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The Fine Print
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Directed and Written by Koji Morimoto
Flawless from start to finish, "Beyond" (along with "The Second Renaissance," parts 1 and 2) exemplifies the very best of what The Animatrix has to offer. While it could have worked just as well without the weight of The Matrix behind it, "Beyond" greatly benefits the franchise by showing what life inside a computer simulation is like for normal folk who aren't hackers, kung fu fighters, or sneering minions of the system. Instead, we follow a punky young girl named Yoko who is scouring her small Japanese town in search of her lost cat (felines seem to figure prominently in The Animatrix, or maybe it's just that pesky déjà vu acting up again). Instead of stumbling Alice-like into a Technicolor wonderland, Yoko wanders the corridors of an abandoned house where the seeming "reality" of the Matrix is malfunctioning. The house is creepy and menacing when Yoko is by herself, but its logic-defying properties become downright fun and thrilling when explored with the neighborhood kids. Unfortunately the adults, in the form of dour agents of the Matrix, show up and spoil the carefree games. By definition a work of science fiction, "Beyond" manages a number of impressive genre shifts from existential horror (the sort now familiar to viewers of The Ring) to a childlike sense of wonder. That it handles these potentially tricky transitions gracefully is a testimony to director Morimoto's sure handling of mood and timing. Possible to read as a parable of how the straight world indoctrinates imaginative young minds into duller states of being, the deeper tragedy of "Beyond" lies in how Yoko is privileged to a glimpse of the infinite (in a breathtaking moment she opens a door only to discover an endless void with inane sound of her telephone patter echoing inside) only to be left no wiser.