Daily Archives: May 14, 2003

Managing Expectations

Chances are fairly good that tomorrow I’ll take a geek day to go see The Matrix: Reloaded, because I’m a geek, and because I dig the first film pretty much, and because I don’t work for anyone but me, and I allow myself a rather substantial number of holidays during the year. And I never fire myself for spending too much time writing pointless crap on my Web site! Yes, I’m a fine employer. Everyone should work for me.

The reviews are starting to come in and unsurprisingly, they’re mixed. I say unsurprisingly because the first Matrix film also had mixed reviews (a most memorable line from the San Francisco Chronicle review: “It’s astonishing that so much money, talent, technical expertise and visual imagination can be put in the service of something so stupid”), and because this particular film does not have the benefit of being a relatively fresh idea. Being a film critic myself, I know about the trap of heightened expectations, and I’m working fairly assiduously to avoid them, since going in expecting a godhead experience is always going to be a let down. No matter how good a movie is, it’s still just a movie.

And it does help to keep a non-romanticized view of the previous material. I remember when The Phantom Menace came out, and people were coming out of that film slightly puzzled. “That film was, like, bad,” they said to each other, and that didn’t jibe with their memories of the first crop of Star Wars films. Well, fact is that outside of ginchy special effects, the first Star Wars film is downright awful: Bad acting, bad dialogue, fairly stupid story. It just happened to be utterly unlike anything anyone had ever seen before, and that counted for a lot (Empire was pretty good. Jedi stank). Keeping the essential not-goodness in mind as I went in to Phantom, I managed to have a pretty good time. It’s a bad film, and keeps getting worse as time goes on (as does Clones, sadly), but since I kept my expectations low, I still managed to have fun with them.

I do expect more from Reloaded than I did from Phantom or Clones, but managed expectations are still in order. I do have one fortunate advantage over many people, which is that I actually possess a philosophy degree, so the freelance existential utterings of The Matrix have never struck me as particularly deep, although I appreciate the attempt. Instead, I’m pretty much focused on the action and the look, neither of which I expect to have devolved from the previous outing (I certainly hope not, given how much money they’ve spent on Reloaded and Revolutions).

I don’t expect Reloaded to provide me with a philosophical underpinning for my perception of the world, I just want cool-looking people in cool-looking clothes to spin around and fight energetically and blow stuff up real good, with state-of-the-art effects, and maybe a plot that doesn’t completely suck. Give me that, and it’s time well-spent for me.