Yes, another trilogy in a single post. I’m far too far behind with writing these v. the watching of them, so this is the best way to catch-up really. Besides, as with The Lord of the Rings in the previous post, the summation of Matrix as a project whole is the fairest way to approach the films, thus a single post makes sense to approach in terms of success with story-telling and so on, which is basically the reason for all of this being done in the first place by me.
This may be the perfect example of “it’s important to know when to stop”. While it doesn’t seem like they meant to – at least according to the material I’ve browsed about the story – the first film serves as the best allegorical telling of the New Testament I’ve ever seen. Granted, its thematically about redemption and conquering ‘false perception’ as found in Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave”, but basically it’s about the resurrection of Christ. Think what you will about Christianity, the notion that there is a life beyond the one we have here is an integral part of the faith, which is the notion this film adds to its other component of “there is one who is to come and free us from death”, and there’s nothing else I can get out of the film as a result. Surely the Brothers Wachowski were aware of it when they penned lines such as these:
CHOI: Hallelujah. You’re my savior, man. My own personal Jesus Christ.
MORPHEUS: You are the One, Neo. You see, you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you.
what else can they be getting at here, really? Plus the name of the girl is “Trinity”, another character is Seraph (the singular of “Seraphim”), and the city they’re heading to is called “Zion”? Then in the second and third Neo is dressed like some Martial Arts trained Jesuit Priest…? C’mon…
The effects are legendary – what with their possible creation of “bullet time” as a jaw-dropping visual – and the fight sequences are both imaginative as well as visually stimulating. Through both of these techniques we really believe that everyone is truly capable of what normally would be considered impossible. The fact the cast trained literally for months to learn both the basics of the techniques and specifics of each encounter clearly paid out in spades. In the same way you watch dance routines and think “damn, I want to be able to do that”, the same reaction occurs here.
Let me just say, however, that watching the same guy who played Elrond in the last trilogy shoot and punch the hero in this one is a little off-putting to see. Okay, it’s a different character, and actors are not their characters, and yadda yadda yaddah… but it’s tough to get out of your head. Given he must have been shooting the two around the same time, it must have been tough from him as well. No wonder the guy went for some voice work in Happy Feet.
Now the second and third are just… well, indulgent, cash-grabbing, SFX-fests. Honestly. I ended up watching the first film for the second time in the afternoon, then the other two parts in the evening and I could easily have stopped at the first as I never felt that the final 260 minutes of the saga added much of anything to the tale, beyond seeing all the stuff exploded.
Okay, sure, there’s some neat stuff to look at, but one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen is the preposterous so-called “Burly Man Battle” where Nero beats the tar out of an increasingly ridiculous quantity of Agent Smith iterations. After about ninety seconds you just want to take the lot of them aside and say okay, yes, you’re very good and we’re all impressed, but what about some story development, hmmm? As if that’;s no enough, there’s so damned many little things flying around during the battle at the end of the third film you literally cannot understand what’s going on part of the time. You certainly can’t appreciate any of the detail in anything, so you wonder what the damned point is? There’s something like 500 little massively armed robot-guys running around in some shots, plus another huge cloud of “squidoos” pouring into the area… honestly, it’s not impressive in a Kurosawa sense; it’s simply numbing.
There are many fights, they go on too long, there’s a sequence on a highway that’s tough to follow due to so much quick-cutting of shots… it’s all too much of a muchness, really.
If you took the last two films – and their two titles are meaningless to me, actually – cut all the fights down to 1⁄3 of their length, re-edited the narrative into a linear one without flash-backs and fore-shadowing, then chopped the transitionals and establishing shots in half by length, and then removed the all of the pretentious dialogue about the Matrix Mythos, you might have a film worth watching, but I’d be willing to bet that the result would still be too long to be worthwhile.
If anyone hasn’t seen the third film, I’d actually recommend watching the second film right ahead of the third, because there is literally no lag time between the two: Revolutions picks up nearly the same second you left Reloaded and there is no summary prologue or even dialogue to catch you up on what went before. The original plan was to have the two films appear within weeks of each other, but post-production delays caused the two to be separated by over half a year. This might have resulted in people being able to see one of them followed by the next inside of a week or less, what with films of this dimension staying in the theatres for a month or so.
However, if you’ve not seen the first in quite some time, I’d actually recommend watching the original prior to the second and then the third, because there’s so much stuff thrown at you so quickly it makes the Star Wars pre-quals look like an Emily Brontë story.
To be frank, I’d really suggest watching the first one, and then giving both the second and third a miss, unless you’re bound and determined to see the things. Life is too short…
Or, conversely, just watch the above ‘alternate ending’ instead. Far shorter, and possibly more satisfying.
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix Reloaded (May 2003)
The Matrix Revolutions (November 2003)
Warner Bros. Pictures presents
in association with Village Roadshow Pictures
a Silver Pictures production
Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski
Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski
This year, I’ve been watching DVDs from the library for a number of reasons, mostly to do with a combination of “filling in the gaps in my ‘pop culture’ knowledge”, as well as a concerted effort to better understand story editing by both watching a film and then re-watching listening to people who have studied that particular movie for years in order to better appreciate the themes, plot construction, symbolism, and so on.
The process would be nothing without the secondary audio tracks. Sometimes it’s like having actually been through the film-making process with the people involved.