Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Matrix Trilogy

So ITV showed the Matrix trilogy three nights in a row. I'm not saying anything controversial in suggesting that the first one is wonderful, and that the other two suck - if I were trying to be cool, I'd try and find redeeming features in the sequels - but let's face it, it's true. Well actually, I didn't watch the third one. Or the second half of the second one. But I think that helps make my point.... hmmm.

Anyway, somehow the producers, directors, writers, pretty much everybody (including many fans) completely failed to understand what was good about the first film. What's good is most definitely not it's cleverness. The matrix as an idea is wonderful, I'll give it that, but apart from that, what's great about this film is it's very dumb-ness. People in cool shades, big guns, bullet time, not whether there's a bloody spoon or not. It's an action movie, a big, dumb, but brilliantly-done action movie.

And I wanna make it clear that I'm not taking anything away from it - it's massively influential, more so than pretty much any other film of the last ten years that I can think of, I'm just trying to point out what makes it good. The second one (yes, what I saw of it..!) is obsessed with the sci-fi and the mythology, but the writers can't handle it, and a lot of the dialogue simply doesn't make sense. They're giving me these huge speeches that essentially mean jack, when all I want's fifteen more minutes of the agent fight sequence. The guys behind the trilogy utterly failed to realise where the first film's strengths were, and that's a real shame.


Deano said...

The first movie also had a fantastically cool concept, made all the better if you went into it with no prior knowledge.

I personally felt that the second two movies had too much action though. That damn car chase went on forever. Now I'm not against action in movies - a big dumb action movie can be fun, but there has to be some sort of plot; something to justify why this stuff is happening. The second two movies don't have a plot, they just pretend to by throwing in a bunch of pretentious dialogue that actually has no relevence but provides soundbites of cod philosophy for 14 year old kids to quote at school and sound cool.

They're pants, I hate them, and I hated the emperor's new clothes style reaction all my mates had when we went to see it. A bunch of massive Matrix fans that had hyped themselves into believing the second two files were brilliant, for months after the third one was out, until the culturally normal view turned into a more sensible derision of the second two, as did thier views.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Hilariously, I actually find READING about the Matrix Trilogy as a trilogy in those mad academic analyses FAR FAR more interesting than the films ever were. Watching the first one just makes me tingle with glee at how smart-dumb it all is (I feel i've been influenced by the big-small car-ad campaign there...)

Mellie Bean said...

Personally, although I thought the concept of the first was ok, I've never managed to stay awake thru the whole thing.

And don't even get me started on # 2 which I did see all the way thru because it was my brother's first weekend back from Iraq and we pretty much wanted to do anything he wanted to do (include see that stupid movie) coz we were so glad to have him back.

Am still glad to have brother back, but realize that that 2+ hours of movie is time I'll never get back. *rueful grin*

Paul Fuzz said...

Uh-huh. The first Matrix movie is pretty much a gas from beginnin' to end...I wrote a thing about bullet-time during my Film & Lit degree that basically went along the lines of 'THE ACTION CINEMA: FROM SLOW TO STOP - The Wild Bunch & Butch Cassidy slowed violence to a balletic grind, John Woo stretched that method to breaking point, & The Matrix took the fetishism of gun play to the point of actually STOPPING THE FILM ENTIRELY while we circle round it...' I'm not really sure of the significance of this, other than to say that The Matrix was a watershed action movie, while the sequels were below-average sci-fi which did nothing but take away from the magic of the first. It's interesting that Deano thought the sequels had TOO MUCH action, I remember this being the opinion of most sci-fi orientated BIG TIME MATRIX fans at the's weird because what I dug about The Matrix was it's total ALL SURFACE HIGH-CONCEPTNESS, it's total dedication to THE AESTHETIC, to THE LOOK...everything about it, the fact that the narrative slows to a stop screams 'CHECK THIS OUT! THIS IS THE COOLEST THING YOU'VE EVER SEEN!! DON'T THINK: FEEL!! SEE!!' It's a good reminder of how two people can love a text for completely different, almost mutally exclusive, reasons.

Rosby said...

Frankly, I hate all three. Keanu Reeves cannot act! At all!

Deano said...

I've never actually compared the amount of action in the three films, but it's quite possible that the first just felt like it had less as:

a) bullet time was new
b) there seemed to more more of a point to the action

Ash said...

I loved the first one for many reasons, the anime like action scenes and the mythology. I appreciated the fact that for once Hollywood were trying something different. But the sequels were pretty bad, the action wasn't even exciting anymore and the Zion stuff made me want to fall asleep. Like you said, the dialogue started to make no sense at all and it suddenely went up its own ass.

Matt_c said...

I love The Matrix with a passion and have written about it loads of times (also in my Film/Lit degree, Paul) - I like it because it represents what is so absolutely fabulous and laughable about Entertainment as Product.

"The Matrix took the fetishism of gun play to the point of actually STOPPING THE FILM ENTIRELY while we circle round it..." I'm not really sure of the significance of this...

Jose Arroyo wrote an essay about this and the sublime but didn't really say anything useful; for me its all about feeling. The film makes me feel in a way that is totally satisfying but utterly ephemeral. (Although as an allegory it's quite affecting.) The meaning of Bullet Time is that it has none; the Wild Bunch was about the reality of violence, The Matrix is about the unreality of it.

I think the most interesting thing about the second two is that they are shit action films but are actually quite clever. That Neo is a designed outlet of the flaw in the Matrix is akin to Marx's opinion of Trade Unionism: it prevents the revolution by giving the proles the illusion of representation.
What is annoying about it is that the Wachowski deliberately try to make this 'clever' by doing that fucking "concurrently" Architect's speech instead of dramatising it in the narrative proper. That Neo is a creation of the Matrix is a great twist but its lost in the confusion.

The main problem with the sequels is Zion and that the narrative loses its unity, sprawling into a shitty epic when it was a claustrophobic action film. The Merovingian, long, boring action scenes, the most godawful ending I've ever seen (yay! Happy computer programmes and a sunrise!) and characters I don't give a shit about. Pah.