We were at the ‘World Sneak Preview’ of Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed at the ICA tonight. Complimentary sake and sushi, a lovingly-prepared but very silly flipchart presentation from the producer about the politics of the world in which it is set, then the film. The technique is impressive — the city of Olympus is beautifully rendered, the battle set-pieces are fluidly choreographed and edited, the whole nicely balancing genre conventions and virtuoso hyper-realism. Although the first few minutes owe too much to The Matrix-meets-Avalon, and in parts (to my eye) the human characters suffer somewhat from traditional anime styling, Appleseed is something genuinely new in feature-length animation: detail everywhere, lovingly rendered, with sinuous tracking and editing.
Less successfully, the film contains way too much exposition (even without the flipchart!), in the style of some Russian epic from the 60s — I’ll be surprised if it makes it to American multiplexes without some trimming down. The music supervision also jarred: it was nice to see Basement Jaxx turning up for the premiere, but their music — and that of Oakenfold and the rest — on the soundtrack made no sense thematically or emotionally, and seemed to be just a hook for an international audience.
But if you can ignore the turgid moralising — which just slows down the action — the 3D animation and design (the mecha are great, while the Mobile Fortresses out-scale any city-stomping weapons platform I can remember) is stunning. All the big fast things were perfect. Go see it at a big cinema with decent Dolby when it’s on release next month, or get it on DVD (evidently scheduled for July) and turn up the sub-woofer.