I didn’t enjoy the Matrix Reloaded as much as one or two others apparently did. But, like them, I was really captivated by the original Matrix. I own it on DVD, and have watched it at least 30 times. And each time I have watched it I have noticed things that make the story even more compelling.
The problem with the Matrix Reloaded is that it doesn’t stand on its own as a movie. I’m not willing to forgive that flaw, and that’s what separates me from the people who like it. The writer of the Salon article (subscription required for whole article) says, in essence, that he trusts the Wachowski brothers to answer all of the newly presented questions in the final movie that will come out in 6 months. I respectfully disagree.
I think it’s impossible for the next movie to answer the questions that I have, but maybe I’m not the target audience for the Matrix trilogy. Movie trilogies in general are kind of weird and maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps we are only now creating the story-telling conventions for these multi-release cinema epics (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc) and so I guess I should be more open minded about things. But somehow, where the Matrix Reloaded is concerned, I can’t.
When I saw the original Matrix I was captivated by the plot, the action, and the character development. As I understand the art of story telling, it mostly requires that the Hero have flaws and then be presented with challenges in order to overcome them. And the viewer has to be able to understand the Hero’s challenges and how he surmounts them. This is what draws the viewers’ interest.
In the first movie Neo was an “ordinary person who had to make tough choices.” Would he quit his job and listen to some guy named Morpheus that he had heard about, but had never met? Would he take the deal that Agent Smith offered him to turn Morpheus in? When he finally did meet Morpheus, would he take the mystery pill that would allow him to find out about the Matrix? Would he choose to live and thereby make Morpheus die (the Oracle told him he’d face this choice)? And, lastly, would he turn out to be”The One”? The questions were presented in one movie, and resolved in one movie. We were not only told that Neo became The One, but we could also understand how he became The One.
In the latest movie we are given questions and no answers. And what’s worse Neo has new powers that we apparently don’t even need to understand. For example, we find out right away that Neo can fly. Gee, that’s cool. But how did he learn to fly? It doesn’t matter. Neo is “The One” and that’s it. That’s all you need to know for now.
He seems to have no problem beating the agents, even when they multiply in droves. He doesn’t get captured, or come perilously close to death or face the threat of any other grave harm. Is he Christ? Apparently he is, and if you need to know more then you are a non-believer and you aren’t welcome in the Church of the Matrix.
Is the Matrix about religious worship? Oh, come on. You have to ask?
When Neo first enters the Matrix in the new movie the Wachowski Brothers flash us an image (in a street scene) of a painting of Christ, just in case (I suppose) there are two or three people left in the world who haven’t picked up on the religious overtones of the first movie. And Neo is wearing a flowing black robe through most of the movie. So yes, the movie is about religion. But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the unsubtle references to Christ or monks, we also get a flashing image of George Bush at one point (is that a “political point”?). And then there is Ms. Merovingian’s use of a silver bullet while the background TV in the room is showing an old Dracula movie (gee is there “a connection” between the silver bullet and Vampires? Is she a Vampire? And how does that figure into the whole philosophy of the Matrix?). And, finally, there is a quick reference to the old 70s Cop show “One Adam 12″ during the freeway chase scene. Religion, Politics, Vampires, Old TV Cop shows: I wonder how they are all related to the Matrix?
Oooh, it’s a mystery!
Perhaps the final Matrix episode will reveal, in one elaborate ballet, the Complete Truth of Everything. Perhaps we will then be able to separate the true plot questions from the offhand socio-cultural references. Then again, maybe not.
I obviously don’t “trust” the Wachowski brothers as much as other Matrix fans do (hey even Speilberg made some bad movies). I’m glad that they are using lots of African-American actors, and I love the idea of loading up the story with philosophical references and religious questions. But I’d like a movie that stands on its own and which has a coherent plot structure.
I think that Matrix Reloaded is deeply flawed, and it makes me wonder if the Wachowski brothers are too clever for their own good, or whether they perhaps tried to do too many things in this movie. The original Matrix was simple and direct, and at the same time it was deceptively profound. The Matrix Reloaded takes it as “a given” that every utterance by people like Morpheus or The Oracle is deeply meaningful. Or at least that it will be received as such by their fervent fans (they’re probably right about that).
Let’s see if “All is Revealed” is when the final movie comes out. But until it does I defy anyone to make sense of the speech given by the Matrix’s creator. I’ll bet if you transcribe it and read it you will see that it has all of the depth of a computer generated program that spits out philosophy jargon the way that the Alanis Morissette lyric generator creates lyrics that are faux-meaningful. Too much of anything can be bad, including discussions of philosophy (trust me on this one: I was a philosophy major).
So will the Matrix Revolution be a big hit? Will it leave us in starry-eyed wonder at the genius of the Wachowskis? Will it have a coherent plot structure? Will we be asked to join a cult and donate money to a worthy cause?
Stay tuned. You won’t know for sure until the last movie comes out.