Appleseed Ex Machina: Sci-fi heroic bloodshed fun, all the more impressive given its predecessor.
The first Appleseed is a terrible movie. The characters are cardboard cutouts with no motivation whose backstories pop-in without warning, the plot is a murky, disharmonious, and disorganized mess of half-baked ideas, the action, modeling, and animation are badly-shot and sub-par. Every other aspect of the movie was subordinated to a pretentious theme about emotions and technology, that was then left underdeveloped to focus more on the asinine character of Hitomi. So, for the sequel, someone said "Screw all that!" and just decided to go for a straightforward action movie, and it was the best idea anyone involved had. The first five minutes of this movie contain more excitement and do more to characterize the main couple and show their close relationship to one another than the entire previous film's runtime. Speaking of, Briareos's semi-clone, though inexplicably not black, is a good character and a good addition to the mythos. They even form a reasonable, non-cliche relationship rather than the usual contrived angst. Perhaps thanks to John Woo's influence, the action is stylish and well-shot, with the audience never in doubt about who is doing what where and to what end. The bioroids actually seem like the half-humans they're supposed to instead of just humans who never change their expression, and the villain's plan actually makes sense as an evil version of the overall theme of very different people getting along and respecting each other in a changing and technologically-minded society. Without spoiling anything, the mystery underlying the plot works without pulling anything out of its ass. There're even a few Red Herrings in there that might trick you on a first viewing. It's not very subtle overall, a few small unspoken touches aside, but it works as action storytelling, setting up stakes and ratcheting up tension. If you've never seen the first film and don't want to, then this is still a solid sci-fi action movie. And if you have seen the first film and swore off the series afterward (frankly, I don't blame you), know that this is a Surprisingly Improved Sequel. Also, totally predicted the smartphone! Screw you, critics who called this an Idiot Plot! How likely do you think people would be to give up their iPhones based on flimsy government evidence?