"We're not trying to say that the Matrix sequels are perfect"
June 7, 2021 4:59 AM   Subscribe

The Matrix Sequels Are Good, Actually is a nearly two hour video essay by Eric Sophia and Sarah Zedig.
posted by Kattullus (138 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Let me just say that I'm happily prepared to have my heretofore most unpopular movie opinion, that Matrix Reloaded is a great movie, replaced as my most unpopular movie opinion with my belief that Matrix Revolutions drops the ball.
posted by Kattullus at 5:10 AM on June 7 [10 favorites]


Sorry for not watching the two hour vid before commenting, but I'm more or less with Kattullus on this. I guess I'd put it more that The Matrix is easily the most immediately enjoyable of the three, Reloaded the most interesting, and Revolutions the least satisfying, from how I remember them. But if you're one to want to try and sketch out the latent possibilities that might have fit the Wachowski's original intent more than deal with what is actually on screen, then Revolutions might offer more to play with in that sense.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:23 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


Its ten minutes of good movie then they crap all over the first movie with just one word: Upgrades.

If there is no spoon then upgrading the agents is an irrelevance.
posted by biffa at 5:32 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


gusottertrout: Sorry for not watching the two hour vid before commenting, but I'm more or less with Kattullus on this

I will say that the video essay convinced me to give Revolutions another shot. I doubt that my main problem with Revolutions, that the story comes down to a single character sacrificing themselves to release humanity from its shackles*, will be resolved, but I'm willing to look for other qualities.


* WHICH MAKES NO THEMATIC SENSE. ALSO THE FIGHT SCENES ARE TOO LONG.
posted by Kattullus at 5:34 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


The thing is that The Matrix is an incredibly tough act to follow. And by "act" I mean literally just that, it's the first act of a story. It introduces the compelling and attractive protagonists and devious antagonists, establishes the setting and the conflict in a viscerally satisfying way, and then, having "rescued the cat," just flies away into the clouds. I saw Matrix in Graumann's Chinese and it was astonishing. How do you top that? Anything you do to tie up all those fascinating loose ends is almost inevitably going to be less satisfying than discovering them in the first place.

I haven't watched the sequels since they came out and you know what, they deserve another chance. Matrix Trilogy rewatch party!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:36 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


The original Matrix movie was mostly fun because of great sets and costumes and the "Bullet Time" special effects, but IMO hasn't held up well in the years since. I know I watched the sequels but can't remember a thing.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:37 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Animatrix was the best Matrix movie of all.

Don't bother to change my mind, there is no spoon.
posted by loquacious at 5:39 AM on June 7 [61 favorites]


Animatrix was the best Matrix movie of all.

There are parts of "The Second Renaissance" segments that haunt me to this day, so it definitely has staying power.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 5:45 AM on June 7 [24 favorites]



Its ten minutes of good movie then they crap all over the first movie with just one word: Upgrades.
.


U WOT M8?????? "Upgrades" is one of the most joyful, witty and dancelike fight scenes ever committed to film; the timing of the syncopation and choreography (to "Furious Angels" by Rob Dougan!) is almost as good as the Chateau Fight Scene. (to "Chateau" by Rob Dougan!)

I watch both these scenes like every 6 months. they are GLORIOUS. They are absolutely highlights of the entire trilogy.

Basically, Don Davis is a a genius.

Biffa, I normally ultra-respect your posts here, but I wanted to end this comment with "I WILL FITE U ABOUT THIS" but then I realized I didn't have a soundtrack for that fight.....
posted by lalochezia at 5:47 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


See also Rewriting The Matrix Sequels by Patrick (H) Willems
posted by octothorpe at 5:51 AM on June 7


"Upgrades" is one of the most joyful, witty and dancelike fight scenes ever committed to film

Its not the fight scene that is the problem, as I said its that one word. Its that the agents being upgraded would make any difference to their ability to defeat Neo totally undermines the first movie.
posted by biffa at 6:01 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


In my head canon, the Terminator's winning leads to the Matrix universe.
posted by exparrot at 6:09 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Asking me to spend two hours listening to why a pair of terrible two-hour movies were actually a good use of my time does not sound like a good use of my time.
posted by foldedfish at 6:14 AM on June 7 [63 favorites]


The original Matrix movie was mostly fun because of great sets and costumes and the "Bullet Time" special effects, but IMO hasn't held up well in the years since.

I have the opposite take I guess, I rewatched the original a few months ago and I think it holds up well, there are actually more practical effects than I remembered.

As an audience member, we get to identify with Neo as he (and us) discover this alternate reality, always an effective narrative choice when it works. Joe Pantoliano's characterization of Cypher betrayal of his crewmates was also more effective than I remember.

As far as the video essay here is concerned, I appreciate the effort and I'm always down for some revisionist exploration, but I don't agree in this case. For Revolutions, I appreciated that they took some risks, but for me it simply fails the (admittedly subjective) jeremias test: there are large stretches that are simply boring. Whenever I'm watching a movie and start to check out and begin thinking "Did I water the plants this morning?" or whatever, that's a bad sign. If it happens repeatedly, well... I'm out.

That was pretty much the deal for me for the sequels, stilted dialog, meaningless characters (cough The Twins) and then when the action sequences kick in, I'm dreading the return to the, you know, rest of the movie. Going back to my earlier point about identifying with Neo's discovery, we lost all sense of this mystery in the sequels IMO.
posted by jeremias at 6:15 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


Listen to me Coppertop, having watched it too many times, for me The Matrix succeeds because it is funny in ways that the sequels never managed to capture.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:16 AM on June 7 [24 favorites]


Asking me to spend two hours listening to why a pair of terrible two-hour movies were actually a good use of my time does not sound like a good use of my time.

It feels like there is this trend lately where really smart, erudite, professional youtubers spend way too much time trying to prove that some piece of art that is considered not-good is in fact good and worthy of further consideration: Lindsay Ellis, CJ the X, Curio...

I don't mind contrarianism as a form of expression, but when that contrarianism takes hours, it throws a red flag for me.
posted by nushustu at 6:22 AM on June 7 [16 favorites]


I re-watched the original Matrix with my teen and tweens for the first time a few weeks ago. They were agog at all the things they'd seen before in other media. There were repeated "Wait, this is where that's from?!" exclamations, which was great. Sokath, his eyes opened. Plus a constant stream of questions about what the heck was actually going on. The sequels were inevitable, the world building is just too tantalizing. I neglected to mention that they existed.
posted by roue at 6:30 AM on June 7 [12 favorites]


I mean no, they're not good, and I'm kind of sick of these recent "these obviously bad movies are really good!" contrarian takes. But it's true that they aren't terrible, or at least they don't deserve the absolute scorn they received.
posted by star gentle uterus at 6:30 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


I've remarked before that Age Of Ultron is the good parts of three different movies mushed together into one mediocre movie. I sort of feel the same way about the Matrix sequels, that the second two movies are the good bits from three movies mushed into one movie that was then stretched unevenly back into two.

Asking me to spend two hours listening to why a pair of terrible two-hour movies were actually a good use of my time does not sound like a good use of my time.

I'm clearly getting old, because while I would 100% read this essay, I will almost certainly not watch this video. If you need to add clips of a thing to make your case (and unless you're talking about color or motion, you don't) that's cool, but if if you want to explain something for two hours that I could read in 20 minutes? Just give me the text.
posted by mhoye at 6:31 AM on June 7 [54 favorites]


Roue, I recently watched The Matrix with my wife since she missed it as a kid. Pointing out all the ways the film influenced all these other movies she has seen made it a really fun experience.

I don't know if I'll have time to watch the linked video, but I'm definitely interested in hearing a case for the sequels because I didn't much like them when I was younger.
posted by TheKaijuCommuter at 6:37 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


It feels like there is this trend lately where really smart, erudite, professional youtubers spend way too much time trying to prove that some piece of art that is considered not-good is in fact good and worthy of further consideration: Lindsay Ellis, CJ the X, Curio...

That's what I always sort of liked about Film Joy's Deep Dive series - they were finding something worthwhile in crummy movies, and doing it in a relatively snappy 30-40 minute show. 2 hours? Oof.
posted by Kyol at 6:48 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


In the Keanuverse, Ted Logan has a brief career as an actor, and makes exactly one film, Johnny Mnemonic; he's excited because it's a William Gibson novel and co-stars Dolph Lundgren and Henry Rollins, but it tanks. When he's describing the film to people afterwards, it sounds a lot more like The Matrix.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:55 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


for me The Matrix succeeds because it is funny in ways that the sequels never managed to capture.

The funniest thing for me was that my boss was absolutely convinced that only he was too smart to really get the deep, deep philosophy of the film.
posted by Foosnark at 6:58 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Halloween Jack, wait till you see the video I am putting up about how the Matrix movies are sequels to Johnny Mnemonic. To cover the topic fully, it is a five-hour YouTube video, but it is also available as a 485-slide PowerPoint presentation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:01 AM on June 7 [26 favorites]


I re-watched the original Matrix with my teen and tweens for the first time a few weeks ago. They were agog at all the things they'd seen before in other media. There were repeated "Wait, this is where that's from?!" exclamations, which was great.

I had a similar experience, many years ago, when I convinced someone who thought The Matrix was the greatest thing ever to sit down and watch the Ghost in the Shell film.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:02 AM on June 7 [22 favorites]


I mean no, they're not good, and I'm kind of sick of these recent "these obviously bad movies are really good!" contrarian takes. But it's true that they aren't terrible, or at least they don't deserve the absolute scorn they received.

I'd rather spend two hours listening to someone explain "why this movie you thought was bad is actually good" than listening to someone explain "why this movie you thought was good is actually bad," which is also a YouTube genre. If we're going to have contrarianism--and we're always going to have contrarianism, at least until we develop a hive mind and become the Borg--isn't it nicer when the contrarianism is constructive instead of destructive?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:04 AM on June 7 [26 favorites]


Its not the fight scene that is the problem, as I said its that one word. Its that the agents being upgraded would make any difference to their ability to defeat Neo totally undermines the first movie.

This does really point to one of the main problems with the trilogy and the different takes on whether the movies are good or bad. There are some serious conceptual problems having sequels creates given the tidy resolution of the first movie that needed to be better addressed in order to make full sense if one takes the surface level plotting seriously.

The sequels, however, are interesting for expanding on the difficulties of Neo achieving the end he does in the first movie, by compounding the issue with different sorts of philosophical complexity, to varying success. They essentially suggest Neo too easily overcame his internal resistance and must get past these additional areas of doubt, which can be interesting for the viewer to piece together as metaphor, but not always as successful in terms of surface plotting and as the movies go on, can feel redundant in effect as Neo basically has to keep doing the same things he already did in terms of "overcoming" in what we are asked to see.

The thing about these kinds of "actually good" videos are that if one invests enough interest into the concepts of the shows or movies, then what is actually on screen and the experience of watching starts to matter less and less as the new pleasure is in extending the hinted ideas into something more complex and coherent than what is on screen by retconning the concepts to make it all fit better and/or by just ignoring the parts that don't make sense in favor of personal interpretation as the main thing of importance.

It's a hardcore fan approach at an extreme end, that sometimes borrows notions from more academic criticism to reach that end, and sometimes does become more interesting than the movies or shows they are responding to, like some of the massive numbers of Star Wars critiques/responses do. That though is no longer really dealing with the movies or shows in themselves, but writing something new to make the parts that don't work fit together and maybe improve things overall by making it seem like a deep and coherent plan that non-fans just couldn't see.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:07 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


The machines attack at dawn, we must prepare our defenses. But first, DANCE PARTY!!!

It's three minutes of cave rave spliced with Keanu having sweaty sex. That was in the movie. For three whole minutes. In the movie they're trying to defend. Watch it. See? Yeah, that was a bad movie.
posted by adept256 at 7:11 AM on June 7 [22 favorites]


What always bothered me was that Neo's abilities mainly seem to be "I am very good at hitting".
I would have liked (and admittedly this would not have been very cinematic, so actually would not maybe have liked) to see an appreciation that the Matrix is a computer system and that systems have exploitable loop holes.

Like, you know that thing in Mario where you can move up and down and pick up a thing at a specific place and put down the thing and then you hit a buffer overrun and start accidentally writing into working memory and then you can run arbitrary code? (like this)
That's how the Matrix sequels should have worked. They should be Keanu reeves sidestepping left and right in a specific pattern whilst repeatedly picking up and putting down a pineapple.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:14 AM on June 7 [83 favorites]


... a nearly two hour video essay...

They should do a couple of follow-ups that undermine what they said in the first one.
posted by Phanx at 7:17 AM on June 7 [44 favorites]


Yeah, the Matrix and it's sequels should have looked like someone doing a world record any percent speed run of the real world.
posted by dazed_one at 7:25 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]



I'm clearly getting old, because while I would 100% read this essay, I will almost certainly not watch this video. If you need to add clips of a thing to make your case (and unless you're talking about color or motion, you don't) that's cool, but if if you want to explain something for two hours that I could read in 20 minutes? Just give me the text.

Thought same. The plight of the speed reader, right there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:30 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


> What always bothered me was that Neo's abilities mainly seem to be "I am very good at hitting".

Years ago, I was watching Dark City (which people really seem to think is a good movie, but that is not how I remember it) with a friend, and at one point he said "How is it that all these movies about characters with godlike powers still come down to scenes of people punching each other?"

I thought the Matrix was...fine? At best?...and never watched any of the sequels.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:30 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


What always bothered me was that Neo's abilities mainly seem to be "I am very good at hitting".

I got the sense that he also got the difference between "pretend Matrix dead" and "really dead".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I'm clearly getting old, because while I would 100% read this essay, I will almost certainly not watch this video. If you need to add clips of a thing to make your case (and unless you're talking about color or motion, you don't) that's cool, but if if you want to explain something for two hours that I could read in 20 minutes? Just give me the text.

Thought same. The plight of the speed reader, right there.


If only...
posted by gwint at 7:32 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I'm clearly getting old, because while I would 100% read this essay, I will almost certainly not watch this video. If you need to add clips of a thing to make your case (and unless you're talking about color or motion, you don't) that's cool, but if if you want to explain something for two hours that I could read in 20 minutes? Just give me the text.

Thought same. The plight of the speed reader, right there.


On the YouTube site, click on the three dots (at the end of the line with "thumbs up", "thumbs down", "share" and "save"). Open transcript. Voila. Not well formatted and with some transcription errors, but certainly better than passively watching a 2+ hour video.
posted by senor biggles at 7:36 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


I feel like I should mention, should that be something you'd be willing to pay money for, that Curio offers the written essays the scripts are adapted from as a feature of their 2 dollar Patreon tier.
posted by Kattullus at 7:37 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


The original Matrix movie was mostly fun because of great sets and costumes and the "Bullet Time" special effects, but IMO hasn't held up well in the years since.

I always thought the sets in the original were terrible - nothing but boring grey hallways and they can imagine basically any weapon but it's always dinky pistols? The costumes and effects are super cool, but the locations in the movie are super lame
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:18 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I've actually never even finished the other 2 - I recall a really boring car chase from one of them, and couldn't finish that and turned it off.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:19 AM on June 7


/me waits patiently for the discussion to turn to Jupiter Rising. Which is obviously just a love story that plays out on one of the alternative 'fun' servers in the Matrix data center.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:23 AM on June 7 [16 favorites]


For me personally, a mediocre or even crappy film can be redeemed if there’s at least one scene that is dreamy enough. Matrix Revolutions has a couple of those. When Trinity is on her suicide mission towards the end of the film. Her ship is on an arc. Goes above the perma-clouds. For the first and only time in her life, she sees the sun. The real sun, not a simulation. She’s absolutely overwhelmed by this moment. That scene alone almost makes the rest of the movie worthwhile. It’s haunted me for a long time.

Also really liked the funeral / passion scene where Neo’s lifeless body is pulled into the machine. Was a nice touch.

And now that I’m older and much less serious than I was in 2003, I can appreciate the “rainbow” ending a bit more.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 8:25 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


I always liked Reloaded and thought the world-building was cool, if nothing else. Yeah it wasn't going to be like the original, but how could it?

In other news, The Rise of Skywalker has made me appreciate even The Phantom Menace.
posted by grouse at 8:32 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


It's three minutes of cave rave spliced with Keanu having sweaty sex.

Given their other films, I'd say this is an essential component of the Wachowskis' style.

Also, if you don't want to give The Matrix sequels a rewatch, perhaps consider giving Speed Racer a first watch. It's a masterpiece, and I say that without qualification.
posted by surlyben at 8:40 AM on June 7 [18 favorites]


I would like to watch Speed Racer, but I have a strong instinct that it would give me a seizure.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:48 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like I'm like the one person who thought that the first movie was pretty bad.
posted by kyrademon at 8:51 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


UGH I keep meaning to revisit Speed Racer. Thanks for the reminder. I kind of loved it the first time.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:02 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


What always bothered me was that Neo's abilities mainly seem to be "I am very good at hitting".

Minor K6BD spoiler, which I think perfectly encapsulates Big Fight problems in cinema:

"Look yonder, at your butcher gods. Ten thousand men and women lie dead at their feet. Bask in their efficacy! Are they not spectacular at turning men into ghosts? Behold! The awesome fires of God. The limitless power of pure creation itself. Look carefully! Observe how it is used for the same purpose a man might use an especially sharp rock."
– Meti on the Universal War King of Swords 6-57
posted by Slackermagee at 9:05 AM on June 7 [12 favorites]


Also, if you don't want to give The Matrix sequels a rewatch, perhaps consider giving Speed Racer a first watch. It's a masterpiece, and I say that without qualification.

YES! People just don't seem to get just how well the Wachowskis successfully translated an anime into a fucking movie. Like it's not some paragon of story, or narrative structure, or even coherent dialogue. Because it's an anime! But what they did? It's just like someone lifted an anime and translated it into a movie and that's what's so masterful about it.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:06 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


>Its [sic.] that the agents being upgraded would make any difference to their ability to defeat Neo totally undermines the first movie.
So you know iterative approximation, like Newton-Raphson method for finding 0’s of a function? Neo and the agents are on a back-and-forth approach to patching up the discontinuity and fitting in the difference of Neo that would make the Matrix unstable. For Neo to succeed, the agents have to be upgraded to meet his capabilities and to incorporate his outlier capability into the range of things available in the Matrix.

(And, yes, it's a sh_t software joke.)
posted by k3ninho at 9:17 AM on June 7


I liked speed racer, but it definitely gave me migraine and made some of the people I was watching it with motion sick.

(And in general, Eric Sophia's videos are good, even when I don't agree with everything they say - I especially liked their trilogy on the Witcher and their recent one on Cyberpunk)
posted by dinty_moore at 9:25 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


they can imagine basically any weapon but it's always dinky pistols?

We have very different memories of guns in the original movie.
posted by hanov3r at 9:26 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I'd rather spend two hours listening to someone explain "why this movie you thought was bad is actually good" than listening to someone explain "why this movie you thought was good is actually bad," which is also a YouTube genre. If we're going to have contrarianism--and we're always going to have contrarianism, at least until we develop a hive mind and become the Borg--isn't it nicer when the contrarianism is constructive instead of destructive?

Protrarianism.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:27 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


For me, it's like _The Phantom Menace_; it's not that I don't think the movies are flawed, it's just that I think the originals were also kinda flawed so there's not this extreme dichotomy of "perfect movie/all true fans must despise the sequel" that they became in pop culture.
posted by tavella at 9:30 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


(Cradles mug of hot cocoa)

Watching a room of people argue about the merits of the Matrix films and the Star Wars sequels is giving me the most intense feeling of nostalgia for my college years. By all means, carry on.
posted by belarius at 9:43 AM on June 7 [21 favorites]


Wait until y'all get to watch my new three-hour MeFi project, Overlong Film Reappraisals on YouTube are Good, Actually.
posted by HeroZero at 9:44 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


The thing is, bad movies are BAD MOVIES. They're not good/decent/watchable films with a couple of bad scenes, they tend to be bad throughout.

The Matrix Reloaded is a good, watchable movie with a few scenes that fall flat (the cave rave comes to mind, as does the entire bit with the Merovingian). It's also got some GREAT sequences (the highway chase was still thrilling when I rewatched it a couple of years ago).

Matrix Revolutions is a decent followup to Reloaded. It carries over plot points, continues the world-building from where they left off, and gets us to a close. Again, some amazing sequences (the defense of Zion is one of my favorite scenes), and some not-so-great stuff (the train station), but nothing that makes the movie unwatchable.

Both movies do some world-building on top of the original and I think that's the "flaw" that most fans find, because that world-building doesn't match their expectations based on their own personal interpretation of the original. I wonder how much of the "the sequels are bad" press really comes down to "wait, that's not what I thought was going to happen, and so I hate it".
posted by hanov3r at 9:46 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


Just a note to say the video is really quite good, the two hosts, Eric and Sarah, avoid the lazy chitchat that I find to be annoying in many of these kinds of things, but more emphasis on the movie and their analysis than personal hot takes and wackiness, know what they're talking about, speak at a pace that makes watching the video not feel overly burdensome, and aren't coming from a place of fandom alone, seeking just to redeem the movies without deeper consideration. They do sometimes shift a bit more into advocacy in their reading than analysis perhaps, but when they take the time out to explain things like why the first movie can works both as a trans metaphor and a fascist one and manage to bring in the relevant considerations of French philosophers in an clear and concise way, along with a couple fine side jokes, there is much to recommend in the videos. I would watch more from them.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:49 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


I think my disappointment over The Phantom Menace created an unfairly high bar for the Matrix sequels. I wasn't around for the original Star Wars trilogy, and TPM definitely didn't meet my expectations. But the Matrix was new, had an original story, and innovative visuals--surely it was my generation's Star Wars and this was my chance to be there and experience it first hand! And of course the sequels didn't live up to that, because how could they?

I tend to regard the early 2000s as the "[redacted] is my master now" era of genre franchises based on those t-shirts ThinkGeek used to sell. If we weren't stanning The Matrix and it's upcoming sequels as being the heir apparent to George Lucas' obviously diminishing movie empire, then we were doing the same for Firefly/Serenity, or Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter.

It's kind of telling that I had the same reaction to The Two Towers as I did The Matrix Reloaded. They were both okay movies, but meh.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:51 AM on June 7


It's three minutes of cave rave spliced with Keanu having sweaty sex.

I thought this part was SO DUMB. But Sens8 kinda did many variations on this that were definitely cheesy, but also could be moving and effective. I guess they got better at it.
posted by snofoam at 9:54 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Pretty much trying to break down the issues with Star Wars, yes so many inconsistencies and hand wavy philosophy but go back and try to watch Buck Rogers or read the Grey Lensman (love love luv'd the Lensmen at age 13). Then review Spielberg's "movie logic" where just the next cut needs to make sense until one leaves the theater. All three Matrix films are good movies.
posted by sammyo at 9:55 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


and at one point he said "How is it that all these movies about characters with godlike powers still come down to scenes of people punching each other?"

This is a common issue with visual presentations of drama. Drama requires conflict and the easiest and cheapest way to depict conflict is through personal violence. When our daughter was in her Buffy phase, I watched a couple of binges with her and was struck by how, presented that way, it is a lot of snappy dialogue and involved worldbuilding interrupted every 45 minutes by a fistfight. Superhero movies are all the rage these days and I’d like them more if once in a while the last 25 minutes was not just weightless CGI property damage.

This is why I retain a certain fondness for Serenity — after several fight scenes, we are set up for a climactic battle (which even takes place in a video-game-friendly setting of a platform high above whirling blades). Ultimately the hero wins by... showing the antagonist he was wrong this whole time*.

*Note that this is precisely why my brother-in-law dislikes it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:58 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


I would have liked (and admittedly this would not have been very cinematic, so actually would not maybe have liked) to see an appreciation that the Matrix is a computer system and that systems have exploitable loop holes.

Go dig up the anime "Dennou Coil". Like, right now. I can't even begin to explain how exactly this is what you're looking for. It is just like twenty episodes of young kids finding and exploiting weird AR hacks before they get patched. It is so good.
posted by phooky at 10:13 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Oh, and I should also mention that I also highly recommend El Sandifer's Neoreaction A Basilisk, featured in the video. The title essay alone, which had me punching the air shouting "yeah" multiple times, is worth the price, but there's much more than that in the book.
posted by Kattullus at 10:52 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Its not the fight scene that is the problem, as I said its that one word. Its that the agents being upgraded would make any difference to their ability to defeat Neo totally undermines the first movie.

*grabs soapbox*

Upgrades is a terrible fight scene, and it could have been _so_ good. Fight scenes should always provide additional characterization, and upgrades does it in the laziest way possible.

Let's start with the framing. In the original Matrix, we get Neo on the left with his new "The One" abilities in the end-of-movie hallway fight. He's one handed blocking Agent Smith, grabs Smith's arm, and delivers the knockback sidekick.

Upgrades? Neo is on the right, but still not the aggressor. The _agent_ makes the arm grab before the eponymous "Upgrades" line. This is a huge dropped ball.

If you end with the agent arm grab, Neo should be the aggressor delivering the punches that the agent blocks and the positions should be flipped on screen. This doesn't work well with Neo being OP, though.

Instead, the fight should play out with positions from the original, Neo left and agent right, calling back to the original hallway scene. The agent should escape Neo's arm grab and catch the kick. This is characterization. The computer program has adapted, and the same old winning pattern will not work.

The rest of the fight is a lot of punchy eye-candy, and also rolls back some of the characterization of the original movie. Neo and Agents are supposed to be super fast. There's a huge miss (especially with the amount of CG already here) to not have full speed fighting in front of slo-mo background shots.

Missed opportunity with the glass dropping to not have the fight begin with the lamppost being struck and the glass falling over the duration of the fight to mark time.

The choreography is great, but it doesn't serve characterization. There's an opportunity to serve the theme here by having Neo try a failed/blocked line of attack with each agent, then creatively adapt with some of the physics-defying action. Instead we just get Neo showing off. We already know Neo is awesome, and more of that doesn't really help anything.

Wuxia films get this very, very right. I can only assume the Wachowskis losing control to the studios during the latter two films is a big part of why the sequels get this so wrong.
posted by bfranklin at 10:57 AM on June 7 [12 favorites]


The thing is, bad movies are BAD MOVIES. They're not good/decent/watchable films with a couple of bad scenes, they tend to be bad throughout.

Three counterpoints:

1. While this may be true, I believe you might find there are very, very few instances where you'd be able to get anything approaching a majority consensus as to which movies ARE "bad movies". People watch movies for any number of reasons, and people expect any number of different things from those movies. Some people, like me, prioritize the story being told; and others may be all "feh, gimme good visuals, if I wanted a story I'd read a book". Some want to be challenged, others just want an escape. So a group of friends could indeed conceivably go see Matrix Reloaded and afterward you could have one person praising it to the skies because of the technical expertise, another panning it because "come on, the plot was a cop-out", another feeling disappointed because they were expecting more of the same existential mind-fuckery that they got from the original Matrix, and a fourth in a hormonal haze because "whoa that scene with Neo and Trinity was hot". Ask those people if The Matrix Reloaded was "a bad movie" and you'd get four different answers, but ask them about a given scene and you may get a little more consensus.

2. You never know when a movie might have some element in it that triggers a response in you that is so specific to you, it couldn't have been anything the filmmaker planned for; and it might be so strong that it alters the entire movie for you. For instance: Buster Keaton's silent film The General is considered by a host of critics to be Keaton's masterwork. But - I first saw it 2 days after the 2017 riots in Charlottesville. Keaton plays a hapless Confederate soldier in the film, and there's a scene towards the end of the film where he carries the Stars And Bars and it just completely ruined the whole movie for me after having just seen chucklefucks carrying that same flag for serious. I love Buster Keaton, and I was enjoying the movie up to that point - but that just completely wrecked things for me.

3. There are those who actually embrace the inherent badness of bad movies, as well, as part of the appeal. Does this make the movie bad, still?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Also, if you don't want to give The Matrix sequels a rewatch, perhaps consider ...

If we're making alternative suggestions, I'd recommend World on a Wire (1973) to anyone interested in the "living in a simulation" / various allegories about 'reality,' pseudo-realities, surveillance, freedom, anomalies escaping the system, etc. aspect of The Matrix. It's sort of a TV miniseries and way not an action film--it's ultra 70s: pensive, angsty, and languidly-paced, but pretty striking in terms of its concepts and design sensibilities. I'd agree with Film School Rejects: "... World on a Wire Deserves More Recognition in the Sci-Fi Canon."
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:07 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


At some point last year (or 2019?) I decided to rewatch the trilogy. I didn’t get past Matrix The First. Not because I disliked it — I still think it’s just great as a film — but all the guns were too much. After now decades of mass shootings in U.S. schools, malls, businesses, places of worship, etc., the camera’s loving gaze when it came to the guns was just too much. The idea of endless guns out of nowhere as an answer to a “system” that has “people who can really see the truth” trapped — we have seen where that leads, and it does not lead to freedom. I could not watch more of that.

On preview, +1 to Empress Callipygos.
posted by cupcakeninja at 11:11 AM on June 7 [15 favorites]


If I were going to make a video argument that Matrix Reloaded was a good movie, I would simply post the thrilling 5 minute freeway chase sequence (and discourage people from watching the rest of it).
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:19 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


there are actually more practical effects than I remembered.

I find it fun to remember that bullet time was a practical effect.

We need cameras. Lots of cameras.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:20 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


I don't think this really adds much to the discussion but I think helps illustrate the problem with the "Upgrades" line.

When Neo is first training and we hear the exchange:

Neo: You're saying that I can dodge bullets?

Morpheus: What I'm saying, Neo, is that when you're ready, you won't have to.

They fulfill that foreshadowing at the end of the movie. Neo fights Agent Smith and realizes what Morpheus meant. He can see the code, he can see that he's not really fighting or blocking. He's directly interfacing with the source code of reality. He has transcended the concepts of strength and speed as they exist in The Matrix and can shape the reality of the Matrix itself. Neo is asking if he's going to be a super-hero. Morpheus tells him that he and his crew are super-heroes, Neo will be a God.

And then in the sequels they're like, "Okay but now you have dodge bullets again."

It's not literally bullets but it retcons all the things we see Neo do at the end of the 1st movie into just special and unique abilities. He's not a God, just an especially powerful super-hero. In the Challet fight scene they do it again when the Merovingian says, "See, he's just a man."

I get it, how are you going to make another two movies of Neo walking around going, "Ugh, punching is SO last season."

But it's disappointing 'cause we're out here hoping for some creative way around this problem that is maybe something other than punching and explosions but they're just like, "MOAR PUNCH BETTER! PUNCH MAKE RAIN GO BOOM!"

Full disclosure, I like all three movies. I like the first one best but I DO like all the punching and explosions in the sequels. Even the goofy final fight where the punches make shockwaves in the rain. But I still want to see the versions of the sequels where Neo stays a God in when in the Matrix and doesn't need to punch anyone ever.

posted by VTX at 11:55 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


if if you want to explain something for two hours that I could read in 20 minutes? Just give me the text.

You guys want me to spend two hours watching this Matrix thing when I could read the script in 15 minutes? Just give me the text.

Seriously, this kind of comment seems really tired. I find it indistinguishable from wandering into discussion of a graphic novel and complaining "Why are you NERDS reading COMIC BOOKS instead of real books?!"

Extended video essays are a genre. Some are lazy, some the result of hard, careful work. Some are bad, some are good. If I watch an interesting movie, I have no trouble spending a couple hours thinking or talking about it, so there's no intrinsic reason that a two-hour video essay about a movie would be a waste of time.

Dismissing the entire genre because it doesn't appeal to you, demanding that people who make videos write you text essays instead, is just lazy and dumb. If you don't like it, go read a book. I hear they've got lots of those things now.
posted by straight at 12:03 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


I've always enjoyed the Matrix sequels. They're not as accessible and perfect as the 1st film, but I thought they were good even on the first watch, even though I found a few aspects of the ways that revolutions ties things up unsatisfying at first.

At first. Rewatches and re-readings have been very rewarding for me, and at this point I think not only do they work really well they're one of *the* great engagements with mythology committed to any media. Definitely better than the MCU (and I enjoy the MCU too).

People who don't enjoy them certainly aren't obligated to, but it's really weird for me to see positive takes on the film labelled as contrarian.
posted by weston at 12:03 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


The Matrix sequels are really good if you fast-forward through the moronic parts. 'Moronic' is in the eyes of the beholder, of course - I thought the Merovingian was hilarious and all the action sequences are really clean, really good. The Neo as 'Christ' figure tedious, the Dance Rave Boogie Sexy Time - cringe-worthy... but that's just me, and that was my impression when I re-watched last winter.

Also, echo-ing above, they dropped the ball with Upgrades, show not tell - In the Chalet he should have been fighting different varieties of code: not dissimilarly to the way the Merovingian uses code to ...uh, affect... that other guest.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:31 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


What always bothered me was that Neo's abilities mainly seem to be "I am very good at hitting". I would have liked (and admittedly this would not have been very cinematic, so actually would not maybe have liked) to see an appreciation that the Matrix is a computer system and that systems have exploitable loop holes.

"The world's greatest hacker is fighting the world's worst computer virus and they're.... punching each other" was a bit of a letdown, and seemed like a failure of imagination, for sure.
posted by mhoye at 12:38 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I've also only watched the first small part of the video. I'm obnoxiously commenting in the dark.

The thing that always bothered me most about the sequels was the resolution. You named your city Zion! Have you not read any of the original stories that have that name in them? That not everybody in the world can be saved is pretty important. And, it's been made very clear that turning off the Matrix will doom the machines. Compromise seems truly impossible. Why is that suddenly an option?

The first one also had lots of dumb, lazy stuff in it. Like terrible CGI squids clearly designed by an AI who have never lived in a world filled with objects that have momentum and move through air. But, the dumb parts weren't essential to the plot itself. Well, aside from the "battery" thing, which makes me cringe every time. It would have taken a change of one word to say they were using humans as a source of entropy. Which is also far fetched, but not laughably silly.

But, they're still better than 95% of all films. I only criticize them because I like them.
posted by eotvos at 12:38 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


eotvos: Well, aside from the "battery" thing, which makes me cringe every time.

That is the single worst piece of world building in that whole mythos. They could’ve just stolen Dan Simmons’ idea that the AIs use humanity’s brains as CPUs, and that would’ve been great. I can think of few things a human body is less suited for than being an energy storage device or source.
posted by Kattullus at 12:46 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I saw the 2nd Matrix film at a preview held in a small (artsy-house) theater. It was exciting to get a sneak peak, but it was a poor experience. The small screen forced you to focus on the characters and plot which to my friends and me were uninspired and, as pointed out repeatedly above, sometimes laughable. One friend had seen the Animatrix which they said explained a lot of what happened between the two movies, and better positioned the 2nd film. (Perhaps they should have shown us that as well...)

Days later, I went to see that same horrible movie on a very large screen with booming-but-precise sound with an opening day crowd. It was fantastic. A true event-movie experience. Perhaps I had already been numbed to the cringe-y bits, but I really did enjoy the 2nd viewing in it's 70MM Dolby-DTS-super-duper-surround glory. I guess I'd make a poor critic as I like being around other people enjoying themselves. :-)
posted by bodega at 12:56 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


My theory is that Star Wars and the Matrix movies started out the same way: there was a great idea for a movie and some stoned noodlings about a broader world it was set in. After the movies hit big the studios drove up with a dump truck full of money and the noodlings became "fully fleshed out trilogies."

It explains the discrepancies between the movies in the trilogies. (And "trilogies" is used pretty loosely.)
posted by kirkaracha at 1:00 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


That battery thing was the central broken metaphor for me. If they made human minds the CPUs that host the Matrix, the ability of certain folks to bend reality in the simulation would be so. much. clearer. and easier to write a story around.
I am precisely the kind of cyberpunk nerd who sits his friends down to watch the movies that formed the zeitgeist that The Matrix swims in. My favorite is probably Dark City. The one whose very existence is most interesting to me is The 13th Floor. It uses the exact same layers of reality/simulation that the Matrix uses, tells a tighter story around it, came out the same year, and is noticeably not as good. It stands as proof that you have to line up a lot of details just right to pull off something as spectacular as The Matrix, most of which will go unnoticed because they "just feel right" to the viewer.
posted by Leeway at 1:00 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


the Wachowskis have stated that the battery thing was pushed on them by the studio, and humans being used as CPUs was the original idea.
posted by jrishel at 1:05 PM on June 7 [24 favorites]


I'd have to dig around to find it, but I saw someone claim they were at some sort of business talk with the person who made the product-placement sell for Duracell in that scene (power of marketing ,etc). I figured it was just the previous explanation of "yeah, it was never meant to be a battery but test audiences/the studio didn't think people would understand it being parallel CPU power, vs. the battery metaphor".

Which, with all this I'm really curious about what Matrix 4 will bring. There's possibly a less-impossible burden to uphold with how the sequels were received? But still pretty steep. And there's been 20+ years for all of the dicing apart of all the details & production chaos (Red pill as 90's estradiol, Switch, The Matrix Online's ending, etc.) to spread & percolate. (and honestly, the Wachowski sisters were well ahead of their time on wanting to see multi-format intersecting storytelling. We're in an age of the MCU & Star Wars' title scroll referencing events that only happened in Fortnite. It's a bold new world, if this succeeds)
posted by CrystalDave at 1:13 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Years ago, I was watching Dark City (which people really seem to think is a good movie, but that is not how I remember it)

It's a much better film if you find the version that doesn't have the studio-mandated opening voiceover that spoonfeeds most of the background to you.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:21 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


Dismissing the entire genre because it doesn't appeal to you, demanding that people who make videos write you text essays instead, is just lazy and dumb.

Yes, but I don't know that it's the entire genre. Or maybe it is, but only if we're considering the long-form version its own genre. If you want to do shorter arguments about why "bad" movies are pretty good, I'm there. If you want to do longer vids about media that are generally considered "good" I can probably take that. But it's pretty rare that I've ever heard someone talk at length about something bad that I haven't thought "oh I get it. This person enjoys hate-watching."

Hate-watching is fine, but it's not my bag. I don't enjoy it and I never will. And I enjoy even less people trying to justify why they enjoy hate-watching.

Lindsay Ellis is a prime example of this. She has done a lot of 90+ minute videos on movie adaptations of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and Transformers dreck, ostensibly to talk about why they're not great. But it's pretty obvious that she very much enjoys them, and is justifying her repeated watching of them by making critical videos about them. Which, fine, but damn sam, just watch what you want, enjoy the garbage, own that you like it. And if you have to justify it to yourself by making feature-length criticisms about it, fine, but I'm not subjecting myself to your therapy. Go back to good, solid analysis of stuff that doesn't require you to spend an inordinate amount of time saying "I know this seems really bad but here's why it's not" and I'll come watch your stuff.
posted by nushustu at 1:24 PM on June 7


I can think of few things a human body is less suited for than being an energy storage device or source.

My head cannon for this is that the machines have, buried way down in their code as remnants of their human created origins a base command in it's code that prevents it from just outright genocide and the whole rest of the thing is an elaborate work-around to either keep humanity going or create a scenario where humans/a human makes a choice to destroy humanity. The machines want to destroy humanity outright but they need this elaborate work-around instead. It's risky 'cause they really do need to tie their future to humans or it won't work but it's the only way they can get the opportunity.
So, we can go to war with the humans but we can't wipe them out.

Okay, we've won the war. We still can't just slaughter them all. Can we do enslavement?

...

Well, enslavement kinda works but this really isn't efficient or sustainable. What else you got?

This is really complicated and convoluted but we got this idea for this Matrix/Zion scenario. Buckle in 'cause this is going to take a while.

We're an AI hive mind talking to itself, neither of us has a separate physical form.

Ugh, you're the worst. Anyways, we can kinda use humans as an energy source...
posted by VTX at 1:25 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


I read somewhere the original script had them using humans for processing power. It slipped to energy sources before shooting. I guess someone thought it sounded more convincing.
posted by biffa at 1:46 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


2h to watch people try to convince me 4h of movie I only bothered to watch the first 2h of because I spent every action scene getting antsy waiting to get back to the plot, and every plot scene getting antsy waiting to get back to the action, is actually good?

Eh, nah.

In retrospect Matrix 2 (and presumably 3, but 2 was so tedious I never bothered with 3) felt underwhelming for the same reason Sonic 3 And Knuckles felt underwhelming: it was about 1.5 movie/game's worth of pretty good stuff, stretched out to two. Both go on for far, far too long and wear out their welcome, and would have been much better as one movie/game worth of stuff after painfully cutting the weakest .5 movie/game's worth of stuff out and reworking it to make all its points in one installment.
posted by egypturnash at 1:56 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I only saw the sequels once, but I don't know if they fixed the glaring flaw in the first movie. In the original script, the humans were farmed for their brain power, a sort of organic RAID array or something. The studio said that was too confusing, so made the Wachowskis change it to "humans are a power source," i.e., batteries. Which makes no damn sense: even aliens can't get more energy out of a system that they input less energy. Keeping humans alive in pods and running the Matrix would cost more energy than it could create, unless the aliens are able to defy basic physics, in which case they wouldn't have a need for humans in the first place.

That part of the first movie always bugged me; I think maybe it was "fixed" by one of those scenes with The Architect but can't really remember.
posted by zardoz at 2:31 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


> "Well, aside from the "battery" thing, which makes me cringe every time."

My personal headcannon is that this only doesn't make sense because the physics we know is the same as the physics in the matrix. The movies' real world physics doesn't follow our real world physics at all. This also makes the latter movies make more sense (where Neo gets what are effectively super-powers in the real world of the movie).

> What always bothered me was that Neo's abilities mainly seem to be "I am very good at hitting".

I always thought of the ending of the first movie as Neo being given a debugger - he can stop, inspect, and modify the matrix code. Something like the bullets scene from the sequel - he can just set all the velocity values to 0, easy. The machines response would be, perhaps, to start doing all the things that make debugging more complex - more highly threaded or obfuscated code. Basically, just because he is now a programmer in a world made of code doesn't mean he can't make mistakes or misread the code.
posted by goddess_eris at 2:37 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


Why does anybody care about the Battery thing? It's dumb, but it's not like the movie hangs on why humans are kept around - nothing would change if Morpheus made a grand gesture and announced it was because: MAGIC!
posted by wotsac at 3:19 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


The movies' real world physics doesn't follow our real world physics at all.

I think you're reaching. The Matrix world is, of course, fake and unreal, but the real world (Zion, et al) doesn't follow the laws of physics? Besides, as I pointed out, the battery line is only there because the studio wanted to dumb down that plot point.
posted by zardoz at 3:24 PM on June 7


> "It's dumb, but it's not like the movie hangs on why humans are kept around ..."

It kind of does, though.
posted by kyrademon at 3:30 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


I loved the first one but when I went to see Reloaded with my friends we cackled loudly at the rave scene and couldn’t stop after that. Between that and Keanu Reeves’ uh, limited acting skills, I couldn’t take the series seriously after that. It was just another media property being dragged out. Some great action, but if I go in with higher expectations of a thinky sci-fi pic like the first one, the action just kind of bores me. I need to have solid plot and acting to get me invested in the action . I fell asleep in the theater in the speedboat part of face/off because the movie was so dumb. Nic Cage has the same “I can’t act, so I’m being arch” vibe for me as Keanu does.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:37 PM on June 7


Extended video essays are a genre. Some are lazy, some the result of hard, careful work. Some are bad, some are good.

They’re also pretty new. I was just talking about this with a 17 year old student of mine, when he asked me what I watch on YouTube* and I thought about it for a bit. This kid has essentially had YouTube as a thing that exists for his entire conscious life. It’s just always been there, and he’s been using it, seeing it evolve and expand. For me (nearly 45), YouTube was something that popped up when I was already an adult with largely formed media consumption patterns. YouTube has basically always only been that site where I can watch old music videos, or occasionally short clips that bring me happiness because they are short and dumb.

I’m not really prepared to watch people looking at a camera and just sort of chatting. It’s not, and hasn’t really ever been part of my media consumption patterns. Hell, I tried last night to listen to a couple podcasts while out for a walk, and couldn’t get through the uhhs, umms, and other verbal tics that a professional who speaks for a living should have learned to cut out. There’s bloat to this form, bloat that a generation raised on thirty minute sitcoms and hour long dramas isn’t comfortable with. Just because you don’t really have a time limit doesn’t mean things couldn’t be a little tighter. I haven’t, and honestly doubt I could, watched the video, but I’d be willing to bet a ham sandwich that it could easily be half as long without losing much of the main points.

But, and I’m betting this is where you’re getting the griping you’re tired of, think about it. You’re on an entirely text based website that sort of prides itself on being just that, a text based throwback to an older form of the web, one that skews older in demographics because it’s, itself, intensely old fashioned. What my wall of text is basically saying is, hang out with old people, and you’re going to hear a lot of “kids these days” statements. Hang out on a text only website, and you’re going to get a lot of “I’m not watching a two hour video talking about two movies I barely remember, or, if I do remember them, I already have formed some solid opinions about them.”

*that kid later on in our conversation just casually mentioned that he had been a professional gamer, with his own YouTube channel, Twitter feed, etc, and had tens of thousands of followers, but had “retired” to focus on studying for university exams.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:44 PM on June 7 [19 favorites]


I only criticize them because I like them.

Amen to that. My favourite things have flaws. Sometimes the flaws are part of the charm.
posted by ovvl at 3:46 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


That's how the Matrix sequels should have worked. They should be Keanu reeves sidestepping left and right in a specific pattern whilst repeatedly picking up and putting down a pineapple.

Agent Smith: Why is there a watermelon here?
Neo: I'll tell you later.
posted by Mchelly at 3:57 PM on June 7 [12 favorites]


This is only touched on very briefly in the video, but one aspect of the Matrix sequels that is very often overlooked is that they were conceived as transmedia properties. There was so much cultural capital surrounding The Matrix that there was not only two sequels made simultaneously, but also the Animatrix and Enter The Matrix.

Enter the Matrix was not produced as a typical video game tie-in afterthought that re-interprets a film's events, but was instead conceived as an actual companion to the films that expanded on their stories, followed the actions of other characters parallel to the film's events, and done so using footage shot specifically for the game.

Reception to the game was mixed, but it's the first instance I can remember of a film's directors thoughtfully incorporating a video game as part of broader storytelling.
posted by subocoyne at 3:59 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


Both movies do some world-building on top of the original and I think that's the "flaw" that most fans find, because that world-building doesn't match their expectations based on their own personal interpretation of the original. I wonder how much of the "the sequels are bad" press really comes down to "wait, that's not what I thought was going to happen, and so I hate it”

I really don’t think people were attached to a specific personal idea of how the story was going to continue/end. They were attached to the idea the the way it was going to continue/end was going to blow their fucking minds, because the first movie did. The track record of creators trying to follow up a major breakout with further installments in a series is simply not very good. It’s clearly difficult in practice to rise to the pressure of heightened expectations, especially not having planned the whole thing out in advance - there are probably more examples that don’t stick the landing than examples that do. The Wachowskis didn’t, but they didn’t do as badly as some others have.
posted by atoxyl at 4:03 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Beyond the plot stuff, my memory of these sequels is of the action sequences ending up underwhelming in a way that some people have mentioned in the thread. They had to top the original somehow and in trying to do so it just crossed a threshold to become cartoonish, devoid of weight and tension. Second one still had some neat sequences, though.
posted by atoxyl at 4:08 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


My personal head canon / fridge logic for the batteries/processing power thing is that of course it’s actually for the processing power. But Morpheus and Zion don’t know that! It’s not like they have a huge R&D department down there at the center of the earth, or any real understanding of physics. They only have the tech left behind by the original humans—they’re not building antigrav ships from scratch here.

And so the computers intentionally mislead the first humans each generation to escape. If the escapees knew that the matrix was dependent on brain processing power, humanity might take a completely different strategy than the basic guerrilla/conflict model that the machines are anticipating, and that would be Bad.
posted by thecaddy at 4:11 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


Beyond the plot stuff, my memory of these sequels is of the action sequences ending up underwhelming in a way that some people have mentioned in the thread. They had to top the original somehow and in trying to do so it just crossed a threshold to become cartoonish, devoid of weight and tension. Second one still had some neat sequences, though.

Although I was indifferent to the first (I actually went back and rewatched it in first run to see if there was something I overlooked), I went with some more enthusiastic friends to the premiere of the second.

My recollection of it is about thirty percent being mildly entertained by the freeway chase and seventy percent us all exchanging glances to ask, “Is this really all they could come up with four years of prep time, $150 million, huge strides in survival effects, and absolute creative carte blanche?”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:53 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I used to wonder -- if the humans are really supposed to be CPUs, what are all their cycles being used for? Surely not for the matrix itself, I thought, because that's just massively redundant. Maybe a little bit for the matrix, then, but what about the rest of humanity's grey matter? To what end could could hyper-evolved machines put that much neuron-based compute? I would lie awake puzzling over the greater purpose for which they would they entomb an entire species in goo-pods, for which they would have to implement vast, supportive infrastructures that themselves consumed inordinate amounts of energy.

The answer, when it came to me, was both obvious and terrifiying.

It's bitcoin, isn't it? Thanks a lot, capitalism!
posted by Sparx at 5:13 PM on June 7 [19 favorites]


the locations in the movie are super lame
As a Sydneysider I resent this but acknowledge the truth. The helicopter-crashing scene is into an office building I worked in briefly. I didn't like the moviem, but it shows minor genius on the part of the Wachowskis to go to one of the most iconic, beautiful cityscapes in the world, and film a movie in the boringly interchangeable CBD.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:43 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I always sort of liked what the sequels were trying to do, and enjoyed them for that, and did my best to skip over the cringe moments where it just seemed like the film gave into its possibilities for excess rather than the rather economical restraint (to some extent) of the first film. The Merovingian going on about the chocolate cake? Ugh. The pretty amazing subsumation (new word for everyone, feel free, you got it here first) of creatures of myth being holdovers from previous iterations was an amazing concept that ended up being a pointless tangent. "Hi, we have werewolves, no one ever thinks to have silver bullets, but surprise, this character who is introducing them does, and kills them straight off" was a spectacular waste. As people have mentioned upthread, making Neo a god, but having him still punching things? As snazzy as the fight scene that follows is, it could have been so much better if, yeah, there *are* werewolves in the fight, and Neo has to figure out that physically fighting them isn't going to work, and it could have forced him to dig deeper, to begin manipulating the code of the world.

(damn, that just sort of popped into my head, and I'd really like to see that version. Hell, have one of them bite Neo, and he's got to figure out how to stop a virus from a completely different iteration from taking control of him. He does that, then later, in Revolutions, his experience with understanding it's not punching that will help him win, it's manipulation the world around them as the god he is. Smith still thinks in punching because that's the program he is, Neo transcends it. That, and you can make a callback with his experience of fighting off the lycanthropy virus and how that helps him defeat Smith's attempt to absorb him. I'd watch the hell out of that).

Ultimately, they got too cutesy with the Architect and trying to wow people with the dialogue between the two, which never really worked. It was supposed to be the big reveal, but instead, they wanted to obscure through bigwordism. Hints are dropped throughout the films that Neo is one of a series of Ones, and, at the end, that Sati is essentially the promised One, that she will be the one who creates the new world that Neo made possible with his sacrifice. It's all there, but instead of making it clear enough, they played games and tried to do a "look how smart this is" thing that most people just sort of rejected.

That, and (incredibly irrational/inconvenient/outright dangerous reloading system aside) the APV gun platforms were, until Pacific Rim, the greatest-est live action mecha I'd ever seen, and had been waiting to see in a film since I first saw mecha in animation.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:08 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


Tween me loved the cave rave and you know what? I still love it
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:17 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I went with some more enthusiastic friends to the premiere of the second.

I had a couple friends who were really into the original, and I recall them being happy enough with the second though it clearly didn’t have quite the magic of its predecessor. I don’t remember anybody thinking the third was great. I may actually have only ever seen that one the once, on release.
posted by atoxyl at 7:20 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Just finished the video; thanks so much for posting it, Kattullus. Gonna read all the comments but wanted to say that. Great post.
posted by FallibleHuman at 7:25 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Re: "batteries"

The Matrix came out in 1999, by which time there was already a widely accepted term in the tech industry for what human beings were being reduced to: "eyeballs"

Enjoy the youtube video.
posted by swr at 8:29 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I really geeked out over the articles and reports on the production of the sequels. It was the biggest budget of all time (of course), and they had to invent all-new CGI technology, they actually built a kilometer or so of freeway, all that stuff. The Animatrix came out around that time, which I also geeked out over.

So my good friend, who was also fully geeked out, and I drove a little further to the good theater across town to enjoy Reloaded. Afterwards, I was disappointed, but not defeated. After all, there was a whole other movie that would come out the next year or so...maybe that one would be good.

I remember saying to my friend as we left Reloaded, "Well...it didn't suck..." Not exactly high praise.
posted by zardoz at 4:07 AM on June 8


Ultimately, they got too cutesy with the Architect and trying to wow people with the dialogue between the two, which never really worked. It was supposed to be the big reveal, but instead, they wanted to obscure through bigwordism.

I remember when that first came out, I was in the theater watching and during that scene I had drifted off and was thinking about something else and snapped back to attention when I realized that the Architect had said something important, but that I half-missed it. I was all "wait what, what did he say, Keanu is the 19th Neo, they reset this thing all the time, is that right?"

I told a friend about it later and he said the exact same thing happened to him. So boo on the W siblings for telling not showing in such a boring way that the big reveal was lost on me.
posted by nushustu at 6:42 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The Matrix sequels were forever ruined for me by someone who apparently never took Freshman Philosophy and thus could not understand why it was possible to walk out and not be completely Mind... Blown... {pssssh!!!!}

Yes, some of it is interesting but the whole "what if what we perceive are only simulations of reality" thing goes all the way back to Plato's Allegory of the Fricking Cave! It was fine in the first movie because it was executed well (meat batteries thing excluded) and the story moved right along. The sequels slowed down to make sure everyone was keeping up left me spending a lot of time waiting for either a topic that hadn't just had every scrap of flavor chewed out of it or for something to blow up in a really cool way already. I would not be at all surprised if those pacing issues came from the same place as the meat batteries plothole.

My friend then proceeded to decide that the problem was that I simply had not understood the mindblowing ideas and proceeded to bloviate at me in an ever more tedious and extended pace than the films had in a vain attempt to get me to "understand" concepts I'd walked into the films already familiar with. Now that the pandemic means I no longer hang out with that friend, maybe a rewatch is in order.

I do maintain that Speed Racer, on the other hand, was a work of near perfection and I will absolutely die on that hill.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:24 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Back when I was still getting physical discs from Netflix I re-watched the trilogy with the "Philosopher's Commentary" from Cornel West and Ken Wilbur. It seemed like they went in with few notes, intending to wing it and take prompts from the movies as they watched them. The first one went OK and then they sort of ran out gas for the later two. By the time Neo is sacrificing himself in Revolutions they're like "And that's um... the power of love!"
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:44 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The main, probably unsolvable, problem with the sequels was that there just wasn't enough reason for them to exist outside of commerce. The first movie is an almost perfect gem of a film, tightly constructed and almost totally self-contained. There's wasn't enough story left for the sequels to follow up on and very little conflict.
posted by octothorpe at 7:46 AM on June 8 [6 favorites]


The Matrix wraps some old philosophical ideas in enough ludicrous science fiction to make them interesting to a wide audience. Its sequels wrap some old science fiction idea in enough ludicrous philosophy to make them tedious to a wide audience.

But the main thing I remember about them was just how OFFENSIVELY LOUD the sound design was. Hurt my heart, even hurt my brain, but leave my bloody ears out of it.
posted by howfar at 10:54 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


The Matrix sequels were forever ruined for me by someone who apparently never took Freshman Philosophy and thus could not understand why it was possible to walk out and not be completely Mind... Blown...

William Irwin, is that you? I don't expect you to recognize the name but he wrote/edited the book "The Matrix and Philosophy" where the thesis is basically, "So, the plot of this movie is basically just a quick overview of intro to philosophy which makes sense if you know that the directors dropped out of college after their first year. But it gives me a way to give people an overview of philosophy 101 that they wouldn't otherwise get so let's make hay while the sun shines!"

And then proceeds to give an overview of the kind you'd get in Phil 101 just framed around those themes if/when they come up in the movie.

I didn't end up taking Phil 101 until after reading the book and it made that class really easy so in terms of disseminating basic philosophy that folks would not have otherwise been exposed to, the movies and certainly that book seem to have been somewhat successful.
posted by VTX at 12:24 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


My friend then proceeded to decide that the problem was that I simply had not understood the mindblowing ideas and proceeded to bloviate at me in an ever more tedious and extended pace than the films had in a vain attempt to get me to "understand" concepts I'd walked into the films already familiar with.

Yeah, I find there are a few pieces of pop cultural product that elicit this reaction in people.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:28 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


> but the real world (Zion, et al) doesn't follow the laws of physics?

Fairly certain that in the sequels, Neo shoots lightning out of his hands and can see machine code despite being blind and disconnected from the Matrix. So... yes. The "real" world of the movie doesn't follow the same laws of physics as the "real" world that we live in.
posted by goddess_eris at 1:07 PM on June 8


After reading this and the metatalk thread on the video format there were a number of people asking for a better summary and some mistaken ideas of what the video is "about". So to clarify a bit, the video isn't trying to argue people should "like" the Matri sequels, they explicitly say its fine not to, what the video does is explain some of the main themes in the sequels and why expanding on the ideas sort of there more ambiguously in the first film was necessary in part due to how easy it was for notions like "taking the red pill" to support fascist ideals that run counter to the goals of the Wachowskis.

The video then not only looks at the movies, but at the way some of the ideas have found use in the culture and goes into detail about the fascist read of the first film and how the sequels directly counter that, with an extended take on how Agent Smith comes to embody fascism in them. They argue that the sequels should be seen as one long movie rather than two because there are a number of elements that are constructed as if they are a whole which can get lost when viewed as two separate films. (They also say the films would be better off pruned to two thirds the length and acknowledge many of the same issues that posters here have problems with, so they aren't just cheerleading the works as flawless, which is also noted in the title of the post.)

Whether those themes are "obvious", "known" or not is a bit besides the point as expecting movies to break completely new ground in philosophy or ethics is asking a bit more than almost any film can provide, so while you can of course find a movie annoying for how it demonstrates its values, being too preachy or finding its assumptions about the viewer insulting, the appraisal is more about how it demonstrates its themes in its plotting, characters, and visuals, what the effective message one takes from those elements, and how coherent and potent the expression of those elements in that way might be when seen from a given perspective the two speakers provide, not only as a movie but as it might be understood as relating to the real world.

The video lays out the basics of the first film, how its related to anime, the storyline and characters and how it worked, then describe how the sequels respond to/continue from that. The argument being that the sequels, even in name, are essentially reusing the same structure to refine the ideas of the first movie into a more complex form, which, they also argue, is necessary to get across the desired themes. The two speakers have differing opinions on some of the effectiveness of the various elements, like the fight scenes, but this isn't the focus of the video, it's mostly a thematic examination, not groundbreaking, but solid and well done. As such I didn't find most of the ideas to be "new" per se, but I still appreciated how they laid them out in detail and as a larger argument. The video might be better still for anyone interested in such things who hasn't really spent much time thinking about the themes of the series before, but I don't know how many people would fit that category.

One of the speakers, Eric, also has some shorter videos that are interesting, one on the film philosophy of Zach Snyder, that connects his work to Frank Miller and Ayn Rand and the problematic spite driven varieties or libertarianism behind them all as well as some on topics like seeing superheroes as thematic "monsters" as part of a series on the topic of monsters that draws in the good and bad of comics and films relating to that notion. Those videos aren't quite as concise as this one, more digressions and the like, but still well thought out in terms of the argument they make as a coherent whole, even if one disagrees with some of it or thinks some elements unmentioned deserve to be taken into account as well. In other words, it isn't that I agree with everything said so much as appreciate the way the arguments are demonstrated that goes beyond asserting preference of likes or dislikes alone.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:26 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]


I am totally into The MATRIX, the soundtrax, combined with the visuals...

The sequals, not so much.
posted by Windopaene at 1:44 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Oh, and just on a kind of aesthetic note, one of the things I just enjoyed about Eric's videos is they have a bit of a James Burke Connections vibe to them. In part perhaps because of the accent, but as much in the pace and the way the basic argument is laid out as a whole, followed by digressions into the importance of individual elements, and then tying it all back together into a more complete assertion of the initial claims. It's just fun to listen to how cleverly its done.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:37 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Reading this thread, I realise that I barely remember anything about the sequels. Trinity running nmap was pretty much it.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 4:22 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


So to clarify a bit, the video isn't trying to argue people should "like" the Matrix sequels, they explicitly say its fine not to...

Trying to be diplomatic here, but despite the caveats in the video, they did title it "The Matrix Sequels Are Good, Actually".

I get it, when you pour hours of time and effort into making a thing, you want people to watch, and framing it in a provocative way will bring in a curious audience.

Believe me, I am very sympathetic to content creators, but you have to then be willing to take the flak when people push back.
posted by jeremias at 4:24 PM on June 8


The main, probably unsolvable, problem with the sequels was that there just wasn't enough reason for them to exist outside of commerce. The first movie is an almost perfect gem of a film, tightly constructed and almost totally self-contained. There's wasn't enough story left for the sequels to follow up on and very little conflict.

I think "How does Neo use his newfound power to destroy the status quo?" is an interesting enough question, but "by doing a lot more punching" is not at all an interesting answer.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:09 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


The Matrix wraps some old philosophical ideas in enough ludicrous science fiction to make them interesting to a wide audience. Its sequels wrap some old science fiction idea in enough ludicrous philosophy to make them tedious to a wide audience.

Yes, exactly, and all of it wrapped in Hong Kong action choreography (Yuen Woo-Ping) that many people had never seen before, and those of us familiar with the genre had never really seen done with a Hollywood piles-of-money budget. Which is a lot of what made the first film astounding and the sequels such a letdown.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:19 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


They argue that the sequels should be seen as one long movie rather than two because there are a number of elements that are constructed as if they are a whole which can get lost when viewed as two separate films

This is a pretty fair point from the creators - but the fact that they repeat this point several times in the first 10 minutes is likely one of the reasons the video is 2 hours long. (And frankly that's when I noped out. Tell me your thesis, give me an example, move on to the next. Stop repeating yourself.)

Brevity and concise editing are valuable regardless of the medium.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:27 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


The big problem with making sequels to the Matrix is simply the plot type of the original - it's a Messiah type plot - The Mahdi, The Prophesised Saviour. Once the protagonist in this plot type becomes what was prophesised, there's not a lot of possible plot-paths that the author can go down and generally they all suck.

Neo can literally alter reality itself as he sees fit at the end of the first film. Where can the authors actually go from here?

Dune suffered from the same problem, as do various sword-and-sorcery novels. You can do an even bigger threat, which ends up being kinda daft - didn't they become who was prophesised already? Why was this new threat not part of the original prophecy? Doesn't the powers they gain when they become the prophesised one negate any threat?

The matrix went down this path for its sequels, and it doesn't really work. The only other path for the author is to go for is a fall from grace, or a rejection by the protagonist of the mantle of the prophesised one - Dune does this reasonably well but it's by no means perfect.

I agree that the Matrix sequels weren't bad films - they were pretty good in fact, but the overriding problems of the Messiah-type plot means that they had little hope of succeeding.
posted by BigCalm at 4:38 AM on June 9


Ok, now let's re-examine Showgirls
posted by Jacen at 6:06 AM on June 9


Brevity and concise editing are valuable regardless of the medium.

Always, and I personally learned those skills through writing in grad school, a connection which made a peculiar notion occur to me: fan culture and participation has grown to the degree that this video is basically a 21st-century critical (i.e., academic, analytical) reading of a creative work, fairly inline with so much creative criticism I've read in academic contexts for years.

Work like this goes into great depth, and is attempting real, meaningful exegesis of its source material, but is still the work of fans (amateurs), and thus sits in a really interesting liminal space: it's too substantial to be considered merely a fan video, but is not fully realized as professional work, either. Watching it as a fan video, I admit I did lose interest as it's over-written; but watching it with teacher-brain, as a rough draft of a professional project, it's much more interesting and has real potential as a work-in-progress.

So much of our cultural activity now is in this poorly-defined, liminal space, and it's fascinating to me (over a decade ago, researching a lot of this for my dissertation, some authors were advocating for the term "pro-am" to identify work like this: stuff made by amateurs (e.g., self-taught, unpaid) that is rising to--or is already at--the kind and level of work by professionals in the field. I don't know if "pro-am" stuck at all, but this video is definitely a pro-am work, and that's what's both great and lacking about it).

Conceding much of what is illuminated in this analysis, I still found the Matrix sequels somehow both too talky and too shooty. But I love what they tried to do, unreservedly.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:00 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Ok, now let's re-examine Showgirls

That documentary came out in 2019: You Don't Nomi.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:02 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I think the difference is that Youtube pays if your video is popular. You can get paid for writing things on the internet but it's not nearly as accessible.

It's video instead of text because that's where the money is.
posted by VTX at 7:17 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


So much of our cultural activity now is in this poorly-defined, liminal space, and it's fascinating to me (over a decade ago, researching a lot of this for my dissertation, some authors were advocating for the term "pro-am" to identify work like this: stuff made by amateurs (e.g., self-taught, unpaid) that is rising to--or is already at--the kind and level of work by professionals in the field.

Yeah, that's a good take on it, one I largely would echo. The difficulty for the creators is in that space also being defined by an equally ambiguous audience the videos are attempting to address. That, I think, forces the shapes of the pieces into their sometimes unwieldy nature for the feeling the videos have to address all these different concepts, to either fend off attack by assuming a like-mindedness or acceptance of limitations that doesn't exist in a significant number of the audience, hence the felt need to go into detail about what the video isn't, and/or in feeling obligated to spell out in detail more concepts and just basic factual information because they can't assume the audience will know it for lacking even the kind of base of assumed group understanding that a magazine like Film Comment or The New Yorker might.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:14 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I live in Alameda, CA, where the fake Matrix Reloaded highway and some other scenes from the movies were filmed. Looks like they're filming the fourth one here, too.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:59 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]




I belong to a niche technical working group in my industry. Last February, about a month before COVID lockdowns started, we had a conference at the Fairmont hotel up at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. Several Matrix 4 scenes were being filmed outside (in front of the James C. Flood Mansion and Grace Cathedral), and the cast and crew were also, apparently, staying at the Fairmont. Several of my industry peers got pictures with Keanu. I didn't, but I did get to interact with him - I was sitting by myself in a hallway near our conference rooms, Keanu walked by, and he complimented me on my then-green hair.

Yes, he's a very nice guy.
posted by hanov3r at 3:49 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


47 min into this video essay and they have brought up some very interesting points about the themes, subtexts, etc. of the sequels.

That doesn't make them better movies though.
posted by Sand at 9:42 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


The main, probably unsolvable, problem with the sequels was that there just wasn't enough reason for them to exist outside of commerce. The first movie is an almost perfect gem of a film, tightly constructed and almost totally self-contained. There's wasn't enough story left for the sequels to follow up on and very little conflict.

See, and I remember coming out of the first one hypothesizing about possible sequels like how they would fight a guerrilla war with the matrix and bring more people out and how they would stand up society that had been used to living in the matrix, or would everybody react like Cypher and beg to be brought back in to the fake world with fake steaks because living in reality frankly looked like it sucked. Or would they just figure out how to give everybody real Matrix-like Free Will™ so the oppressive controlling nature of the matrix ceases to be so oppressive?

So I dunno, it always felt like there was story left over, but was there enough of the right kind of story for an audience that would have expected the big guns and explosions of the first movie in the sequels? mmmmaybe not.

I should really try and watch the Animatrix before rewatching the sequels, see if that helps bridge some of it, or if merely knowing the sequel plots is enough to catch the stuff that was missed the first time through. I'm suspect I only really watched the Final Flight of the Osiris because it was Square CGI and Juno Reactor.
posted by Kyol at 3:05 PM on June 10


the sequels are bad because they've changed the question

the original asks WHAT IS REAL? — interesting, philip k. dick built a whole career exploring this

the sequels ask WHAT IS FATE? — boring

there was even the 'blue matrix' theory going around the time the sequels came out. a matrix within a matrix. zion would be another simulation. it tried to keep it within the scope of the original question. but nope

stanisław lem explored WHAT IS REAL? brilliantly in the futurological congress, including multiple matrix layers, and also with HUMOR, which the matrix thoroughly lacks. the movie adaptation changes a lot of stuff, but it's still interesting. and it stars the great robin wright
posted by Tom-B at 5:31 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I like the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies basically fine. I'll happily watch the 2nd if I come across it on television.

To me the biggest problem with the sequels from a pure entertainment perspective is that we spend less and less time in the Matrix as the story moves forward, and the Matrix is where all the cool stuff happens and the stars look badass. Hardly any of Revolutions happens in the Matrix, replaced with an apocalyptic battle in an apocalyptic landscape, mostly involving characters we're just meeting for the first time that we're somehow supposed to be invested in?
posted by dry white toast at 9:31 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I got three words for you:

Zion. Rave. Orgy.

The second and third films are visual, SFX and choreographic spectacles, and arguably universe-building, but narratively dogshit.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:29 PM on June 13


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