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  • ARMITAGE: DUAL MATRIX (2001) is a sequel to ARMITAGE III (1994), a four-part made-for-video Japanese animated series that was also re-edited as a two-hour feature (ARMITAGE: POLY-MATRIX) and shown in the U.S. on the Sci-Fi Channel. (The III in the earlier title is not the mark of a sequel but a reference to "Thirds," a special class of cyborg.) It helps to have seen the earlier production in order to better grasp what's going on in this one, which doesn't stop to fill in the background. Instead it plunges us right into the continuing tensions between humans and robots in this far-off future society in which a growing Mars colony seeks independence from Earth and greater rights for robots. It picks up the characters of Naomi Armitage, a Third, and her human mate, Ross Sylibus, as they lead a quiet life together incognito on Mars with a young daughter, Yoko, after having been fugitives at the end of ARMITAGE III, in which they'd been cops investigating murders of Thirds by anti-robot factions. (The big secret of female Thirds was that they had the power to procreate, which made them such hated targets.)

    The couple's familial bliss is disrupted when a zealous army colonel leads a raid on a secret Earth plant doing illegal robot research and kills the robots and humans working there. Naomi has a connection to the plant and heads to Earth to seek out the perpetrator, Colonel Strings, who turns out to actually work for the Earth Robotronics Corporation, which wants to redirect research away from robots to human cloning. Ross is sent to Earth also, as a Mars delegate to the Chicago Summit to vote on the Robot Rights bill, and he and Naomi soon find they have a common enemy in Demetrio Mardini, an executive with Earth Robotronics. Odds against the couple increase when Mardini sends two powerful new clones of Naomi to stop them.

    On the surface, DUAL MATRIX is an exciting, action-packed thriller bursting with extraordinary high-tech touches dotting this exquisitely rendered futuristic landscape. The digital animation used to render this vision is often quite spectacular, particularly in the plentiful action scenes which range from car chases and shootouts involving high-powered automatic weapons fire to copter attacks and hand-to-hand battles with robot fighting machines. The final stage of the film is particularly riveting as Ross, accompanied by the child, Yoko, tries to make it to the landing platform at the top of a huge spaceport where a shuttle waits to take them all back to Mars while Naomi fights off the two clones.

    The problem for fans of the original is that the science fiction themes that once predominated--questions of identity, status of androids, and ability of human society to coexist with them--are overshadowed here by an emphasis on action elements. Naomi Armitage was originally a much spunkier character who played on the ambiguity of her origins and made viewers care because she seemed human and triggered deep emotions in Ross as they bonded in their efforts to carry out their mission. She joked, laughed, cried, loved and searched desperately for answers. Here Naomi is much less emotional and more of a traditional anime fighting cyborg. She's still a colorful heroine, but most of her screen time is devoted to demonstrating her considerable powers. Ross seems subdued and more in need of protection than he did in the original. Furthermore, the motivations for most of the main characters are not always clear.

    The new one also looks quite different from the original which was still done in the now long ago era of hand-drawn animation. While digital animation (which replicates the two-dimensional look of traditional cel animation) can create all sorts of elaborate effects and details that are most helpful in crafting the suitably dazzling future society on display here, it still lacks some of the vigor and artistry of traditional animation. All anime is done digitally now and I miss the occasional imperfections--the jerky movements and shifts in color that reflected hand-painted work--as well as the bold lines and bright comic book colors that used to burst off the screen. Everything looks so slick and polished now that I tend to get the greatest anime pleasure these days from such older series as "Kimba, the White Lion," "Star Blazers" and the original "Mobile Suit Gundam."

    DUAL MATRIX is still quite an entertaining 90-minute thriller and will no doubt please many young anime fans, but for those with a special interest in more challenging Japanese sci-fi anime, such as PATLABOR 1 & 2, GHOST IN THE SHELL and SERIAL EXPERIMENTS LAIN, it will be less satisfying, although the impressive visual design may provide some compensation. The English voice cast features one name actress, Juliette Lewis, in the role of Naomi Armitage. (ARMITAGE: POLY-MATRIX had two name actors, Elizabeth Berkley and Kiefer Sutherland, in the roles of Naomi and Ross.) Serious fans of anime are advised to pick up the DVD and opt for the Japanese-language soundtrack.
  • When I first read that Juliette Lewis was going to be a seiyuu (voice actor) for Armitage I wasn't sure if she would be able to pull it off. Even though I think she is a great actress some actors don't seem to make a good transition to voice acting. I am happy to say that she did a great job. Elizabeth Berkley did a good job with the first movie along with Kiefer Sutherland but Juliette really shines in some scenes when Armitage is blowing her top (no pun intended). It would have been great if they would have gotten Kiefer Sutherland to play the role of Ross with Juliette for the sequel but Skip Stellrecht does a fine job as the ex-cop. The picture quality is great although it would have been better in letterbox. Now, the real jem of this DVD is the surround sound. It seems Pioneer went all out and purposely made the movie's soundtrack for 5.1 systems. The sound engineers balanced the music very well with the voices and sound effects. Even during an action scene you can still here the voices very well along with the music and everything else without having to play with the volume buttons. Of course, you can only appreciate this if you have a surround sound system. I give this anime 7 out of 10 stars for it's excellent sound engineering.
  • Be warned, this will spoil some of the story to the original movie, Poly-Matrix. If you haven't seen that movie, I recommend you watch it first. Now, moving on the sequel we have Dual Matrix. Dual Matrix is set many years after the events of Poly-Matrix. Ross and Naomi did indeed have a child and named her Yoko. She's about 7 years old by now and completely unaware of her parent's past. They've changed their names and identities and are living on Mars trying to keep peaceful lives.

    However, a horrible attack occurs killing several humans and robots. One of them contact Armitage before death, sending her its memories. She then quietly goes on a mission to find out just what's going on and take care of those responsible.

    Ross in the mean time is dealing with his own issues on Earth with Yoko. Suffice to say when the action gets started it's just as good as old times. There are twists and turns that keep it interesting throughout, as well as a few new characters. Almost all the old favorites return and keep things interesting.

    Naomi has changed a bit and isn't as hyper as she was the first time around. However, what she's lost in nubile cuteness over the years is more than made up for in experience. She's more of a hardcore fighter than ever before. Dual Matrix starts off somewhat slow, but quickly picks up into a very worthy sequel to the original movie.

    The highlight of the movie is the ending and I assume its namesake. Naomi and Ross must survive a brutal fight against two enhanced Terminator style Armitage replicas while protecting Yoko. It's a dramatic and power set of scenes that will have Naomi fans beside themselves. If you liked Poly-Matrix, give this one a shot as well. You may enjoy it just as much or even more.

    • Rirath_com
  • dhyvdking27 January 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    This would make a great cinema movie. I re-watch it sometimes when I just want to relax. The animation is great (esp. for the era), the story is interesting, and the fight scenes are long and involved. After a while of watching the same sword-wielding stuff, it's good to see action which is ... hard to describe. It's hand to hand, but when those hands are android hands, the action tends to be more intense.

    Set in a "cyberpunk" world, a sci-fi future where androids are almost accepted as equal to humans, this film has some serious themes, if you are interested in that sort of thing (most people aren't and just want raw action... adrenaline junkies or something).

    I only took off one point because a key plot question is not, to my satisfaction, explained. You'll know it when you see it since it perplexes the main villain, as well.

    My description doesn't really do this movie justice... I haven't watched the others in the series yet but I must say, I love this movie, am glad I own it, and the English dub is great (my copy doesn't have subtitles or the Japanese soundtrack, but I don't miss them), not too high-key as some dubs are, and brings more "realism" to the characters (I mean, how real can androids and whatnot be?).

    To draw a comparison, this I think is overall a better movie than "I, Robot". Yes, I, Robot has cg, and has Will Smith, and is newer, and has more special effects, and a bigger budget; but the story here is bigger and somehow the fact that the main android in this story can (and did) bear a child adds something.

    Moreover, the political intrigue involving the androids striving for true equality with humans, while more explicit in Animatrix, adds a level of depth to the story, framing the individual conflicts which the main characters find themselves in against the larger social framework which ultimately drives the creation of said conflicts.

    Plus, I have a thing for hot cybernetic/android chicks... this reminds me a bit of Ghost in the Shell, but the two are very different. It is like comparing Star Trek: The Next Generation to Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars. Yes, they have superficial similarities, but just as GITS is more general, serial, and focused on teams... so was ST:TNG. Armitage is a lot more personal, focusing on a closed nuclear family of three (man, woman/android, and child).

    Well, go watch it, if you haven't already.
  • Great flick -- provided you watch it in Japanese with the English subtitles.

    Having a celebrity do a voice-over for Japanese anime is nothing new. Kiefer Sutherland voiced Ross in Armitage III: Polymatrix and did a terrific job.

    However, Juliette Lewis (who is given star billing for the film) delivers her lines terribly. Her emotional delivery is flat when it needs to be expressive, and expressive when needed to be flat. She mumbles and is difficult to understand through portions of the film.

    Ahmed Best is even worse as Mouse. He plays Mouse as a Jar Jar Binksesque character with even more annoying voiceovers than Lewis delivers.

    Having said all that, don't miss the opportunity to catch this DVD. The animation is first rate, and the action scenes are well thought out and delivered.