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The Matrix films revisited

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Anthony G Williams, Mar 19, 2010.

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  1. Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard Writer

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    The Matrix films revisited

    I seem to be watching more films than reading books lately, probably because I recorded a lot of the Christmas TV schedules so I've been playing catch-up ever since.

    As a result, I saw the Matrix trilogy again recently, for the first time since they were newly released (was The Matrix really over ten years ago?). I was impressed with the first of the series when I saw it originally and it has worn well, rich in SF ideas and with a complexity which makes the story in the visually wonderful Avatar seem as simple as a child's cartoon strip. I think that The Matrix is not far behind Blade Runner in the elite group of the best SF films ever made, and it's a lot more inventive.

    Sadly the two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, released four years later following the huge success of the original, were a major disappointment. The impression I get is that the Wachowski brothers poured all of their ideas into The Matrix and were stumped for what to do next. Reloaded has just one really good, original SF scene (and the only one which significantly carries the plot forward); the climactic meeting between Neo and the Architect of the Matrix, the inventor of the virtual existence in which most of humanity is unwittingly trapped. Neo learns that he is the sixth version of himself to face the Architect and that his repeated appearance was due to an inherent flaw in the programming. All the time this meeting is taking place, the wall of TV screens is showing the varied reactions of his predecessors at their meetings with the Architect. As for the rest of the film, the brothers evidently decided to please the teenagers and fill it with combat and car chase scenes. While technically good, these go on and on interminably, well past the point of tedium, until you are praying for the bad guys to kill off the good guys just to put an end to it all. The only relief from this comes from the occasional pretentious speech, which is scarcely an improvement. Amazingly, Reloaded was more successful at the box office than The Matrix. There's no accounting for taste…

    Revolutions is better, largely because the plot actually progresses to a conclusion rather than just marking time. Events begin to make some sort of sense - I particularly liked the notion that the evil Mr Smith programme was the inevitable balancing force to Neo's existence - and the ending was satisfactory. The various fight sequences were still tediously long, though, and Trinity's death scene was ludicrously unrealistic and protracted.

    The decision to split the sequel to The Matrix into two separate films was presumably motivated purely by money (hey, we've got all this footage, instead of doing a decent editing job let's use all of it and make the fans pay twice over!). This is emphasised by the fact that there is no proper separation between the two; Reloaded ends in the middle of events and Revolutions picks up immediately without any kind of lead-in or introduction, so they need to be seen in quick succession or the viewer will lose track of what's going on. The problem is that there is barely enough worthwhile material to make one decent film out of the pair of them. So come on, brothers, now you've made your pile let's have a proper "directors' cut" which will do exactly that, combining the best one-third of Reloaded and two-thirds of Revolutions to make the single film which always should have been released. Call it The Matrix Revisited if you like! This could make a worthy sequel to The Matrix - even if it still wouldn't be as good.

    One point of detail caught my attention in the first film, concerning the traitor who was tired of the grim reality of life and wanted to be returned to the Matrix, provided that he was assigned a wealthy and famous identity. What intrigued me is that he wanted the memories of his nine years of life outside the Matrix removed so that he would have no idea that his virtual life wasn't real. The thought crossed my mind that if that happened, he wouldn't be the same person; it would be as if he had been killed and a stranger had taken over. So how would he - the essential "he" - have benefited from that?

    This reminded me of a similar issue I have mentioned before concerning Star Trek's transporter system, in which individuals are scanned and their complete data transmitted elsewhere to be instantly recreated. In this process, their existing bodies are destroyed. No-one would be able to tell the difference between the original and the copy as they are identical in every detail, but in one important respect they are not the same: the original is killed and a copy is made. The copy has all the memories of the original, and believes he is the original, but he isn't. This problem is more clearly laid out in The Prestige by Christopher Priest (I haven't read it yet, but I have seen the highly rated film). In this case a copy is made by the Tesla machine but the original remains in existence. So, the key question is this: if you entered the Tesla machine and a copy of you appeared in front of you, would you be happy to be killed, knowing that your exact copy would survive? Personally, I wouldn't - which means that I would never want to use a Star Trek type of transporter, because that is in effect what happens.

    The same issue of identity is involved in the idea of uploading your mind to a computer so that you can live a virtual and theoretically immortal existence. But it wouldn't really be you living the virtual life, but a copy of yourself - as would be obvious if your corporeal mind remained in existence. Oh well, we won't have any practical cause to worry about such issues for a long time to come…[​IMG]


    (This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)
     
  2. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

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    Tony,

    There is one other point with the movies that still bothers me every time I watch the movies. It was established early on dying in the Matrix also death in the real world as well. This is seen on several occasions with various characters. But yet while in the Matrix, Neo & the other characters apparently have no issues with blindly killing others with no regard to the implications of it. The best example of this is the lobby scene where Neo has to fight his way through several security guards and he does so by killing them all. Sure, it is done in 'bullet time' and the action sequences looked great but it also meant that for every virtual guard killed there was a corresponding real world human dead as well.

    Now it could be argued that everybody that Neo & the rest killed were actually Matrix programs, along the lines of Agent Smith, and that the crew knew this before they killed anybody but at no point in any of the three movies is that possibility even hinted at. Plus then there are scenes like the highway chase where Trinity & the others, including the agents chasing them, have no qualms about the countless accidents they were causing to the civilians around them, some of which were sure to be deadly.

    It just seems so callous that the resistance fighters held the value of the freed humans in such high regard while freely causing the deaths of humans still trapped in the battery pods.
     
  3. Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard Writer

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    In reality, resistance fighters have rarely had any problem in rationalising such collateral damage - a little innocent blood spilled is usually reckoned to be a price worth paying to achieve what they see as the end of an intolerable tyranny. And in the case of the Matrix, they would probably argue that the podded humans aren't living any sort of a real life anyway.
     
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

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    I could see that argument but in the case of Neo, he is somebody who went from being inside of a pod himself, living the life of an IT professional & occasional hacker, to just a short time later causing the deaths of others in the pods with no remorse.

    Honestly I think it is just a plot point that the Wachowski brothers did not follow up on too closely. But still troubling.
     
  5. ultraviolet

    ultraviolet Stealth Assassin

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    when i first saw this at the cinima i thought the first half, where your not quite sure whats going with its great camera angles and atmosphere was amazing, but when it turns into an action film for me it just lost its apeal
     
  6. Midnight Caller

    Midnight Caller Ensign

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    Middlesbrough - UK
    The Matrix Number 1 was the best, out of all of them!
     

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