The Moon and The Matrix
I come out of Matrix Reloaded last night and head home, and as I’m driving home, I look up at the half moon that’s shining up there, and then I keep driving. Then some part of my brain says: That moon was full when you left home. For about a second I was seriously weirded out; Reloaded is a little long, but not, you know, seven days long. Then I remembered about the lunar eclipse last night, and felt two things: First, a rather embarrassed wave of relief, and second, a very small inkling of the holy terror lunar eclipses must have provided my pre-scientific ancestors, who didn’t know much but knew that the moon going through all of its phases in one night just wasn’t right.
Enough about that stupid moon, I hear you say. I can see that anytime. Tell me about Reloaded. Well, I enjoyed the hell out of it, while simultaneously agreeing with the snipes of the critics: It’s too long. Parts are w-a-a-a-y too talky. The scenes in Zion are kind of dopey. It doesn’t have the same shocking freshness of the original. However, absolutely none of that bothered me in the slightest. First, as I explained the other day, my baseline entertainment expectations are fairly manageable: I wanted Reloaded to amuse me, not tell me how to live my life. It lived up to the amusement level I require and then some.
Also, here’s the thing: Most of the (professional) critics who are slamming the film simply haven’t taken the red pill. Which is to say they’re experiencing Matrix Reloaded as just another flick rather than what it (also) is: A tour inside the Wachowski brothers’ fevered little heads. Experiencing the latter is most of the fun here — the idea that these two guys have built up a world that’s so complete that you could theoretically follow any part of it outside the context of the movie and have it keep on going.
One advantage I have over most of you is that I’ve seen the whole Animatrix DVD — the collection of animated shorts based on and in the Matrix universe — and a couple of elements in the movie are rather more deeply explored in those animated shorts. So when they pop up in the film, I knew that the rabbit hole on that particular thing went down even further. The video game Enter the Matrix likewise integrates with the current film (it features an hour of movie-quality cut scenes and effects) and fills out the character of Niobe, who is something of a side presence in the film. You won’t miss the context if you don’t have it; the film doesn’t force you to buy the Animatrix or Enter the Matrix to understand what’s going on. It’s just most film universes are as shallow as what’s on the screen; backstory is an acting trick, not a film production virtue. But it is a virtue here. Even if you’re not expecting the movie to change your life, it helps to make the experience more interesting.
I think a fair number of the professional critics who are banging on the film aren’t necessarily interested in the idea of the Matrix backstory the way someone who has watched The Matrix a number of times might be. Nothing wrong with that, of course — part of a working critic’s job is not to be a fan boy. But if you are a fan-boy, or just enjoyed the first film quite a bit, your tolerance for the film’s quirks and saggy spots, and your satisfaction level in a general sense, will both probably be higher.
I’ll be interested to see how it wears in the re-watching, since I’ll almost certainly be taking it in again (geek to the core, I went without Krissy last night, but that’s okay because she’s out with friends tonight while I’m at home. One secret to happy couples: They’re the ones who occasionally do stuff by themselves as well as the ones who do lots of stuff together). I expect I’ll continued to be amused.
One final comment: The one criticism complains that a couple of the fight scenes (particularly the “Burly Brawl” setpiece) look too computer animated. Given that these fight scenes take place inside the Matrix, I find this complaint interesting on several different levels.