Sunday, December 6, 2009

The decline of the Matrix

When The Matrix first came out it was a sensation.  It had tremendous cinematography, groundbreaking fight scenes and a tremendous twist story that blew people away.  As the sequels to The Matrix came out though the original movie lost a lot of its lustre, and in ways that are unexpected.  The two later movies in The Matrix series had some powerful scenes, exciting fight sequences and more twists, yet the reason that they devalued the original movie was not because they eclipsed it but rather because they weren't particularly different.

I was sitting in the Lounge one day in 1999 when a group of my friends wandered in.  They had just been to see The Matrix, which at the time was a movie I had never ever heard of.  They were acting a little strange, talking about the movie in very vague terms and being mysterious.  They suggested I should go see it, but wouldn't tell me exactly why.  Then after a short discussion they decided that the thing to do was for all of us to go and see the movie together immediately.  This was particularly strange because these people are absolutely not in the habit of going to the theater twice in one day to see the same film, and in fact were all mostly poor students who didn't go out to see films regularly at all!  Unsurprisingly given that I am a geek and quite a fan of kung fu action flicks I was completely amazed by the Matrix upon seeing it.  We ended up convincing everyone that they had to go see it right away and placing this movie upon quite a pedestal that few other movies could hope to occupy.  In fact Corporate Plunderer kept The Matrix running in a separate window on infinite loop on his computer while he was working for 6 months straight!

Clearly at the outset we thought of The Matrix as a phenomenal, groundbreaking success and gave tremendous props to the creators.  Of course when the news of sequels came out we were sure that they would never measure up to the original but still went to go and see them regardless, figuring that even if they were drastically worse they would still be worth seeing.  The second movie was poor, and we left the theatres feeling like they had gone very wrong with the series.  We held out hope though that the third movie might somehow tie things together and manage to rescue the trainwreck that seemed imminent.  As everyone who has seen it knows, the third movie in The Matrix series did not tie up loose ends and rescue the plot but rather took a dizzying journey through random lunacy and bizarre, inexplicable, unnecessary twists to arrive at a most unsatisfactory ending.  At the time we simply decided that the original movie was a gem, a perfect creation that happened to be churned out by incompetent directors.  We assumed that it was just luck that made the original great and it was unlikely to be repeated.  The thing is though, when viewed with the knowledge of the weakness of the sequels one can easily see that in fact the original The Matrix was really quit terrible in many aspects.

To give some examples of things in the original The Matrix that make no sense:

Humans as batteries:  What?  Humans are a giant energy sink.
The random kids that can bend spoons:  What is the point of them being there?  What is going on?
Trinity and Neo go to the roof of the military facility... why?
Why exactly do people need to get to a phone in game to log out?  Why can't they be disconnected without instant death?
If the machines have these unbelievable numbers of robot warriors, why exactly haven't they crushed Zion eons ago?
What is going on when Neo takes the pill and touches the mirror?  Does he have to touch the mirror to get out of the Matrix?

There are plenty of others, of course.  The thing is, when viewed from the perspective of just one movie these things can largely be ignored.  The gaps in our knowledge of the world's dynamics are far greater than the tiny little bits of information we do have, so we assumed that if the creators of the movie had had more time then all these things would make sense.  We lived with the idea that when the sequels came out that more would be revealed, the world would begin to make sense and many of our questions would be answered.

When you watch the 2nd and 3rd Matrix titles you see incredibly cliched plot (the whole military defence of Zion) combined with nonsensical and unnecessary plot twists.  Why does Neo suddenly gain the ability to see without eyes?  Why does he gain the ability to destroy/control machines in the real world?  What on earth made the directors think that the interminable subway station portion of the third movie was a good idea?  By the end of a series we generally expect that the major plot points will be resolved and the audience will have some sort of understanding of what occurred.  We expect that many of the major mysteries will be happily resolved, and yet instead we had exactly the opposite.  The movies simply kept on introducing bizarre new twists without resolving old ones until the curtains closed on the third film.

After viewing all The Matrix movies together we must conclude that the directors are not subtle geniuses who leave just enough to the imagination to tantalize us, but rather buffoons who smash together scenes with no thought to consistency, story flow or resolution.  They spin things out of control further and further as they lack the ability to write a satisfying conclusion or to wrap up the many, many loose threads in a way that gives the audience some kind of closure.  We have a case of Deus Ex Machina, rather than a carefully crafted story by the Bard.  After The Matrix we could easily have concluded that the plot and organization of the film were poor, but there would always have been that nagging doubt that perhaps the followups would show some hidden genius that made it all make sense.  The sequels merely served to remove the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' defence and left The Matrix to stand on its own, bereft of that veil of uncertainty.  The action and cinematography are still tremendous, but the rest of it makes me a little bit sad.

Of course, I still have a complete nerdgasm at so many of the scenes... "Guns.  Lots of guns."  SO GREAT.

No comments:

Post a Comment