Matrix Aftermath: Going Off The Rails (To Degrees)

19 10 2008

Today in my effort to consume new media and just RELAX instead of being focused on being productive, I had a half-compromise and watched a movie I’d seen before in a new way — The Matrix Reloaded, using RiffTrax wacky commentaries by the former MST3K team.

Terribly funny, but it did highlight something for me… the movie wasn’t really that bad.

On a surface level, the action scenes were very well done and engaging. The stoner philosophy wasn’t really all that horrible, and did ask some interesting questions, in an Enlightenment 101 sort of way. There’s really nothing terrible here, it’s just nothing AMAZING… despite trying to be. Which is the problem.

The movie just tries too hard, and loses focus on what made the original Matrix movie work. Because the characters in the first were having very personal fight scenes, one on one, where the reality-bending was kept to a minimum and highlighted for effect, it felt solid and grounded. Down to earth. The dialogue was similarly grounded, keeping the high end zen discussions to subtext rather than text. Basically, The Matrix was Matrix Reloaded with the leash kept on, and that’s actually a really good thing since it traded spectacle for substance.

Once you take that leash off, you lose the interpersonal relationships, you lose the emotion, and you lose the solid action punctuated with over the top moments. All you have left is rambling monologues, rushed character interaction in favor of getting on with the plot, and action sequences that are comprised entirely of over the top moments resulting in something that’s just silly instead of cool with moments of awesome.

Dialing things back in order to make the times when you do go off the rails gives those moments more meaning. It’s a good lesson for any writer, game designer, or whatever other profession-sticker I choose to affix to my person to learn.

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8 responses

20 10 2008
grizzygriswold

The MST3K guys are gods of comedy.

20 10 2008
omahdon

Ironically enough, I never actually felt the first Matrix movie lived up to its potential BECAUSE of said grounding. For me, the Matrix movies have always been about spectacle and WOWsightandsound (c’mon, there’s gotta be a better way of taking out a computer virus than with kung fu – you’re just doing it that way because it looks COOL), and I felt the philosophical meanderings that made up the bulk of the first movie had already been done before and with more panache (see: Dark City).
Then came the Matrix sequels which upped the madness and dished out that strange, semi-affected dialogue that I just adored for sounding like they were saying a lot while saying absolutely nothing at all – and everything was just dandy. And a part of me just grins at the sheer audacity of taking everyone’s favourite character from the first movie and multiplying him hundreds upon thousands of times to cash in on said popularity. Wonderful, madcap silliness.

20 10 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Proof that different strokes = different folks, et all. For me, keeping the awesome in limited doses alongside solid, cool action and focusing more on character than narrative worked best. But I can see where wanting things the other way around would reverse that.
(c’mon, there’s gotta be a better way of taking out a computer virus than with kung fu – you’re just doing it that way because it looks COOL)
That is the one silly thing about ALL the Matrix movies. The machines have complete access to the database that drives the simulated world. You don’t need to punch someone or even shoot them to kill them — just change a bit in a data table from 1 to 0 and they drop dead. It’s the problem with every single movie out there that relies on VR gimmicks; they ignore the essential mutability of data in favor of crazy fight scenes.
There’s at least a token effort to explain why they do it this way in the movies, saying that the Matrix is built on a series of interlocking simulation systems, and you have to obey the rules of the simulation to get anything done — except, of course, when you don’t. Or something. Whatever. I still say a six month intern with Microsoft Access could probably end Zion in a day.

20 10 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Agreed. And RiffTrax feels like their ultimate destiny. Yeah, bad old movies are fun, but hearing them rip on legitimately modern multimillion dollar Hollywood projects is even MORE fun. And this way, they don’t need to pay any licensing fees.
Last year at our family beach vacation, we brought along a laptop with speakers and synced up the riff to Jurassic Park to our DVD of it, and a good time was had by all. It’s worth the few dollars they ask for in return.

20 10 2008
pyromaniac_ks

It’s worth noting that before the lol thermodynamics change, it actually made a certain amount of sense. If the Matrix is a simulation run on the distributed processing power of the brains of it’s constituent humans, then the rules-bending makes sense, because the localised bits of the simulation are running on your own brain. Or something.

20 10 2008
jengagne

Yeah, I wish they’d kept that approach before they swapped it over due to assumption of audience stupidity (duhr makin’ lectricity!)
But even _then_, they must by definition have data on where all these bodies are, eh? Information is getting sent there… it’s like an IP address. Even if somehow the Awakened Haxor Teams have a way to mask that… they’d still easily be able to snag/stop the people who are “waking up” but still plugged into their regular system, eh?

21 10 2008
cmdr_zoom

Presumably, the scene where Neo has taken the redpill but the mirror is trying to swallow him before it kicks in represents a (slowed down to human perception speed) race between the redpill hack (which spoofs a flatline and disconnect signal for Body #432564512) and the system’s verification/countermeasures.

21 10 2008
jengagne

Even so. They could stop people from getting flushed… send an independent robot or agent to verify discards… whatever. I mean hell, they DID send a robot actually. It ought to be able to tell he’s alive. If you can hack them so easily in RL, again… why Matrix-fu at all?
They tried to cover it up with the whole “Oh we allow Zion because ______” in the third movie but… enh.
Anyway. I liked it all, I’m just nitpicking.

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