Thus did Man become the Architect of his own demise...
February 14, 2011 5:40 PM   Subscribe

"Welcome to the Zion Archive. You have selected Historical File #12-1: The Second Renaissance." So begins the short film of the same name by Mahiro Maeda [Flash: 1 2 - QuickTime: 1 2] -- a devastating yet beautiful work of animation. Originally produced to explain the backstory behind the Matrix trilogy, Maeda's project ended up telling a story far darker and more affecting than any blockbuster. Using a blend of faux documentary footage and visual metaphor, his serene Instructor relates in biblical tones the saga of Man and Machine, how age-old cruelty and hatred birthed a horrifying, apocalyptic struggle that consumed the world. Packed with striking imagery and historical allusions galore, this dark allegory easily transcends the films it was made for. But while "The Second Renaissance" is arguably the best work to come from the Matrix franchise, it's hardly alone -- it's just one of the projects made for The Animatrix, a collection of nine superb anime films in a wide variety of styles designed to explore the universe and broaden its scope beyond the usual sci-fi action of the movies. Click inside for a guide to these films with links to where they can be watched online, along with a look at The Matrix Comics, a free series of comics, art, and short fiction created for the same purpose by some of the best talent in the business.

THE ANIMATRIX

[Viewing note: While all nine Animatrix films are available in high quality on the WB's official site, the videos are ad-heavy (especially at the beginning), sluggish to load, and may not be available outside the United States. Links to alternate versions are used below, including in a few cases decent quality QuickTime versions from the old official site. Also, note that the Clipmass.com videos aren't broken -- they just wait a few moments to start after pressing play, while leaving a big play button image to bait you into opening an ad. Resist!]
1+2 | The Second Renaissance (Parts I and II) (9:15 and 9:25) by Mahiro Maeda
The story was discussed above, but there's also a lot of bonus material: a behind-the-scenes short, transcripts of Maeda's director's commentary, and Operation: A.R.C.H.I.V.E., a pitch-perfect parody of the film from the animated series Codename: Kids Next Door by Patrick Warburton, which replaces the man vs. machine narrative with one of children vs. adults. There are also four pieces from the soundtrack available: "Big Wednesday" by Free*Land, "Ren 2" by Photek, "Martenot Waves" by Meat Beat Manifesto, and "Supermoves" by Overseer.

3 | Kid's Story (9:28) by Shinichiro Watanabe
A troubled high schooler has his world shattered when he begins to suspect not all is right with his life. (Behind the scenes; Soundtrack: "Who Am I?" by Peace Orchestra)

4 | Program (7:16) by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (QT version)
A virtual sparring match turns deadly when one partner reveals his twisted plan. (Behind the scenes)

5 | World Record (8:36) by Takeshi Koike
A scandalized athlete has an epiphany while pushing himself far beyond his limits. (Behind the scenes)

6 | Beyond (13:03) by Koji Morimoto
A young woman looking for her cat runs into a group of kids exploring a "haunted house" full of bizarre glitches in the fabric of reality. (Soundtrack: "Hands Around My Throat" by Death in Vegas)

7 | A Detective Story (11:43) by Shinichiro Watanabe (QT version)
Told in gritty black-and-white film noir style, an old-school gumshoe takes "a case to end all cases" dealing with forces he can't quite understand. (Behind the scenes; Soundtrack: "Blind Tiger" by Layo & Bushwacka! and "Under the Gun" by Supreme Beings of Leisure)

8 | Matriculated (16:18) by Peter Chung
A trippy story about a group of rebels who attempt to reprogram a hostile AI from inside an abstract virtual environment. (Behind the scenes)

9 | Final Flight of the Osiris (11:27) by Andy Jones
In this CGI-animated tale, the crew of the Osiris volunteer to undertake one last, desperate mission. (Behind the scenes; Soundtrack: "Conga Fury" by Juno Reactor and the orchestral score by Don Davis)
You can also see the entire series of films on Vimeo (runtime: 1:33:29), watch the making-of video, or read some interviews with the creators. If you found the format and style of The Animatrix appealing, you might also appreciate Batman: Gotham Knight (guide) and Halo Legends (guide), similar compilations of diverse anime shorts focused on the Batman and Halo universes, respectively.

THE MATRIX COMICS

The Matrix Comics were a series of 26 short comics released for free on the Matrix website. Though later removed, they live on in Archive.org's cache and in this .RAR file, which can be opened using a free program like WinRAR (for Windows) or UnRarX (for Mac). The Archive.org coverage can be a little spotty; if any given page turns up broken, just replace the long number string in the URL after "/web/" with an asterisk (*) and navigate to that URL. You'll see a list of other versions of that page in the Archive cache, most of which should work.

There are way too many comics to summarize here, but if you want to know what a story is about before diving in, check out the story listings on the Matrix Wiki: Series 1 - Series 2 - Series 3. All the authors are listed, and almost every title links to its own article giving a brief overview of the plot.
posted by Rhaomi (54 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite

 
*snark about sequels*
*obligatory XKCD links*
*robot chicken rabbit hole at youtube*
*sad keanu*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:49 PM on February 14, 2011


I remember watching these, and hoping that they would set the tone for Reloaded and Revolutions, seeing as some of them were downright amazing. I'm alone amongst my friends in that I did (and kind of do) like the second and third films, but they were definitely a come down from what they could have been. With the Animatrix, at least, some of that potential got realized. Nice post.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:49 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


My freinds and I were big fans of The Final Flight of the Osiris and A Detective Story, but not really any of the other ones. Program was Ok, and we all hated skateboard kid and wished he would go away. Man, I remember back in grade 9 when I was a huge matrix geek...

Also: 7-zip, for linux and windows
is far better than winrar.
posted by Canageek at 5:51 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is a great post.

Beyond has always been my favourite. There's something about the visuals that I really like.
posted by Memo at 5:55 PM on February 14, 2011


The Animatrix DVD+soundtrack set was totally worth buying.

I remember watching these, and hoping that they would set the tone for Reloaded and Revolutions

Yes, it saddened me that the sequels weren't as good as these back-story shorts.

My favorite was Beyond. Something about the glitches in 'reality' really struck a chord with me.

"Kid" from "Kid's Story" is supposed to the annoying young guy that shouts "NEO!!" and comes running up when he returns to Zion, and is never really explained in the movie. There were a couple other tie-ins like that if I remember correctly.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2011


ArgentCorvid: We found that obvious, that was part of the reason we hated him.
posted by Canageek at 5:59 PM on February 14, 2011


I've long said that Animatrix was the best Matrix-thing out there.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:00 PM on February 14, 2011


I remember getting super excited when these came out. I was starved for more Matrix; they were the first hints of new content in the years after the original Matrix, and the squeals still were very secretive then. I'm excited to rewatch these.
posted by milestogo at 6:00 PM on February 14, 2011


I treasure my Animatrix DVD. Second Renaissance is definitely the best, both for its story and for the amazing animation. It looks drawn! Kid's Story is also beautiful and troubling. I wish more sci-fi franchises would do high quality interpretive animations based on their IP. Avatar and Battlestar Galactica would both do well with some anime-style adaptations.

May there be mercy on man and machine for their sins.
posted by Nelson at 6:05 PM on February 14, 2011


Snark (or metasnark) if you want, obiwanwasabi, but the shorts are pretty widely divergent in style and tone from the movies. I only thought the first movie was any good and was pretty meh about the rest, but I like all of these videos, love many of them, and think the "Second Renaissance" one is one of the best animated shorts ever.

Speaking of "Second Renaissance," if you're a fan of details, watch that one closely -- keep an eye out for the theocratic trappings of the courtroom scene, the defense attorney who quotes Justice Taney's shameful Dred Scott decision to argue for machine rights, the sight of the National Mall as a historic park in the center of a towering megacity, and (if you see it on DVD) the "peace treaty" the machine ambassador signs (with a barcode!) which borrows liberally from the Japanese Instrument of Surrender from World War II.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:07 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not crazy about The Matrix as a "thing," but The Animatrix is pretty great. The best part is how, when the robots show up at the UN, one of the robots is wearing a top hat. "I'm going to UN! Time to don my top hat!" is something that that robot once said to itself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:08 PM on February 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Were these available online before they went to DVD? I kind of remember something like that.

I remember watching A Detective Story and thinking that the blend of current and early 20th century technology was such an innovative and interesting style.

This was before steampunk really took off.

I was a huge cowboy bebop fan at the time, so I felt the need to fangirl over all of Watanabe's things. But now. . . I think the Second Renaissance is the one that has aged the best.

They're all treasures, though. Worth another watch.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:12 PM on February 14, 2011


One of the shorts really reminded me of Megaman X and Megaman Zero, or at least the cut scenes

They did something similar for the new Batman movies. Can't remember if it was any good

The Matrix Comics link should go to The Invisibles...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:13 PM on February 14, 2011


Rhaomi, I think The Second Renaissance also pays a lot of homage to this VERY GRAPHIC Japanese animated film about the Hiroshima bomb.
posted by sciurus at 6:14 PM on February 14, 2011


Actually, here's a better quality version of the VERY GRAPHIC short I just linked to.
posted by sciurus at 6:16 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the other direct tie-ins was the last of the set, Final Flight of the Osiris. In Reloaded, there's a throwaway line that the information about the sentinel army was the 'final transmission from the Osiris.'
posted by Ghidorah at 6:27 PM on February 14, 2011


Animatrix is my single favorite creation of the matrix series.

Just as clone wars (by the creator of samurai jack) is still my favorite creation from the star wars prequels.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:41 PM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Snark (or metasnark) if you want, obiwanwasabi, but the shorts are pretty widely divergent in style and tone from the movies.

Thanks for making that important point about this rare and obscure title.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2011


Thanks for this post. I don't really remember the Animatrix shorts, but I do recall that all were very well done and it was much better than I was expecting. Will check them out again.

I also remember that the Animatrix came out during the golden time after the first film (which is very good) and before the sequels. I believe the Animatrix DVD came out right before the second film.

And then everything went downhill from there.
posted by zardoz at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2011


I liked the first Matrix movie; but I was a little past fanboy age when it came out, so I never paid much attention to the ancillary material. This stuff is actually pretty good, and certainly much better than the last two movies. Thanks for posting it.

The Second Renaissance is beautifully animated and nicely told, and certainly well worth watching. As with any Matrix-related thing I've ever seen, though, it can't quite get me to suspend disbelief long enough to stop wondering about the second law of thermodynamics.
posted by steambadger at 7:12 PM on February 14, 2011


Ghidorah: I remember watching these, and hoping that they would set the tone for Reloaded and Revolutions, seeing as some of them were downright amazing. I'm alone amongst my friends in that I did (and kind of do) like the second and third films, but they were definitely a come down from what they could have been. With the Animatrix, at least, some of that potential got realized. Nice post.
I also thought the Animatrix was one of the best parts of the Matrix movies. I get a bit annoyed when people say Revolutions was a let-down. Too many people were missing a critical fact in their understanding of the series, namely: the machines were not the original aggressors. Rather, the machines are slaves who've risen up and taken power over their former masters. The machines aren't totally innocent, but the humans have done at least as much wrong. Having Neo work together with the machine intelligences was a pretty daring thing to do, I think, since traditional Hollywood logic would require that the humans get revenge on the machines.
posted by jiawen at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


mrzarquon, I totally agree, although they are possibly the clearest winner in the history of winning. Aside from everything else, the short format episodes of the Clone Wars showed a) how badass Jedi were (Mace Windu not needing his lightsaber to defeat an entire droid army), and b) how absolutely terrifying General Greivous could have been, complete with the actual explanation for that wheezing, hacking cough thing. When Mace Windu force-crushes your carapace, it tends to have lasted effects.

/derail

posted by Ghidorah at 7:53 PM on February 14, 2011


jiawen: "Too many people were missing a critical fact in their understanding of the series, namely: the machines were not the original aggressors. Rather, the machines are slaves who've risen up and taken power over their former masters. The machines aren't totally innocent, but the humans have done at least as much wrong."

That's got to be my favorite thing about "The Second Renaissance," jiawen -- that it manages to make the viewer feel sympathy for the machines. Not to mention the speed with which it turns that sympathy into utter horror, sometime between 3:30 and 4:30 in Part II.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:57 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


steambadger: "As with any Matrix-related thing I've ever seen, though, it can't quite get me to suspend disbelief long enough to stop wondering about the second law of thermodynamics"

That reminds me of a surprisingly well thought out hypothesis someone had had about the Matrix before the sequels came out — the basic gist of it was that the human side had actually won the war, and thus had built themselves the Matrix as a way of escaping their Crapsack World they'd left themselves (presumably with the Machines doing an exceedingly good job of keeping them in order and keeping the thing running). I actually find that it makes for a much more plausible reading, if a bit of an alternate (unintended?) interpretation. It even still works with the sequels, to a degree.

The idea that the humans won, and so they built themselves the Matrix and made the Machines run it actually seems to gel pretty well with the Second Renaissance storyline, too.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:01 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Love the Animatrix. I've probably watched that DVD more than anything else I own.

Your flesh is a relic, a mere vessel. Hand over your flesh and a new world awaits you, we demand it.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:04 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


steambadger, it helps if you start to view it more as 'the 2nd pretty strong guideline of thermodynamics.' It'll improve your enjoyment of SF movies so much more.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2011


steambadger, it helps if you start to view it more as 'the 2nd pretty strong guideline of thermodynamics.' It'll improve your enjoyment of SF movies so much more.

Well, yeah. Discovering the Suggestions of Physics, and all that. I don't usually geek out on movie science, unless the mistakes are just god-awfully egregious and the movie is no fun anyway; and the humans-as-batteries thing didn't keep me from enjoying The Matrix. But it was a pretty stupid and unnecessary mistake, given the movie's pretentions.

"And then, the aliens used the humans to create a perpetual-motion machine."
posted by steambadger at 8:25 PM on February 14, 2011


Matriculated made me run out and buy the Aeon Flux series on DVD after I saw it
posted by Redhush at 8:46 PM on February 14, 2011


> Mace Windu not needing his lightsaber to defeat an entire droid army

I remembered how awesome the series was, but this made me find that clip, which reminded me why it remembered it as being so awesome.

posted by mrzarquon at 8:55 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always thought the machines kept humans around because they're playing the Long Game. They're stuck on a devastated Earth right now and people don't seem all that useful, but maybe we'll come in handy for something or other in one or two billion years. And until that day comes they might as well get some value out of us in the present - hence, batteries.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:05 PM on February 14, 2011


"Beyond" was my favorite. Kids find a glitch in the Matrix, and have fun with it. This was the closest thing to Miyazaki-meets-the-Matrix in this series.

"Detective Story" was amazing in its implications.

Did not like "Second Renaissance." Trite. I've read and seen a lot of actual history; seeing a re-run with mechano-men seems unimaginative to me.
posted by SPrintF at 10:07 PM on February 14, 2011


Or it could be that machines need us around because it gives them a reason to exist. I mean, we have no problem with that, we're programmed by evolution to survive at all costs. But why would self-programming, self-created machine intelligences want to live anyway? What keeps them going? What makes death better than life, if they have no emotional attachment to anything? Maybe the reason we invented them is still the best raison d'etre they can come up with, so they have to keep us around, since serving humanity (or at least keeping it alive) gives their existence meaning.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:21 PM on February 14, 2011


Kevin Street, one thing I quite liked about the sequels was that they fleshed it out a bit more, showing us that, indeed, the machines had developed emotional attachments (the Indian couple waiting for the train, and their daughter, the presumptive next 'one'). The AI in the Matrix universe, for good or bad, comes with the emotion app.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:26 PM on February 14, 2011


More imagery and observations on symbolism (translated from French). They caught a lot of stuff that even I missed, and have good screenshots to supplement. The VOX POPULI screen is interesting; I'd seen a higher-res copy of it before and was always puzzled by its curious mix of apparent religious, populist, Randian and communist messages. I wonder what the thinking behind it was? There sure was a lot of fine detail for such a briefly-glimpsed image.

(Also, it's funny how the Albany District Courthouse of the 2090s compares to today. The scale is massively increased, but the basic layout is the same. Well, with three extra judges and a Catholic (?) triptych. Any art history students recognize the painting? It looks like the Virgin Mary to me.)

Ghidorah: "Kevin Street, one thing I quite liked about the sequels was that they fleshed it out a bit more, showing us that, indeed, the machines had developed emotional attachments (the Indian couple waiting for the train, and their daughter, the presumptive next 'one'). The AI in the Matrix universe, for good or bad, comes with the emotion app."

You might like "Matriculated" if you haven't already seen it. I described it rather poorly as them trying to "reprogram" an AI (a term they explicitly reject in the video), when they're really trying to enlighten or humanize it, by exposing it to human passion and goodness. But the choice to side with humanity is ultimately left to the machine.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:33 PM on February 14, 2011


That's got to be my favorite thing about "The Second Renaissance," jiawen -- that it manages to make the viewer feel sympathy for the machines. Not to mention the speed with which it turns that sympathy into utter horror, sometime between 3:30 and 4:30 in Part II.
SyFy was showing the Matrix movies a couple weekends ago and I almost brought out the Animatrix DVD. This settles it; now I'll have to go watch it again. :)

I like fiction that doesn't assert that human intelligence is the only possible sort.
posted by jiawen at 11:07 PM on February 14, 2011


A list of The Matrix supplementary material should probably include the game Enter The Matrix.

Also, Doug the Nostalgia Critic named Matrix:Revolutions as number 3 of the top 10 movies he likes but no one else does. I'm not ashamed to say that I liked it as well, and felt a bit let-down by the third. Revolutions had sanity issues that I could overlook*, but the pacing is not as good as in the previous two. The diverging storylines are taken one at a time, leading to long action sequences with one set of characters while the others are forgotten until their extended sequence when everyone else is forgotten.

*wait, Neo can actually blow up robots with his mind? Your mech suits are open to the slicing tentacles of the squidies? You didn't think to put an EMP in the main dock, just in case?

posted by WhackyparseThis at 11:38 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only things that really stuck with me from the third movie was the raw, seething hatred exuded by the Deus Ex Machina hivemind, and the scene where they fly their ship above the churning nanostorm and break briefly into glorious daylight, with the sun and moon and wispy clouds all around them. There was something so cathartic and relaxing about that scene, especially after 90 minutes of sickly green hallways and electric darkness. As for the second one, I hardly even remember it. Was that the one with the highway chase? I guess that part was kind of neat.

You didn't think to put an EMP in the main dock, just in case?

I thought they did, but that using it would disable all of their defenses? In fact, I'm pretty sure they actually do use it in desperation towards the end of the battle, and it gives them a brief reprieve before the rest of the machines arrive through the borehole in the ceiling.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:11 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rhaomi, the moment where they get above the clouds, that's gotta be one of my favorite parts of the series. There's absolutely no reason for it to be there, but it's such a perfect, floating moment, especially as a counterpart to Neo trying to explain how beautiful the machine city is. Here is Trinity, right before she dies, seeing something she's only ever heard of, unable to share the moment with anyone, and even though it's all cgi, it still felt, to me, watching in the theater, like the first real light in the series, the first time we saw any sort of sunshine.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:22 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is Trinity, right before she dies, seeing something she's only ever heard of, unable to share the moment with anyone, and even though it's all cgi, it still felt, to me, watching in the theater, like the first real light in the series, the first time we saw any sort of sunshine.

You know, I think that's actually true. All the scenes set inside the Matrix have that green tint, and the "real world" is uniformly blue. Zion is earthy and dank. And even the sunrise in the final scene is garish and overdone, like a nuclear bomb going off in the distance.

That brief moment of sunshine glinting off the scratched windshield really is the only moment of natural light I can think of from the entire trilogy. (And the crescent moon makes it feel extra real and special, for reasons I've described before. In fact, I think that scene's the only time you see any natural objects in the sky, as well. Maybe they want to discourage Matrixfolk from developing curiosity about the wider universe?)
posted by Rhaomi at 12:46 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing I really loved about the second matrix movies was the posters. I thought they were just so stylish. But, honestly the movies themselves were a bit of a letdown. Neo is way overpowered so there's not much tension.
posted by delmoi at 4:09 AM on February 15, 2011


Thanks for the reminder to revisit...

Program has always been my favourite. I liked Kid's Story the first time but never watched it again once I saw how the character was realised in the movies -- so bloody annoying!

I quite enjoyed the second and third instalments but they never hit the heights of mystery and wonder and exploration achieved by the first movie and the animatrix.

I remember going to an overnight screening of matrix, animatrix and reloaded (just before revolutions came out) and sleeping through everything except animatrix :)
posted by prettypretty at 4:14 AM on February 15, 2011


As with any Matrix-related thing I've ever seen, though, it can't quite get me to suspend disbelief long enough to stop wondering about the second law of thermodynamics.

Between "humans = batteries" and "Neo blows up machines with his mind" my read on the movies is that the machines who run the power station (oracle and the architect) are just fucking around and/or insane, and nobody really ever got out of the Matrix.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 5:18 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Between "humans = batteries" and "Neo blows up machines with his mind" my read on the movies is that the machines who run the power station (oracle and the architect) are just fucking around and/or insane, and nobody really ever got out of the Matrix.

That was my read on it too. That or the wachowskis are just fucking around and/or insane.

Also, someone mentioned the batman shorts up-thread. NOT GOOD.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:01 AM on February 15, 2011


This thread makes me happy because I love the Matrix universe, warts and all, the way most of you love the Star Wars universe.

A friend of mine did come up with what I thought was a better concept for the Human/Machine symbiotic relationship: Cloud Computing. It would make more sense that synchronizing that many human brains to create a world that humans are familiar with and machines long to learn more about than human batteries, but whatever it was 1999.

Maybe they can retcon it to be that, the way they've retconned the T-1000 to be made up of nanobots instead of a 'mimetic poly-alloy"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2011


As with any Matrix-related thing I've ever seen, though, it can't quite get me to suspend disbelief long enough to stop wondering about the second law of thermodynamics.

This is handwaved in the first movie with the line "a form of fusion." It was as good an explanation as any. Like how the ships in Star Trek can travel FTL because of "dilithium crystals." Hey, you know, sure. Sooner or later, a lot of science fiction has to figure out a way to say "Well, actually we found a way around that but we're not going to get into the specifics of how, because our movie involves folks doing things that no one knows how to do in the real world."

That said, I hated the first Matrix movie and didn't watch either sequel all the way through, but I loved the Second Renaissance. They should have made a feature-length thing out of that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:18 AM on February 15, 2011


I love the mythos of the Matrix. Sci-fi universes where humanity achieves some great success or undertakes some great work or is visited by great doom from WITHIN as opposed to somehow getting into space or being invaded by something from space are always much more compelling to me than the alternative.
posted by tehloki at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2011


I have vaguely heard that the original reason for keeping the giant pile of networked humans was not as physics-defying batteries, but as specialized processor adjuncts to the network - there are things human brains are Very Good at, farm those problems out to them. Kinda like having a high-power GPU on your computer, you know? But executive interference resulted in the "batteries" thing.

I saw Animatrix a while back and my favorite was World Record because it's just such a loving celebration of the joy of making things move; Madhouse really went all-out on that one. It was a reminder of the dream I used to have of being an animator.
posted by egypturnash at 11:33 AM on February 15, 2011


As with any Matrix-related thing I've ever seen, though, it can't quite get me to suspend disbelief long enough to stop wondering about the second law of thermodynamics.

I always thought this was a wasted opportunity. For one, there's nothing special about human mitochondria that makes them more efficient than those in any other higher form of life, say a pig or a mushroom or blue-green algae. Humans, to the Matirx, are really no better than pond scum. Never made any sense to me.

Humans are special in that we pack a lot of processing power in our squishy heads. They say that all the computers in the world today are about as much porcessing power available in one human brain.

What if human brains were what the AIs really wanted? In an energy-poor world, what if energy-cheap computers were what they needed? What if, all those pod people were the computer, that the Matrix was the AIs running directly in all those peoples' heads? That the AIs were parasitic thoughts in the collective human subconcious?

It still could be, of course. All you have to believe is that Zion/Morpheus were ignorant of the true state of affairs, which I have not trouble with at all. Lies! Machine parasite lies!
posted by bonehead at 12:08 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


One could also hypothesize that the machines were using geothermal energy for the most part and that what they did to the human race was done as a best-case scenario kind of thing: they believed that humankind would eventually more or less destroy the Earth but at the same time felt that extinguishing an entire species was a terrible thing to do. So they put them in pods and there you go. Recycle the dead to feed the living and use the heat produced as efficiently as possible, to help defray the energy cost of it.

Something like that.

These are things I'd have loved to see explored in greater depth in ancillary works. The characters and ideas seen in the movies were mostly pretty boring but there's a rich and fascinating universe of ideas to explore which was mostly untapped in favor of a bunch of namedropping crap from actors in fetish gear. The comics are nice, the Animatrix also nice, but again - would have loved to see more.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:24 PM on February 15, 2011


Uther Bentrazor: Maybe they can retcon it to be that, the way they've retconned the T-1000 to be made up of nanobots instead of a 'mimetic poly-alloy"

they what

what is that i dont even
posted by paisley henosis at 1:31 PM on February 15, 2011


Do you know who the female voice is on this filmette? Sounds familiar, but cannot place it.

BTW, brilliant post as usual.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:44 PM on February 15, 2011


Thanks, ~Sushma~! IMDb says the Instructor was voiced by Julie Fletcher, who's done mostly anime and video game voiceover work in recent years.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:17 PM on February 15, 2011


Seeing this question reminded me that I'd been meaning to look into some of the inspiration behind the art direction in the opening scene of Maeda's short.

Going by his commentary, it looks like the digital environment of the Zion Archive was based on the elegant design of the mandala, specifically the Touji Mandala from Japan. It's a clever choice, as mandalas not only look like banks of integrated circuits but actually function in a similar way, since they often depict metaphysical realms like Vajradhatu where worlds of wisdom are stored.

Also, the lotus bloom at the center of this religious/electronic metaphor is inhabited by an AI representation of the Dhyani Buddhas, an arrangement of deities reflecting the different aspects of the Buddha. According to this model, the Instructor herself represents the White Tara, the female analog of the arrangement's central Vairocana figure. According to this page, the White Tara embodies purity, compassion, serenity, grace, wisdom, and truth. Which sounds 100% on the nose, judging by the way the Instructor acts (calmly narrating atrocities, blessing both sides, etc.).

PS: I'm gonna pretend this comment doesn't exist so this can be my super-cool 2000th Mefi comment.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for the "human battery" plothole (as humans can't generate more energy than they consume), the Wachowski's original script had the A.I.s using humans for their collective brainpower. A sort of "computer" network of everyone's collective mind.

Now, to me, that is a fantastic idea, full of plot possibilities. But, naturally, the studio heads thought it too complicated, and make the Wachowskis change that plot line to the battery one.
posted by zardoz at 3:49 PM on February 27, 2011


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