With a slightly dodgy title this was I believe the first animated addition to a movie that acted as a sequel and prequel at the same time. A collection of nine short stories that gave both more insight into the films plus some individual tales of characters in a world run by the machines.
Final Flight of the Osiris: The first story is in CG animation which I didn't really like in all honesty. This tale is about the ship Osiris and her crews battle to deliver a warning to 'Zion' whilst being attacked viciously by Sentinels. Everything in the segment looks good accept for the human characters if you ask me, there you have that typical plastic vacant look on their faces accompanied by so so lip syncing. The bleak dark work of reality looks great of course, the ship looks great and so do the sentinels, its just the human characters, but at least the story is a good one connecting dots to the second film ('Reloaded').
The Second Renaissance: A prequel to the entire trilogy and tells the tale of how mankind ruined what they had and how the machines slowly took over. Its unoriginal and deals with mankind inventing humanoid robots to serve them but treating them badly. How the robots slowly gain a conscious and one of them kills its owner which leads to a massive rethink in human/robotic relations and inevitably war. The segment is traditional hand drawn animation with the odd splatter of CGI assistance which I think is best really. It looks terrific as a montage of events accompanied by a cold sterile narration, really sets the mood. This is easily one of the most interesting stories as it gives tonnes of info about how it all happened.
The Second Renaissance Part II: Number Three continues on from where the previous segment left off and tells of the gradual descent into all out war between mankind and machines. It shows how the robots finally overrun and destroy most of the human defenses, kill off all world leaders and begin their construction of the matrix to gain power from human bodies. This is because man has blocked out the sun with a massive dark cloud of nanomachines which cuts off the machines primary source of power. Again the segment is hand drawn animation with CGI assistance and again it looks lovely. This second section is a much darker affair and really well executed, probably the best shorts in the collection.
kids Story: This is another good segment because it helps us to see how one film character came to be free from the matrix. Set between The Matrix and Reloaded it simply shows how 'Kid' is a disgruntled teen who believes something is wrong with the world. He manages to contact 'Neo' via his computer and soon finds himself on the run from agents. This short has been rendered in a sort of rotoscoping method where it was clearly filmed in live action but then hand drawn animated over the top. The effect is eerie and unique but I don't think it suits the material here really. A very straight forward story which just makes the character a little more interesting when you see him in the film.
Program: Again another very simple straight forward short which involves a female undergoing a training simulation session. Things go awry when a male she recognises turns up and says he is going back into the matrix and wants her to follow. A very minimalistic looking segment, pretty much in black, white and a few sparse colours but its really effective with some stunning hand drawn artwork on display. It looks very much like the Genndy Tartakovsky Star Wars microseries but maybe a bit sharper.
World Record: This is one of the most intriguing segments as it basically tells the story of a top sprinter who runs so fast during a 100m race (his body energy build up) that his real body tears itself away from the matrix and he awakes in his pod confronted by a sentinel. He is zapped with an electric shock which sends his mind back into the matrix. A neat idea that rarely some people can rip themselves from the matrix under obvious situations of high intensity/stress. Again the animation is somewhat similar to the previous segment, sparse on colour, mainly black and white, very comic book-esque in appearance.
Beyond: This segment was one of the harder plots to follow. A group of kids are playing in area within a rundown building, this area is basically a glitch in the matrix and thusly odd feats can be performed such as floating. Other strange occurrences also happen such as shadows not connecting with their solid origins, doors opening into nothing, rain from a sunny sky etc...Soon agents come along and sort the problem out. This segment is the most stand alone story really as it doesn't really point to anything, its simply a tale of regular people in the matrix finding an error but not understanding what it is. The animation seems to be rotoscoping again for the main female character but hand drawn animation for everyone/thing else. It looks like a typical foreign cartoon to me, a Jap cartoon or maybe even French at a stretch. Its OK but it didn't thrill me in anyway.
A Detective Story: A prequel to the first film which has 'Trinity' as a main character trying to help a private detective who has been hired to track her down...unbeknownst to him by agents. Much like Trinity saving Neo in the first film this follows the same kind of route but shows things don't always go to plan. A typical black and white noir style for this one, a bit cheesy with the full spectrum of cliches that go with the style. Even to go as far as having the good old Venetian blind shadows and setting most of the segment on a train with lots of flashing white lights. Does look good though.
Matriculated: This is another interesting segment as it shows a team of humans in reality who trap machines and plug them into their own man made matrix. They do this in order to show the machines more of human behaviour, positive human traits, hopefully to convert them to fight for mankind without forcing them, but if their own accord. Most of this story is plain surreal as its set within the man made matrix, this naturally equal lots of CG animation which I don't really like. Luckily its not all like that, when not in the matrix the animation is hand drawn and handled by Aeon Flux director Peter Chung, and you can see it clearly. The main female character bares a striking resemblance to Flux, a little too close really, but its a nice touch and saves us from too much CGI.
When I saw this years ago I didn't really like it, I don't think I really got it back then. After a revisit I do understand the segments more and they do fit into the trilogy really nicely, 'The Second Renaissance' for me, being the best and most interesting and of course 'Osiris' being more like the original films which is cool. My only wish is maybe they should of stuck to hand drawn animation with CGI tit bits for all segments, it would feel somehow more complete. As it stands now it feels too random, some parts don't feel as if they belong in the same universe..but that's just me. Its still a very slick compilation of artistic styles each with their own little twists and ideas that only help to bolster the franchise.