Calling it a cartoon may lead to your death
Released on DVD in 2003 just as The Matrix Reloaded hit cinemas, The Animatrix served as a prologue to the events of The Matrix and also gave creators Andy and Larry Wachowski the chance to work with some of the eastern animators whose work had inspired them while they were writing the first Matrix screenplay.
The Wachowskis produced the project, but only wrote four of the nine stories, so directing duties fell to seasoned animators like Peter Chung, Koji Morimoto and Mahiro Maeda who would each engrave their pieces with their own unique style. As with any short story collection, some segments were better than others. The cream of the crop turned out to be The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2, Beyond and The Final Flight of the Osiris.
The Second Renaissance Part 1 tells the story of how men created robots in their own image only for them to rebel at being treated like slaves. Robot B1-66ER kills his master and is put on trial for murder, starting a chain reaction that turns human society against the machines. Eventually the mechanoids fight back and during the escalating war, arrogant world leaders vote to blacken the sky to cut off their power supply.
Without solar energy the machines harvest their human enemies and turn them into the ‘batteries’ that Morpheus refers to in The Matrix. The Second Renaissance Part 2 is a particularly powerful piece of animation, full of disturbing images of robots and humans tearing each other apart. The news footage and glimpses of war mirror Vietnam, World War 2 and the equal rights movement begun by Martin Luther King (witness a girl being beaten, only for us to discover she’s really a machine).
The most memorable scene in The Second Renaissance Part 2 (and indeed the whole of The Animatrix) shows humans being tested on by the machines. By poking certain parts of the brain they make people cry or laugh at will – a haunting prelude to the mind control of The Matrix itself. But perhaps what’s most distressing about these images is that, stylised as they are, the potential path of A.I and the dangers machines may pose to the human race are all too feasible in this day and age.