Appleseed Alpha once again sees Masamune Shirow’s eighties manga series get adapted into an animated feature film. The movie is a collaboration of eastern and western talents, which was animated in Japan and scripted/acted in the States. Marianne Krawczyk, whose writing credits include a plethora of video games, is responsible for penning the story whilst Shinji Aramaki returns to the Appleseed franchise, having previously directed 2014’s Appleseed motion picture and the 2007 follow-up Appleseed: Ex Machina. Both those aforementioned flicks were nothing more than mediocre and I am afraid to report that Alpha follows in the same vein.
The movie is a prequel that takes place prior to Deunan and her cybernetic partner Briareos enlisting as law enforcement for the utopian city of Olympus. Set in a post apocalyptic world, which is recovering from a Third World War, former soldiers Deunan and Briareos find themselves eking out a living as guns for hire in a ruined New York. During their latest mission the mercenary duo rescues a travelling Bioroid (synthetic human) named Iris and her cyborg bodyguard Olsen from being filled with lead by some unfriendly war drones. It transpires that Iris is on an assignment to decommission a weapon of mass destruction and given that Deunan/Briareos have nothing better to do they agree to assist the fledgling Bioroid on her noble quest.
Hot on the heels of our heroes are a pair of adversaries that include Two Horns the Big Apple’s current warlord (a cyborg blessed with the dialect of a ghetto resident.) The second pursuer is a nasty chap named Talos who aspires to conquer the globe by utilising the weapon Iris has been ordered to dismantle. Talos is the chief of the Trident group, which is composed of androids that resemble combatants from the Halo/Destiny video games. Ironically Appleseed Alpha and Destiny both look impressive on the visual front, but they both lack any meaningful substance when it comes to their plot.
My rating for Appleseed Alpha is a three out of five. Like the other Aramaki directed Appleseed movies it is mildly entertaining, but nothing special. Scriptwriter Krawczyk is clearly not acquainted with the source material, as aside from the main characters the film lacks any of the themes the Appleseed franchise is renowned for. Krawczyk is a video game writer and it shows. The movie’s weak storyline is just there to link action sequences together, much like how cut scenes chain together a video game’s levels. The cast’s characterisation is so bland that I felt nothing during the finale’s emotional outcome (but then again I am a heartless monster who doesn’t even weep during a Bambi screening.)
On the plus side Alpha’s visuals are stunning, which is a relief after the ghastly CG employed in the Appleseed XIII series. Instead of going for a 3D anime style, as used in Appleseed: Ex Machina, Alpha opts for a photo realistic look akin to that found in Final Fantasy: Advent Children. The computer rendered animation is especially impressive during the latter half of the film, which is packed with thrilling action. The explosive gunfights, Deunan’s destructive use of power armour and the satisfying duel between Briareos and Talos’ female lieutenant almost make up for the story’s shortcomings. I can’t recommend purchasing Appleseed Alpha, but if you appreciate Hollywood blockbuster like action it may be worth renting or borrowing from a friend.