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director: Kenichi Maejima

86 minutes (PG) 1999 widescreen ratio 16:9
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
After winning the lunar sweepstakes, former teen idol Alice is launched on a millennial flight to the Moon, but her shuttle crashes back to Earth, stranding young Alice at the North Pole with only a robot stewardess for company. She discovers that her spacecraft has bounced forward in time to 2030, where she's somehow become the mother of world tyrant Nero, who has conquered much of the planet using stealth troopers and a supercomputer called SS10X, and rules from his stronghold, the Kingdom.
   Part rites-of-passage, part quest for lost origins, and part cyberpunk espionage mission, A.Li.Ce ineptly mixes together episodic, graceless sci-fi adventure with a high street anti-fascism plotline, and features a wholly ineffective and boringly routine eco-message. The whole thing hinges on a poorly explained time travel paradox, and the mystery is revealed piecemeal without resort to any kind of startling revelations that might have made it more exciting. At times, the enemy soldiers resemble gold-plated versions of the Cybermen from Doctor Who, while upgradeable android Mary becomes more like a kick-ass terminator sex-doll with each tune-up and makeover.
   Apart from a few artistic touches to character styling this is dismally lo-tech if compared to superior CG animations featured in The Animatrix, and its attempts to mimic quality 3D anime (with limited evidence of live action movie 'signals' - such as lens flare, imaginative lighting 'sources', slo-mo action scenes, depth-of-field shots and deliberately out-of-focus backgrounds), result in a film without a concerted effort to evoke any sense of visual realism (fire, smoke and water tend to look especially cartoonish here). The disagreeably blatant product placement for a certain mobile phone detracts from its generally unbranded, fictional future world appeal. Watchable as a retrospective of recent CG anime, and fascinating if you're studying the rapid development of digital technology within the Japanese market (particularly with regard to how CGI elements are replacing all traditional cell animations), but otherwise this is a waste of your time.
   The DVD has an anamorphic presentation, with Dolby digital soundtrack in Japanese with English subtitles. There are also some trailers, filmographies and biographies of voice cast and filmmakers, plus a Final Fantasies documentary on the history of computer animation, and a chatty expert commentary by Jonathan Clements, in which he makes a good point about the evident similarities between postwar rotoscoping techniques and today's motion capture technology.
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