© AIC/Pioneer LDC, Inc.
Eight years after the original Armitage OAV series was made, AIC is finally back with a bona fide sequel, Armitage: Dual-Matrix. I'll admit I wasn't a huge fan of the original series. It had its charms (particularly Armitage herself), but was weak in terms of plot. Sadly, this follow-up also suffers in the plot department, yet retains good characterization and decent action.
Set a few years after the events of the original OAV series, Dual-Matrix once again focuses on android Naomi Armitage. She has settled down on Mars with her now-husband Ross Sylibus, where the two have been raising their young daughter, Yoko. During dinner preparation one day, Armitage receives a distress signal from a robot manufacturing plant. The plant has been invaded by secretive military operatives, and the robots (and human researchers) are being systematically eliminated. The military's official line is that they were called in for defense after the robots went berserk. Armitage, knowing the truth of the event, sets out to find the real reason behind the military action.
At the same time all of this is going on, Earth and Mars relations are being strained over a robot rights bill. The people on Mars feel more open to the idea of robots being given basic rights, while the Earth population opposes such an idea. An upcoming summit in Chicago to vote on the bill is planned. Ross is sent as part of the Mars delegation, having entered the media spotlight after fighting off a terrorist group at his company. However, the same forces behind the attack Armitage is investigating also seeks to prevent the robot rights bill from being passed. Inevitably, they target Ross and try to pressure him into throwing away his vote for the bill.
At first glance, the premise behind Dual-Matrix seems a good one. While the theme of robot and human coexistence has been done to death in sci-fi, at least there's some room for philosophical musings and interesting narrative. No such luck, though, because as the movie progresses, the earlier themes are eschewed in favor of a by-the-numbers action-fest complete with a stereotypical arch-villain and his equally stereotypical motivations.
This isn't to say the action element of Dual-Matrix is outright bad. Some action sequences are fluid and inventive, with Armitage sporting some neat hand-to-hand combat moves. Others, however, are just plain cliched (at one point, Ross is confronted by a 3D-rendered military helicopter, which seems to appear solely for the purpose of showcasing said helicopter). Some inconsistencies also crop up. During one battle, Armitage reveals the ability to assume control of a mechanized opponent, yet she allows her opponent to skewer her before exercising this ability. And then there's the epic finale, which, like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going, and going, and going, ad nauseum. (When you're continually glancing at the clock during a movie's climax, that's usually a bad sign.)
Characterization is one of the better points of Dual-Matrix. Armitage, despite starting out as a domestic homemaker, wastes no time in reprising her role as a bad-ass android ready to kick butt and take names. Ross, like Armitage, seems to split his role between good-natured dad and aggressive action-hero. Their daughter, Yoko, is cute-as-button, but thankfully not in a nauseating fashion (though she's used as little more than a plot device in the movie). An oddball character is introduced named Mouse, an android with exceptional mechanical ability and whose loyalty seems to be a mystery at first. The only real disappointment is the antagonist. The arch-villain Demitrio is painfully derivative, right down to the "evil" goatee and methodical speak pattern.
Dual-Matrix is a totally digital affair and it shows. The character art and animation is actually pretty good, with good color saturation. Scenes involving vehicles, (particularly the 3D helicopter) look less impressive. Background music consist mainly of hard techno beats, which are well done for the most part.
Like Armitage III: Poly-Matrix, Pioneer once again went for star billing in the voice actor department. This time, Armitage is played by Juliette Lewis (better known for her white trash roles in movies like Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Till Dawn, and The Way of the Gun). Lewis, however, turns in an uneven performance. Her best lines are emotionally-charged, but lines requiring a softer, more subtle touch sound flat. The remainder of the cast is competent. Best acted is Demitrio, played by Michael McConnohie. Skip Stellrecht as Ross Sylibus and Reba West as Yoko turn in acceptable performances. Ahmed Best (voice of Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars) lends his over-the-top style to the character Mouse and borders on irritating. Being a DVD-only release, fans at least have the option of going with either audio track.
As a straightforward, sci-fi shoot-em-up, Armitage: Dual-Matrix is passable entertainment. But some originality and utilizing the themes of robots and humans as more than window dressing wouldn't hurt. Unless you're a die-hard Armitage fan, I'd recommend renting Dual-Matrix first, before committing to a purchase.
The Verdict: * * * (average)
|last modified: 05-26-03||The Anime Critic and associated content © 1999-2003 Pete Harcoff. All rights reserved.|