Francis Hwang on Thu, 17 Apr 2003 12:17:45 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> the matrix returns

It would be best not to look deeply under the hood, ideologically
speaking, and simply enjoy The Matrix films for what they are: Mildly
entertaining catalogues of CGI innovation. (Or at least that much can be
said for the first one; we'll see how well the 2nd & 3rd do.)  Certainly,
if you're teaching an Intro to Philosophy course you'd do well to draw The
Matrix into your class discussion -- above all, keep your students'
attention -- but does the film truly reward such analysis?

I'm reminded of all the time I spent, years ago, discussing comic books
both face-to-face and online. If you started railing against the
sophomoric quality of the medium, inevitably you'd run into somebody who'd
insist that these works were Myth in the Joseph Campbell sense.  "Look,
this storyline here where Wolverine leaves the mansion to go hunt down
Sabretooth and try to kill him? Totally the Hero's Journey."  Sure, in the
sense that all stories are like all other stories -- things happen, and
then they stop happening. But what's the point of that? Aren't stories
supposed to be good?

Personally I found The Matrix cold and smug, lacking the wonder of the
Star Wars original trilogy or the bravery of Peter Jackson's Lord of The
Rings films. Not that any of those films are actually capital-G Good
films, but at least they illustrate their simple themes with enough human
resonance to make them of use as blunt, allegorical tools.  And what
exactly are we supposed to learn from The Matrix, anyhow? That when you're
enslaved and brainwashed your best bet is to wait for some messiah to free
you? That if we're not careful with our technology it might turn us into
human batteries?

And what about that central conceit, of living in a mediated reality?  It
has potential, but is wasted in the blunt, cynical hands of the
Wachowskis. As its explored in the film, it reminds me of heading down to
the riverbanks with my high-school friends and getting really high and
saying shit like "What if this universe was, like, just one molecule in a
blade of grass? Duuuuuuude."

But hey, that scene where the helicopter hits the skyscraper was pretty
fucking sweet.


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