The Jules Verne Adventure Film Festival wrapped up this weekend in Los Angeles with a smattering of anime and science fiction horror. We also caught a preview screening of the much-anticipated Japanese cyberpunk anime, Appleseed: Ex Machina, produced by action director John Woo (Hard Boiled, Mission Impossible 2). Check out what director Shinji Aramaki had to say about working with Woo's doves and getting CGI characters to act after the jump.
This sequel is much darker than the original Appleseed movie, and has borrowed plot elements from The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell (another property from cyberpunk manga artist Masamune Shirow) and the Terminator series. Where the original film dealt with the unrest between humans and genetically engineered bioroids, this film expands that idea with a techno-organic virus that has the ability to infect human bodies and wants to destroy all mankind. A subplot deals with the main heroine Deunan taking on a new partner, a bioroid clone of her android colleague and lover, Briareos.
There's a lot of slow-motion in this film, and the robotic doves play an interesting part in the film. Since those are John Woo's signature tools, was that his idea, or something you came up with?
In the beginning we shot a 40 second "test" video, and we included some of those action sequences with the doves flying in it. I obviously respect John and see him as an inspiration, and in the beginning I was nervous about how he would react to those scenes, especially the ones with all the bullet casings hitting the ground.
He was a very good sport about it. And the doves, we decided to make those robots because we wanted them to figure into the plot and not just be a prop or simply something onscreen. So we made that adjustment and it fit in perfectly.
How did this story develop?
The story is actually much closer to the original manga than the first film. The world that it takes place in is closer to the world in the first film, but our story in this one is much closer to the original comics.
Our budget on this film was triple the original, and that was because we wanted to explore emotions in CGI characters a lot more, to see how an animated character could express emotion. We also spent three times the amount of time working on this in order to do that.
We really wanted to improve as an anime and move things to the next level, not just make something look "cool." We shot real actors throughout the script and used them as a model for our CGI characters.
Did you take the actors out to locations?
No, that was all done on a studio stage using traditional motion capture techniques. That process took about a month, and we would film the actors with props and weapons that are used in the film, but it was all on a stage.
Is it true that some of the costumes worn by the characters were designed by Prada? How did that come about?
Yes, the owner and designer Miuccia Prada saw the original film and she really loved it, but she said the costumes in it looked terrible. When she found out we were doing a sequel she offered to design the clothes for it, and in some of the scenes you can even see the textures in the materials and it looks amazing.
Are there plans to continue this series using the same team?
Yes, we are starting work on the next film, and we have a plan to make a live-action version of Appleseed as well. That's just in the planning stages, but that's our next step.
Was the original artist, Shirow Masamune, involved in the production at all?
He got involved in terms of the script, and he gave us some notes. He was also involved in the designs of the mecha and the world in the movie. It's been one of the rare times that he's been involved in the production of the movies made from his properties.
What should we take away from this production as a sequel?
We really concentrated on the characters in the movie and making them as realistic as we could in terms of expressions and emotions. We were able to improve the acting in all areas, and we really wanted to focus on how they act throughout the story.