The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Dismantling The Matrix

Posted by BigWords on August 3, 2009

I was going to post this in the AW thread on how The Matrix has – or hasn’t – had any influence on writing that I’ve done, but it got rather unwieldy as my ideas on the subject expanded. There is a lot of material already out there about the hidden meanings, ties to myth and literature, clever visual references and how the films are so important, but I’m going to look at the first film from a purely storytelling point of view, ignoring the sequels for the moment.

Before I start, there is a short story which I need to bring to your attention. The City Of The Living Dead by Laurence Manning and Fletcher Pratt is basically the beginnings (or rather the fall) of a society in which the future proposed in The Matrix could come to be. I would also suggest you read Grant Morrison’s Invisibles comic from Vertigo, as there are a number of similarities which might be unintentional. Because, as we know, the Wachowski’s would never plagiarize a comic… Of course they wouldn’t…

But still, the similarities are explored in the Recycling Bin, Kyle’s review in Mutant Reviewers, while Metafilter points to the Ghost In The Shell comparisons. Even Wikipedia has gotten in on the game…

The One

Having the main character of a story fulfill a prophecy annoys me no end. I can accept the existence and use of prophecies in the Blade films, because those have vampires. Vampires who live underground, eat rats, play with their own shit and masturbate compulsively… Just look at the fat archivist vampire and try to convince me that they are well-balanced and sane individuals. No, they’re completely batshit. They would love the idea of prophecies.

The Matrix, however, is set in a world where logic and rules (to a certain extent) should preclude the notion of such backwards thinking. And yeah, I’m including every other story that relies on prophecies in my little rant as well. Real prophecies, such as the Mayan prediction for the end of the world and Nostradamus’ witterings are not to be taken seriously by educated individuals, so why do people insist on writing prophecies into fiction as if they will come true. It’s a worn-out trope that needs to be laid to rest.

Cypher

How did Cypher manage to get in touch with the Agents without raising the suspicions of anyone else in the crew? We saw how they reacted when they caught sight of Morpheus, so the idea of them sitting down with a human for dinner and a chat seems very out of character. They should be shooting first and asking questions later. That isn’t the only problem with the character non-arc we are presented with, as we never truly see any way in which he can possibly be re-assimilated into the Matrix.

It all build up to make the character look incredibly stupid, and lessens the threat of the Agents. If they were willing to chat over lunch with Cypher, then why don’t they give Neo an opportunity to defend his choices, mulling things over with a few shots of Scotch…

The Real World Sucks

So… Let me know if this is wrong, but… The characters living in the matrix are pretty much living in 1999, where they have access to all the amenities and entertainments they could desire, but they choose to give all of this up to live in a shithole, dystopian hell. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and is the ultimate plothole from which the film never escapes. There’s not enough money in the VR world to make me give up pizza and beer for life on a hovercraft which is falling apart at the seams.

It’s dumb. Everything about the film is similarly thoughtless as well, but that really wasn’t the point of The Matrix. It was all about the visuals… Sadly

If you want to know more, then The Matrix 101 is a good place to start, or see where the film fails in continuity at Movie Mistakes. There Is No Spoon gets a bit heavy, and Metaphilm tries to read things into the visuals and text that may not even be present. Hey, guys… It’s just a film.

Get. A. Life.

I really liked the pretty pictures the first time I saw it, but it was a shame they couldn’t come up with an original take on the concept.

Back To The Point

The first thing that occurs to me, as I attempt to figure out what, if anything, has filtered through to my writing, is that the end product has never appealed to me in the way that Ghost In The Shell or Neuromancer has. GiTS was a revelation when I saw the first film, and by the time the animated series was released on DVD I was a full convert to the activities of Section 9. They are more ‘real’ than the cardboard cut-out characters from The Matrix.

I also realised how dumb codenames sounded when spoken aloud in place of actual names. It’s something that fits in a comic-book, but to hear ‘Cypher’, ‘Mouse’ and ‘Trinity’ bandied about as if they are serious… No. The real names should be used whenever possible, with the only exceptions being when individuals outside of the clique or society may discern the real identities of the members, jeopardising their plans. I grew slightly annoyed at the X-Men films, when the codenames were used in private.

The most important lesson The Matrix should give to writers is the danger of anticipating the technological awareness of the public. It’s so simplified as to be closer to a Saturday morning cartoon than a philosophical examination of reality, and really needed a smart co-writer to prod the script into shape every time it slacked off. Using technical terms when featuring characters involved in cracking code shouldn’t be shied away from, and anyone who can’t keep up should look for dumber entertainment…

…Such as The Matrix.

Watch it for the visuals, but don’t pay too much attention to the story.

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