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November 06, 2003

Thoughts on Matrix Revolutions

I saw Matrix Revolutions yesterday afternoon, and I was actually surprised at how much more I enjoyed it than I had expected to; thus are the advantages of coming in with reduced expectations. I understand that other people were upset that the tantalizing pseudo-philosophical nature of the first film wasn't carried on to the other two films, which are ultimately more action-oriented. But, to get all zen on your ass, this is what you get for focusing on what you want something to be as opposed to focusing on what something is. Reloaded and Revolutions are sci-fi action films, with a (very) light frosting of cyberpunk messiah gnosticism. Deal.

Interestingly, the most obvious indicator of the direction the second two movies were going in came from one of the Matrix spin-off bits: The Animatrix, which collected up nine anime shorts about, and set in, the Matrix universe. In fact, I suggest that if you really want to get a handle on Reloaded and Revolutions, rent or buy The Animatrix and sit through the shorts. In addition to providing offhand bits of information, it clues you in: What the Wachowskis really wanted to do was make a live action anime film.

And they did, particularly with Revolutions, which is everything anime is, from intense and graphically violent SF action to the incomprehensibly lame dialogue -- one dialogue scene between "The Kid" and Captain Mifune (yeah, guys, show your influences, there) could have been bodily ripped out of any of the wall o' anime I have here at home. I've always thought the lame anime dialogue was just a matter of something being lost in the translation from Japanese (either in the language or in the social construct that accompanies language), but who knows. The point is moot, anyway.

So, as anime, Revolutions is bang on. But of course most film critics, despite their gushing love for Spirited Away, and passing acquaintance of Akira, don't know from anime (I suspect Roger Ebert is an exception, as he is in many categories regarding film criticism). So I don't think they really get what they're looking at. Not that this is a complaint about the film critics, mind you -- if the Wachowskis did in fact pattern these two movies on an anime structure, then they did it running the risk that critics unfamiliar with the format wouldn't get it. I don't want to attempt to pass myself off as an anime expert -- really, on that path lies madness -- but thanks to my OPM gig I've seen enough of it to recognize what it is when I see it, and enjoy the better iterations of the genre, which Revolutions is.

(Aside: Most of the comparisons Revolutions has garnered have been to video games, mostly because film critic here are more familiar with video games than anime. I don't think the video game comparison is a good one personally, although I admit this opinion may be tainted by the fact that the "Enter the Matrix" video game sucks on multiple and repeating levels.)

Also, you have to hand it to the Wachowskis: If they had gone into Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow and said "Give us $300 million to make anime," they'd've been laughed out of the room. They pulled a fast one on the studios and got away clean and made a bundle of cash doing it.

So my recommendation to you: Go into Revolutions understanding you're watching anime. Do that, you'll have a grand time. Don't do that, and you take your chances.

Posted by john at November 6, 2003 01:07 PM

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