Web standards alert

Account: log in (or sign up)
onebee Writing Photos Reviews About


Yes, we all see you revolving. Stop it.

The barrage of advertising for the "Enter the Matrix" video game, the Matrix Reloaded 2-disc packed-to-the-gills DVD set, and the new film The Matrix: Revolutions has made it damn near impossible to ignore the final film in the Matrix trilogy opening today. Roughly six months ago, we devoted a whole week to the Matrix, whereas today I forgot all about it and therefore didn't have the column up until mid-day. What changed?

Well, the humans started holding their guns like pimps. That hurt a lot. Very, very a lot. The gi-normous mechanical exoskeletons worn by the humans in Zion bothered me plenty in The Matrix Reloaded, but this time around they seem to feature much more heavily. And they're holding their guns all cocked to the side like "gangstaz." Uncool. Also, way too many sequences seem to be created entirely in the computer, which should have raised a red flag for the Wachowskis in that it is reminiscent of the last two Star Wars movies. It gives the film an inappropriate cartoony feel, and it often has the effect of making the shot unwatchable. Literally unwatchable, not just "oh, I can't watch this, I'd rather deride it haughtily." The animators on the Matrix films are better than those on the Star Wars films, so it's not quite as bad, but both suffer the problem of having too much control. When the scene is entirely within the virtual realm, you have the ability to manage every single pixel, and the temptation is just to keep packing things into the frame. The problem is, the viewer can only focus on so much at once. In live-action, limitations of lighting, physical space, and depth of field serve to focus our attention on one part of the action. But with those considerations removed, animators have to be very careful to avoid generating a flailing miasma that viewers simply can't process. Again, no film will ever do this as poorly as the battle scene in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but asymptotically approaching the most horrific CGI scene ever is nothing to be proud of either. The makers of Final Fantasy managed to get it right, so we know it can be done. Pixar never has this problem.

(And yes, I have been searching for a spot to use "asymptotically approaching" for about four weeks now. It's my new "load-bearing.")

But the excess in CGI represents something beyond simply overdoing the animation. It equates to a chief problem with The Matrix Reloaded which nagged at me when I watched (and reviewed) it, but didn't come into crystal focus until later. Neo has too much power. The tension in The Matrix was built on Neo's fallibility. He was just learning his new skills, and didn't necessarily even believe in himself yet. Neo was a neophyte. (Oh, give me a break. I had a late start.) It was exciting because we didn't know what Smith could do, and we didn't know if Neo could keep up, and every time he dodged a bullet it was like "Whoa." Rather than Reloaded where it was all so passive and even he looked bored. There were some magnificent action sequences, but since he could always just fly away, the stakes were low. The stakes were zero. That's why I suggest that they should've made a "prequel" (in the parlance of our times; I swear "prequel" is not my word). Show us Morpheus back when he was Neo. Show us how he met Trinity. Expand on one of the volumes from The Animatrix. Just put us in any situation where there is some remaining conflict and something is at risk. In fact, Neo's apparent boredom just reminds us that all the bullets and flying cars are computer-generated.

Now, sure, from the look of things, Neo apparently has a conversation with some giant mechanical incarnation of the Matrix which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Beetlejuice snake. And Smith is in that human guy now which means he can do things in the human world that he couldn't do previously. (Like a lot of ADR sessions, apparently.) But at the end of the last film, we saw that Neo had powers in the human world, too. (Why?) And, the whole "when you die in the Matrix, you die in the human world" thing got appended (and upended) with the corollary that when Neo's Matrix magic revives you in the Matrix, you spring back to life in the human world, too. So, it starts to become kind of silly to worry if Neo will be able to prevail. In fact, maybe the best way to enjoy The Matrix: Revolutions would be to root for the robots. I was starting to anyway. As I believe I've mentioned before, there's such a thing as evolution. It's a little presumptuous to think that just because homo sapiens is not on top anymore, it represents some grave injustice that must be reversed if the movie is to have a happy ending. I liked the Architect. He had a sense of order and some serious long-range planning skills. (Plus, TiVo and I would really have fun in his multi-screened oval office.) The machines did a cool and diplomatic thing by setting it up so that the humans could have fun and free will (contextually, that is; see "Finding Neo" for the whole digression). Maybe this whole prophecy of The One (Hey, is that an anagram for Neo? Man, they think of everything!) doesn't represent such a good thing for the humans. They were happier with the old plan. One of the more overlooked scenes from Reloaded was the part where Neo and the old dude in the muumuu gazed out over the technology that keeps Zion going. The discussion centered around the fact that the humans and machines are interdependent, so that even these machines, over which they were theoretically powerful, also controlled them inasmuch as shutting down the machines would mean making Zion uninhabitable. That's the ending they should have. The humans realize that they own the machines as much as the machines own them, the whole thing is symbiotic, and they just calm down and deal. That's all I want. All right, bullets that don't emit glowing rings, and that's it.

Also, when Gloria Foster passed away during the tandem filming of Reloaded and Revolutions, they replaced her with another actress to play the Oracle in the third film. They explained it in the story by saying that the Oracle is part of the Matrix and therefore takes on different forms. Well, I agree with that. Well played. But if you're going to do that, replace her with a little boy or a twenty-something latina. Don't replace her with a Gloria Foster look-alike. It looks like you're trying to pull an Aunt Viv. (Or a Becky-from-Roseanne -y'know,-the-blond-daughter.) As sad as the loss is, you have a great opportunity to cast anybody as the Oracle, and this seems kind of like a fumble. "Yes, the Oracle can take any form she chooses. She just chooses to take the form of Gloria Foster or Gloria Foster's cousin."

Anyway, it's out today. Woo-hee! I'm sure I'll go see it because I'm interested to see how they wrap the story up, but my hopes are flagging. (That shot in the trailer of the Nebuchadnezzar against a blue sky seems to foretell a grandiose human victory.) If you want to reminisce with me about how cool the Matrix was in the good old days, head on over to Matrix Week. I'll be right behind you – my hip's been bothering me.

Your Comments
Name: OR Log in / Register to comment

Comments: (show/hide formatting tips)

send me e-mail when new comments are posted