What really overwhelmed me about the original upon rewatching was the overall seamlessness of it. Everything meshes, everything relates, everything flows. Seemingly insignificant (but not awkward) incidents foreshadow or echo or parallel or illustrate major events or themes. And here’s the kicker, which I realised only recently:
In the original Matrix, every fight scene happens for a significant reason.
This is huge. Now, every action movie has fight scenes that are ostensibly ‘significant,’ because if the good guys lost them, the movie would be over. But in the first Matrix, there was a lot more going on than that. Consider the dojo fight. Why is it there? On one level, of course, it’s there to titillate us—just as it titillates the Neb’s crew, who trip over one another running to the control room to watch. But on another level, that fight introduces us to the underlying explanation of the rest of the movie’s action, and Morpheus explains even as he illustrates. We’re left thinking, wow that was cool, but also wondering, what is it that Neo thinks he’s been breathing?
This kind of ‘why is this happening?’ case can be made for, as I said, just about every fight scene in the movie. There’s never a random, James-Bond-esque meeting with some random hapless thugs who get beat on in passing.
Cut to… Reloaded. ‘Are you Neo?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then I’m sorry.’ ‘Sorry? For what?’ ‘For this.’ They fight. And when it’s all over, how much of an explanation do we get? ‘The only way to truly know someone is to fight him.’ That could have been an interesting idea, if only they took it somewhere—anywhere.
From start to finish, that whole sequence could have been yanked from any one of a number of horrible chop-socky movies made on a shoestring budget decades ago.
And the rest of the movie seems to me to continue in that vein; fights rarely leave me wondering anything (except ‘why did that fight happen?’). The polished integration of story and action, so prevalent in the first film, just doesn’t exist in the second.
As for the philosophy, I found that, aside from it feeling tacked-on and disjointed, it also seemed just uninteresting and dull. Positions were explained poorly or confusingly or both, and I was reminded of one of my philosophy profs’ favourite expressions: ‘muddy waters look deep.’ That may be the case here, but it may also be that I was too distracted to pay close enough attention to it. I know the W. brothers are smart cookies, so I’ve promised myself to give the philosophy of Reloaded, anyway, another chance.
But, come on… in Matrix, the red pill / blue pill metaphor was cool. In Reloaded, what do we get? ‘Door number one or door number two.’ So we’ve declined from Alice in Wonderland to The Price Is Right.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. What say you?
-Gearboy at 2003-05-25 22:42:39