Armitage III: Poly-Matrix -

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Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £15.99
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Armitage III

Armitage III: Poly-Matrix

By Dani Moure     May 19, 2004
Release Date: May 10, 2004

Armitage III: Poly-Matrix
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
2179: Mars has been colonized by Earth, populated by humans and "Second Type" robots - machines designed to perform the menial tasks humans won't do. Then there are the "Third Types" - illegal humanoid robots designed by a nationalist force to look and behave exactly like humans - living undetected among the Martian population as citizens, until one man, Rene D'anclaude, declares war on the "Thirds" vowing to destroy them all...

This is a story of technology and emotion, hatred and love, a human on the verge of becoming a machine and a machine on the verge of becoming human: it is a story of survival...

The Review!
Armitage III: Poly-Matrix reaches DVD at long last thanks to MVM, and it ends up being an enjoyable, self-contained movie.

I listened to the English 5.1 track for my review, since that's the original track for this movie, and technically it's very good. It has some nice directionality to it, with the action sequences in particular coming across very well. Dialogue is also crisp and clear and in general, the mix sounds great. There were no dropouts or distortions that I noticed.

The voice acting is also very good on the whole. Kiefer Sutherland is really the only disappointment, often coming across as a little dispassionate and flat in his depiction of Ross. It's a shame because occasionally he'll give a good delivery and then return to the usual slump where he quite often sounds like he's just reading a script. Thankfully, everyone else comes off much better. Elizabeth Berkley is very natural in the role of Armitage, managing to pull off both her attitude and her more vulnerable side very well. The supporting cast is generally good, so on the whole the movie flows well.

Presented in letterbox widescreen, this is a good, if not excellent, transfer. Colours and tones come across nicely, and I noticed no aliasing during regular playback. It does seem to be lacking a little bit of vibrancy, though, and there's a fair amount of grain, which in itself isn't too annoying. It isn't quite as crisp and clear as it could be, though, and there's a bit of cross-colouration creeping into a few scenes. It's certainly nothing too bad, though.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The menu is relatively simple, yet takes a slightly different approach to most menu systems. The main menu takes the shape of a transmitter with the show's logo looped in the centre. The menu selections appear below. The difference is that as you select the submenus, they appear within the main image. It gives a nice little effect, and even if all the menus are static and not all that interesting, they do fit the futuristic tone of the show.

The only extras here are couple of brief, text-only interviews with writer Chiaki Konaka and director Hiroyuki Ochi. You also get the original Poly-Matrix trailer. It's not much, alas. The disc also contains some MVM trailers (not that I really consider them extras), although the encoding on them is terrible.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Armitage III began life as a four-part OVA series, but on seeing the huge success of movies like Ghost in the Shell in the English language markets, Pioneer USA went back and had the OVAs re-edited, adding in some new animation, cutting plenty of footage and rewriting it in parts to flow as a movie. As such, it only exists in English language, with a dub featuring Elizabeth Berkley and Kiefer Sutherland (and indeed, it was released in Japan in English only). I've never seen the OVA series, so it was with a bit of anticipation that I went into this movie, as it's something I've wanted to see for some time.

By and large, it didn't disappoint. While it's not earth-shattering or anything of the sort, Poly-Matrix is an enjoyable movie that takes a look at what it might be like for androids to exist and be hated by the world, and raises some interesting questions.

The story revolves around Naomi Armitage, a cop who is something of a loose cannon, refusing to wear standard uniform and being a little unorthodox in her methods. At the start of the movie, Armitage tracks down a kidnapped country singer (the last in the universe), but she's already dead. On examining the singer's body, it's discovered that she was in fact a highly advanced android, far beyond the usual type. Coming at a time when robots are generally hated, as human-like androids called "Seconds" are everywhere, it only serves to stir up bad feelings.

Armitage is now partnered with Ross Sylibus (whose last partner was killed), who also takes a dim view of the Seconds that are around. Ross receives a call from a Third, a more advanced type of underground android, saying she is being stalked by the kidnapper, and can't go outside because of the protesters. As it turns out, all the Thirds being attacked are women, and Rene D'Anclaude is the man behind them all, seeking to expose the fact that they've managed to live with humans unnoticed for some time. During a showdown with him, Armitage goes over the edge as she takes out her rage on him, wondering why humans are so hateful to something that they created, and she reveals herself as a Third for the first time in front of Ross. Of course, by this time, he's already figured it out and doesn't seem bothered. It would be a little hypocritical if he did, anyway, given the amount of implants he has himself.

Anyhow, stopping before she kills D'Anclaude, she ends up jumping into the river and goes missing. The murders continue, and the police attempt to find Armitage. It's not unexpected when Ross does find her, and they go find the last Third made, discovering several secrets about the Thirds and their purpose, and try to unravel just why D'Anclaude is trying to eliminate them all.

The plot actually shifts in some interesting directions as it goes along, starting as a hunt for D'Anclaude but moving on to bigger questions like the purpose of androids and where they fit in on this futuristic Mars. It manages to stay surprisingly coherent for the most part, despite some clear lines in the change of pace (almost as if you can see where one OVA ends and another begins at some points). The story does well to focus on Armitage and her relationship with Ross, over the backdrop of hunting D'Anclaude and then finding her creator and unraveling the mysteries that brings, including his relationship with the real D'Anclaude.

Poly-Matrix does manage to deal with the questions it raises pretty effectively. As the backdrop takes another switch, to the elimination of Thirds when Mars and Earth reunite, it questions the acceptance of these man-made creations and the effect it has on Armitage herself, as she has effectively the same feelings as a human. It manages to explore many of the questions you'd probably expect to be raised in a situation such as this - an android made to be like a human and being rejected by society - and while it doesn't add too much that is new to the equation, it does do it pretty well. We see Armitage's thoughts and reflections on the things happening around her, and exactly how she's affected by it all, and it comes off nicely. The most interesting concept is definitely that Thirds can get pregnant, and what that could mean for the future of a society that is considerably anti-robot, especially against the ones that bear such similarity to humans.

Armitage's relationship with Ross is obviously pivotal to the show and the expression of Armitage's feelings, and it's nice to see a well-developed relationship between the two throughout the course of the movie. We see them become closer as the story progresses, and often things move forward without the need for lots of cheesy dialogue that you often see in movie romances, rather with more incidental dialogue and unspoken actions. It's one of the nicest elements of the movie, and if anything it's only let down slightly by its conclusion, which is quite cheesy even if it does make sense from a story progression standpoint (and is admittedly well played-out). The relationship does really show how the two characters, especially Armitage, grow as it continues, both having different outlooks based on the events of the movie.

The supporting characters are just that, rarely doing much outside what you'd expect to drive the plot on. D'Anclaude is an interesting enemy though the battle with him seems to fizzle out a little towards the end, with the focus switching to the bigger issues at hand. The creator is interesting but comes into play quite late in the game, while everyone else is much more incidental. You could condemn the movie for that, but it's always clear that Armitage is the focus of the story, and as such it works well and allows her story to be well-developed rather than there being several other characters to take time away from the central themes.

Poly-Matrix has some nice production values, too. It's well animated and has a nice, futuristic look that would probably make some companies drool at the thought of marketing it as the next big cyberpunk film. The budget heavy dub may be a little disappointing in places, but it works well and it's quite a shame that the movie didn't break out on anywhere near the level of its predecessors.

In Summary:
Armitage III: Poly-Matrix is a very entertaining movie, succeeding in having good action sequences but not forgetting the story, which successfully explores some interesting themes and has a couple of good lead characters. With a relatively low price-point you could do far worse - it's definitely a good ninety minutes of one-shot entertainment.

English Language (5.1),English Captions,Text Interviews,Original Trailer

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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