June 28, 2012
I don't hate the Matrix sequels, but I've always found them terribly disappointing as a follow-up to the brilliance that was the original film. They are full of great ideas that get in the way of one another, weak philosophical rambling, and action scenes that occur too often and go on for two long. Ultimately, they lack focus. What Dangermouse has done here is return that much-needed focus to the two films by hacking them to pieces, picking out the most essential chunks, and suturing these back together in a new way. What we get as a result is so much more satisfying, so much closer to what we expected from a sequel to The Matrix, that I don't even mind losing the long stretches of the original two films that disappointed me in the first place. For the first time ever watching any version of these movies, I didn't get bored once. Make no mistake, it all plays out very differently than it did in theaters, but I, for one, had zero problems with that. Even though I was a little annoyed by the frequency of the location markers at first (It's often clear by the skillful cutting where the next scene takes place), as the narrative became more confusing toward the end, when everyone has their own separate mission, I was thankful that they were there. I still think a few of them are unnecessary, but maybe that's just me. Also worth noting, this may be a ruthlessly shortened cut of the Matrix sequels, but Dangermouse has taken great care to preserve little character beats and jokes that, while not necessarily essential to the plot, ARE essential for making our heroes relatable. At the same time, he did cut out these same beats that do not feel genuine ("I had a dream, but now that dream is gone from me"). If you're not sure what I'm getting at, think about the way the characters were written in the two Star Wars trilogies. Which ones did you care about more?
And now for the constructive criticism...
While the first half of the film is edited wonderfully (the burly brawl especially was perfect), with the cuts feeling logical and everything flowing naturally from one scene to the next, the second half is a little too frenetic. Some of these scenes need time to breathe, or they ought to have been excised completely. I understand that many of these sequences are happening at the same time, and since it's the climax of the film the rhythm of the cutting should be fast, but if we are given a new location marker, we need to spend more than a few seconds there to digest what's happening before moving on to the next one. Even a couple of inessential lines of dialogue would be enough sometimes to ease the whiplash. As a rule, I think the sound edits could be hidden better; there aren't many horrible cuts, but they are frequently noticeable, even outside of the obvious music changes. Overlapping a bit of sound between scenes with drastically different aural compositions would help immensely. Also, even though I like what you did with the overlay of Neo's voice when he tells the architect about Smith quite a bit, his voice is so much louder than the rest of the dialogue in the movie that it's rather distracting when it happens. And lastly, the ending is very abrupt. I'm completely okay with the change, but I think it could have played out better. We need a little more catharsis for Zion, and the rhythm of the last shots of Trinity and Neo are pretty awkward. Everything else I can forgive as a result of drastic cutting.
There were a lot of other specific things about this edit that I love and a couple of niggles that I didn't mention because other reviewers here have covered them already. So if you're still on the fence about watching this, read those too. As for me, I heartily recommend Matrix 2.0.