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Armitage III: Poly-Matrix (1994)
Director: Takuya Sato

review by Jeff Young

In this colourful and dynamic sci-fi anime, Naomi Armitage (voiced by Elizabeth Berkley, of Showgirls infamy) is a feisty super-cop on a futuristic, independent Martian colony where - according to her boss - she's the resident "badge-toting terror in hot-pants." In defiance of the red planet's social aversion to intelligent machines, country & western singer Kelly McCanon has been replaced by a robot. This is revealed in the opening scenes, when mysterious spree killer D'anclaude murders McCanon on arrival at Mars' spaceport. The singer was supposedly the last android of her kind, so now the 'species' is extinct - or so everyone thinks at first. Now, Armitage is teamed with Detective Ross Sylibus (Kiefer Sutherland), a hulking, brooding presence - reluctantly transferred from Chicago to Mars, and terminally unhappy with his latest assignment to help Armitage investigate the apparent conspiracy behind a series of killings. Of course, he underestimates his female partner, yet discovers that despite her diminutive size, and the fact that she looks cute in red lingerie, Armitage is strong enough to shoulder tanks aside in a manner wholly inconsistent with even the lower gravity of Mars. This is a big clue as to her true nature...
   Set against the backdrop of a busily technological, quasi-terraformed Martian landscape and in volatile political circumstances, as Mars and Earth move swiftly toward economic unity, this is a thought-provoking yet enjoyably action-packed genre thriller derived from the likes of Blade Runner (1982), and Total Recall (1990). Still, in terms of imaginative genre content and intelligent exploration of its hard-SF themes, this quirky little animated feature has far more to say about 'artificial intelligence', poetic justice, humanity, and the essence of freewill than the overly sentimental Bicentennial Man (1999) or Steven Spielberg's lamentable A.I. could ever hope to communicate; stymied as such live-action movies are by the dumbed-down requirements of their lowest-common-denominator multiplex appeal, bloated production values and unforgivable paucity of vision. Although its makers are not above stooping to cheap satirical gags, like the broadcasting of a terrorist's 'snuff video' on TV news, Armitage III (not a sequel, the number has a different meaning!) boasts an intriguing backstory about anti-machine protests as an effective racism metaphor, and keenly anticipates other SF action elements that dominate The Matrix (1999), and episodes from The Animatrix.
Armitae III

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