I’ve enjoyed the series in spite of itself.
When it started, it had three things going for it: a general stylishness, some original fight choreography, and a novel world’s cosmology. The first two have since been bested, including films with Keanu.
We still have the cosmology, the world. That’s what you build your franchise on after all. As the machinery of commerce in worlds meets the urge of personal narrative, we’ve seen an explosion of such worlds. We now even recognise them as cinematic universes which compete for mindshare.
As a computer scientist with an interest in self-awareness and the pretence of intelligence, I always had problems with how this world actually works. The less you actually explain, the better off you are I think. When Nolan builds a one off universe for example, he gets the balance right. We don’t trip over the cosmological machinery. Same with religion: Virgin Birth? Resurrection? Angelic Intervention? Miracles? Massively easy to sell so long as you don’t try and complicate it too much.
So when I come to these Wachowski movies, I gloss over the details. The conception is palatable enough to allow for the action. Not this time. There is nothing new in the action sequences and its drama, but this time the cosmology captivated me.
The movie is in two parts. The first elaborates on the world. The second contains the action bits. It is the first part that I liked. The Matrix now has a dual identity where the world-within the world is made explicit to those in the synthetic world. Neo is ‘programmer’ or the world and all the prior movies as a game. Two quite novel new synthetic antagonists are introduced. I liked it all, and especially the crossover scene where Neo transitions from outside to inside the world in a Kung Fu set using dynamics inherited from yet another cosmological tradition.
So reader, when you come to this, revel a bit in the chances that Lana took. She fought her sibling, the studio, some of the original cast and apparently some fans to judge from the ratings and sales. But what she’s added is great, including all the pointed internal/external commentary about the nature of fantasy. It doesn’t matter that some of the insights are vacuous. What matters is the creation and maintenance of the introspective layers.
It is still pretty lowbrow stuff compared to what is out there in more serious films. Massively more intelligent than Marvel, less complicated than ‘the Table’, but leagues behind what Nolan does. And none of it can touch Tarkovsky.
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.