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Deja Vu
October 6, 2011 9:11 AM   Subscribe

EVERYTHING IS A REMIX tackles the truly numerous amount of references, call-backs, remixes, quotations, scene mimics, and inspiration parallels found in The Matrix (via)

FILMS:
0:27 - Fist of Legend (1994)
0:38 - Tai-Chi Master (Twin Dragons) (1993)
0:44 - Fist of Legend (1994)
0:48 - Tai-Chi Master (Twin Dragons) (1993)
0:53 - Drunken Master (1978)
1:02 - Fist of Legend (1994)
1:09 - The Killer (1989)
1:19 - Fist of Legend (1994)
1:21 - Iron Monkey (1993)
1:31 - Once Upon A Time In China (1991)
1:36 - Fist of Legend (1994)
1:41 - Tai-Chi Master (Twin Dragons) (1993)
1:45 - Philip K. Dick Speech (youtube.com/​watch?v=jXeVgEs4sOo&feature=related) (1977)
2:18 - Strange Days (1995)
2:24 - Akira (1988)
2:30 - Total Recall (1990)
3:24 - Alice In Wonderland (1951)
3:42 - The Killer (1989)
3:53 - A Better Tomorrow (1986)
4:05 - Ghost In The Shell (1995)
4:32 - Akira (1998)
4:39 - Koyannisqatsi (1982)
4:49 - Dr. Who: The Deadly Assassin (1993)
5:10 - Ghost In The Shell (1995)
posted by The Whelk (65 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure that all those martial art film call backs are really call backs as much as them using the same fight choreographer as The Matrix.
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on October 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


The claim is definitely not plagiarism. And I don't think it's necessarily even "call backs". More a question of what's the earliest identifiable thing this element came from. Or maybe "most previous" or "most famous previous" thing, rather than "earliest".

Except for the Ghost in the Shell stuff. That's at least a call back if not stronger.
posted by DU at 9:25 AM on October 6, 2011


No one is saying plagiarism, it's just sort of interesting what's a reference and what's just genre aesthetics and tropes that This Kind Of Movie needs to have.

Sometimes you can feel like the cleverest little rabbit in the world, dropping in your complex meta references and disguising your inspirations, and other times you feel like the most long winded pointless indexer ever, just shoving various tropes into place and hoping the damn thing walks far enough to throw it self off a cliff.

that being said I did *just* crib a line from Lion In Winter for my script and if anyone ever catches it will be elated
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously (not a double).
posted by Mapes at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2011


Whoa.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm terrible at sussing out call-backs, remixes, quotations, scene mimics, and inspiration parallels, but I made the Ghost In The Shell shooting-watermelons-in-a-crowded-street-market connection the first time I saw The Matrix, even before I had left the the theater. I was very very proud of myself. The friend who I went with had absolutely no clue what the hell I was babbling about.
posted by the painkiller at 9:40 AM on October 6, 2011


And they didn't even get to the Star Wars and Vertigo references.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:42 AM on October 6, 2011


The PKD video (the link here didn't work, despite being the same URL I found by searching YT--maybe needs a www?) is pretty interesting too. He not only says we are living in a computer simulation, he even specifically calls out deja vu as being a clue that "a variable has been changed". Plus of course the referenced "girl with dark hair who tells you that things are not what they seem".
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on October 6, 2011


(The rich dialogue of Neo)
posted by shakespeherian at 9:44 AM on October 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Love this shit. Thanks for sharing.
posted by nihraguk at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2011


Yeah, it's definitely a trope highlight more than it is "these guys copied these other guys!"
posted by spiderskull at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2011


Yeah, it's definitely a trope highlight more than it is "these guys copied these other guys!"

That, and the whole point of Everything is a Remix is to say "Everything you've ever enjoyed copied a ton of stuff, and there's nothing wrong with that."
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2011


What I love about this sort of thing is how celebratory it is. "Look at all these neat things! And people made other neat things from them! Isn't that neat? It's so neat."
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:47 AM on October 6, 2011


re: The Rich Dialogue of Neo

You know, of course, the really angry, reactionary thing to do -- even for Sophia Stewart -- would be to appropriate all of that dialogue and recycle it in a Wayne's World-type stoner movie.


re: PKD video

Pretty freaky, however wasn't he also a confirmed schizophrenic? Not to say that schizophrenics don't have interesting, possibly even valuable ideas, but you know...
posted by vhsiv at 10:47 AM on October 6, 2011


Many schizophrenics borrow their valuable ideas from previous hallucinations.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this is just how movies are made now: storyboarding or clipping references from any number of predecessors. Maybe it's how they've been made in the past, but mentally by the director and now it is easy to construct a storyboard exclusively from references.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2011


Well, I wasn't saying that, since PKD said so, we must be living in a simulation. Just pointing out that the Matrix black cat scene basically reproduces that utterance in movie form. You don't have to be sane to have your words used in a movie. Just look at Mel Gibson.
posted by DU at 11:40 AM on October 6, 2011


While I respect the work done on the editing, and I really, really do -- the fact is that the Brothers were not just clear on the fact they were essentially utilizing pre-existing works from all over to build The Matrix, even the promotional material at the time pushed how much they were absorbing Anime and Martial Arts films into this technological film. It especially made a big deal about how they pursued, for months and through his family, Yuen Woo Ping. To them, it was this legendary choreographer who they wanted to use this studio money to give a total upgrade and recognition to the work he was doing - which, if we look back, they completely did. Big budget martial arts movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon can thank The Matrix for making the whole thing wildly profitable to a larger audience.

I've always been fascinated at how different perceptions of when something "broke wide" colors our knowledge of history. I think, in the case of The Matrix, a bunch of simmering aspects of anime and asian cinema "broke wide" and brought attention to a range of material that the DVD format was primed to deliver, perfectly and in great numbers, to new audiences.

This video we're talking about, then, is both well done and in many ways completely redundant. But well done.
posted by jscott at 11:52 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this is just how movies are made now: storyboarding or clipping references from any number of predecessors. Maybe it's how they've been made in the past, but mentally by the director and now it is easy to construct a storyboard exclusively from references.

This isn't just how movies are made now, it's how movies have always been made. In fact, it's how all art is made, and that's the point of the series -- everything is built on the foundations of what came before it.
posted by incessant at 12:09 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Finally we get some acknowledgment that the TV series Doctor Who coined the term "the Matrix" for an all encompassing computer simulated reality, not William Gibson or this movie. And the air date for the "Deadly Assassin" the episode in which the Matrix first appeared in Doctor Who, was 1976, not 1993 (which was the VHS release).

FYI, The Deadly Assassin is also the first Dr. Who episode set on Galifrey, and the only episode in the 7 season run with Tom Baker where the Doctor is not accompanied by a companion.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:38 PM on October 6, 2011


Finally we get some acknowledgment that the TV series Doctor Who coined the term "the Matrix" for an all encompassing computer simulated reality, not William Gibson or this movie.

Gibson's Matrix is really not very much like this, anyway. There are entities / minds existing in or connected to his Matrix, but it's not an all-encompassing simulation of the reality we know.
posted by brennen at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2011


brennen:

Technically, neither is the matrix in doctor who. Its a computer that stores the collective thoughts, dreams and memories of every time lord that has every lived, but recreates them when someone from outside enters it. Gibson's Matrix was more like a VR internet.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2011


Phillip K Dick speech.

It's been edited, unfortunately. Wish the whole thing was linked somewhere. It's fascinating to watch him speak with such conviction, like he's giving the most important talk of his life, and then see the faces in the audience as the people try to figure out of he's serious or maybe pulling a joke on them. An amazing man.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:27 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really, this is what makes it such a good film and why I didn't trash it the moment they came up with "we don't obey the laws of thermodynamics 'round these parts" explanations.

It drew from all those sources without being derivative and hackneyed.

As opposed to a lot of films that just pull crap out of nowhere or hyperstylize themselves for the sake of hyperstylization (I'm looking at you Ecks versus Sever).

Ooh, person in a trenchcoat packing heat establishing badass by pushing open double doors with both arms with an emotionless look on their face, where haven't I seen that one before?

But this film worked. I think too it came as close to "No, really, we're serious" as pop culture can come. (Maybe "Fight Club" too). And was working on being art. But any debate on that aside, it's just fun to watch.
Which is really why I like it.
And a lot of stuff that aims in this direction isn't fun. I mean, man does a lot of sci-fi suck.
Not because it's sci-fi but because it seems like directors, writers, etc. take sci-fi, and really any genre work, as an excuse to suck.

Not the Wachowskis. They did their homework and brought it.

They're a bit crazy though.
But PKD was really crazy so...

I think he was brilliant, and I think he was right in a lot of ways (although we delude ourselves about self-fulfilling prophecy in a lot of ways, so, details, meh), and I think pattern recognition in consciousness can be goosed so far that it looks like you can predict the future or that you're reliving a moment, and of course that patterns tend to replicate with tiny deviations depending on context, chaos, complexity, whatever, etc - and those are not necessarily malevolent, the will of some uber-being or glitches in the matrix, but that being human and thinking the way we do we tend to recreate our inner world and patterns socially, so throughout history we have visited the same things and we're not necessarily living in ancient rome beguiled by god(s) or in a matrix fooled by some supercomputer. And that recognizing these patterns are an important element of consciousness, even wisdom.
On top of that I love his work and from what I could gather tried to be a decent human being.
But even given all that.

Man, PKD was really "Crazy" crazy.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I respect the work done on the editing

Well, they agree with you, as far as I can tell. This isn't a "gotcha!" video, it's simply illustrating what they always had said in general terms with specific examples.

Finally we get some acknowledgment that the TV series Doctor Who coined the term "the Matrix" for an all encompassing computer simulated reality, not William Gibson or this movie.

Perhaps, but both were cribbing from its usage in postmodern academic writing, I suspect, something that became rather explicit in the film. That is to say, the concept that we live in a socially constructed reality fraught with symbols and iconographic shortcuts. I really thought it was one of the neatest things about the movie at the time.
posted by dhartung at 2:09 PM on October 6, 2011


The interesting thing, I think, is that Dick was still trying to make sense of all the things his broken brain was showing him. He was an extremely intelligent and artistic man who was trying hard to syncretise many different emotions and hallucinations in a way that linked together with his own work and that made his life seem logically inevitable. Not just to make sense of the senseless, but to link it with things he already knew to be true and use that information to find a deeper truth about reality itself. A noble, quixotic endeavor.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:13 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So uh...what were the sequels inspired by?
posted by hot_monster at 2:45 PM on October 6, 2011


ketamine
posted by The Whelk at 2:53 PM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here's the full speech
posted by empath at 3:06 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised no one has mentioned gnosticism yet, which was really the driving force behind the matrix (and also PKD's speech and theology).
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


My dad thought The Matrix was original. I started listing off PKD, Gibson, Wolverine, Alice in Wonderland....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:56 PM on October 6, 2011


So uh...what were the sequels inspired by?

the very end was like your Evangelion style 'religious meaningless symbolism' ending
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:57 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


hot_monster: "So uh...what were the sequels inspired by?"

Money.
posted by octothorpe at 6:01 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


So uh...what were the sequels inspired by?

A dumptruck full of cash.
posted by mhoye at 7:50 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh horseshit. the wachowsky brothers had a consistent, uncompromised creative vision from beginning to end. you might not like how it turned out, but you can't say that they were hacks about it.
posted by empath at 7:52 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh horseshit. the wachowsky brothers had a consistent, uncompromised creative vision from beginning to end. you might not like how it turned out, but you can't say that they were hacks about it.

If by this you mean that the sequels flowed naturally or logically from the events, the structure, etc., of the first film, well, I beg to differ.

They exhibited a consistent (and often very appealing) aesthetic sensibility through the whole thing, and there's a lot of craft on display there, but in terms of plot and coherence, the aesthetic was just enough to carry the paper-thin echo of other, deeper works in the first film, and it more or less collapses thereafter.

In other words, I guess I'm kind of saying they were hacks about it, but I don't really blame them. It's not like I would have turned down the opportunity to make largely unjustified sequels if I were in that position.
posted by brennen at 8:03 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Matrix Reloaded was fine until Matrix Revolutions retroactively made it terrible. A proper third movie would be amazing.
posted by effugas at 9:05 PM on October 6, 2011


the best Wachowski movie was Speed Racer
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:06 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would like to apologize for the phrase "paper-thin echo". It's been a long day and my metaphors are all a bit tangled.
posted by brennen at 9:08 PM on October 6, 2011


I respect Speed Racer's commitment to its aesthetic, but Bound was tight. as. a. drum.
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 PM on October 6, 2011


I still remember watching The Matrix when it first came out and thinking how retro it was , it was totally an 80s SF movie that never happened and knowing a lot of its connections were in 80ish era anime just explained that. The SF scene hadn't bothered with those kinds of trope for a while, like I said it was very nostalgic in a way , it was the kind of movie you wished existed if you grew up on a lot of 80s anime and Gibson and PDK.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


(The Matrix is basically American Graffiti is what I am saying)
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 PM on October 6, 2011


but in terms of plot and coherence, the aesthetic was just enough to carry the paper-thin echo of other, deeper works in the first film, and it more or less collapses thereafter.

This being one of the first attempts I've ever seen as to why someone doesn't like the sequels, I'm curious if you could go into more detail. I'm not quite clear on what you mean.

Personally I don't have a problem with the sequels. They're not as good as the first one, but they aren't half as bad most people make them out to be. Their major faults are that they aren't the first one. "Bullet time? Psshh, been there done that. Highly stylized Hong Kong action sequences? Boooorrrring and played. Get some new ideas!"
posted by P.o.B. at 10:35 PM on October 6, 2011


This is an interesting take on why 2 & 3 failed. It goes on to explain the Wachowski Brothers managed to distance the audience from the characters in the movie.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:51 PM on October 6, 2011


This being one of the first attempts I've ever seen as to why someone doesn't like the sequels, I'm curious if you could go into more detail. I'm not quite clear on what you mean.

The first film succeeds as a well-crafted synthesis of a pile of images and tropes, executed with enough technical skill and style to make the whole thing feel fresh.1 And some of those inputs are recombined into apparent signifiers of philosophical depth, or gestures in the direction of a larger world system. But what is actually there turns out to be just about enough to hold together for the duration of a well-constructed messianic action fantasy about redemptive violence. It's fun to watch, and we get to walk out of the theater going "that was bad-ass!"

And if you look at it any harder than that, there is not really a whole hell of a lot behind the decorative trappings of Big Mystical Ideas About Reality, the morality of all that redemptive violence seems kind of warped, and the worldbuilding verges on non-existent.2 It's good for the aesthetic, but it's just not much of a foundation on which to tell a larger story.

Of course, I never really saw a lot of indication that The Matrix was conceived or built with the need to tell a larger story much in mind. I could be wrong about that, but the sequels often felt to me both unnecessary and more or less unsupported by any sense of a deeper mythology at work. Not that I didn't see both and enjoy them, to a point, but that voice in my head going "you know this is just kind of bullshit" never really shut off either.

1. At least it felt fresh when it was released; I think part of why it feels so derivative now is that, aside from actually being really derivative, it's become a major source in its own right. All of which is kind of the point of this Everything is a Remix exercise, right?

2. Tell me you didn't cringe at least a little the first time you saw The Matrix in a theater and you got to the part where Morpheus holds up that battery.
posted by brennen at 11:44 PM on October 6, 2011


Thanks for this. It occurs to me now that this method of appropriating images and concepts from familiar sources nicely feeds the main thematic notion of the first film: that the lives we now live exist only inside a computer simulation. Any simulation would make use of material it could recycle and reuse just as images and tropes are reused in the film. This is especially rich in the first training scene with Neo and Morpheus; why not assume that when Neo is "learning Jiu-jitsu" the program that's loaded directly into his brain is not some sort of textbook or instructional video but the entire history of kung-fu on film?

Thanks also to Kevin Street and empath. I've been dismissing Phillip K. Dick for a long time, but will no longer.

And thanks P.o.B. That was worth the five minutes it took to read. I agree that the sequels failed because they abandoned the metaphysical quest in favor of some second-rate mech battle. Personally, I was disappointed that the "real world" Neo and co. were fighting to save was so lame—bad techno and world-is-nigh raves don't seem worth all the effort. Yes, Cornell West was on the council of elders, but still.
posted by eric1halfb at 12:19 AM on October 7, 2011


Tell me you didn't cringe at least a little the first time you saw The Matrix in a theater and you got to the part where Morpheus holds up that battery.

Nope. If I sit down to enjoy a movie, I've already bought the bill of sale on their reality. All they have to do is not fuck it up for me, and no I don't count that as fucking it up. It was a throwaway explanation that they didn't subsequently build upon at all. You can argue that by taking any fiction, especially a sci-fi, story and say "I liked it, except the part where they got all fictional". Using that as a reason to dislike a movie makes me all shruggy and meh.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:25 AM on October 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course, I never really saw a lot of indication that The Matrix was conceived or built with the need to tell a larger story much in mind. I could be wrong about that, but the sequels often felt to me both unnecessary and more or less unsupported by any sense of a deeper mythology at work.

It was based on Gnostic Christian ideas about the origins of the world and man's place in it, with Neo as the redemptive Christ figure, the Oracle as Sophia, and the Architect as the Demiurge, and The Source as the true god -- among other things-- most notably Hindu ideas about cycles and reincarnation.

The story from the beginning was about Jesus, and any movie which didn't end with Neo's death and rebirth as the savior of mankind, and the escape of humanity from illusion was incomplete.
posted by empath at 6:15 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, great use of the Monomyth.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:21 AM on October 7, 2011


Has anyone mentioned Dark City yet?
posted by Acey at 10:08 AM on October 7, 2011


They came out so close to each other I doubt they were influencing, although they both have a very similar color scheme (that would soon become standard before OrangeTeal kicked in)
posted by The Whelk at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2011


See also The Truman Show and the 13th floor. It was just something in the air. I was sketching out an outline for a book/rpg campaign before any of them came out that was really similar, except with high fantasy instead of cyberpunk/Kung Fu, and all the characters had simply had their brains uploaded -- there was no real world or bodies for them to go back to after they realized they were living in an illusion. I kind of abandoned it after one movie came out after another with the 'your world is not real' theme. (Which I had gotten from the Moriarty episodes from ST:TNG and from reading about Hans Moravec in Wired.)
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on October 7, 2011


The Wachowski Brothers intentionally used a green tint for The Matrix. It was to give a referential feel to the computer simulation of the matrix, and something anyone growing up with green monochrome monitor would recognize as such.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:39 AM on October 7, 2011


It was based on Gnostic Christian ideas about the origins of the world and man's place in it, with Neo as the redemptive Christ figure, the Oracle as Sophia, and the Architect as the Demiurge, and The Source as the true god -- among other things-- most notably Hindu ideas about cycles and reincarnation.

The story from the beginning was about Jesus, and any movie which didn't end with Neo's death and rebirth as the savior of mankind, and the escape of humanity from illusion was incomplete.

Yeah, I mean, sure? So? It just wasn't that deep or coherent an execution of any of this. And if they honestly had all that post-first-movie stuff worked out in mind when they made the first one, they did a lousy job on the groundwork.

But hey, mileage is known to vary.
posted by brennen at 12:21 PM on October 7, 2011


(Ok, I botched that comment a little: I don't buy it on the "incomplete" bit. The first one felt pretty much sufficient to its actual ambitions, and really didn't communicate any need for a sequel to me.)
posted by brennen at 12:25 PM on October 7, 2011


It just wasn't that deep or coherent an execution of any of this. And if they honestly had all that post-first-movie stuff worked out in mind when they made the first one, they did a lousy job on the groundwork.

They did. They talked about it at the time.

You might not like the execution (I wasn't happy with the third movie myself), but you can't say that they didn't have a complete vision. It was largely a symbolic and allegorical film, which was perhaps to the detriment of plot and characterization, and I understand a lot of people might not like that kind of thing, but it's worth pointing out what they were going for was probably different than what most people were expecting.
posted by empath at 12:38 PM on October 7, 2011


Yeah, I mean, sure? So? It just wasn't that deep or coherent an execution of any of this.

I think it's bad form for me to poke holes in your opinion, brennen, but I'd have to point out you really didn't give a reason other than some idle thoughts. I'm still not sure what you're getting at here either, what wasn't coherent or deep about it? Can you give an example where they could've made it deeper or are you just batting around your feelings on this?

didn't communicate any need for a sequel to me.

Neither did Star Wars, or even even after the first trilogy but that didn't stop anybody from wanting to see them. Which makes me think this is mostly revisionist ideas your toying with here.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:41 PM on October 7, 2011


but I'd have to point out you really didn't give a reason other than some idle thoughts

Yeah, I mean, idle thoughts is pretty much what I have. This is not exactly a burning passion of mine; I was just trying to articulate why a piece of art didn't work all that well for me. Per empath's comment above, I'm willing to believe they carefully planned the whole thing out from the get go, but that doesn't change the fact that it didn't really leave me with that impression at the time. Feel free to read that as "I don't like their vision" if you want. Like I said, mileage varies.

Which makes me think this is mostly revisionist ideas your toying with here.

I'm not sure what you think I'd be "revising". I thought the first movie was really cool and effective when I saw it, though I didn't think it ran all that deep. I wasn't that impressed with the subsequent ones, and it's not hard for me to figure out why. That's all.

Anyhow, I'll bow out now. My least favorite experience on MetaFilter is probably "your-favorite-x-sucks", and I should probably better resist the temptation to inflict it on others.
posted by brennen at 2:13 PM on October 7, 2011


It is your opinion and I asked for it but I guess I'm more curious to hear a 'why' someone feels a certain way rather than dressed up thoughts. I see it a lot and it's fine to have an opinion but like I said, for me it's like "yeah, okay, why should anyone care? Give me a decent critique to see why it really isn't that great." You know, or not.

A common revisionist idea you run into is when you talk about something like the run of BSG. The overwrought later series in the show overshadows the brilliance of the first couple of seasons. So, you often see people dismiss the whole series as being about religiosity when in fact that wasn't the case at all in the beginning. Or at least it wasn't complicated by the later excess.
What I'm saying is that you're tune would probably be a bit different about the sequels if they had taken a little more care with them.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2011


You can argue that by taking any fiction, especially a sci-fi, story and say "I liked it, except the part where they got all fictional".

No, the battery thing doesn't feel right. It's not just the physics of it. In fact all argue that viscerally, it gets pulled off because of the excellent acting and the set design and direction to put you in a certain mood. They pretty much drive you into a cozy, comfy space of indeterminate ago when things were simpler in order to enhance the emotional sense of betrayal.
That's well done.
What was done poorly was the reference to the "real" world. In that, no, bodies don't generate more energy than they take in sustenance. Which gives you a gap in why the machines have to bodies with nothing to put there but bad science.

It's alluded to there are other power generators. For example the fusion system. Which is like adding a little blow dryer plugged into your Ferrari to make it go faster.
It's silly.
Silliness should never be tolerated in a serious work where the silly is not appropriate.

It's akin to Lucas having Chewbacca (or the Ewoks) yell like Tarzan when they swing on vines.
He's a movie about a galaxy far far away, millions of years ago. Except, no, it isn't, it's just a bunch of shit I decided I liked that I'd put in there.

Is Lucas' film better for having a tarzan yell? Better for having Greedo shoot first and then try to explain some 1/2 b.s. about reflexes. Or is it better to establish character that Han is a bad ass who doesn't screw around.
Is is better to have the Ewoks, already egregiously cute to pander to kid marketing, not yell like Tarzan so when they actually die there's some emotional resonance there so we can enjoy the drama and achieve catharsis rather than just say "whatever, he's dead. Meh" and chew popcorn and none of it ever matters because it's just completely fictional.

Let's have Bergman do show tune numbers in the middle of his films, just for kicks, they're too serious. It wouldn't hurt anything, because fiction is fiction.
Let's just rewrite Casablaca, The Godfather, Easy Rider, High Noon, all kinds of other films because content doesn't matter if it's just fiction.

The simple truth is they did not do the "battery" business well. It's forgivable because the story has other merits and so strong they are, the film is enjoyable.
You cannot however contrast something like Citizen Kane with Eks Versus Sever on the basis that they are both fictional they are equal in regards to the mistakes they make.

Caine does have it's flaws, but they're small and are generally done in favor of helping the plot or heightening tension or drama.
Exks vs. Sever - I'm not sure anything in that movie is done in support of any other part of the movie.
So one is the most highly lauded film of all time the other is one of the worst train wrecks recognized by modern moviegoers.

The "Batteries" thing was a bad choice. And changing that part to something else or leaving it as a mystery would have been a much better choice.
It's that simple.

All that remains is how high you set your calibrators for taste.
Mine are set pretty wide. I despise any deviation that isn't true to the story, so this bit in The Matrix bothered me, but it didn't ruin the movie because the rest of the film is really good and it's easy to suspend disbelief there because it's plausible (not factual, plausible).

My other calibrator for tolerance .... I sat through all of Howard the Duck. I wear that badge to parades along with my other fruit salad.
Given it's set that high in tolerance, and the "battery" thing from Matrix tripped through it, is a sign of how egregious an error it is.

But again, that shows how good the rest of the movie is, that it can recover from such a serious deviation (not only from science and logic) and then just go on to other things.
And indeed, it's treated as an emotional hit, not an intellectual one.
And I probably never would have thought about it again but they did decide to go on about it some more.
So it's still enjoyable, just less good that it would have been otherwise.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:06 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the 'battery' thing was dumb, but it was simple to explain in just a few seconds in a fast moving movie, just good enough that most people didn't think about how dumb it is until after they had some time to think about it after the movie is over. Refrigerator logic at it's best.
posted by empath at 12:55 AM on October 8, 2011


And, btw, according to TV tropes, the enslaved humans were used as a gigantic neural network in the original script, but the studio thought people would be too stupid to understand what that meant. So feel free to substitute that in your head the next time you watch it.
posted by empath at 1:01 AM on October 8, 2011


And changing that part to something else or leaving it as a mystery would have been a much better choice.
It's that simple.


Sure, I never said the battery thing was smart or that it actually even covers anything, BUT there is a shit ton of movies out that there that I could take the simplest thing and tear the whole movie down because of it. So, people as batteries never made me stop and think a minute to decide if I was going to walk out of the theater because "OMG! Those bastards are not being factually accurate!"

Is Lucas' film better for having a tarzan yell?

This is an odd way to frame the conversation. At the basis of it, we're asking if something or other in the movie breaks the consistency of what we've already watched or at least intercedes upon the reality that's built into the movie. Directorial choices upon Tarzan yells, who did what first, or whether to call a sled Rosebud or Dandy Lion, has nothing to do with this it and they don't equate to plot holes. Can Chewbacca do a Tarzan yell? Apparently, and it's a funny bit for the kids. Did Greedo shoot first? No, and I have no idea why Lucas changed it but in any case he is now a really lousy shot and Han is an idiot for not taking the initiative. As a viewer those things can ruin the movie just the same and that's up for the them to decide but it doesn't break any preconceived reality.

it's easy to suspend disbelief there because it's plausible (not factual, plausible).

And that's all that I ask for, at least within the parameters of the fictional reality. I don't need an explanation at every turn for everything and I'm not going to bitch about minor ones that don't hold up. It just makes for a silly conversation when we could literally go through most every science fiction story and break apart the soft science that makes it hum.

Also, I never reduced all fiction to the same level. Of course some stories are put together more tightly than others and are better for it. It still doesn't mean I can't enjoy the simpler movies. People are always going to have beef with almost anything. "Hey, if everybody was so interested in Kane, why did it take someone so long to track down Kane's guardian to get the real story of his childhood?" Huge gaping plot hole, or something you can easily bypass to enjoy the brilliance of that movie?

In the end, when someone is telling me how The Matrix suxors (and I don't believe this is what brennen was saying) because of the battery thing. All that makes me do is roll my eyes because it's such a minuscule part of that movie that they didn't build upon. They also didn't explain how anything flew at all but at least we get some shiny parts on the ships to "show" us. The Sentinels just floated around. How? Or am I totally ruining this movie now? In other words, it's nitpicking about shit that in a larger context makes no sense to nitpick about. How many laws of science are broken in Star Wars?
posted by P.o.B. at 12:03 PM on October 8, 2011


In other words, it's nitpicking about shit that in a larger context makes no sense to nitpick about. How many laws of science are broken in Star Wars?

Yeah, I think if people want to condemn a whole film over one flaw it's silly. But I think it's worth acknowledging it as a flaw.
What was the thing with Star Trek and the "Heisenberg compensators"? Some fan asked how they work and one of the writers said "They work perfectly well, thank you."

I think that's the gist.
It's not that the laws of science are broken. It's that the writing is poor such that you can't keep up the suspension of disbelief.

I mean, as mentioned above, it is a big problem that the studio wanted to go with the battery thing over the neural network explanation. I would have bought into that.
Not because of the science, but because it's more indicative of the symbiotic and reciprocal relationship between the machines and the humans.

I get what you're saying. There's always some smart-ass fan who tries to plug some hard scientific explanation into a story. But what I'm complaining about is ruining the piece with almost any explanation that doesn't advance the plot or the story or is integral in some way.
The battery explanation is basically superfluous. As would be a hard science explanation or any explanation that, well, explains, rather than develops the "why" of it.

Looking back on what I said, man, I write like shit. So I'm not trying to come off as someone who's in the know about the execution and expression. But typically my head is in either a book or I watch a movie (insomnia) so I've caught a lot of stuff and I know what works and what doesn't. Objectively. Not "for me," but mechanically. I mean ok, it's all opinion, but I'm not basing mine on distaste or some presumption of intellectual superiority because I know the laws of thermodynamics.

It's poorly done (the battery thing) because it is just an explanation. And I suspect some goof in a suit somewhere demanded to know how it worked.

And I think you're right that it makes no sense to nitpick over technical specs, but in this case it's not really a technical issue.

Like the Midichlorians in Star Wars. How does the Force work? In the original three films it worked just fine. It was "whatever, you do stuff with it, it's mystical and mysterious" which was fine.
And I'm totally with you on fanboys going off the rails on this.
But I don't particularly care whether the foundation of the force is scientific or mystical or whatever. But ultimately, who cares? It doesn't matter HOW it works, what matters is how it fits organically as a component of the story.

If it doesn't need to be explained, devote the screen time to something else.

I mean, the thing is, if they never brought it up, I wouldn't have noticed because it's inside the narrative everywhere else. The machines need the humans to advance, to evolve, to learn and push themselves, and the battery thing could be a lie by the machines (for example, no one knows the year, which is sort of Orwellian, so why wouldn't there be propaganda?)
But that doesn't fly because they don't bring up any of those elements. So, mechanically, the battery thing just sticks out like a useless flange (other than the emotional /betrayal thing which works but only because it's sold so well, not as

There's a good bit from the Red Letter Media guy when he reviews Star Trek Generations, there's this prop Picard goes goofy over in the series and then dumps in the film.

So, same thing, it's lazy and/or thoughtless. Why go through the trouble of putting this dingus on the ship in the film? Because it's something of Picards. Well, if we're going to go through the trouble, why not have him react? Well, no time, yeah? We've got to get him moving. Then why put the thing there in the first place?

I guess, 'purpose', would be what I'm driving at.
And what makes the battery business so noticeable is that there is so much attention to detail in everything else. So it's like a flyspeck on an otherwise perfectly white wall.
So "hey this movie is awesome, you know what'd make it better? If studio execs didn't hose it all up by pushing this 1/2 assed explanation into it."

The Sentinels just floated around. How?

Exactly. We don't need to know. If they bring it up, well, they'd have to do something with it. Otherwise we're left hanging and with the impression that it's important in some way.

But carting in something from outside - how is a Tarzan yell fun for kids? What kid has seen a Tarzan movie in the last 20 years? We all get the cultural reference. But that's exactly the problem. If you're going to bring something in from outside, either neutralize it by framing it as such (and although I thought it was stupid, Lucas did do that with the Tarzan yell, so it's not bad structurally) or do something with it.

On the same note, Han Solo's "She'll make .5 past lightspeed." And "she made the Kessel run in under blah parsecs" - it's just dialogue. Nothing big is made out of it. And Obi Wan even looks incredulous when Solo is talking so all the cues say "Pfft. Whatever. Just talk." So, as a matter of story telling, it's just fine. Who cares that the technical explanation is wrong (other than, yeah, the guys who go ape and nitpick).

The midichlorians, different story. Lucas spends all kinds of time on it. But how is it important in a storytelling sense? All we really need to know is that Skywalker is all kinds of powerful. Done.

Same deal with the battery thing. The machines need humans in the Matrix. Why? Because it's not Skynet. They don't want to kill all humans. And that's all you really need.
And maybe allude to there being some other reasons and let the audience's mind work for you instead of against you. So - "it's mysterious." Oooh, ok, let's move on to the gunplay.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:22 AM on October 10, 2011


Oh, I get the idea was lazy and didn't need to be in there, but for me it isn't really something that I need to justify in my head. I'm assuming at some point they got the part where they needed an explanation for the robots keeping the people around the Wachowskis probably had one of those potato clocks sitting on the shelf. "Hey, they can be used like batteries!" The fact that nobody ever took half a second to nudge them away from that idea because of the stupidity is the most boggling part of it to me. And, yeah, the easiest parts to accept about movies like Avatar or Inception was what wasn't explained, and that was practically nothing.

For the most part we're talking about an acceptable level of aesthetic interpretation. Does a Tarazan yell makes sense? Sure, or maybe not. It depends on whether you'll accept that use of artistic license. I could give you a long rant about why it is doesn't make any sense that Americana antiques transport 700 years into the future in Firefly, but most people shrug it off and happily enjoy the show. Even coming up with rationale to support why it makes sense. Not so much for me, but that would be my opinion. Just as humans as batteries really doesn't bother me in the overall context of the show.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:05 PM on October 11, 2011


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