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The Fine Print
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Directed and Written by Peter Chung
Anyone out there still remember the "head film"? Originating from the drug culture of the sixties, the classic head film (think 2001: A Space Odyssey or Yellow Submarine) was a groovy product of the times, marked by psychedelic visuals and the desire to make audiences "feel" rather than "think." An area largely abandoned by contemporary live-action filmmakers, it's my belief that animation has become the last refuge for heads. One need only look at Angel's Egg, The End of Evangelion, and now Peter Chung's oddly-titled Matriculated, for evidence. It is a very ambiguous work in terms of setting and characters (where the heck did that little green monkey come from?). As the original Aeon Flux shorts demonstrated, Chung's direction works well when dialogue is kept to a minimum. Here, it helps to add a layer of mystery to the proceedings. Yet Matriculated also has a perfectly rational narrative along with a neat concept at its core. A group of rebels manages to capture a human hunting robot and try to reprogram it to fight for their cause by plugging it into a computer simulation of their own design. While Matriculated both begins and ends with requisite physical action scenes, the centerpiece is an extended psychedelic voyage into a Matrix designed to seduce an artificial intelligence. Relying a great deal on CGI, the results have a funhouse atmosphere and look something like the early pre-production concept art for Tron (I mean that in the best possible sense). Unfortunately, this "trip sequence" lacks tension and drags on. And while the pulsating, glowing visuals are gorgeous, they outstay their welcome early on. Still, Matriculated's grim conclusion, one that typifies the fatalistic streak running through The Animatrix project, makes for one heck of a come-down.