(We start off today's episode with lines of code raining down on the screen which not only has random Japanese hiragana, but also words like Bloated, Pretentious, Heavy Handed, Dated and Artsy, all of this being the Matrix Month card.)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Well, seeing how The Matrix clearly ripped off some of Japan's most famous animes, Japan decided they wanted to steal some of that shit back, hence The Animatrix.
(The title of the film appears, then footage of the shorts follow)
NC (vo): After the success of the first Matrix movie and in-between filming the Matrixsequels, several animators and storytellers, including the Wachowskis, decided to get together and do a series of shorts based on the idea of The Matrix. The result is The Animatrix, an anthology that many claim is actually better than the Matrix films themselves. In many respects, they're kind of right. In others, well, let's just say the subtlety of The Matrix mixed with the subtlety of Japan is anything but...subtle.
NC: So let's take a quick glance at one source material stealing from another source material stealing from another source material. This is The Animatrix.
Final Flight of the Osiris
NC (vo): The first one is The Final Flight of the Osiris, a CG short written by the Wachowskis, and, boy, does it show. Aside from the CGI looking for the most part pretty damn impressive, especially when it comes to human textures, it has all the Wachowski trademarks.
(Several scenes about to be mentioned are shown as they're counted down on a caption of the scene's name and a mark)
NC (vo): Totally pointless action scene: Check. Good looking blands trying to sound important but instead sounding disinterested...
Thaddeus: Go. Go. Go!
NC (vo): Check. Horny sexual issues being explored under the guise of avart garde storytelling: Double check. The story is, the Osiris has discovered a drill that the Machines have built to break into Zion, and they have to get that information to Zion as fast as possible. The Matrix, for some reason, is the only way they could get that information to them...does this technological world hate phones for some reason?...and they all end up dying in the process.
NC: Um...sucks to be them?
NC (vo): It would be nice if they actually let us, oh, I don't know, get to know these people so it'd felt more important when they got axed off. But it's pretty obvious that's not the short's intention. The intention, like anything related to The Matrix, is to be an exercise in new technology and looking cool. And for a short, it does that fine. You don't give a shit about what happens to them, but they look so cool while you're not giving a shit about what happens to them. As a fun little demonstration of cool CGI effects and some neat visuals, it's totally passable.
The Second Renaissance
NC (vo): The next one, however, is anything but short. It's another one written by the Wachowskis, describing the history of how the Matrix came into being. And on the one hand, it looks amazing. Some of the imagery is downright inspired and dripping with beautiful animation. With that said, it still doesn't excuse the fact that it makes little to no sense and it's still deep-fried in pretentious batter. I mean, like, extra-crispy pretentious batter. The story is told through the Zion Archives...which looks like every religion was smashed into a hologram card...where they reveal a past where humanity relied too much on technology. Robots did all the work and mankind just leaned back and relaxed. An interesting idea, when suddenly, these machines with no emotions and thoughts of their own suddenly get emotions and thoughts of their own.
NC: It happens. I think my toaster's looking at me funny.
(He points to a toaster, which has angry eyes looking at him. Back to the short)
NC (vo): This apparently spawns from one of them murdering his owner because he didn't want to be deleted. Of course, if these things were supposed to be programmed with emotions before, it's pretty obvious this would happen a long time ago, but because two popular commentaries are "Life just happens" and "Man equals bad", they decide they do suddenly have feelings now. But mankind, being stupid evil us, decides to destroy them all and doesn't care for their...emotions that may or may not be there programmed in them originally. Oh, the confused-manity. The surviving machines create their own country and...even though they were banished from humanity, somehow still do humanity's work.
NC: You still following this? There's a test later. And I can assure you, I'm gonna fail it.
NC (vo): But, get this, the machines' economy does better, flinging the human economy out of whack. So, again, being big stupid evil us, we just decide to blow them all up, because...man like boom and evil and everything wrong. But the machines survived and decided they had enough, so they begin to enslave mankind. So our big, dumb idiot commentary selves go to the obvious logical conclusion: Destroy the sky. Yeah, because they're solar-operated, this would apparently destroy them all. But even that doesn't work...again, totally not explained why...as the machines finally enslave all of humanity and eventually form the Matrix to feed off of our energy. I guess we suck. Bye!
(The words "The End" is shown as "wah-wah" music plays. We are shown various footage of the short)
NC (vo): So, I'm just gonna come out and say it: The shock value in this is beyond exploited. There's some damn gritty acknowledgements of Nam, the Holocaust, street riots, real crime scenes, and they try to make them as disturbing and gory as possible, desperate to get some sort of emotional reaction. Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against intense imagery. If it's fit and it's deserving, I say go for it. Take us out of our comfort zone. But for a science fiction story, it doesn't really explain the science nor the fiction in any logical sense. We can't get behind the emotion of it, because on top of there being no one to connect with, there's just no rational progression to what's going on. Commentary is supposed to explain why or how something is the way it is, where this seems more focused on getting an emotional response with disturbing imagery, but no reason why. But with that said, it is still something to admire just on its visual ambition. I can totally see someone getting ideas for a stronger project just based on this dramatic layout. But in terms of making any sense or becoming emotionally invested, this is definitely not the place to look.
NC (vo):Kid's Story is the last of the Wachowski-written shorts, and give it credit that it at least attempts to make an emotional connection this time, or at least, feel something resembling an emotional experience.
NC (vo): The next one is my absolute favorite. It starts off with a couple sparring in a training program, when one of them offers the other a way out, a way to return to the Matrix and live a normal life again.
(We see a scene showing Duo attempting to search for Cis in a moving maze)
Duo: What's real doesn't matter. What's important is how we live our lives.
Cis: But we can't go back, Duo. We know the truth now.
Duo: We can forget all of this.
NC (vo): Confused and not knowing what to do, they partake in both a verbal and physical fight, debating what's the right choice and what isn't.
(A scene showing Cis running through the rooftops is shown)
Duo (off-screen): Running away won't change anything!
Cis: You're the one that's running away!
Duo (off-screen): Stop pretending!
NC (vo): This takes up the majority of the short, all leading to a twist ending that I won't give away here, but I personally thought was a great way to finish. This, in my opinion, is what The Matrix should be: Quickly understand these characters, feel their relationship, identify with both sides of their struggle, and both the fighting and visuals match the emotional impact of what they're going through. There's no shock value or forced commentary, it's just watching these two people you sympathize with duke it out through hardship and sacrifice. It's all you need, and it's done to the best of its ability. The artwork compliments it great, the imagination is strong, the fighting's cool, and you're with them every step of the way. What can I say? It's, hands down, my personal favorite.
NC (vo): The next one is pretty well done, too.
NC (vo): Which brings us to Beyond, which is probably my second-favorite out of the series.
A Detective's Story
NC (vo): Next is A Detective's Story, a story about, what else, a detective.
NC (vo): And the last one is definitely a weird one to say the least.
NC: And that's The Animatrix, and is it truly better than the Matrix movies?
(Clips of The Animatrix are shown as NC gives his final thought)
NC (vo): Personally, I think it is. True, it does have some several bloated moments of self-importance, but I think you've kind of come to expect that from The Matrix anyway. The shorts that work really work, and even the ones that don't still have so much artistic ambition and technical wonder that I still recommend checking them out anyway. Visually spectacular with some interesting ideas, if you're looking for a bit more substance for your ani-money, this is not a bad item to spend it on.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it because...