- Film 1: The Matrix

- The Animatrix:
.. - The Second Renaissance
.. - Kid's Story
.. - Program
.. - World Record
.. - Beyond
.. - A Detective Story
.. - Matriculated
.. - Final Flight of the Osiris /
.........Enter the Matrix

- Film 2: The Matrix Reloaded
- Film 3: The Matrix Revolutions

- Return to Source Documentary:
Philosophy and the Matrix

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. - The Original Series (TOS)
. - The Animated Series
. - The Movies
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. - Deep Space Nine (DS9)
. - Voyager
. - Enterprise

The Animatrix:
The Second Renaissance

Region 1
10-disc box set
for North America
Region 2
10-disc box set
for the U.K.
(The Animatrix, segments 2 & 3)
  • story by the brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski
  • written and directed by Mahiro Maeda
  • produced by Larry and Andy Wachowski, Michael Arias,
    Eiko Tanaka, Hiroaki Takeuchi
  • music by Don Davis
  • 2 episodes, each being 9 min. action plus 8 min. credits
Story: This two-part animated documentary found in Zion's computer archive attempts to chronicle the trilogy's backstory of the fall of man and the rise of the artificial intelligence that enslaved him within the Matrix.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the story.

In our attempt to follow the Matrix saga chronologically, it is necessary to detour into "The Animatrix" at this point. This is a bizarre collection of animated story vignettes based on the franchise, and one that only truly feels worthwhile when it warms up a bit in the second half of its "9-episode season".

However, a true chronology pretty much means that the first segment should come last, so we're going to skip ahead to the next two segments, "The Second Renaissance, Parts 1 & 2". I've no idea why they didn't just make one long episode out of it, as I don't think they ever broadcast this anywhere. Since this is all backstory to the entire trilogy, I suppose one could argue that it should come before "The Matrix", but I assure you, you don't want anyone's first impressions coming from this pseudo-documentary. The first feature film needs to come first. If we figure that this documentary was one of the first things Neo looked at when he came to Zion after the first film, we'll probably be on the safest, most accurate, and most structurally satisfying ground possible.

"The Second Renaissance" is probably my least favourite of all the segments of the Animatrix. Although capable of mesmerizing with some intriguing images, it also repeatedly indulges in distastefully horrific images as well, while failing to have enough of a point to them to make them worthwhile. Philosophical commentator Ken Wilber loves to plunder this story as a source of clues to help make sense of the entire 3-film-plus saga, particularly in how we should look beyond the enemy-centered paradigm presented in film 1. But there is a great lack of depth to the motivations for any action seen in this tale. The two words of narration that Wilber loves to quote are trite, and don't really seem to describe the events of this film nor a plausible set-up for the premise of the trilogy. The fact that we have no main character here and only a very bland soul-less narrator in the story certainly doesn't help true motivation to find a voice.

But perhaps the biggest miscalculation of this piece is in all the numerous scenes of victimhood vs. senseless violence. I don't know if it's supposed to be enough to show the roles reverse several times, now man does it to machine, now machine does it to man. In my mind, it mostly just doesn't ring true for man or machine, and we're not digging deep enough into either psyche to get any kind of understanding that I can believe in. In fact, the common dynamic behind this kind of thing in film is that it signals the end of a search for understanding when the victim is portrayed as innocent (not looking at what he or she may have done or emoted to draw such an experience in) and the perpetrator is portrayed as evil (not looking at what grievances or issues may have existed to bring it on). As presented here, the motivations for both man and machine are pretty hollow.

In sci-fi, we've long been inundated with machine intelligence that suddenly becomes... not just self-aware which would be a fair stretch, but also full of fear applied to a sense of self-preservation. If that crap isn't programmed in by living creatures in the first place, it's surely not going to spontaneously manifest with the same evolved hormonal potency that it does in us humans.

And does man himself ever really partake in the kind of violence we see here, generalized over entire populations, escalating uncontrollably to unbelievable extremes? These aspects of "The Second Renaissance" make it feel instinctively more like propaganda to me than fact. Add on top all of the general science problems of the backstory, such as how man would think that the machines are more dependent on the sun than he is, or how the machines would think that man is the next best power source on the planet in the absence of direct sunlight. Where does man's food come from? You can't just keep recycling him back upon himself as food, as the energy would be quickly depleted. He is not a magical perpetual motion machine. Launch some solar satellites up above the scorched cloud layer for God's sake.

In the midst of this mess, there are a few tidbits that I liked. Firstly, that the machines built their own city/nation, which was interesting. Secondly, that this nation turned out to be a powerhouse within the systems of money and economy that man had built, until no human corporation could compete with that of the machines. NOW, you've got a shift of power in a dramatic turn that I can totally believe in. Of course, humans could learn to live perfectly well without money, or with a different system of it, but it doesn't seem to be an easy thing for us to grow out of, or even be aware of. Can we think outside that box? Our article on Monetary Reform can probably kick-start some examinations of our issues there.

In fact, there are so many ways to support the economic turn in "The Second Renaissance" with completely other scenes, you really have to question why we got the ones we did, or how such sources of poor content were chosen.

The producers acknowledge how depressing and cruel some scenes of this movie are. So why make them? Surely there are better things to be making films of, better images to be focusing our awareness on. This isn't a segment that an audience should or will want to view often. Although I believe the director is intelligent and has a noble aim in mind, we see him here commit the same mistake as most of the major news media in distracting the masses with tragedy. One ends up with the false impression that only acts of cruelty were important to the setting up of the Matrix, which in the end feels exceedingly hollow.

The human mind must act as a kind of filter simply because there is too much information out there for us to process it all. Even the criteria of focusing on what is "real" will leave us with too much information to process, and so we must narrow it down even more. I have taken to heart firstly the criteria that information should be "useful" and/or "helpful" and/or "empowering me to be the best person I can be". And under that test, negative imagery fails miserably. It tends to make me stop all activity and curl up in a ball, should I take it to heart, because I know that stopping and re-grouping are preferable to lashing out in anger which does more to perpetuate negative cycles than to transmute them. Thus the lessons learned from negative sources are minimal compared with the direction one can get out of positive sources. If anything, a negative image only deserves to be looked at once, while a positive one deserves many many repeat viewings. Most news media fails this and tends to lean towards distracting tragedy rather than investigating any real cause that might make its advertising sponsors look bad. "The Second Renaissance" seems to be trying to follow suit. While I sympathize with the filmmakers' end goals, I feel very strongly that the various means they are using to try to reach those goals are rubbish.

The credits for the Animatrix are a bit of a pain - basically one great long boring 8-minute movie-style trawl. It's particularly a pain if you watch the segments individually, as the exact same overly long credit sequence is patched in after each and every one, just about doubling its running time, and with dialogue from segments you haven't seen yet dubbed randomly over the music, threatening to spoil future episodes. This, along with the wildly variable lengths of the other segments, really drives home the absurdity of splitting "The Second Renaissance" into two segments. I wish each segment had had its own short-and-to-the-point credit sequence.

Well, this is mostly an ugly double helping of the Animatrix that somehow never acquires any sort of dramatic structure. It ambles along for a while, muddling through the backstory, and then just ends all of a sudden. Very weird. I suggest moving quickly on past this one, because there is much better stuff in store ahead.

Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Animatrix: Kid's Story"

This story is available on DVD and Blu-ray as the second and third segments of "The Animatrix" in The Ultimate Matrix Collection.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Standard DVD version: Blu-ray version:
DVD NTSC Region 1
The Ultimate Matrix Collection
10-disc set
for the North American market:
Region 1 NTSC

Region 1 NTSC

Region 1 NTSC

DVD PAL Region 2
The Ultimate Matrix Collection 10-disc set
for the U.K. / Europe:
Region 2 PAL

Blu-ray Region A/1
The Ultimate Matrix Collection
for the North American market:

Region A/1

Region A/1

Bilingual Set

DVD Extras for "The Second Renaissance" include:

  • Japanese audio commentary by director Mahiro Maeda, with English subtitle translation.
  • making-of featurette (10 min.), adding producers Michael Arias and Eiko Tanaka, casting and voice director Jack Fletcher,
    composer Don Davis, sound designers Dane Davis and Michael Johnson, CG animation director Akiko Sato, publisher Takashi Watanabe,
    and critic Charles Solomon.
  • "Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime" featurette (22 min.), with executive producer Joel Silver,
    the various segment directors of "The Animatrix" (Peter Chung, Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Mahiro Maeda),
    producers Hiroaki Takeuchi, Eiko Tanaka, and Michael Arias, authors Frederik L. Schodt, Gilles Poitras,
    Japanese studies professor Susan J. Napier, "Spawn" creator Todd McFarlane, critic Carlo McCormick, critic/historian Charles Solomon, and
    magazine editors Martin Wong & Eric Nakamura.
  • short text biographies of the directors & producers of "The Animatrix".

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Animatrix: Kid's Story"

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