not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake

matrix reloaded

Overall, I liked a lot of the action and didn't like most everything else.

The below is not a review, more like a collection of random critiques written half an hour after seeing the movie, since that's what it is. It will probably not make much sense if you haven't seen the movie, and besides, there are spoilers aplenty, but if you want to,

Massive spoilers ahead!

The good.

There were enough good action moments that the movie was totally worth the price of admission. One thing I'd had "spoiled" prior to seeing it was the big Agent Smith fight, which actually I'm glad I'd had spoiled, because it left me sitting there the whole time going "this is CGI? This can't be CGI. This is amazing if it's CGI." (Admittedly, the fight itself was perhaps overly long, a little repetitive. Why did I need to see all those punches, especially the not-very-unique ones?)

I laughed several times at the movie, at action that was just a little too over the top, but in a good way. To a certain extent it was me breaking out at a meta-level and not believing in the movie, but since it's all justified in the movie (since it's in the Matrix), I think it was just funny, and probably intended that way by the creators. Specifically, the last time more Smiths come in during the big fight, and it just turns into a seething mass, and also during the kung fu-in-the-car scene, which was a hilarious idea, although some of the exectuion was worse than I'd have liked--I found it hard to follow.

The motorcycle scene--once it gets turned around, is deliciously visceral, but, sadly, the moment the camera flies under a truck roaring past, I'm reminded, like in Panic Room's coffee pot fly-through, that this must all be CGI, and it somehow feels less visceral to know there's no actual stuntperson somehow pulling this stuff off.

The concept of the two dreadlocked ghost guys--really clever. Apparently, they can't affect anyone while insubstantial (naturally), so in battle they're making this trade-off between being substantial and being insubstantial. I realize this is fairly obvious, but it's never spelled out, just left for us to comprehend for ourselves. It's exactly the sort of interesting trade-off that would make for a fun character to play in a game, although I'm not sure this particular trade-off would actually work in first person. Also, the effects for them transitiioning from one state to the other were pretty seamless.

The battle in the mansion with the handy weapons I wasn't as impressed with--from the inclusion of the incompetent chick who hits her teammates, I assume it was intende as a nod to the weapons-fighting in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (although of course it's probably a much old riff than that movie, what else would the Matrix be reffing?).

If there were any other significant action scenes, I'm forgetting them. (Well, except the stuff discussed below.)

The bad:

The original Matrix I thought was a great melange of action, style, and a clever mostly-hard-sci-fi plot. The creators took as a central premise a classic philosophical thought experiment ('what if we are really just brains in a vat somewhere'--a restatement of Descartes' skeptical dilemna) and put it up on screen as not-a-thought-experiment at all, but as justification for people to have super-powers in plausible scifi, not fantasy, world. In the real world of the story, people don't have superpowers.

There were a few flaws: the one big "plot hole" (why use humans a source of power?), the ludicrous Trinity-saves-him-with-a-kiss, and something which hopefully I'll remember before I post this, but obviously if you're reading this I didn't.

The cute philosophy thought experiment was turned into the question "What is reality?" In Matrix Reloaded, the creators have turned to another philosophical question: free will, destiny, choice. The problem is, the world of the Matrix is designed around challenging the question "What is reality?". It's not designed around the issue of choice and free will. There's room to pursue it, since we can ask whether computer programs can make choices, can have free will. But the creators don't ask this; instead we get philosophical bullshitting claptrap about destiny or lack thereof, of choices made by humans in the past present or future without any explanation of what choices those are. (I think the intent is to make this sort of deep philosophical point: when Neo is offered the choice of two doors at the end, he of course chooses the save-Trinity door, and the architect is correct in saying he's utterly predictable, and is he really making a choice, and that the oracle's point is that he did have a choice, but he'd made it long before, when he'd tied himself with Trinity in the way he did, by choice. But I'm reading stuff into the movie that's not there; why all the claptrap about 'understanding the choice you have already made'?)

Ok, this is taking me too long, so I'm going to stop with the full paragraphs and sentences stuff.

When they get to Zion, and the elevator opens on the 'help us, Neo' people, why are all those people middle-eastern? It's like the Wachowskis wanted us to understand the scene instantaneously, by relying on all sorts of stupid stereotypes.

Morpheus' "rousing" spech to Zion: dumb and lame and unconvincing

Intercutting the sex scene and the Zion dancing: dumb, dull, repetitive, and I just didn't care. It wasn't particularly steamy or erotic. I guess the intent was to give us an investment in both the Neo & Trinity relationship, and the people of Zion needing saving. But it's just way too long. Worst sex scene I can remember seeing since the real-time-sex-scene in Enemy at the Gates.

The whole Link subplot: pointless. I hate to belabor POV, but it's a new POV for not much reason. I guess because Neo is all-powerful we needed to see somebody else, or something, maybe it's to give us a personal investment in some one person in Zion, but it seemed totally irrelevant and a time-waster.

[Update: Wrong, see comments.] Unexplained guy stalking Neo: stupid and pointless. I'm sure it's supposed to be a mystery set up for the next movie, but it doesn't give us anything to hang on to, to sink our teeth into, since it's entirely unmotivated other than that he's the cliche psychopath who cuts himself on his own knife. (See The Abss and countless other movies.)

At first I thought the scene with the guy protecting the Oracle was broken, since he was standing up to Neo, and not even an agent can take Neo, but then they soon after revealed he was a program, so ok. Still seemed kinda frivolous, though.

"Why am I here?" is a dumb question. I assume he meant something like "How is it that I have these powers?" or maybe "Why me?" as in the plaintive "Why does it have to be me in this situation". But "Why am I here?" seems like a needlessly confusing way to ask that question, e.g. confusing in that the audience has no way of knowing that's what he meant. (The literal answer would be "because I sent you a message asking you to meet me", or differently literal, "because you were born here"; I didn't figure out what I think he was supposedly asking until he met the architect and had the question answered that I realized what the question was.)

Why does Neo bother fighting the Smiths as long as he does? He has no goal in 'defeating' them; why not superman away earlier?

The scene with the Merril-Lynch guy. Sigh. Protracted, dopey, snooty european rich guy stereotype.

Oops, Neo is ultra-powerful, but honestly we intended to make three movies all along. That's why we have to invent out of whole cloth a whole new set of bad guys for him to fight, ones that were never hinted at in the first movie.

Took 'em long enough to shoot out the tires.

In the canon of the first movie, you do not fight agents. You run for your life if you encounter an agent, and you are probably dead anyway. Neo was unique in that he could attempt to stand up to them; and now he is more skilled, so despite their upgrades, he can take them easily. It seems ludicrous for Morpheus to go up against the agent on top of the truck, therefore. But I guess he really feels he has no choice. He does lose, but he holds his own far too well--he should get crushed much more quickly. (And then the same sequence of events which results in his victory could perhaps even happen.)

Neo flies in and saves Morpheus and Keymaster. Well, cheesy, but ok.

Non-linear editing of the planning of the three-pronged attack and the execution of the three-pronged attack: confusing, in the service of nothing as far as I can see.

So wait, the oracle couldn't be trusted the whole time, she was in cahoots with the architect the whole time? If so, I wish Neo had said 'Bitch set me up', and if not, I wish Neo had clarified it. Maybe it's intended as being unclear at this point, I dunno. Or maybe I'm just supposed to figure it out for myself, but the movie didn't really give me time to think as the architect beat away on the same pseudo-philosophical claptrap.

Trinity not immediately running from the agent (see above): totally wrong and dumb and noncanonical.

Neo flies in and saves Trinity. Hey, guys, you already did this once in the movie. Come up with something new.

Trinity dies and Neo brings her back to life. Last time, she did it to him from the real world. This time, his magic powers in the Matrix somehow save her both in the matrix and in real life. (Why not just fly her at superspeed to a landline before she dies instead?) Anyway, this was just as dumb and annoying.

Neo in the real world having magic powers to stop robots: WORST IDEA EVAR. So much for it being hard SF rather than fantasy.


Also, there's this screenwriting cliche, I forget the phrase for it, where somebody delivers a line at someone else, and later, there's a payback where the second person says it back to the first person. The scene in Spider-Man about "I forgot the part where that makes it my problem" or whatever is a really good example, although the line is strangely awkward (perhaps because it was tuned to fit both situations?) and it was already a screenwriting cliche at the point SM came out. Anyway, the attempt here, with "Some things never change, but some do" is both (a) an incredibly banal and meaningless line (and itself a cliche: "some things change, some stay the same"), second, not really a payback (delivered to the wrong character) so it doesn't have the oomph of a proper one, and 3) is entirely unclear what the character meant by it in the context. She doesn't love him anymore? Some things are more important than love? Who knows.
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