First of all, technically speaking, this story is a prequel. Shinji Aramaki has previously directed two other APPLESEED movies, APPLESEED and APPLESEED EX-MACHINA (aka APPLESEED SAGA) respectively, which tell the story of protagonist duo Deunan and Briareos from just before they are taken to Olympus and continue their story from just after they become established E.S.W.A.T officers.
It seems to me that with each new iteration of Masamune Shirow's Appleseed, there is less and less left of what made the story an international hit as a manga. I know nothing at all of the history of this movie's production, but I really shouldn't have to search for reasons to excuse it's shortcomings, some of which are inexcusable, no matter what kind of production challenges may have arisen.
This movie seemed to be an excellent concept. I've always wanted to see some of the things that Deunan and Briareos experienced before going to Olympus. Furthermore, APPLESEED ALPHA contains some of the most beautifully detailed CG rendering that I've ever seen in a movie of this type but, ironically, this is where problems begin to arise.
The motion capture sometimes lacked dynamism and often looked recycled in spots. There were instances when separate onscreen characters seemed to have exactly the same gate and cadence in their step and body language and overall it lacked energy and character. Also, the actors often seemed uncommitted in portions of the action sequences. They seemed to be trying to avoid on-set injury at times when the story required that they seem to be desperately trying to avoid a horrible death. Possibly because there were no hand animated tweaks to the motion capture, it just looked too soft and slow and too much like acTING rather than acTION.
An even bigger problem was the designs. I really wanted to like them. The characters in the badlands, such as Deunan, Briareos, Two Horns and his Cyborg henchmen all looked as if they were based firmly on Shirow's Appleseed designs but there was a bit too much affectation in some of them. They just seemed too busy and just a tad over the top. This goes double or better for Talos and his crew. it makes perfect sense that the design of the Olympus characters would be slicker, more modern, more organic.... different...but there were so many hard edges and superficial looking bits and pieces that they just looked uninspired and out of place. It was a heavy handed attempt.
Beyond this was the English voice acting. Flat, unnatural, uninteresting, inappropriate... boring. it made me sad.
The soundtrack is slathered in dubstep or a cacophony of some other harsh, emotionless, unmelodic, computer generated noise that often didn't really seem appropriately placed and therefore certainly didn't help the atmosphere or mood of the story but in fact, especially near the beginning, seemed to blot out some of the dialogue. It made me angry.
The worst grievance of all, however, was the screenplay in general. The Deunan and Briareos that I know are a HIGHLY intelligent, battle hardened pair who have developed an intuition about each other (See the opening sequence of APPLESEED EX-MACHINA for an excellent example of their character and the nature of their relationship IN ACTION rather than halfhearted exposition i.e. Appleseed Alpha) that makes them so dynamic and dangerous that, more often than not, its difficult for most other characters and most readers/viewers to keep up with them, much less anticipate them. They have experience which keeps them alert and aware. It seemed that all of this was missing from this screenplay except wherever it was convenient to include it. Deunan was inconsistent, erratic, witless and weak. Briareos was flat and robotic and his whispery, half-raspy, "too cool for school" voice was just plain aggravating. Long story short:
WHO ARE THESE TWO PEOPLE???
This is NOT Deunan and Briareos.... Not at all. They were just plain WRONG.
Is it just me, or does it seem ENTIRELY nonsensical that Deunan and Briareos should encounter a gun platform BEFORE they get to Olympus? WHAAAAA-?!!??? Recycling the gun platform as central plot device, at this juncture, was just inappropriate and comes off as lazy.
Shinji Aramaki should know better. In the end, this was a beautifully drawn movie whose plot was tragically lacking in character and therefore was high on activity but ultimately felt empty... Soulless, heartless and by the numbers. Terribly off the mark as an Appleseed story.
I'd give it a 1/4th star review, if I could.