Animatrix: A Detective Story
A Detective story is unique in the Animatrix set, because it deliberately uses a different colour palette for the world. All characters seem to get on with the changed palette and treat it as normal, a grainy, yellowing film noir look. Its an aspect another great VR fiction work has played with. The Thirteenth Floor uses the same palette changing idea, and points out that if that palette and those colours are all you have ever known, you are going to accept them as real.
It also takes place in a very different city to the one in the Matrix that we know, with much more gothic architecture. This highlights the possibility that if the world is virtual, and large enough, it doesn't have to look or feel the same, all throughout. Indeed it is quite likely that those who live within it, are subtly 'encouraged' not to leave their own 'country', thus never knowing that the others are truly different.
The scene opens on a man leaning oddly against his seat in a railway carriage, pointing his gun seemingly at the camera. In his mouth he holds a cigarette, and he flicks a lighter on; the only real colour in the washed out place.
As he lifts the lighter up to his lips he says "The case to end all cases." Immediately the flashback begins, with his voice as the narrator.
A crowded freeway, all in black and white, with a very 1920s architecture. A massive city in the same style, rivalling the normal Matrix one for sheer size. Thousands of factories belching smog.
In the middle of all of this, a sign on a dilapidated building, with a vastly oversize revolver, and the words 'Private Investigator'.
It starts with the usual introspective sadness common to such PIs, about how he used to think it was so great to be one. Then the phone rings.
A male voice on the other end tells him he is hiring the detective, to look for a computer hacker known as 'Trinity'. The person is prepared to pay a LOT of money to find them - 800,000 to be precise. The hunt is on!
He discovered that Trinity was a real artist of a hacker, well known, and able to easily elude the cops, but something did not feel right. After some digging, he found even more bad news. He wasn't the first PI on the case. There had been others. One of them had killed himself, a second had vanished completely. A third, went crazy. He was the fourth.
Well, crazy or not, the third detective was an obvious lead. Time to pay a visit.
In a room, labelled "Find the red queen" in blood, he finds him. Tied into a straight jacket. He says that Trinity doesn't exist, he's a cipher, a jabberwocky, and neither do they. Our detective brushes him off as crazy, and goes in search of another lead.
Still, he caught on to all the 'Alice in Wonderland' quotes, and started searching hacker hangouts for someone with that M.O. Soon enough, the red queen says hi.
He is told he is the one through the looking glass, and to find out more, to meet, he will have to "Jump the first of six brooks" then logs off, crashing his computer in the process.
Working it out, he hurries to the train station to board a train. He misses it and has to sneak aboard the already-moving vehicle. Slipping into the carriage section he is sure it is, his gun drawn, he finds a woman already there. Her, bigger gun pressing against his face. Whoops.
She tells him this was all a test, and he has impressed her. Now, she is here to save him. With that, she presses her gun to his eyeball ,the hemispheric clear muzzle completely encasing the eye, and pulls the trigger. There is a sucking noise, and an alien object separates from his eye and whisks into the containment chamber on the gun. It wriggles for a bit, then freezes into place and deteriorates.
At that moment, elsewhere in the train, three passengers double over and morph into agents. They draw their guns and advance.
Trinity hears screams, and opens the door to the compartment. Seeing the three agents at the end of the car, she yells "go!"
They open fire, and he returns fire, but their fire is overwhelming and Trinity and he make it to the next carriage, seeking shelter. Suddenly he bends over in pain. An agent has locked onto him, and is starting to take over his body. Trinity sighs, tells him he's sorry, and shoots him. The half-manifested agent vanishes, but Ash is mortally wounded. Trinity tells him "There's a difference between a test and a choice. For what it's worth, I think you could have handled the truth." She then shoots the window at the side of the fast-moving carriage, and leaps out into the night.
As the agents close in on the broken window, his gun clicks. He is right behind them, sitting awkwardly, a cigarette in his mouth, gun pointed unwaveringly right at them. He reaches for his lighter. They are not going after Trinity and we have come full circle.
With this no-win situation, the film ends with Ash's line "A case to end all cases" as his lighter flame goes out.
Running time: 9:52
Written by Shinichiro Watanabe
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