Few people realise that when Orson Welles played the part of Unicron in Transformers The Movie that many of the scenes were actually recorded from his death bed, often with Leonard Nimoy holding the opulent bastards bed pan while he delivered his lines. So it was that Orson Welles dying words, the very last utterance to pass his dry white lips was,
"Destroy the matrix..."
Immediately after which he dropped his snow globe and popped his clogs.
Thus, today, as a mark of respect to the ol' Kane-aroo I shall indeed "destroy the matrix" just like he asked. Or more to the point, The Matrix Reloaded.
I was, I'll admit, all geared up for another antimatrix hyper-rant, ready to counter the advertising bombardment with an in depth dissection of the film, interwoven with the usual social discourse and political criticisms. The scale of media furor which surrounds these films is such that even I, the Atlantis Mantis, was falsely lured into believing that they hold a cultural significance equal only to their crapulance, and thus I was prepared to go to some considerable effort in the deconstructing of this shitty new sequel to that shitty old film. On reflection however, on having actually WATCHED The Matrix Reloaded it has become immediately apparent once more that its not worth the fucking bother. The Matrix in all its forms is piss poor, boring and incompetently executed. That's it. They're just crap. End of story. They have sucked, they will continue to suck, and somewhere in the world they are sucking right now. Another bunch of crappy films to go with all the other crappy films. The truly horrifying thing about The Matrix is that this cinematic non-entity nosed its way into every ones 'top 100 films' exclusively through media manipulation and through no merit of its own. Somehow this straight-to-video Johnny Mnemonic sequel has nested its self somewhere between Goodfellas and Citizen Kane on the cinematic god-head. No wonder ol' Orson was so pissed off at it.
So before this here The Matrix Reloaded gets all blown out of proportion lets try to nip it in the bud. Those of you brave enough to have read the first The Matrix rant will be familiar with my tendency to compare said film with other films that it ripped off. My argument for doing this is NOT a progressivist one. I am NOT trying to say that The Matrix is crap because its got a bunch of stuff from other films in it and I would NEVER present that as an argument. Plaguerism is the mother of invention. History is everything. My argument is that if The Matrix paid a little MORE attention to its source material instead of just half heartedly stealing the aesthetics that it might be ANY FUCKING GOOD. The Matrix problem is a problem of cultural appropriation and incompetent replication.
The Matrix sells its self on its cool, on its savvy, its street cred. It's sold on how clued up it is. The Matrix is none of these things. The Matrix is Madonna wearing a Che Guevara hat. The Matrix is Justin Timberlake dressed as Eminem. The Matrix is your Dad wearing a t-shirt of your new favourite band. The Matrix is Tom Cruise pretending to be a Samurai. The Matrix wears a full length leather coat and black sunglasses FOR FUCKS SAKE. Sorry kids, but The Matrix just doesn't GET IT. Its just not down with the plan. It tries far too hard to look cool and constantly embarrass its self. Its for this reason that I'm NOT (you'll be relieved to hear) going to write another super-rant wherein I credit The Matrixwith some significance by bothering to dissect it. Instead I'm just going to humiliate it with one of my more frivolous and sarcastic rants, cos its all it fucking deserves. So here goes...
Lazy readers start here.
The film opens with the now overly familiar jaunt around the wobbly green writing that makes up the Matrix program. In the first film they zoomed right out of these silly numbers and through a tunnel that was suspended between the pixels that made up a single character on Neo's computer monitor. The Matrix Reloaded on the other hand sets itself up immediately as the inevitably crap(er) sequel by zooming out of a clock on the wall. The numbers that 'make up' said clock, however, are almost as big as the numbers on the face of the clock its self. Hooray. A crap TV-movie version of the effects from the first movie, like those crap Buffy recreations of the exploding vampire effect in Blade. And only ten seconds into the movie too. We ARE in for a good time!
The first scene proper sees Trinity perform an exact reenactment of that Pink video. You know, the one where she crosses the thin line between being an 'empowered female' and being ' a loony' by driving a Motorcycle through the fifth story window of her boyfriends apartment. Trin' uses this stunt as a distraction, that she may break into some building or other. There is some crap 'white mans kung fu' and she runs upstairs. By the time she gets upstairs the Wachowski's (oh those wacky Wachowski's) have made it quite clear that from now on they intend to slow-mo the action right down to as slow as it will go at precisely the WRONG moment EVERY SINGLE TIME with utter consistency for the entire duration of the film.
To this effect the first real 'moment' of the film sees Trin' jump out of the window (the first scene in Ghost in the Shell AGAIN for fucks sake?) firing behind her while an agent jumps after her. Through the miracle of Smirnoff-time this sequence is slowed RIGHT down and the seconds are dragged out for what seems like two minutes. The effect of this sequence is very similar to that experienced when someone on the news doesn't know a camera is on them, and stands there looking like an idiot for ages.. For the first few seconds the actors curmudgeonly faces contorting as they cry "Noooooooooooo" is embarrassingly silly. Then as the scene drags out further, one is forced to let out a giggle. By the end of the sequence, anyone in their right mind is in hysterics.
Keanu Reeves, who is not in his right mind, finds the whole thing very disturbing and thus wakes up. It was all a dream. Phew!
After this point the film ambles and meanders indulgently around some extremely boring Deep Space 9 style goings on and there is ample time for a power nap. A few things happen in this first hour, all of them laughable, and only some of them memorable. I will try to recount them for you now, but excuse me while I give a shit if I get them in the wrong order.
There follows as scene in which Neo and Morpheus meet with the leaders of Zion at a secret (read urban cool) location somewhere inside the matrix (note my new familiarity with the terminology of the matrix mythology. Isn't indoctrination great? ). For some reason humanities last outpost has chosen to elect a cross section of blaxploitation pimps and supermodels to serve as government. At first I wondered why the 'residual self image' of a bunch of politicians and militants would see them cast in leather fetish gear, but on reflection I realise that this is a silly question.
Before, or possibly after this scene, everybody then goes to Zion. "No place like home" says one of them. Um, I can think of quite a LOT of places 'like home' actually. Mordor for one.
So they enter Zion through an exact recreation of the black gates in The Two Towers, right down to shot composition and palette (c'mon, admit it, you thought that too) which is guarded by one of those robots off Mechwarrior or Robot Jox or Aliens or something.
"Hey wow. Look at that cool robot. Its massive and has big guns and stuff. Aw, I hope there's a fight with one of those. Loads of em in a big war."
No chance. That's your lot on the robot front, hope you enjoyed it. Might come back in the next film, but to be honest the defense of Zion is far more likely to be left to the Ewoks or something.
Guided by some air traffic controllers who live in Minority Report, their crappy space submarine lands in a branch of Games Workshop and everyone gets out to be greeted by some people wearing Star Wars costumes. Morpheus says hello to some bloke called 'General Mifune' or something, who we never see again (future incidental characters will include Admiral Carradine and Sergeant Shaft) then turns his attentions to his arch rival, whom he is fighting over some bird or other with. To this end the next twenty minutes is filled with these two racial stereotypes having a competition to see who is the best at that particular school of 'blackting' whereby authority is denoted by who can wobble their lips the most when they annunciate. This is interspersed with some extremely tedious political goings on, which seem to be a result of no one having remembered that EVERYONE was really bored by all that shit in newfangled Star Wars.
Neo can't get to sleep because he keeps having dreams about Trinity dying in slow motion, so he goes for a chat with some kind old codger who runs the place. This gent then delivers us the umpteenth of many more cod-philosophical debates to come, in which he quotes off of the back sleeve of some book or other some shit about relying on machinery when machinery is coming to kill them. Oh the irony. Slings and arrows, arrows and slings. Is it a candlestick or is it two faces? Which is bent, the film or the spoon? If it wasn't so base, it might almost warrant thinking about.
Meanwhile, later, Lawrence Fishburne, wearing his 'Martin Luther King hat' right on tight, addresses a sea of torch wielding rebel types in a cave. It is prudent to note at this point that almost EVERYONE in Zion is black, and that ALL the agents are white (not that I think a black agent would be a good idea. Far from it, it would be a tokenistic gesture and would ruin the aesthetic). Positive stereotypes. Reverse discrimination. Yay.
Morpheus: "People of Zion, I have a dream, but enough about me, here's the 'one' you've all been waiting for, the host with the most, your friend and mine.... Paul Atreides! Um, I mean Neo."
Neo says some crap or other, then a bunch of biblical vagabond types try to get him to bless their gourds and stuff (oh for fucks sake) and then this weird dance breaks out. First Stomp come on and bang some drums and stuff, and then some really slow techno beat comes in, like 1993 never happened. All the while a million billion sweaty 'honeys' bump and grind and shake their booties for AGES in the style of any one of the millions of ghastly identical commercial hiphop videos that there are in this world. Even Neo and Trinity can't believe how long this shit spends on screen, so they go off for a quick fuck in Yoda's bed so that Trinity can give birth to Jesus.
Anyway, yada yada yada. Somebody somewhere explains to someone that the robots are going to destroy Zion the day after tomorrow, and the only way to stop them is for Neo to go on a boring repetitive linear quest in which he will encounter one stupid rent-a-yoda after another and have bland pretentious McPhilosophy conversations interspersed with bad white-fu. So they go to see the Oracle.
I'll let you in on a secret. I LIKE the Oracle. I think she's a good character, in principle. After almost an hour of watching these stiff necked emotionless Vanity Fair looking fucks mill around the place it is nice to someone who comes across as a human being (see, I love you really) The great all-knowing Oracle turning out to be a nice tottering old lady (" judge me not by my size") is a nice touch, and if a few more humans were littered about the script then the film might just be passable. Next to poor dear dead old Gloria Foster, Keanu Reeves comes of as a piece of fucking chip-board even more then he usually does. The problem is that she IS the only character in the film and she sticks out like a sore fucking thumb. The Wachowski's have attempted to blend her in with the rest of the aesthetic by giving her a worn out old leather jacket to wear - but its no good, she's just comes of as too damn human to blend in with the rest of the vapid self-consciously cool goings on. 'Ironically' it turns out the Oracle is a machine though, so there you go.
Anyway, Agent Smith turns up because he's the only character anyone really gives a shit about, and makes a hundred of himself. Fight ensues.
Said fight, in fairness, isn't that bad. By 'that bad' I mean that it isn't so aggravatingly awful as to warrant an analysis of quite WHY its so bad. Its not so awful as any of the fights in the first film, but that doesn't mean its any good - cos it isn't. From an effects perspective its quite good. It looks a bit Reboot in places but for the most part it does look like there's a hundred Hugo Weavings running about and that's all you can really ask for. The problem is that this is the first kung-fu fight in cinema history in which one man fights off a hundred of the same opponent. The problem is that it should be by FAR the best fight scene in the history of everything ever - but it fucking well isn't. Not by a long shot. The concept behind it and the people involved with it and the money thrown at it, it should beat its every predecessor hands down, but the sad truth is that it simply doesn't even come off as particularly average. As an effect its quite fun, as a combat sequence it fails utterly and ends with the hero RUNNING AWAY. Does it compare to any one of the numerous Hong Kong films it alludes and aspires to? No, not by a long shot. Is it, more to the point, even as good as any particular fight in X-Men 2, against which it is directly competing? Not a bit of it. If you examine the mechanics of the situation, the extreme level of crapulance that you realise must have been employed into making this fight 'a bit rubbish' boggles the mind.
There are about five more fights after this and I'll be buggered if I'm going to review them all. The precise manner of their shitness is entirely consistent, and you can get a pretty accurate overview by assuming that they conform to the following structure...
1. Things that would look good if they weren't slowed down are made to look crap by slowing them down.
2. There is a cut either just on, or precisely before every impact.
3. Everything that should be a close-up is a wide shot and vica virca .
4. Bullets and stuff leave crap wobbly trails.
5. Neo keeps stopping bullets even though he's ready and doesn't have to.
6. All super jumps are slow and 'moon like' thus making them uninteresting.
7. Neo DOES NOT employ any of his special Jesus-Akira skills to make buildings melt like that bloke in Dark City, cos it gives him a bit of a head ache apparently, and because that would be fun.
8. Carrie Anne Moss gets lots of ass shots and so, oddly, does Lawrence Fishburne.
9. Innocent humans get brutaly killed left right and centre, but monster style bad guys never get hurt because of their Power Ranger style violence-avoiding abilities.
Arrange these ideas into any order, so long as its a crap order, to form yer average The Matrix Reloaded fight.
I forgot to mention that the Oracle said something about how vampires and werewolves and stuff were going to be turning up. I forgot to mention it because they DON'T turn up, like most of the other things these silly fucking films keep promising. None the less, hoping to see some vampires and werewolves our heroes go off to visit Satan, who is French and lives in a posh restaurant. One can only presume that having already dug up old ideas from Bill and Ted and Johnny Mnemonic that someone thought it would be a good idea to work Devils Advocate in for that extra Keanu factor.
Satan, it transpires has an 'outrageous' French accent which he uses to incoherently mumble great lengths of trite philosophical musings. It is only when he elucidates his conclusions in monkey language for the benefit of the audience, that he drops out of this accent completely and speaks suddenly in a very clear but equally silly English accent.
Some people (stupid people) have suggested that The Matrix Reloaded balances philosophical debate with ground breaking action. I, on the other hand, would suggest that it balances philosophical debate with utter wank. As if only to prove my point, having gone on at great length about causality, the Satan character then produces a magical cake - which he 'wrote himself'. Said cake (cause) then gives a woman in the restaurant the horn (effect) to the extent that she is compelled to go flick her self off in the toilets. Thus, the 'intellectual undercurrent' of The Matrix Reloaded is represented by a huge cgi zoom right up said woman's vagina, followed by an explosion. Let me just repeat that. A HUGE ZOOM UP HER VAGINA, FOLLOWED BY AN EXPLOSION!?!
Er. Yes. Whatever. It'll be monkeys dressed as Abraham Lincoln next.
For the love of God let the existence of this fucking weird muff shot PLEASE put a lid on this ridiculous notion that The Matrix has an 'intellectual' subtext. The application of philosophical ideas and cultural mythologies in these films is superficial at best, surmounting to little more than the name dropping of chapter headings in the 'Usborne Big Book of Philosophy'. Furthermore there is NOTHING original about the implementation of such notions into a genre film. Its bloody well standard practice, and its about time the media stopped pretending it doesn't know this. There has NEVER ONCE in the history of cinema been a bond villain or vampire type who HASN'T embellished their character with a passing reference to some ancient mythology or school of learning. EVERY bad guy equates their actions with those of the devil himself. EVERY villain elucidates upon the ironies that bind him to his heroic counterpart. And EVERY FUCKING TIME the world is going to end it always takes six days and someone always says "the same time it took to make it". Hell, the Strangis Brothers always used to name episodes of theWar of the Worlds TV series after quotes from the Old Testament. This does NOT mean that that cheap piece of Canadian crap represents an attempt to bring in depth theological study into a contemporary fantasy context!
So, anyway. The internet pornography thematic continues to dominate the next ten minutes of the film as Satan's wife offers to take Neo to see the werewolves, just so long as he kisses her (properly mind you).
"Woohoo. That Jesus, he gets all the birds!"
Good grief. But its gets weirder children. Mrs Satan then introduces us to two of her werewolf friends. We know they are werewolves not only because their Big Wolf on Campus style make-up tells us so, but because she shoots one of them with a silver bullet.
"Its not every woman who carries silver bullets in her purse" she says (or something) then shoots one in the head, just to verify his lycanthropic heritage.
Um....but. Er. Surely if he WASN'T a werewolf then it STILL would have killed him, being a bullet and all. Um? Never mind.
So anyway, after all this fuss and nonsense with first-draft left overs about vampires and werewolves, we DON'T get to see any. Instead all we get is the twins off Carol Vordermans Better Homes who have developed the ability to turn into ring wraiths.
Exceptionally turgid fight ensues. See above rules.
This is followed by a car chase. Said car chase, again, isn't THAT bad. The history of the car chase pretty much belongs to America the same as martial arts history belongs to the Chinese. The Chinese do the best martial arts because they have the greatest proliferation of talents in that field and a production system suitably lo-fi to have developed a mastery of the form. Americans do the best car chases because they can afford to blow up the most cars. That may sound like cynicism (and it is) but its also the truth and as a result Hollywood is genuinely better at doing car chases than any other culture. A car can do one of two things, go along very fast or fly up in the air and explode - both look pretty good on film and if you have some combination of these elements in your film you will probably do okay.
That said, the chase in question was also rather a pedestrian affair and from the moment they all left the car park I pretty much sat back in my chair and just waited for the inevitable arrival of that truck off Terminator. Was I disappointed? Yes, but I got my truck all the same. It even bought its own Terminator soundtrack with it (up until this point the music had been a 'rokno' version of flight of the bumblebee).
Chase, fight ,chase, fight, chase, fight, blah. OH GOD THIS IS BORING!
After some tedious and improbable Mission Impossible style antics Neo finally comes face to face with the 'guy' that designed the matrix. And do you know who it was? Colonel fucking Sanders. 'Kentucky Fried Reality'. That sounds about right. Explains a lot that does.
The Colonel Sanders guy is, in fairness, quite an interesting character - in a 'Michael Ironside talking bollocks for ages at the end of Scanners' sort of a way. He explains the regulated system that the matrix has set up to counter the emergence of 'saviors' and claims that the current matrix is the sixth matrix (God forbid) and that the machines have already destroyed human civilisation six times over. I've destroyed human civilisation six times over myself, so I found this part of the story almost interesting. What let it down though, was the ludicrous semantics that the Colonel chose to employ. His method of conveying these ideas was by way an almost incomprehensible 'modular' system of speech which employed only quadrosyllabic words and particles - with no discernible verbs to speak of. I don't think its unreasonable to assume that a good cross section of the core audience didn't have a fucking clue what he was on about. Suffice to say though that when he had finally shut up, that his narrative function turned out to be precisely that of the Green Goblin in Spiderman in that he offers Neo two doors to go through - one leads to saving his girlfriend, the other leads to saving everybody else.
He could have just fucking SAID that ten minutes ago. Then again, if he had done we wouldn't have gotten the hilariously odd device by which Neo appears on several TV monitors, each 'version' of him providing a different response to the Colonels words. An interesting (read failed) idea let down by the fact that anything Keanu Reeves says other than a conservative "I see" comes out as some variation on the theme of "Whoa, dude. No way! F'sure. Cowabunga. Screw you guy!". Never mind eh?
So blah bah balh, some stuff happens. Trinity dies but gets better because she hasn't given birth to Jesus yet, then they all get in their space sub and go home. Unfortunately the spider monkeys attack and the drop ship crashes, leaving everyone stranded on LV 426.
"Oh that's fucking great man. What are we going to do now man?"
Well Hudson, were going to spend the next two or three minutes playing Aliens and then the film is going to end. How is it going to end? We are going to get rescued by some other characters we don't give a fuck about, then there is going to be this shot of Neo lying in a coma while some guy explains that they just came from a big battle (which we missed while all the crap kung-fu was going on) and that there there was only ONE survivor. 'one' get it? Another Neo. The antichrist or something. So then we pan past Neo's head and settle on an upside down shot of this antichrist blokey and its....its.... A MONKEY DRESSED AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN!
No it isn't. Its some hairy bloke who was previously only in about two scenes, who came across as a bit threatening, but who's narrative function no one really gave a rats ass about.
That's it. That's your ending. An upside down close up of the bloke from scene 23. Well whoopy fucking doo. Somehow the Wachowski's are suffering under the illusion that this 'cliff hanger' is equivalent to the death of Gandalf, or Frodo's dissapearance into Mordor. Granted its marginally more interesting than Darth Vader getting married (for crying out loud) but they don't EVEN pan out of the ship and into space, like wot they do in The Empire Strikes Back. Just some awkward shot of some mug then roll the credits, and we are supposed to just pack up and leave now are we? All right, sod you then.
So there you have it. THAT is what happens in The Matrix Reloaded. Isn't it great?
I would be a little less flippant in my analysis but it really doesn't warrant the attention. The truth of it all is that the obscene crapulance of The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded is perfectly self evident. The Matrix Reloaded surpasses even the original and transcends that boundary between crap and weird, its ineptitude amounting to such heights that it fails to operate completely as a narrative.
The shititude of The Matrix Reloaded is so self evident that a modicum of dissent has even become apparent in the reactions of the mainstream media. No one trying to flog a magazine, however, is going to go against a media doctrine of Catholic proportions and admit that its an outright piece of crap. They HAVE to fool them selves into thinking there is any merit in the bloody thing because they have to earn a living funded exclusively by advertising. YOU on the other hand, you have a choice.
All through The Matrix Reloaded that's all they go on about. Choice choice choice. Blah blah blah. Choice, blah. Blah blah choice.
So make a fucking choice. You don't owe these people anything, these movie people. YOU have given THEM money and they have served you with a piece of crap. You have no obligation to like the film you see. If you were in a restaurant and they served you a piece of crap you would bloody well complain. What's the difference?
Go on, admit it. You liked the first one, even though it was bollocks, because it looked shiny and it made whooping noises and it kept you distracted from your pain for two hours and that's all most people can ask for on a Friday night. But, to be honest, you didn't really like it all THAT fucking much, you just thought it was okay. But as for this piece of crap. Fuck it. It let you down. Just let it go, you have a choice.
The revolution will not be released internationally in multiplex cinemas, but it IS out there if you just take the opportunity to look. There are better films out there. Similarly themed films. Commercial films with similar content and aesthetics, but films made with greater ingenuity and love than this heap of shit that Joel Silver has knocked up to protect you from the history of your own culture. I'm not going to point you to them, that's your journey.
Alternately, if you don't like what I've had to say, and you want to hear something 'positive' said about The Matrix Reloaded to verify your belief system, then you can write your own 'positive' review by sorting the following deceitful lies and stock phrases into some semblance of an order.
1. ...out does the original, if that's possible!
2. ...revolutionary bullet time technology...
3. ...takes action movies to a whole new level...
4. ...mix of high octane action and intelligent story...
5. ...philosophical undertones...
6. ...never before seen in cinema...
Repeat until factual.
The Atlantis Mantis.
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