Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Matrix: 12 Years On

My flatmate recently unearthed his copy of The Animatrix and we watched the first short film on there, "Final Flight of the Osiris". I had seen it before back when it came out, when The Matrix was still sort of a current phenomenon, and I can't really remember what I thought of it then. This time, I found myself led to re-think The Matrix quite a bit. Let me explain...

"Final Flight..." begins with the heroine and hero in a training program of some kind, engaged in a typically acrobatic no-contact sword fight. Blindfolded. Every now and then one of them cuts a piece of clothing off the other, until they are fighting in their underwear. Each sneaks a mischievous glance from under the blindfold. They end up having a kiss and cuddle, but are rudely awakened by the ship's red alert sound. Back to the real world. Aw shucks! But, like the true nerd that I am, it occurred to me to wonder why they were bothering to practice their sword-fighting skills when those skills had been programmed in like cheats in a computer game. Surely their sword-fighting skills are already masterly whenever they're in the matrix (or training programs). Well, well, well. Could it be that this is not a training exercise, but how they choose to spend their leisure time? In fact, given the way things seemed to be heading before they had to go back to the real world, the sword-fighting ballet begins to look like some weird, complex mating ritual. I suppose these dystopian freedom fighters have to find some way to occupy themselves when they're not battling machines, but blindfolded semi-naked sword fighting? Maybe they've been cooped up in the Osiris a bit too long...

Which got me thinking about the original The Matrix. Maybe the whole lot of them were going a little bit peculiar after all those years searching for the one. They all seemed to have developed egos only just able to fit inside the matrix. All those long coats and sunglasses and PVC. And the cool one-liners! After being liberated from the fake cyber-world of the matrix they all started talking like they're in a Hollywood action film. How's that for irony? Actually, I should have said a nineties Hollywood action film. There's a hell of a lot of bad writing in films now of course, but it seems to me that nowadays both good and bad writing strive to be realistic. Like it might be something someone might actually say. One-liners don't cut it these days. If a sparring partner in a martial arts club said "Come on, stop trying to hit me and hit me!" I would laugh out loud. When a character in a modern film says that kind of thing... well, it's cool, but I can't quite take it seriously.

Don't get me wrong, I love The Matrix. I love the premise, I love the film itself and I love the kung fu (especially the kung fu). I just don't think the years have been very kind to it, and I can't shake the feeling that we never really knew those badass bullet-time cyber-warriors like we thought we did...
Image by James Brown.

1 comment:

  1. ill agree on the one liners thing, however "Boards dont hit back" works in its context and if i was sparring with you, you were losing and i said "Be water, my friend" youd probably laugh in my face BUT if Bruce Lee said it i dont think it would be as silly sounding. I think one liners can cut it but you cant just think up any old witty sounding thing and throw it into any old situation. i do agree that the characters in the film seemed abit touched in the head, probly as u say from floating around alone in the Nebuchadnezzar looking for Theodore Logan so he could save the world from robots... and allthough perhaps the years havent been kind to the film there will allways be a special place in my heart for the matrix because it really seemed to me that it brought the light stepping, unrealistic brick punching old skool kung Fu movies to the masses, subsequently everyone wants bullet time, pully ropes and costumed superheroes (sorta thing)