Friday, May 18, 2007

Archives Project: STL #21

Title: One Bad Movie
Description: A prayer against Matrix: Resurrection
Date: 22 November 2003

I stand by my prediction that soon you won't be able to tell the difference between Matrix movies and Tron. I also hate computer-generated animation, but that's the tale of another day.

So I've been working like a dog, well a dog-of-letters anyway, for the past seven days. My research has taken up virtually all my time, with breaks to eat and to teach. So what do I willingly do when I have some leisure time at last? I pay money to see a movie I expect to suck. And wouldn't you know, it did suck, even far beyond my capacity to believe it.

The Matrix was a cultural phenomenon. I, too, was fascinated with the look and feel, the technique, and the unspoken fear that information technology has mediated our lives so much we can no longer see the real. I never took the philosophical pretensions seriously, but why would you with so much stylish spectacle? The Matrix Reloaded, as I mentioned way back in STL #2, seemed totally stale, and a little icky too. But Matrix Revolutions is so bad it staggers the mind. In the first fifteen minutes, three of the primary characters storm a Marilyn-Manson-inflected night club to confront, uh, "The Merovingian." There's some now familiar Matrix-issue combat, with lots of guns and walking on walls and such. It seemed to me as I was watching it that it might serve as good demo for one of those first-person-shooter games. Little did I know that the shootout in the coat room would be the best scene in the movie. After a half hour or so of stilted dialogue full of Capital Letters about people with Ridiculous Names, we have to suffer through what seems like an hour of men in absurdly inefficient and cumbersome suits of armor fighting mechanical insects. As least this section of the movie gave me something to laugh at: first at the 'inspirational' speech the general (well, some general--we're asked to keep track of too many people in this part) gives to his mechano- warriors, who pump their ridiculous mechanical fists in the sky. It was kind of like Mel Gibson from Braveheart addressing the Transformers. The special effects of this battle were chuckle-inducing too: I doubt if in twenty years we'll be able to see a qualitative difference between this movie and Tron.*

The original Matrix had some cultural significance, as I indicated above. Now, it's a weapon that the Robots from Mars use to oppress The Last Free People. The best thing about the matrix was always that you got to wear sunglasses at night and were a kung-fu superstar in it. But when you start think about the matrix too much, (like for instance if you sit through three movies about it) you start to wonder things like, why you can stand on the ceiling but not stop bullets? And if these supersoldiers are so powerful, why do they have to fight at all? I remember one time Superman punched a hole in time--now that's strong. But the big final showdown of Neo and Agent Smith seemed like a conventional fight between two dudes who can fly. The whole "One" versus an army of Smiths is supposed to be some kind of individualism over group thing, but that has no connection with the matrix per se and is about as current as Ayn Rand (or Robots from Mars).

Revolutions was far worse than any of those movies I complained about last summer. The only recent movie I can compare it too in scope of dreadfulness is the Kate Beckinsale vehicle Underword. Sometime I'm going to have to learn that beautiful people running around in leather suits firing guns from each hand does not a good film make. But why you would ruin such a simple and beautiful thing I'll never understand.

*And while on the subject, I think the best way of describing this whole underground militaristic world is as "Tron meets Das Boot."