David Madore's WebLog: Matrix II

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Matrix II

Well, at last I saw Matrix Reloaded. As was to be expected, there were aspects of the film which I liked, and others that I did not. Here is a short critique (probably including some spoilers, although the spoily parts probably won't make much sense if you haven't seen the movie, so… at any rate, the next paragraph doesn't spoil much).

My major grievance is that I found the combat scenes exceedingly lengthy and boring. At this stage they have become really pointless: all possible forms of fighting skill have been exploited, and since every character (worth mentioning) is practically immortal and indestructible, what use is there in fighting yet more kung-fu? Yeah, the special effects are fun, but couldn't they have been saved for something more useful? Speaking of lengthy scenes, the one where Trinity and Neo make love while Zion dances seemed to last forever. (Oh, and while I'm mentioning that scene: it seemed to me that Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and the others, at the end of the first film, no longer had their plugs / sockets / holes / whatever you want to call them in the arms and back, only a single one in the back of the neck. It seems they have them again, and I find that pretty disgusting, I wonder why the screenwriters insisted on it.)

What I mostly liked is the remarkable and subtly depicted characters: they have—how can I phrase this?—glamour, panache of some kind. They're convincing, too, in their way. The Merovingian (with his funny French accent) is nice, and so is (ex-)agent Smith; but the Oracle is simply great, and so is Persephone (the Merovingian's wife), the Key Maker (in his own subtle way, like when he describes how to get into the building where the Source is), the Architect (somehow reminiscent of Christopher Lee, don't you find?), or in fact Morpheus himself. And councillor Hamann is also a rather interesting character; in fact, so are they all. The various confrontations we witness are a piece of anthology, and the insight into the zoology of the Matrix (peopled by such strange and ancient beings) is cool. A few dialogue lines are quite memorable, too!

Not all lines are good, though. There seems to have been a kind of truism attack at various points, although some of these are certainly meant to be funny. But “I believe what I believe” or “some things change, and others don't”, well… you don't have to be a genius to write stuff like that.

There are some nice private jokes meant for computer hackers that made me laugh. When Seraph (the Oracle's protector) leads Neo through a hallway filled with doors and refers to them as “back doors”, I was howling with laughter. So was I at the point where you can actually clearly see Trinity type “ssh -l root” after having used the nmap program to hack her way into a computer. I think there were a couple more similar jokes, which I can't remember just now. The insistence on the “Source” in the way they do it might also be a wink at the famous Open Source motto, “Use the Source, Luke”.

As for the plot, it has its niceties. I thought the inspiration by Vernor Vinge's wonderful (and must-read) classic novella, True Names, was even more apparent (though I can't put my finger on the reason) in this sequel than in the first part. It's pretty effective, and one really wants to learn what's ahead.

But the plot also has its weaknesses. Unfortunately, nice as it may be in the way of acting, the central and final confrontation between Neo and the Architect seems to be the main fault. Because when you think of it, the Architect's intentions are quite absurd. For one thing, if he intended for Neo to come to him, why did he make it so hard for him to (it can't be to check that Neo is really the One, for that is quite clear already at this point)? Also, which choice was the Architect expecting Neo to make? If he wanted Neo to walk through the other door than the one he does walk through eventually, he must be disappointed by the choice that Neo makes: so why doesn't he offer Trinity's life as a kind of bribe to confince Neo to go through the other door (rather than go and save her)? If, on the other hand, he wanted Neo to walk through the door which Neo chooses, why does he bother speaking with him in the first place? Why not simply put up a sign saying oops, dead end: please exit this way? Actually, why does he bother giving Neo a choice in the first place? What point is there in all this? I'm afraid the script's writers have succumbed to the classical error of “the Bad Guys must hinder the Good Guys' progress, no matter what, even if it goes against their own goals”. Now I'm quite sure that the third film could salvage all that: it is quite possible to still make everything perfectly consistent down to the tiniest details, as far as everyone's intentions are concerned; but I'm also quite convinced it won't be done, and in the end there will still be some massively incoherent actions (“incoherent” in the point of view of the goals that various agents are trying to achieve). It's unfortunate, but many stories fail there anyway. And it's not catastrophic either.

I'm pretty convinced there will be some really nice things, and nice surprises, in the third (and hopefully final) part of Matrix. I expect a major surprise concerning the Matrix, its origin, its modus operandi, its role, or something of the kind. A wholly unexpected surprise, but one that isn't contrived, and that we'll be retrospectively able to find clues for in the second (and perhaps even first) film. But I can't guess what the surprise will be. Maybe the Matrix wasn't created by the machines but by humans, for an entirely different purpose, which Neo will discover. Or some such thing. But enough speculating.

Enough Matrix, in fact. Followup is in November, when Matrix Revolutions is released. Until then…

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