Saturday, November 08, 2003

Didn't need popcorn

Ok, just saw Matrix:Revolution.

Why all the complaining, folks?

My brain and eyes are just fine, thank you. I know a great deal about story structure, my ability to watch and understand a movie are equal to most people's, I'm perfectly able to think my way out of a paper bag, and I have a high opinion of my own opinion -- much like most people who express opinions. Now, with that out of the way...

Revolutions was a fine movie. I enjoyed it. I didn't have any big problems with it.

Now, specifics. No, it did not have a neat and tidy, all the threads packed up and handed to you ending. It had pretty much the ending I was expecting since about the middle part of the first movie. It also had all the kick ass action, emotional button pushing, and nifty visuals I was expecting. It didn't give huge layers of philosophy because it did all THAT in the first movie. The second/third movies were just philosophy in action. It did come up with a few new effects which I enjoyed. However, it was not the first movie because...well, that was the first movie. They invented all this stuff already. It's not new anymore.

OK, there was a certain amount of anti-climax in the ending, especially for those people who went in wanting/needing/expecting a Final And Complete resolution -- good guys win, bad guys go down in flames, la la la. The idea of an uneasy peace without anything "solved" probably rubs some people the wrong way. Maybe there are better ways to make them swallow ambiguity and like it than this one. Ah well. For those of us who don't believe in a black and white world where everything is settled without question and there's always movement toward change, I think it was about as satisfying as it is gonna get. One person's anti-climax is another person's denouement.

I was rather interested in the whole Christ myth as channeled through the King Arthur Myth (when they moved Neo's body onto the glowing platform, it invoked the carrying to Arthur to Avalon). I also liked the firm line of Taoism there -- one cannot combat one's self, one must accept one's self to change -- I mean, the Smith/Neo thing was just hammered like you weren't going to get it. It might have been more obvious, perhaps, if Neo had hugged Smith but that might have also been too much (potential giggle factor as well). The Oracle's subroutine was a nice touch. Still, I can see where some might find that mixing of the Christ/Arthur legend a little too chewy to swallow. Like most of the myths in our culture, it's been done a lot. It's been done a lot because it still has some resonance.

There was also a lack of any "everyman" for the audience to identify with. Neo was an "everyman" in the first movie -- an ordinary guy being called to greatness and really not getting it, very Joseph Campbell. We were rooting for him to "get it" through the movie. He "got it" at the end of the movie. Usually you don't see what happens beyond that -- how does the "everyman" live after he becomes "The One"? What does he do? Does he still have limitations? Does he grow? Does he just walk around all day doing cool stuff?

The other characters moved along the lines indicated. In fact, I'd say that how they changed was as predictable as any other interpretation of the Monomyth. The Man of Faith, Morpheus, faces doubts and must either crumble under them or make his leap again. Trinity, who offered herself up as a sacrifice for Neo so many times, finally succeeds in sacrificing herself and proves her love. In fact, the dichotomy of faith and doubt were huge, huge parts of every character in the movie. I still enjoyed them as characters even as they represented that particular conflict.

For the complaints about the change in the Oracle -- it's a MOVIE ROLE. Separate the actor from the role. You might prefer one actor to another, or one performance to another, but it's still JUST A MOVIE ROLE and that means more than one actor can play it. It's all pretend, right? The Wachowskis did a little patching to cover the bump (I think it would have been better to just pretend there WAS no change, myself, but perhaps modern audiences aren't sophisticated enough for that, or perhaps they thought it would make for a neat little sub-story they wanted to use.)

As for what happened to the Marovingian, I thought it was plain -- either he left the Matrix via the train or he was Smithed. If Smith could take the Oracle, he could take the Marovingian without much trouble. I'm betting he left, but either way it didn't have a bearing on the ending. He wouldn't have been involved. I didn't entertain the idea he was a previous "Neo" or those things because he was a program and that was declared. His purpose was to collect things.

While I did at one point wonder if Zion was a part of the Matrix, I figured that creating a layer illusion all about the parts of the self being in deadly conflict with each other was just dragging in more than was really there. If everything is illusion, then there is nothing else, and NOTHING is illusion. So, since the movie did a pretty clean job of dividing "reality" up into sections that remained consistent, I accepted those and went on with it.

I guess, for me, it boils down to the idea that the war between the humans and the machines was never as clear cut as we would like it -- most people like their complicated moral issues boiled down to simple "us" and "them" equations. The whole trilogy picked at that quite a bit, eroding the idea that there is always an evil "them" who must be destroyed. It's hard to imagine, for many, that EVERYONE is an "us", and EVERYONE is a "Them", and who is and isn't evil is often a purely perspectual difference (and even more, an illusion). It isn't easy to stand alone with your minority opinion and be unshaken. Wouldn't it just be a perfect world if everyone thought the same way? OOoooo! Who's way would be chose, since even people who agree will find points of variation in what they do and don't agree with. That aside, we don't live in such a world, and when we picture such worlds they are always distopian hells of some sort, so that leaves us Compromise. We stand on the shifting sands for as long as we can.

Which is an uncomfortable thought to go home with, and may be another reason not to like the movie.

Perhaps the big problem with the whole Matrix trilogy is that it didn't leave us with just the first movie, with the most simple form of the myth and all the comfortable stuff that goes with it -- Neo triumphed over the Matrix and would go on being Superman and fighting the subversive Machines. If there was a single area I felt somewhat unsatisfied with, it was The Source (its resemblance to the MCP was similar to the MCP's resemblance to other god figures in art and architecture. Humans tend to use the same images world over, and we often make our gods in our image). I would have liked a little more insight into the Machine City and this Source, and how it relates to the Matrix and the various programs. Was it literally the machine God? Was it a central communications and control hub? That was a question I felt might have been fun to explore, but I also expect it would have been far too boring to go into it in the movie.

In any case, I know there are so many people who are going to disagree with me, which is actually fine with me. I don't need anyone to agree with me to decide if I like or don't like something. (I've hated a lot of popular movies.) But I liked this one.

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