they visited some of the creators of the anime films that had been a strong influence on their work, and decided to collaborate with them.
The Animatrix was conceived and overseen by the Wachowskis, but they only wrote four of the segments themselves, and did not direct any of their animation; most of the project’s technical side was overseen by notable figures from the world of Japanese animation.
The English language version of The Animatrix was directed by Jack Fletcher, who brought on board the project the voice actors who provided the voices for the English version of Square Enix‘s Final Fantasy X, including Matt McKenzie, James Arnold Taylor, John DiMaggio, Tara Strong, Hedy Burress, and Dwight Schultz. The English version also features the voices of Victor Williams (TV’s The King of Queens), Melinda Clarke (TV’s The O.C.), Olivia d’Abo (TV’s The Wonder Years), Pamela Adlon (TV’s King of the Hill), andKevin Michael Richardson of the Xbox game Halo 2, who also plays the voice of the Deus Ex Machina in The Matrix Revolutions.
Four of the films were originally released on the series’ official website; one (Final Flight of the Osiris) was shown in cinemas with the film Dreamcatcher. The others first appeared with the VHS and DVD release of all nine shorts on June 3, 2003. The DVD also includes the following special features:
- A documentary on Japanese animation. The on-screen title is “Scrolls to Screen: A Brief History of Anime,” but in the DVD menu and packaging, and on the series’ official website, it is referred to as “Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime.”
- Seven featurettes with director profiles, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage of each of the films.
- Audio commentaries on World Record, Program, and both parts of The Second Renaissance
- A trailer for the video game Enter the Matrix.
To coincide with the DVD release, a print of the film premiered in June 2003 in New York City at the New York Tokyo Film Festival.
It was broadcast on Adult Swim on April 17, 2004, and has received airplay on Teletoon several months after its American broadcast. In the UK, Final Flight of the Osiris was broadcast on Channel 5 just before the DVD release, along with The Second Renaissance Parts 1 and 2, Kid’s Story and World Record broadcast after the DVD release.
In May 2006, The Animatrix was aired in Latin America by Cartoon Network on Toonami. The Animatrix was also screened in select cinemas around the world for a short period of time, a week or two before the sequel The Matrix Reloaded, as a promotional event.
One day before the release of The Matrix Reloaded on cinemas the Brazilian television channel SBT, which have a contract with Warner Brothers, aired the Final Flight of the Osiris, after airing The Matrix, to promote the movie. Same thing happened on French TV (France 2).
The cinema running order for The Animatrix (at least in Australia) differed from the DVD release, placing the Final Flight of the Osiris last instead of first. The cinema release-order:
- The Second Renaissance, Part I (June 3, 2003)
- The Second Renaissance, Part II (June 7, 2003)
- Kid’s Story (June 14, 2003)
- Program (June 21, 2003)
- World Record (July 5, 2003)
- Beyond (July 12, 2003)
- A Detective Story (August 30, 2003)
- Matriculated (September 20, 2003)
- Final Flight of the Osiris (September 27, 2003)
To coincide with the Blu-ray edition of The Ultimate Matrix Collection, The Animatrix was also be presented for the first time in high definition.
The Animatrix received mostly positive reviews from critics. It has a freshness rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Helen McCarthy in500 Essential Anime Movies stated that “unlike many heavily promoted franchise movies, it justifies its hype”. She praised Maeda’sSecond Renaissance, noting that it “foreshadows the dazzling visual inventiveness of his later Gankutsuou“.