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A.Li.Ce (1999)
Director: Kenichi Maejima

review by John Percival

Alice Hayashi is the youngest person ever to go into space. However, soon after the launch her shuttle crashes at the North Pole. After the crash Alice finds herself chased by soldiers and then rescued by a boy named Yuan. Together they discover that during the crash Alice has been catapulted 30 years into the future. Now the iron fist of Nero, and his supercomputer SS10X, rules the world. Alice shares a common link with Nero and the SS10X and through this she may be the world's only chance for freedom.

A.Li.Ce was an attempt at the future of film animation by being made up of completely computer-generated images. However, as is extremely common in the computer world, what was very cutting-edge a few years ago is crude now. This is most definitely the case with A.Li.Ce, the resolution seems poor and the edges of objects and characters look jagged. My main problem with this kind of animation is the lack of any realistic physics, objects just do not move as they should or 'weigh' as they should. For example, the Jeep that Yuan drives to escape from their pursuers bounces over the frozen landscape as if the ground were cotton wool. Everything and everybody else just seems to move as if the air is too thick. Similarly the animation is too crude to allow any subtlety of expression in the characters faces and the colours are way too bright.

The story, although a routine 'one person saves the world' type drama, is quite interesting. Alice develops well enough from the frail confused girl into a determined saviour. She is backed up local boy Yuan who guides her in the dead future world. He manages to remain useful as comic relief and resists the urge to become too annoying. The 'good' technology presents itself in the form Maria, a human looking android waitress with guns that emerge from her arms. Together they wind their way around a plot that brings together some interesting political and ecological arguments. But it manages to do this with out being patronising. Plus the realisation that would be was changed because of the words of sad girl, is extremely touching.

If this film had been coupled with the kind of animation seen in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, then this would have been an incredible film. As it is, I would say that it looks and feels like it has been made from cut scenes of a computer game, however today even those have a film quality feel. I do not want to rubbish the standard of animation entirely as it is only the technology by today's standards that lets it down, the actual artwork is quite stylish and does contribute to the atmosphere and story. Along with some pretty good voice acting it does manage to be a fairly enjoyable action filled film.

Extras on the Region 0 NTSC disc include, 'A History of CGI animation filmed at London Sci-fi 2003', an interview with the director, trailers, image gallery and biographies.

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