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The Final Flight of the Osiris

Reviving an old cinema tradition, Warner Brothers is including a cartoon with their feature release of Dreamcatcher. But Bugs Bunny it ain't.

Instead, they're giving you The Final Flight of the Osiris, a computer-animated short set in the world of The Matrix, because evidently Warner has concerns that some of you aren't yet in a rabid frenzy in anticipation of The Matrix Reloaded. The short serves as a prelude to the May release, in ways that haven't yet become clear.

In the span of a tense six minutes or so, the Wachowski Brothers provide all the elements that made the first film so cool, without Keanu. (Or even a computer-generated version of him, for fear the CG might look more real.)

No need for introductions, then, as after a brief glimpse of The Matrix itself, we plunge right into a virtual dojo. An African man and an Asian woman face off with swords, with the catch that they're both blindfolded.

It turns out to be a sort of a strip duel. With each pass of the blade, a piece of their oh so constrictive clothing falls to the digital floor. It's a sweaty minute of Matrix foreplay.

Soon enough, the rest of the elements fall into place, and the protagonists are brought back into the harsh reality that is life outside of Zion and The Matrix itself. From the title, you can guess that a dark foreboding hovers over the whole thing.

So you know that these characters cannot destroy the machine, but they can add depth to an already well-realized world. And computer animation also allows for stunt work beyond what the live-action films can do. Why? Because there's no shift from actor to CG figure - it's seamless all the way through.

Director Andy Jones takes full advantage of that, too, with a tremendous sequence of the heroine reaching the ground from atop a skyscraper. You know it's all computers, but it's easy to get swept up in the action. (Wait a minute - isn't there an irony to this film using computers? Perhaps the world has already been pulled over our eyes.)

Thankfully for every actor but Reeves, the figures aren't quite photorealistic, but they're getting closer. In a couple of shots, if you squint you could mistake the captain for a real man. Not surprising, really, as Jones worked on Final Fantasy, ground-breaking for its time in every way but story.

The Final Flight of the Osiris is one of nine short films making up what the Wachowskis call The Animatrix, and right now, the only one to be released theatrically. Only four of the nine will be written by the brothers guiding the whole series, but all will appear on the web, with a DVD release slated for June.

Okay, fans, start that frenzied foaming.

Pre-order The Animatrix at Amazon (we'd be fools if we didn't offer...)

Derek McCaw

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