Three Shades of Reality

January 15, 2008 at 11:59 pm (Movies)

If movies were LPs and I were a DJ…

The Matrix

This is a wildly successful science fiction movie giving the acting career of Keanu Reeves some respect. You’ve heard of it.

I hate this movie, and not because it swipes characters, settings, and dialogues from Morrison’s Invisibles and plenty more, or that it superficially philosophizes on postmodern conflicts which have already been resolved by postmodernists and makes those freshmen coffee drinkers smug in their assurance about the plasticity of reality, but because it ends all wrong: it isn’t my version of the Matrix, it’s just a contrived reality thrust onto a dormant audience.

It takes the Descartesian idea of reality as perception, and applies it. Everything you perceive is a computer program. It isn’t real, it’s just a collection of stimuli, Morpheus tells Neo, just a parade of sensation. And, just like that, Neo starts experiencing reality as it really is. He’s divested from the program, and wakes up in a place where space is cramped, food has no flavor, and one must constantly be constantly on the run. (Why must the real always be a hangover in fantasy?)

Now, that sounds all well and good, but then it veers off. Hard. The Wachowski Bros wanted the movie to come to a definite statement on belief or something, and had Neo become a religious analogue, and try to reconcile life as a complex computer program by forcing the entire community really experiencing life to battle robots until Neo dies so the rest can live. But even then reality is further shown as a ceremonious march by having the Architect inform Neo that his status as “the one” isn’t that special. Except for “the one” we see, because the Wachowski Bros picked the right cycle to film. Its problem isn’t necessarily that it comes to the wrong ending, but that it sacrifices its intensity, its fluidity by veering into a brush of verbiage instead of telling the same ending with a similar stylistic device.

The other problem is, the ending doesn’t make any fucking sense.

How awesome would the movie had been if, instead of sacrificing himself to the robot minions as a truce, Neo wakes up again, surrounded by people telling him everything in which he used to believe is a lie, that the conflict between robots was just another computer program? That there’s an even greater menace lurking the corners of perception besides a swarm of self subsiding robots? I would buy that, especially if it completely fleshed out the second degree of reality which Neo and Morpheus experience as they did, murky thematic execution and all, to further impress the reality of the second world. Wouldn’t that have been just peachy keen?

Note: I found an unexplored vista and put on my galoshes (I edited and expanded this entry on Monday, Jan 21, 2008)

And, what’s more, that would shift the onus of belief, the burden of believing a reality (and when a group of people- churches, governments, even artists force their beliefs on how reality works onto you, believing that reality is a burden) from the author to the audience. Instead of trying to explain religion’s ability to make people believe in reality by having Neo die for our sins, I mean, die for peace in the world while living up to prophecy but with only one witness to testify, the audience questions how important what they saw was. Literally, the films with which they whiled away five hours become another contrived reality, instead of requiring contrived postmodern posturing to reach the same conclusions.

Did all those scenes that I just watched actually happen?

Of course they did, you sat in the theater watching them, your brain enjoying the same stimuli as if the last revelation that even the dystopia was unreality. What a silly question. And it could have been a legitimate piece of postmodern cinema, completely dismembering itself in its finale, forcing a denouement onto its audience. They can judge how real, thruthful, and astounding what they just saw was.

How beautiful that could have been.

And even if no one liked the third movie, no one really liked the second one, anyway, right? It’s a win-win situation!

(I feel somewhat obliged to call attention to my own contrived postmodern posturing right here, forcing an invented movie and criticizing it. This third movie is certainly more real, more truthful to me(how those words converge and diverge! I could write a post on it, but I think I already did), and I wish to impress another computer program on a bunch of incubating humans asleep enjoying stimuli. The directors suffer a similar problem of wanting to explain things too much, to make their point redundantly boringly explicit to the point of boredom and redundancy, and I must make their same mistake here. I don’t know why.)

But the Wacowski Bros don’t actually understand the dilemma of the brain in a jar. If only they did…



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