Yesterday N.Y. Post critic Kyle Smith noted the 15-year anniversary of Andy and Larry Wachowski‘s The Matrix, which opened theatrically on 3.31.99. I remember paying to see it at the old multiplex at the Beverly Connection, on the southeast corner of La Cienega and Beverly Boulevard. I remember floating out of the theatre and listening to the chatter as the crowd trudged down the stairway exit. A visionary knockout. The first grade-A cyber adventure. Bullet time, baby! Obviously a hit.
For the next four years I was convinced that the press-shy Wachowskis, who’d also directed the brilliant and hot-lesbo-sexy Bound, were pointing the way into 21st Century cinema and that everything they would henceforth create would dazzle as much as The Matrix, if not more so.
And then The Matrix Reloaded came out a little more than four years later (5.15.03) and the millions who’d flipped over The Matrix were standing around with dazed expressions going “wait…what? ” And then The Matrix Revolutions opened on 11.5.03 and that was it…dead, finished, imploded. Larry and Andy who?
“We’re approaching the four-year anniversary of the final collapse of the Matrix theology that came with the release of The Matrix Revolutions, ” I wrote on 8.27.07. “Too bad it’s not the fifth anniversary or I could tap out a stock-taking piece. It was a pretty amazing meltdown; hard to believe it all happened the way it did.
“Are the second and third Matrix films still the most despised and discredited franchise films ever made? Is there anyone in the world except for the 300 or 400 remaining Wachowski geeks out there who’s even watched Matrix Reloaded or Matrix Revolutions on DVD over the past three or four years?
“I wrote a piece called “Neo Schmeo” that summed it all up back in October 2003:
“I never would have guessed after getting my first look at The Matrix — a movie that freed my heart and made me levitate — that the sequels-to-come would turn out as badly as they have.
“Now the word is spreading like a huge fart and it’s all over but the revenues. This franchise went spiritually belly-up after the release of The Matrix Reloaded last summer, and now here’s The Matrix Revolutions to drive the final stake in and kill it for good. The legend, the faith, the magic…dead.
“You may be able to figure out most of what’s going on in Revolutions…or not. Point is, if your experience is anything like mine you’re going to stop caring anyway because you’re going to find yourself realizing with a jolt you’re totally done with looking at Carrie Ann Moss and fat Larry Fishburne doing that deadpan superhero thing in those shades and leather outfits.
“It hit me around 25 minutes in. I said to myself, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to watch this shit any more…ever.” I see the Matrix Reloaded DVD on the shelves at my local DVD store and a thought never even occurs to me about renting it. I don’t want to look at a scene, a snippet…nothing.
“I could go on for six or seven paragraphs trying to pick through what made sense to me and what I’m still trying to figure out, but why should I write anything in this column that will pay even an oblique tribute to something I believe everyone should wash their hands of?
“I saw Keanu Reeves in Nancy Meyers‘ Something’s Gotta Give last night (i.e., Monday) and I was so grateful he wasn’t wearing his leather Neo outfit I almost teared up. He looked so normal and natural and regular guy-ish. Considering the metaphorical implications made me feel light in the head.
“It doesn’t matter what Revolutions makes. Either it gets people where they live (like The Matrix did) or it doesn’t. Millions are going to go this weekend and what of it? Ticket sales don’t mean anything. Not with big-studio tentpolers.
“The Matrix Revolutions is like a bowl of narrative spaghetti, meant to be savored (I presume) for being a wonderful tangle that geek boys can dive into and try to put together in some fashion. But there is no one strand that leads to any kind of thematic core or foundation that seems to support the whole thing. The story hasn’t been told — it’s been heaped upon us like some kind of bizarre attack of live pasta and CGI squid.
“The big attack sequence on Zion is too overwhelming to make much of an impact. Too many millions of sentinels, no way of keeping score, and I don’t want or need this in my life.
“”I know this: When inquiring minds feel they need to compare notes in order to get their heads straight about what may or may not have happened story-wise, which I was doing with friends in front of the Fox Village last Thursday night and then on the phone and internet after that, the movie hasn’t done its job.. Journo after journo raised their eyebrows and gave me that ‘look’ after the all-media screening.
“One guy said, ‘Oh, well…!’ Another said, ‘I hated it!’ Another said, ‘Who was that big Wizard of Oz guy with the big deep voice at the end? Where was he during the last two installments…?’
“The single best bit in the whole thing is when Neo tries running on foot out of the train station, and finds himself right back where he started a second later.
“The second best scenes in the film both belong to Hugo Weaving. His scene with the Oracle, and his scene at the end when he talks about the meaninglessness of it all, blah, blah. That was great.
“They should have left it alone with the original The Matrix, and been proud of that triumph, and gone on to something new and fresh. But no — Joel and the boys and Keanu Reeves wanted to make all that money. And money’s all they’re going to get.”