Matrix Essays.
March 1, 2004 8:14 AM   Subscribe

The Matrix Explained. Here are a couple of essays on the Matrix Sequels. Does anyone besides me actually like these movies?
posted by hughbot (58 comments total)

 
Does anyone besides me actually think that the Wachowskis simply made all this shit up as they went along and that all this analysis into a really, really badly-written simple-concept sci-fi movie is just as silly as sitting around debating which cartoon characters are "secretly gay?"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2004


I liked the second one quite a bit. The third one was pretty awful though.
posted by McBain at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2004


Huckleberry Hound, XQ. Exit... stage left, even!
posted by jonson at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2004


I liked the third one quite a bit. The second one was pretty awful though.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:29 AM on March 1, 2004


Does anyone besides me actually think that the Wachowskis simply made all this shit up

100% with you.

I don't know what's worse; the sequels (the first was decent) or the people who attempt to find deep, hidden meaning in them.
posted by madman at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2004


I foresee cultural studies conferences.

(I liked the first one until "There is no spoon," and then it lost me completely with the helicopter attack scene. Narratively, it felt like a sledgehammer after the opening part of the film. I much preferred Abre Los Ojos/Open Your Eyes.)
posted by carter at 8:37 AM on March 1, 2004


The first one was great because, until about the third week in the theaters it was just a cool looking action flick that really wasn't that bad. Then people started looking for meaning in it and using the shit thown at them during philosopy 102, the modern era. It was all down hill from there (until the Matrix 1 came out on DVD and the sound ruled, but then it was down hill again).
posted by jmgorman at 8:41 AM on March 1, 2004


the Wachowskis were robbed last night at the Oscars, weren't they?
posted by matteo at 8:45 AM on March 1, 2004


I don't know what's worse; the sequels (the first was decent) or the people who attempt to find deep, hidden meaning in them.

Definitely the people. A cash cow is pretty self explanatory. Spending any intellectual horsepower trying to decipher the big-word-laden transitions between special effect montages is just sad.
posted by jon_kill at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2004


Does anyone besides me actually think that the Wachowskis simply made all this shit up as they went along and that all this analysis into a really, really badly-written simple-concept sci-fi movie is just as silly as sitting around debating which cartoon characters are "secretly gay?"

yup. does anyone but me think the several generations coming up since the late 1940's have been dulled/damaged/reprogrammed by television/movies/media in such a manner that they actually hold entertainment as one of the highest acheivements in life, such that they engage in endless debates on imaginary subjects while eagerly forking over millions of dollars for more? does anybody but me find it ludicrous and terrifying that people actually care about the weekend 'movie races', the scores of which are reported all week as financial news? "Will Bored Of The Rings beat out The Bashin' of The Christ? hey! people are dying in a war of greed begun by a half-wit puppet of military industrial liars! MICHAEL JACKSON WEENIE WAGGER uncharged, untried and unconvicted people are mouldering in undisclosed locations without benefit of counsel on the direct orders of fascist criminals and deluded worshipers of the dead who have seized power unconstitutionally TERRORISTS ATTACK 911 SYSTEM USING WEBTV oh, yes! GODDAM I WISH THEY STOP ALL THIS MOOING AND BAAAING I CAN'T HEAR THE FRIGGIN' MOVIE!!!"
posted by quonsar at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2004


I loved 'em. All three of them. I found them to be thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. I also like the fact that they provide fertile ground for exploration in essays like the ones linked above.

To me, the concepts preseneted are a good springboard for further conversation and examination. I like that aspect of the films.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2004


Fyi, "there is no spoon" is (yet) another quote from Jean Baudrillard, this time from Cool Memories I or II, I forget off the top of my head..
posted by hank_14 at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2004


I think that the problem with the Matrix sequels and their unappreciation has more to do with the anime sensibilities of the films than anything else. For those of us who are generally amenable to anime and manga style storytelling, there wasn't anything shocking or objectionable to the way that the Matrix series wrapped up. For those who hoped that some deep philosophical meaning could be found amongst the heaps of literary allusions that were floating around, there was huge disappointment.

Anime often deals with nature of reality and amnesia/self-discovery as storyline and plot drivers. To see those be the themes that actually drove the story that Wachowskis brothers wanted to tell wasn't really a surprise for me at least. I suspect that the impact of the Matrix on filmmaking may not be realized for a number of years and may represent the first live action anime films within a new action genre.

I for one look forward to the first giant robot live action anime.
posted by shagoth at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2004


quonsar: nail. hit. on. head. bravo
posted by cmicali at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2004


shagoth: Casshern?
posted by carter at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2004


Shagoth: Like Casshern (view trailer)?
posted by packphour at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2004


quonsar: The (sad) thing is this : we as human beings are made to care more about individuals than about general suffering or pain. If we find out that a little girl was brutally raped and beaten, that tugs at our heartstrings, but if 10000 people die in an earthquake, we feel only a mild pang--because it's impersonal. We're made to relate one-to-one, and not one-to-many. It doesn't give us an excuse to not be compassionate, but it does tell us why we're not. Maybe we can CHANGE how we view these atrocities by finding out about the mother who's only child was killed by government officals in country X rather than just announcing to one another that country X's government is inhumane. It's much easier to relate to actors--even if they are fake--because they are percieved as individuals--both in and outside of the movie.

The best place to start changing all this is next door.
posted by psychotic_venom at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2004


carter: jinx ;)
posted by packphour at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2004


That pretty much sums up how I feel about the trilogy, Shagoth.

Did you hear WETA's doing the Evangelion movie?
posted by hughbot at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2004


does anyone but me think the several generations coming up since the late 1940's have been dulled/damaged/reprogrammed by television/movies/media in such a manner that they actually hold entertainment as one of the highest acheivements in life, such that they engage in endless debates on imaginary subjects while eagerly forking over millions of dollars for more?

No, I think people have always been primarily concerned with largely unimportant stuff. We simply have more leisure time than our predecessors, I think.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:04 AM on March 1, 2004


does anyone but me think the several generations coming up since the late 1940's have been dulled/damaged/reprogrammed by television/movies/media in such a manner that they actually hold entertainment as one of the highest acheivements in life, such that they engage in endless debates on imaginary subjects while eagerly forking over millions of dollars for more?

Yup.
posted by languagehat at 9:04 AM on March 1, 2004


The movies may have been ham-fisted and poorly written, but that doesn't mean there was no philosophy in there. The Wachowski brothers gave the actors a reading list including Baudrillard, for goodness sake. To argue, as several have in here, that people are reading deeper meaning into the movies than is really there, is simply counterfactual.

Now, the philosophies included are often cobbled together and presented incoherently, but that doesn't mean there's nothing there to discuss.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:04 AM on March 1, 2004



The best place to start changing all this is next door.


you live next to a theater, huh?
posted by quonsar at 9:05 AM on March 1, 2004


i liked them and was incredibly disappointed in them at the same time. to me, the comic book plot just wasn't as cohesive as the first one, (and after looking at this guy's fucking book report) maybe because it was too ambitious.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 9:07 AM on March 1, 2004


Eh, next door, 2 blocks...
posted by psychotic_venom at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2004


carter, packphour: exactly like that only with subtitles and on a region 1 DVD.
posted by shagoth at 9:11 AM on March 1, 2004


does anyone but me think the several generations coming up since the late 1940's have been dulled/damaged/reprogrammed by television/movies/media in such a manner that they actually hold entertainment as one of the highest acheivements in life ...

According to Plato it's been downhill since the invention of writing ...

(In the Phaedrus CTRL-F to "Naucratis" and read on)
posted by carter at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2004


The first Matrix underwhelmed me when I saw it, but that was a month after it came out, and there were groupies sitting in front of the theater getting ready to see it again that day, discussing it's finer points, and things to look out for on the next viewing...

when I rented it later, I thought it was pretty damned good, for a number of reasons. When I saw Reloaded, I was astonished at how much of a hack-job it seemed like.

I would've expected Reloaded to be the product of a third-party director, who was commissioned by the studio which owned the Matrix rights, one who was 'bankable' but didn't seem to understand exactly what nerves the first movie was touching on that drew such a fanatical reaction from audiences.

It was sad to see such a huge blunder, but I chalked it up to a movie-turned-franchise crumbling under its own weight (a la Star Wars).

The fact that people will write and re-write (version 2.11?) deconstructions of these movies is interesting to note, but I couldn't get through half of the first one without having the same reaction I did to the second movie "how long is this going to drag on..."

Plus, since the revelations about the movie's intent seem to waver depending on the latest version, I'll wait until review 3.7 comes out, then maybe try again.

Or maybe I'll read a book, instead.
posted by Busithoth at 9:24 AM on March 1, 2004


that they engage in endless debates on imaginary subjects while eagerly forking over millions of dollars for more?

It's almost like they're trapped in some kind of system that keeps them distracted while using their energies/resources to perpetuate itself.
posted by namespan at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2004


I think that the problem with the Matrix sequels and their unappreciation has more to do with the anime sensibilities of the films than anything else.

True, but much anime isn't very good for the same reason that The Matrix sequels weren't very good-- their themes are pretentious while at the same time shallow and underdeveloped. It's one thing to throw out a bunch of ideas related to identity and reality. It's another thing to actually deal with those ideas.

People who actually like lots of anime despite their narrative shortcomings probably did like The Matrix, but I agree with those who recognized the first film as a standalone movie with hackjobs tacked on later.

Much like the original Planet of the Apes, the first Matrix film is a film worth watching, but the sequels can be ignored without consequence.
posted by deanc at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2004


I enjoyed all three movies (although no.2 was a bit too long) and don't think that they're as bad as people make out. The problem seems to be that people (possibly including the film's marketing people) pitched the films as being masterpieces, which they simply aren't. No.1 survived because there wasn't too much expectation, but there's no way that 2 & 3 were going to live up to the hype.
posted by daveg at 9:49 AM on March 1, 2004


I actually enjoyed Matrix:3 much more than LOTR:3 (how it could have won an oscar for best editing I really don't know)
posted by daveg at 9:51 AM on March 1, 2004


The problem seems to be that people (possibly including the film's marketing people) pitched the films as being masterpieces

No, the problem seems to be that the characters and stories of the second and third movies were completely inferior to those of the first. People who like the second and third movies like to blame the "hype" (which is a back-handed way of blaming the audience) instead of the films.
posted by jpoulos at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2004


This thread would not be complete without a plug for Dark City, which has much more philosophical depth to it than the Matrix movies. (Bonus supplementary reading is Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, which was a major influence on that film.)
posted by Prospero at 10:48 AM on March 1, 2004


34 comments and no one but Busithoth actually read the essays?

I think essayist Brian Takle nails what the Wachowskis were going after. I read both his essays some time back, and thought he did a terrific job of showing exactly what the filmmakers' thought process was -- they're so spot on that it seems like the movie was inspired by them, as opposed to having been inspired by the movie.

I'm no great fan of the trilogy, but Takle has done some legwork to help those of us that aren't philosophy/mythology students see just what was going on. I agree the essays can be a little hard to get through, but the content is worth it.

Serving much the same purpose for an even better movie, here's a great piece on A.I.
posted by blueshammer at 11:07 AM on March 1, 2004


The Matrix=Money

Let's move on now...
posted by Dukebloo at 11:37 AM on March 1, 2004


What the hell? Is this fark? Or slashdot?

If you can't be bothered to read the link, don't clog up the thread with your bitching.

There's some great content in those essays. I don't understand how people can continue to think that the Matrix movies were just action flicks, or that the sequels weren't well designed structurally, or that people are just reading in all these allegories and the Wachowskis never intended to reference all the philosophy and religion in the films. Or that they were badly written. Or that they had simple plots.

Neo-as-Parashurama is a truly inspired perspective. I had never realized *why* the guy in the subway station was called Rama-Kandra until I read the Revolutions essay. Thanks for the link, hughbot. I like the movies =)
posted by jbrjake at 11:55 AM on March 1, 2004


I found the essays fascinating, just as I find the responses to various matrix threads fascinating. The fact that the Wachowskis can incite such responses across the board is quite interesting psychologically and socialogically. If you think about it, not many things in pop culture (high or low) illicit such viceral responses (pro or con) from the masses. (discussions on "good" music and "religion" being localized [metafilter] examples of topics that tend to bring out a variety of sentiments and usually end in arguments and insults.)

Regardless of whether the Wachowskis were successful in entertaining or even challenging their viewers, I find it interesting that so many folks are so quick to dilute or dismiss the Wachowskis intent. I think even Baudrillard acknowledges that the media is the battlefield and that books are probably no longer effective in affecting change or even challenging critical thought. Maybe the movies weren't successful in presenting the synthesis of western, eastern and postmodern philosophy effectively, but at the very least they tried to pose some interesting questions for the masses within a medium with which they can currently relate.

Oh, and Prospero thanks so much for the "Memoirs of my Nervous Illness" recommendation. I have always wonderded about the origins of Dark City.
posted by shoepal at 11:56 AM on March 1, 2004


I found it very discouraging that he starts out with a "Forward" on Disobedience. I'm not sure I really have time to read an essayist who doesn't know how to spell "Foreword", it's part of the basic lexicon of the craft. It may seem petty to snark at a misspelling, but it's very prominent, rather telling, and somewhat dissuasive of reading any further; as there are an awful lot of rather well-written things out there by people who know their craft that I haven't got round to.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:11 PM on March 1, 2004


This thread would not be complete without a plug for Dark City, which has much more philosophical depth to it than the Matrix movies.

Dark City was an excellent film, though I think the Matrix films were more interesting in that the "real" world was in many ways inferior to the "artificial" world, sort of an inversion of Plato's Cave.
posted by bobo123 at 12:11 PM on March 1, 2004


I don't know what's worse; the sequels (the first was decent) or the people who attempt to find deep, hidden meaning in them.

What's worse are the people who think this Matrix sequel is a good idea.
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on March 1, 2004


No, the problem seems to be that the characters and stories of the second and third movies were completely inferior to those of the first.

I agree. The inconsistencies between the movies were distracting. In the first movie, everyone except Neo avoided fighting the agents because they'd get killed. In the second movie, everyone fights them, even though (as Neo says) they're upgrades.

The essays are interesting, and bluehammer's right that he "nails what the Wachowskis were going after," but the problem is the Wachowskis didn't nail it in the execution.

Does anyone besides me actually think that the Wachowskis simply made all this shit up

Yep, and I think the same thing about Star Wars.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:59 PM on March 1, 2004


I actually thought Reloaded was damn good... The car chase was riviting... among other things.

The original was good... well... besides being a relatively good scifi flick, it was original in the fact that the "big twist" was in the beginning, and developed from there. It's unlike alot of movies in that the twist is usually at the end (if there is one...)

The 3rd one was just plain bad... it was so patched together... and since most of it took place in the "real world" it didn't have the appeal, I don't think. That, and once Neo went blind it just got silly.
posted by LoopSouth at 1:04 PM on March 1, 2004


jpoulos: In 'blaming the hype', I certainly wasn't suggesting that the audience were in any way at fault - more that a film will always be seen as a relative failure if the expectation is so far above what is achieved (irrespective of the standalone quality of the film, good or bad).

I haven't commented on the essays as I see them more as part of the problem than anything else. The central biblical references are blatantly obvious - the rest is pseudo-intellectual crap (e.g. somehow he manages to roll "african ethnicity" in as a reference to Africa as the birthplace of humanity (sic) having previously referenced the garden of Eden; he thinks that the fact that there are 6 incarnations of Neo (apparently indicating being part of something bigger) is similar to there being countless incarnations of Indra (linked to timelessness, the inescapability of the cyclic nature of existence, ... oh sorry, he didn't get that far)
posted by daveg at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2004


jpoulos: In 'blaming the hype', I certainly wasn't suggesting that the audience were in any way at fault

The implication is that we who don't like the films somehow aren't seeing them objectively, because we've been influenced so heavily by the hype. I disagree with that. I'm very capable of seeing beyond the hype, and I still find major flaws with the execution of the sequels.

I haven't bothered to parse the philiosophy among the three films, but that's not really my concern. The historical references may be deep and brilliantly obscure, but I'm not concerned with that either. My complaint is that as stories, the second and third films aren't nearly as good as the first. If they don't succeed on that level, all the archetypes in our collective consciousness can't save them.
posted by jpoulos at 1:37 PM on March 1, 2004


What these essays do not explain is why the second and third parts are so Godawful boring... I found the first installment engaging, full of incredible new shots and camera tricks. Nothing in the second or third parts equals the innovativeness of the "360 degree camera array" trick and, in fact, they just use it again, over and over. God knows I'll sit through the murkiest psuedo-philisophical muck if it's interesting enough visually (I did, after all, like the first film), but with increasingly diminishing returns in the second and third parts, it was quite obviously devolving into more and more about less and less...
posted by JollyWanker at 2:25 PM on March 1, 2004


The first movie was only cool on the first viewing - it was a gimmick movie. You don't know what the hell is going on, the movie tells you, "cool," and then it trots out kick ass action scenes. Without that gimmick the second two failed, and the first isn't really that much more watchable on repeat viewings.

If I were going to make something "cool," I wouldn't use any anime-inspired anything at all. Anime is slow paced by design - all that hand-drawn animation is expensive, so it tends to degenerate into paintings of the characters talking to each other, action scene, more paintings of people talking to each other, etc. It's a real boring way of telling a story - either go the constant action route or make it a talky social commentary or whatever, don't go half-assed. The Matrix 3 would have been much less painful without all the talking. Blade Runner had the same problem - that movie is as boring a movie as I've ever watched in parts because there's so much bullshit added to pad out the brilliant special effect scenes.

As for the essays, well... Meh. I preferred the Corporate Mofo explainations to these. They make pretty boring reading. Hard to explain a boring movie and make it interesting, but oh well.
posted by Veritron at 2:29 PM on March 1, 2004


Blade Runner had the same problem - that movie is as boring a movie as I've ever watched in parts because there's so much bullshit added to pad out the brilliant special effect scenes.

Is this supposed to be a joke?
posted by jbrjake at 3:12 PM on March 1, 2004


Nothing in the second or third parts equals the innovativeness of the "360 degree camera array" trick and, in fact, they just use it again, over and over.

False. In reality, the technical achievements of the sequels far outweigh the original. Bullet time was not, as you claim, innovative. The concept was not invented for The Matrix. It had already been used in, at least, some television commercials. It was new, but not innovative.

However, the Matrix sequels broke new ground with the first real stab at virtual cinematography. The whole scene in the courtyard in Reloaded exceeds anything Gaeta and his team did for the first film. The work begun with these movies is going to eventually revolutionize filmmaking. One day, sets, props, actors' performances, lighting, set piece matte paintings, and virtual creatures will all be sampled into a compositing/editing environment. Directors will be able to experiment by moving the virtual camera in ways impossible or exhorbinantly expensives presently.

Say whatever else you want about the Matrix sequels, those special effects guys worked their asses off and deserve some recognition.
posted by jbrjake at 3:22 PM on March 1, 2004


There are quite a few people who are like hughbot who see more in these movies than just punching kicking.

I think I see this thread breaking into two groups: those who want entertainment without complexity and those who were looking at the bigger ideas behind these movies.

Veritron, XQUZYPHYR, jon_kill, Dukebloo, and madman all seem to be dismissing the Matrix as just another action movie like Armageddon, Spiderman, or Lara Croft.

hughbot's post, on the other hand, was inquiring what makes the other people - the ones who enjoy the literary/philosophical/religious meaning subtext of these films - different from other viewers.
posted by stevis at 4:25 PM on March 1, 2004


stevis: yes, but no. That may be a tad reductive. There may be a third group that is interested in the literary/philosophical/religious subtexts, but unimpressed with the presentation. I felt the first film was a good balance between action and concept, while the two sequels seemed to flounder under their own weight. While the first served as an interesting way to present gnostic ideas, the next two seemed to hand-wave around free-will without any understanding of the problem, or any subtlety in its presentation.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:28 PM on March 1, 2004


I just skimmed the essays. I like them, and they certainly explain a lot about the movies. Speaking of which, movies two and three were just plain crap.

Anyway, I can appreciate a bit better what the directors were probably trying to say. Just don't like the way they said it. Wish I'd stopped watching at the end of #1.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:31 PM on March 1, 2004


Oh, and I really don't have any problem with people using popular culture as a jump-off point to present their ideas. The Matrix (the first one) serves as a good example of many different concepts in many different contexts. That, however, doesn't mean those concepts are IN the film. When trying to explain something as abstract as skepticism, gnosis, freewill or what have you, referencing a movie or book is a great way to make the ideas more concrete. The writer of these essays, in my opinion, isn't jumping off the Matrix, but digging into it. I wasn't clear if there was some point to his discussion, or if it was only intellectual apologia for the failings of the film.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:34 PM on March 1, 2004


This thread would not be complete without a plug for Dark City, which has much more philosophical depth to it than the Matrix movies. (Bonus supplementary reading is Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, which was a major influence on that film.)

Prospero, that link was awesome. Thanks. I'd always kindof liked Dark City, now I think I like it more.
posted by namespan at 6:13 PM on March 1, 2004


...referencing a movie or book is a great way to make the ideas more concrete. The writer of these essays, in my opinion, isn't jumping off the Matrix, but digging into it.

I think it's curious that the discussions arising from Gibson's The Passion are less about our relationship to the spiritual than the discussions that have developed from The Matrix.

elwoodwiles - mea culpa on the reductivism
posted by stevis at 7:32 PM on March 1, 2004


These movies glorified violence and were spiritually stunted. But I enjoyed the first one.

It suffers from the superman paradox, though. If Neo or Superman is nearly an all-powerful being (with an achilles heel or two like kryptonite etc) then the action becomes rather boring. If everyone is in some imaginary, you no longer care. It's just pretty pictures.

Now, it may be deep but it makes for a dull action flick.

And that damn rave scene was too long.
posted by Slagman at 10:16 PM on March 1, 2004


If Neo or Superman is nearly an all-powerful being (with an achilles heel or two like kryptonite etc) then the action becomes rather boring.

Seriously. Take the second film. If Neo can beat (or at least "escape from") a hundred Smiths, how are we supposed to be afraid of Smith? From that point on, the movie had no dramatic tension whatsoever. Rule Number One is that you have to believe your hero is vulvnerable.
Special effects mean nothing, dorm-room philosophy means nothing if you can't obey such a prime directive of storytelling.
posted by jpoulos at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2004


Rule Number One is that you have to believe your hero is vulnerable.

One of many reasons why Die Hard is the best movie ever.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:52 PM on March 2, 2004


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