The Matrix, Revision

Why do so many movies feel like rough drafts?

Anyone who has taken a creative writing class knows that you can't pass off a mediocre piece of writing even in a room full of amateurs. We nit-pick the hell out of literature. Why is our bar so low for movies?

Here are some questions the writers of the Matrix would have heard if they had taken a class on creative writing at their local city college:

  • This protagonist, Neo, who is he, really? Why is he special enough to be "The One"? We don't see that he possesses any special personality traits whatsoever. He's not even very smart.
  • IN FACT, the damn little kids who hang out in the Oracle's living room are way more awesome than Neo is. Why aren't any one of them "the one"? HuH?
  • This so-called "love" between Trinity and Neo: Where does this come from? They hardly have one conversation at all. Throughout the movie, they act like cold fishes around each other. Then all of a sudden, she loves him with such passion to rise him from the dead.
  • Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty of this "Matrix" premise. It's a really intriguing set-up. Terminator-esque rise of the machines. Man vs robot war. The robots must be solar-powered or something because the humans "scorch the skies" as a tactic to defeat them. What kind of plan is that? So, the skies are blackened. How do humans grow food?
  • [This could lead to a million other trivial-but-important-to-consider questions like: What fuel does Morpheus's ship run on? And what about the crew? How does the crew look so healthy if they just eat gruel?]
  • But all that is just the beginning. Let's look closely at this Matrix premise: Neo "wakes up." He's in his embryo-like pod, and there are hoses going in and out of his body.
    He has been there, presumably, since he was a zygote. Morpheus brings him into the real world and says tells him "Your muscles are atrophied. You've never used them." SO, what's up with the sweet muscle tone, then? Furthermore, why would Neo be bald? Wouldn't he be all hairy? More importantly, he wouldn't even have developed muscles at all. He bones and organs would be completely non-functioning.
  • More important than even that, though: Why would Real-Life Neo necessarily bear any resemblance to Matrix Neo? Matrix Neo is just a mental construct, so it would make sense that Matrix Neo would look like Keanu. But Real-Life Neo would probably look more like Gollum.
  • Jeez, you barely subject this movie to even the slightest scrutiny and it quickly crumbles like a gingerbread house. But I have hardly begun.
  • Let's talk about these Agents. So they are three software programs written by the Matrix, right? Their purpose is to wipe out the Hackers. To talk nerdy for a minute, they are the "meta-police" of the Matrix. So, question: Why would there be any limits to their power at all? Couldn't the Matrix make them as powerful as need be? For example, why handguns, and not some more powerful weapon? Why are there only three of them to begin with? Why not hundreds?
  • Speaking of the Agents, why is their aim so imprecise? They can't shoot straight at all. You would think they would have surgically-precise machine-like-aim. But no! They fire all over the place, missing even the easiest targets.
  • But it's a movie, you say; we can over look a few creative liberties if they are small enough. Okay, then, let's look into some of the more glaring inconsistencies:
  • Remember the subway fight scene? At one point, the agent has Neo against the wall and he's super-punching Neo's chest. Back in real world, Neo is dying. Why didn't the agent continue to pummel Neo right then? He could have killed him if he had.
  • Okay, now remember how the fight ends? The agent gets hit by the subway (which presumably kills him.) Then the subway comes to a stop, the doors open, and to Neo's surprise, the agent walks out of the subway, revived and fresh as a daisy (but not quick enough, apparently, to fire his gun. Lame.) There were other people on that subway. Why didn't all three agents come out?
  • I could go on and on about the Agents. In general, it annoys me when you make any character(s) too powerful. As a writer, you have to make up for the character's lack of weaknesses by getting slop-sloppy with the details. (Details like the aforementioned: 1. Bad aim 2. Failure to kill the enemy when really have the chance 3. Failure to make full use of powers). Furthermore, not only are these characters too strong, but their powers are not clearly delineated (What really are their strengths and weaknesses?) This makes the writing even more sloppy.
  • Let's stop picking on the Agents for a minute and talk about this idea of "hacking into the Matrix." What exactly is the goal of this anyway? Most likely, the goal is to destroy the machines, right? And win the damn war? So, why are they beating around the bush? The easiest way to win the war would be to destroy the machines' source of power: The human "batteries." This wouldn't be hard to accomplish. Remember that white "Loading Program" between reality and the Matrix with all the gun racks? Presumably any type of object can be acquired here and brought into the Matrix with you. Why not generate a few thousand atom bombs? Bring those into the Matrix on a suicide mission to destroy the Matrix. It would take a few minutes, and the war would be won. (Of course, meanwhile, back on earth, you'd still have to live on a desert planet with black skies...But no one is talking about that)
  • Oh, one more thing: Remember how Cypher made the deal with the Agents about getting plugged back into the Matrix?
    Back on earth, who plugged in Cypher so he could have that secret meeting? A person can't plug in himself. So, somebody must have connected him. And watched what he was up to.

I could go on and on all day about this movie, but those are some of the most really annoying things about it.

To conclude, I just want to reiterate: Why is the bar so low for movies? Especially sci-fi movies. Screenwriters insult our intelligence so hard. Every time I'm at one of these movies I feel like I'm being made fun of. They show you a little flash and dash. Bang, boom! Your head spins around, and you go all stupid and mushy. Screenplays are written in one afternoon by a committee, and nobody proofreads them. We, as viewers, need to become more critical and discerning. Eventually maybe Hollywood will treat us like grownups. But probably not.

2 comments:

Losing M. Mind said...

Even though the Matrix was an enjoyable movie (only the 1st time), your analysis seems correct, there were things about the story that were a little as you said. But the thing most lacking in the Matrix it seems like was character developement, actors that could act in such a way that the story was compelling. I kind of enjoyed the "in the Matrix" scenes and the idea of the agents, but what I found annoying was a character like Neo (played by Keanu flatly) did at the end become all superhuman. It seems like good movies are the exception not the rule. And usually good movies, the Godfather movies, Terminator 1&2, Brazil, Wrath of Khan, the Bourne Trilogy, Lost (as far as television), the director or director(s) is/are somewhat of an upstart and usually have to go through hell with the executives who are afraid of doing something different, original, or creative. And then 90% (probably way more then 90%) are flat, boring, formulaic crap meant to bring in a regular profit. The executives (cowards) would feel safer if everything was that way, which is why they need to invent a pill so that makes us feel a dull, emotionless state. (wait, antidepressents)

It seems that way in most things, science, art, spirituality, politiics. The great majority is not very interesting. Then some genius comes along, but I'm kind of thinking that genius is less an innate quality, but that person is deeply infatuated with satisfying their own curiosity and pleasing themselves.

i.e. Coppola and the Godfather movies. He had cooking scenes where his favorite Italian recipes were being described, and enjoy making sure every detail of the movie was interesting. The executives almost fired Coppola because they said he was "ruining the film". They wanted cheesy kitsche for music. Coppola brought in the eccentric, Italian composer Nino Rota to collaborate with him on the gorgeous score.

UltriconConvoy said...

Totally. I love that you mentioned those awesome movies. Except I need to check out Brazil and Khan. I will add those to my list.

I didn't know that about Coppola, but it's interesting that you describe how the "executives" always manage to put the lid on anything really creative.

Like, as an artist you don't have the space to just create; you have to run every idea through a committee first. And that's probably what flattens out most good ideas. Perhaps that's what happened to the Matrix.

My roommate and I were watching The History of Video Games on Google videos today, and the part with Miyamoto always makes me smile inside. (My full blog about Miyamoto available here: myspace.com/theultimateeverything)
But the real magic of those early video games like Mario and Zelda was only possible because the creator got the space to really create without having to explain it to some board members every step along the way.

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