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Monday
Nov102003

What Is The Matrix?

NeoWell, I've finally gone to see the Matrix Revolutions on Sunday afternoon and I thought it only fair after posting about the second film Matrix Reloaded, that I share my thoughts on the third film in the trilogy.

I loved the original film, and have always said that it for me was enough. I didn't need any follow-ups, because I thought that The Matrix was done pretty well.

I was a bit worried after seeing Reloaded for many reasons, mentioned in my review of that film. I had concerns with the direction it took in a few areas (all mentioned in that review) and while I felt it was a decent sequel, it wasn't something that could easily stand alone.

Still, I decided to give the Wachowski brothers the benefit of the doubt and see the final installment before coming to judgment on the entire trilogy. In this post I'll tell you my impressions of the last film and the trilogy as a whole.

Spoiler Warning: Since I imagine there are those of you who have not yet seen the film, I will invoke Moveable Type's extended entry option. Enter into further comments at your own peril. :-)
Matrix revolutions, ah well, sorry, as much as I want to love it, didn't cut it for me. I think while much better than Reloaded, it still felt empty, like everyone was just going through the motions, sticking to their scripts, acting in character to the last dotted i. Revolutions didn't feel as if it were 'alive' the way the first Matrix film was. Maybe that's because the Matrix was such a departure that it shocked me, while the sequels were always fighting against familiarity, trying to live up to the first film.

The computer graphics were stunning to say the least. Technical limits were certainly pushed forward in this film. But effects do not a movie make. In fact, while the effects were stunning, I felt as if the directors were just throwing gratuitous effects at me, but the effects didn't particularly forward the story.

The end result was, I didn't feel as if I should really care what would happen to Neo, Trinity, Morpheous, Zion, the machines or anyone else... which is kind of the point of the film, right? I was surprised by my feelings after the credits rolled.

After further reflection, I think I now know what bothered me about Revolutions and Reloaded: In my opinion they were "overshare".

Let me try and describe what I mean:
As far as I'm concerned, Matrix was the best of the 3 films. I would have lived happily just having the good ol' Matrix and no other sequels, because the Matrix captured the story so well and ended with the idea that a fight was coming and Neo & Co. were on the attack.

But then the news of sequels surfaced. I was worried that success went to the heads of the Wachowski brothers and they were just cashing in on the success of the Matrix. Now that I've seen Reloaded and Revolutions, I'm pretty sure caching in was not the primary reason for doing films 2 and 3. But I do think that in their attempt to share their excitement and vision of the Matrix world, the Wachowski brothers have over-explained the story.

Best way I can describe it is in the form of an analogy. Let's say I have a friend who takes 30 minutes to tell me an incredible story. I hang on every word and turn of phrase. By the time the story is finished I'm very pleased because the story was compelling, exciting, thought-provoking and utterly catches me by surprise. Wow!

Now, a few days later I run into that same friend again, and they seem unsatisfied with the initial telling of their story, insisting that there is more to tell. I'm not convinced, but since this is a friend, I give them the benefit of the doubt. My friend then spends another hour describing the rest of the story in vivid, technical detail, including the ending. Except by then, my initial excitement and the story's soul and surprise have been diluted by over-explanation and too much detail.
For me, the Matrix was like the well-told and satisfying 30 minute story, while the two final installments of the Matrix are like the second, over-explanation of the story. The Matrix had everything necessary to setup and tell the story, so why go into minute technical detail in two following films? I dunno.

All I can say is this: Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions didn't add anything significant to the first classic Matrix for me. Yeah, there were lots of really cool scenes, wild CGI animation and visually interesting shots. Technically those two movies have quite alot going for them. But as expansion of the core story, they fail to do it for me. In my view, these sequels are merely over-explanation of a well told story.

I could go on and pick apart scenes, but there seems to be no point in that. There were certainly some minor surprises here and there, and some very pat plot devices being used as well (Neo's follower-dood saving the day for instance). But in the end, Revolutions is a decent action flick with lots of cool effects and some love scenes that try to wrap up what Reloaded began... but for me it just wasn't compelling. I just kept thinking "So, exactly what did this do to add to the first film?"

Sorry Matrix trilogy fans. Maybe you disagree with me, and that's fine. Me, I'm happy with my copy of the classic Matrix and am not going to buy copies of the others. Maybe at some future point I'll order them from the library and watch again.

Oh well, at least I do know that the Lord of the Rings, Return of the King won't disappoint... :-)

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