Monday, February 9, 2009

The Matrix Trilogy

The Matrix trilogy comprises of three separate movies – “The Matrix” (1999), “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003) and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003), all of which I viewed on the weekend, to see how they stacked up together, having only watched them separately beforehand.
The first Matrix movie is about Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, whom suspects that there is a problem with the world he lives in, but he cannot put a finger on what that problem is. He is given mysterious clues and assistance that leads him to a shady character by the name of Morpheus. Morpheus promises to show Neo what he is seeking if Neo chooses to join with Morpheus.

I liked the first Matrix movie quite a lot – it’s an intelligent movie, discussing ideas such as perceptions, reality, and freedom, but it’s not pretentious and boring, either. It’s exciting in an over-the-top manner that actually has a reasonable explanation behind it (which makes it different from most movies that have uncredible action sequences). The special effects are excellent – believable, but also help convey important aspects of the story and the story’s ideas at the same time. And, it’s an extremely cool – the main characters wear black trench coats, black leather, and black sunglasses - it all looks quite stylish. Anyone whom walks in partway through is not going to mistake it for any other movie, except for it’s two predecessors. I can’t really find any faults with the first movie.

The second and third movies were created at the same time, and my main criticism for them is fairly similar to that of other movies made in a similar vein. The second and third parts of the trilogy are really one single movie, but it’s been enlarged and split into two movies, that both have part-conclusions. The fact is not even disguised, as the two movies take place over the space of a single day. The enlargements are what I would describe as padding – it’s exciting padding, certainly, with lots of martial arts sequences, gunfights, explosions, and gratuitous use of CGI, but it’s padding nonetheless. Or perhaps the plot of the movie is an excuse to have this occur; I might be somewhat confused in this regard. I thought the first movie stood up on it’s own, and did not really required a sequel, let alone two – we were shown enough to know how everything should conclude in the first movie, so two new problems are manufactured instead in order to warrant a trilogy.

But I digress. “The Matrix Reloaded” tells two stories – one story is about robots preparing to invade Zion, home of free humans, another is about Agent Smith, whom has gone rogue and is out to take over the Matrix. Fortunately, we have super-power Neo out to stop Smith. Superficially, it’s similar to it’s predecessor – it has the same visual style of the first movie, it has a variety of over-the-top action sequences, including an exciting, over-the-top but somewhat pointless chase scene on a freeway.

And that’s it in a nutshell. It’s exciting but pointless. The first movie had a lot of intelligent ideas (even if it might be the Philip K Dick story that he never got around to writing), but the second movie seemed to be pandering to an audience that only enjoyed the first movie for over-the-top action. Sure, there are one or two ideas in there, but you could nearly hear them sobbing for having to live out their lives in such loneliness. Everyone tries to sound intelligent, but it does not work, because they speak, often for extended periods of time, without saying anything important, except to advance the plot onto the next fight scene. One particular complaint that I have is there are several instances where two groups exchange these sets of lines (after the first group has done something extremely exciting and pointless in the Matrix to earn the right to have this conversation):
Group A: “Do you know why we are here?”
Individual B: “I know why you are here, but do you know why you are here?”
That’s not intelligence, it’s superficial and silly. It’s quite indicative of the rest of the movie, really.

The third movie, “The Matrix Revolutions” continues on with these twin stories. The robots have nearly reached Zion, and everyone needs to ready the defences, and Neo thinks he has figured out a way to stop Smith. I really don’t need to say much about my thoughts on this movie except that the movie was made at the same time, in the same style, and by the same people. So it’s a good-looking movie that makes little demand of your brain.

Instead of the “why are we here” conversation, everyone seems to have come down with speechitis instead. It’s a terrible disease that causes people to suddenly make stirring speeches about love, trust, belief, or sacrifice, often in the midst of an extremely dangerous situation, and always to the accompaniment of stirring music suited for said speech. Speechitis in any form really annoys me, and it’s the main reason why I slightly prefer the second movie over the third (although I didn’t really like either of them). The second and third movies are otherwise equal, except that the third offers a conclusion to the entire storyline, while the second obviously did not.

For those whom have skipped all of this to get to my summary, for those whom have not had the pleasure of watching the first movie, watch it the first chance you get – it’s intelligent, exciting, and looks extremely stylish. After you watch that, I probably can’t say too much to stop you from watching the second and third movies, but they don’t really live up to the original movie. There are lots of action scenes and amazing CGI, but the movies only appeal in a superficial manner – the lack of intelligent ideas ultimately makes these movies a disappointment, considering the aptitude the Wachowski Brothers shown in the creation of first movie.

The Matrix – 5/5
The Matrix Reloaded – 2.5/5
The Matrix Revolutions – 2/5

No comments: