July 7, 2003


[This post is in response to the conversation over at chuck's about the film. I have been wanting to write up some thoughts about the Matrix Reloaded for some time, but I wanted to finish the game and see the Animatrix. Alas, I will have to add those thoughts when I have time to view/play some more...]

Maybe I was lucky - I ended up sneaking out to the restroom during most of the bland conversation between Neo and the council elder. And I pretty much knew that the fight scenes would leave me, well, less impressed that the first. So why did I like Matrix Reloaded so damn much?

I think that beneath the scum surface of occasionally stupid dialogue and obvious pokes at postmodernism, there were some really interesting developments and/or issues:

1. Faith - Unlike the first film, where Morpheus reveals the 'desert of the real' (or brings you into the rabbit hole, or shoots you through a mechanical birthing sequence), he serves less as midwife in the second film and more as potential fanatic (some have suggested fascist). By broadening the universe - and investing others with political power - Morpheus' all-to-certain attitude makes me - well - less than certain. Now, I didn't care for all of the *overt* methods in which they forced this issue, like the mundane "I need love" commander Jason (thanks) getting all fanatic (or equally fascist) on the other side of the issue. But I actually liked the sort of awkward grace that Neo used to deal with his 'worshippers'. I also liked the immediate problem that comes from the 'oracle' - can we trust her or have faith in her now that we know she lacks

2. Humanity? Or does she? This was one of the triumphing movements of the film for me. Unlike *any* other film that has attempted this, I most felt during Matrix Reloaded that those bots/rogue programs struggled with the issue of humanity as much as ... well, any other human. The spider fallen prey to its own web - and that to me was just a wonderful addition to the richness of the world - from the Merovingian / Persephone point-counterpoint of dispassionate passion to passionate dispassion, to the Keymaker's desperate fear, and even to the development of

3. Agent Smith's multiple personality disorder. All of which gave good fun, sure, when 35 or so Agent Smith's piled on top of Neo in a fight then flight sequence that - despite its "too perfect" appearance (which I criticized when I saw the previews) still left me impressed when I compare it too all of the other more obviously computer-generated 'human' interactors on the screen. Watching Agent Smith go rogue was a lot of fun and reminded me that the film really *isn't* about Neo right now - it's about building a universe. Now whether it be for marketing or storytelling (clearly a bunch of both), the Matrix world is exploding - and we have perhaps in front of us one of the most fascinating examples of (well-planned) crossmedia, collaborative authorship and development that is not only not a flop ... but popularly successful. Talk about

4. Bridging worlds. And sure, I'm talking about the media, but what I really mean is - really bridging worlds. What do I mean? Neo - in this incarnation - is kind of boring. We know what he can do (although I loved the flying sequences, with a hint of the Superman score in the background) and he really doesn't even have Krytonite (the *only* thing that kept Superman slightly interesting to me, who was otherwise just a powerhouse; that's why I prefer Batman - that weak human heart and a bunch of wicked gadgets - or Spiderman - all limbs and lanky wit). So how do we solve this problem - we bridge the world of Zion with the world of the Matrix. We make all that 'desert of the real' crap fall by the wayside. Because - holy cow! - Agent Smith is in the 'real' world, fascinated with carving his own flesh - just. because. he. can. And Neo - he too is a folding of the two realms, as we find in the shocking (ha.) final sequence. This false VR / RL (virtual reality / real life) dichotomy is discarded like so much malarkey and we suddenly - in my obviously not so humble opinion - find ourselves in a different territory. This is not Dark City, where the sun finally comes out. Instead of supporting the divergence, we have a convergence. And I have no idea where they plan to go from here.

Which makes me just really excited to see the last film.

So yes, I found the fight scenes a little dull at times, but I didn't expect my heart to pound the way it did when I sat in the theater and watched the first Matrix without any expectations at all (I hadn't even heard of it when I went). And I thought that the overt phil-os-o-phizing and the aw-shucks 'believe-in-me' pontificating was dull too. But the depths of the film - the implications in the very structure of the world that the Wachowski brothers created - continues to capture my imagination.

Posted by Jason at July 7, 2003 9:37 AM | TrackBack

I liked your comments about "bridging worlds," especially in light of the fact that Neo is no longer the most interesting aspect of the narrative. I, too, was intrigued by Agent Smith's joining the party in Zion. I'll also be interested to see how they resolve things in the third film. My big fear is that--like Dark City--Neo and his cohorts will step out into a sunlit afternoon, whether artificial or real, at the end of the film.

Posted by: chuck at July 8, 2003 4:44 PM | Permalink to Comment

I really hope they don't do that.

Especially since the sun is supposed to be blotted out (causing, of course, the machine's need to feed off of the electricity in the human body) ;)

Either way, I am really curious to see how they work this out without relying on some elaborate trick ("oh, it was a dream all along!" or some such nonsense)

Posted by: Jason at July 8, 2003 5:56 PM | Permalink to Comment

Thanks for the link zoop. Matrix as LARP. Wild.

Posted by: Jason at July 9, 2003 10:50 AM | Permalink to Comment
Post a comment

Remember personal info?