The Hair Flap has you

by May 27, 20030 comments

I saw Matrix Reloaded this weekend. Three words, my friends: fuck, ing, sweet. Okay, that should only be two words, but my enthusiasm comes across so much better if they’re as three. I will now offer my thoughts on the film, so if you haven’t seen it already or don’t want some things to be ruined, go away.

Pardon me while I now put on my Film Major hat (which, coincidentally, is my diploma folded into a McDonald’s-style, paper hat. At least this way I’m using it for something).

I’ve never felt comfortable with some of the praise that the first Matrix movie did and still does receive. It certainly deserves to be praised, it’s’ a kick-arse movie with clever ideas and even more-clever action. What bothers me is all the people that say it’s the deepest movie in recent memory and is much better than any of it’s sci-fi counterparts, a claim that is almost always made with the words Star Wars appearing somewhere in the sentence. HA, I say. HA!

The problem with this particular brand of praise is that it’s simply inaccurate. Sure, there were plenty of neat “deep” ideas in Matrix, but even the Brothers W didn’t pretend that they were original. The first movie was a straight up parallel, all the way down to giving Jesus a pair of guns, a stylish trenchcoat and pair of sweet Raybans and casting Keanu Reeves to play him (the ultimate blasphemy, to be sure).

However, it was not the content but the interpretation of the source texts (ranging from Judeo-Christian to Nietzsche and Baudrillard) that deserved praise, not the content of the texts themselves, which is what most fans (and even many of the essays on the official Matrix site itself) mistakenly claimed was so original. Simply putting in some obscure Biblical references and then saying, “Looky here, I read me some o’ them fancy books,” does not a movie make. Please, tell us, the intelligent audience who is hungry for the steak of new ideas, what you think about those things!! Comment on them, reinforce them, mock them, whatever, but for the love of god, contribute to the conversation!!

This is what I’ve always felt was missing from the first movie and why I always make it a point to challenge those who bring up the first installment as an example of why Matrix is a revolutionary, awe-inspiring story. But, I still liked the movie and I was hesitant to attack it’s lack of commentary for one simple reason: It’s but the first of three installments. There was no guarantee, but I’ve always hoped that upon seeing the second ‘chapter’, it would become clear that the first one was not failing miserably, but indeed, successfully fulfilling it’s role as the First of Three Acts (something that many critics ofThe Phantom Menace are still unable to understand, to my surprise and dismay). Rest assured, Matrix Reloaded, the Second Act, has put my mind at ease, at long last.

The main themes seem to focus largely on interdependency and symbiosis as well as (one of my personal faves) the nature of Free Will and the question of if it really exists at all. If I went in to all the myriad ways in which these are explored in the movie, I’ll have rewritten the script here before I was done, so I’ll just let the movie do most of the talking, suffice it to say that Neo’s conversation with The Architect is worth the price of admission alone. In addition to dropping some serious bombs about what we thought we knew about the story to this point, it’s also brilliantly effective in summing up the state of our own world as well: things would be great if only we didn’t have the ability to chose to be fuckups.

Cinematically speaking, there’s only about one weak scene in the movie which comes early on during a party in Zion. It lasts way too long for what it is and just feels awkward. Thankfully, it’s over before too long and we’re off kicking ass and getting introduced to some new, neat Matrix-y ideas, such as that of a “Keymaster” which has the ability to use backdoors in the programming of the Matrix to “link” to other locations in the virtual space (kind of like a virtual wormhole). The end of the Staircase Battle was a neat twist when one of these doors, previously linking said staircase to the city, closes and when Neo opens it again, suddenly finds he’s in the middle of the mountains hundreds of miles from the city he was just in. I didn’t describe that very well, but it’s sweet, trust me.

The action, as expected, is just freaking sweet. The way the tension builds in the Battle of 100 Smiths scene is something I’ve never seen in a Hollywood film before. It’s and interesting contrast to the Jackie Chan conundrum. Jackie’s old Hong Kong movies had action/fight scenes that would last for ages. I mean, he’s Jackie Chan, that’s what he does. But when he started making flicks in the US, they wouldn’t let him do fight scenes much longer than 3-4 minutes because the Hollywood Suits have it in their heads that the audience will get bored after that (Do I even need to comment on how retarded this is? Who goes to see action movies? Action junkies!! Give us our fix, dammit!!).

But this scene in Reloaded just goes and goes and then it slows for a second to give you a breath and introduce some new piece of information that’s actually relevant, and then goes and goes some more. And it’s the fact that it goes and goes that grabs a hold of you and makes you say, “Holy shit, we’re still not done!?!” as your eyes pop even further out of your head. It goes to show you how much clout the Wachowski’s have that they can get away with this kind of scene in a Studio-run climate (which Jackie was, unfortunately, not able to overcome).

It also goes to show that they’ve learned an important lesson from the likes of James Cameron’s action scenes; i.e.- if the action scene is not only action, but instead a story in itself, it can go damn well as long as it likes(My favorite example is the crane scene in The Abyss, but an equally valid one would be the entire second half of Titanic as the ship is sinking making it, in effect, one huge action scene).

I think my only other minor complaint would be the preponderance ofobviously CG people. Unlike some luddites who often lambast the likes of George Lucas for his supposed attempts to replace or alter actors with CG avatars, I don’t really mind the use of them myself (these same critics for some reason, strangely have no problem with the manner in which a camera distorts the reality of an actors performance through the very nature of photography itself, to say nothing about the celluloid manner in which it’s reproduced. Why is one manner of distortion more corrupt than another?). I don’t mind, that is, as long as it’s not painfully obvious that it’s a CG person. Some of the movements of the characters during the fight seemed a little jarring, as though they didn’t have weight to their bodies or inertia in their limbs as they started or ended arm-swings or body-movements.

That said however, the scene kicks so much ass and, as I already mentioned, was so well constructed in both tension and choreography, that it was never enough to cause the smile on my face to fade.

If it’s not already painfully obvious, I could talk about this movie all day. I think I’ve made most of my main thoughts apparent, so I’ll let anything else I might have to say rest for now. For those that were having trouble absorbing all the new revelations and relationships introduced in this movie (it was pretty dense), I offer this brilliant, easy-to-understand analogy, lifted from this discussion thread in the forums. All in all, pretty accurate I think. ^_^

Understanding Matrix: Reloaded as a PC Analogy, by Faethe in discussion thread

People who do not have a PC will not understand this – because they do not have registry keys. The “Key Master?” (think that was what he was called) strikes me as the all-in-one crack generator (that hacks entrance to programs) or the registry key editor.

Smith is now a virus. Well that’s a duh. His integrity as a program was compromised at some level, so he malfunctions, and becomes other.

As Smith is a virus, he is currently rampaging through the matrix (like a farking trojan) altering other system files, programs, and enjoying himself (Smith’s face is the face of every computer viruss. I see it in my dreams).

Smith has screwed, no doubt, the intergrity of Matrix 6.0. Neo started it by screwing with Smith.

The architect reminds me of Norton Systemworks. He diagnoses problems, tries to eradicate viruses, suggests updates, blahblahblah. However, there are always things that Norton can’t handle, due primarily to problems with the farking operating system.

So it’s time to upgrade to a new operating system. No doubt the architect has taken all of Neo’s data into consideration, as it IS Neo that inspires Smith to go corrupt, and also, as a side note, all the other cute little programs that have been running resident snarkingup system resources (the Oracle and her ilk) to go apeshiat.

So you can a – reboot into safe mode and try to fix the problem that way, or b – give the fark up and accept the current limitations of your operating system and upgrade. The architect makes the choice.

Remember- the Oracle was also going on about how some programs do as they wish – no doubt upgrading themselves silently like good little pieces of friggin’ spyware, keeping one step ahead of ad-aware. But perhaps this is an oversimplification of what these programs are actually up to.

It was all just obvious to me. I started laughing my ass off towards the end, because peridically, crap like you see in the matrix code goes flashing through my system, and something usually stops it (Norton, ad-aware – whatever). If I don’t stay on top of the integrity of my system, Zion starts forming in my system resources. Usually whenever I do an operating system upgrade, things go back to normal.

Ad when the system gets upgraded, all the pieces fall back into place again, (especially if I install it on a clean drive), registry farks dissapear (for a while anyway) and a clean partition forms…

Zion is a friggin’ partition.

And if you haven’t seen it yet, for the love of God, go see Matrix Reloaded!!

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