Upon announcement of Giant Robot Week on the site I immediately started scouring my brain for a good robo movie to write about. The first and obvious choice to talk about were Michael Bay’s Transformer movies but in all honesty there isn’t a whole lot to talk about besides the cool explosions and the fact that its entertaining watching giant animated robots beat the snot out of each other. The second movie that came to mind was not necessarily a giant robot film but rather just a couple exciting instances of mech action in an otherwise non robot oriented film. I am obviously referring to James Cameron’s Aliens and more specifically Rippley’s final battle with the alien queen. But everyone has already seen this movie and knows it’s fantastic. The thought occurred to me to write something about the upcoming Alien prequel Prometheus, but at this point I was simply straying too far away from this weeks theme.
After giving up the search for a good robot film to write about I started to browse the IMDb Top 250 for something random to watch before falling asleep when it hit me: The Matrix. While the first film doesn’t have too many robots besides the sentinels, more robots and even mechs start appearing in the later films. Now I know I am not alone in believing that the first film is really the only good one in the trilogy and the other two are rather disappointing. While the universe that the films are set in is fantastic and intriguing The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions fail to build upon the story in a way that holds up to the magnificence of the The Matrix. But there is a hidden gem among this series that often goes unnoticed: The Animatrix.
What it is: The Animatrix is a collection of nine short animated films all building on the story of The Matrix and the battle between man and the machines. Each of the nine stories focuses on events and characters that occur “behind the scenes” of the trilogy ultimately painting more of a back story and further illustrating the severity of the conflict. The stories range from glitches in the system, training simulations and of course the reason I am writing about this collection this week, big robots doing battle.
Why I love it: The Matrix is one of my favorites of all time but I was severely disappointed by the later films. Despite the rest of the trilogy going so poorly The Animatrix provides an installment which I regard as being only slightly lesser than that first film. As mentioned before The Animatrix consists of nine (technically eight since one of the stories is a two parter) stories that all build on different aspects of The Matrix lore and background. Regardless of whether you think the Wachowski brothers should have stopped after the first film or if you absolutely enjoyed the trilogy in its entirety you will be able to appreciate the collection. Because The Animatrix doesn’t touch too much on the happenings on Neo and the Nebuchadnezzar crew we are able see a much bigger picture. While the collection doesn’t directly address what the protagonists from the trilogy are doing its tells stories that when taken into perspective build on the much loved first film by explaining and further expanding certain aspects of the lore as well as serving as a kind of bridge between the later films adhering the trilogy as whole into a tighter knit story.
Each of the nine films is illustrated by a different artist giving an eclectic and varied style to the collection. Where some animated adaptations of beloved franchises often don’t go to well its not the case here. The animation in the collection does the collection more good than harm. The universe and nature of the stories have you questioning whats real and they are constantly blurring the lines between dreams and reality and the medium of the animation works perfectly for capturing that style.
The Animatrix does a great job focusing on several different aspects of the matrix instead of simply taking the easy route of action as the second and third films do. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action and war and violence but it is balanced really well with story and strong characters. As I have said several times now, it does a fantastic job building on the other movies but they are also great stand alone stories.
Ultimately The Animatrix redeemed a series for me which I had otherwise completely shunned. While it isn’t as amazing as the first film it is definitely way way way superior to the other two. Anyone who enjoyed The Matrix should check out The Animatrix. Look for some robot action in Matriculated and The Second Renaissance parts 1 and 2!
For anyone who is interested here is a pretty well done fan-made trailer