This weekend, I watched on Netflix-on-Demand "Appleseed: Ex Machina," (2007) an action-packed anime scifi adventure based on the manga series by Masamune Shirow and produced by John Woo. A definite improvement in both technical achievement and plot than the previous "Appleseed" movie from 2004, it’s still a fairly pedestrian story with some amazing visuals and action-sequences.
The heart of the "Appleseed" franchise is the somewhat vague relationship between cyborg Briareos and his human partner Deunan. Their typical interactions involve killing bad guys, saving each others asses, then giving each other long, romantic stares.
Their partnership gets complicated with the introduction of a new member of the ESWAT team, Tereus, a "bioroid" genetically engineered human built with the DNA of Briareos and hunky looks to match. (Undoubtedly there are some techno-fetishists out there whose imaginations ran wild with this one. Maybe there’s an Easter Egg cut scene involving the three on the DVD? Hmmm.)
The best action sequence is in the first 10 minutes — a thrilling assault on a cathedral being held by cyborg terrorists. It’s classic John Woo all the way: slo-mos of the heroes flying through the air while pumping out bullets, balletic arcs of bodies, explosions and firepower with a pounding soundtrack.
Deunan’s best friend Hitomi barely registers in this one, and her boyfriend mechanic just sort of pops up like "Q" to give Deunan the right weapon at the right time. Athena is still trying to rule / unite the world and no one seems to question her intentions.
I like the whole plotline about a personal consumer device that you wear on your ears that looks suspiciously like a bluetooth headset taking over the minds of humans and cyborgs and turning them into zombies. I’ll be looking for that app on my iPhone soon.
All-in-all, a diverting military scifi adventure that’s worth a rental. See it on a big screen and a good sound system, if you can.