June 28, 2012
View all my reviews (1)
Battle for Zion is a really interesting effort to combine the two Matrix sequel films in a new context, and I felt that some decisions were strokes of genius while others exposed that the two original stories actually had more plot than I realized, making them diverge more (and combine less effectively) as this edit progressed.
SPOILERS FOR THIS EDIT FOLLOW.
First, I should say that I’m relatively new to Fanedit and this is the first Matrix edit I’ve seen (and that means that I don’t know whether or not any editing decisions here have been made in others), but the concept of making a totally new film out of the guts of the two existing sequels really fascinated me, and the way Dangermouse pulled it off led to some really brilliant CHANGES to the story, entirely repurposing some scenes for use in a new way. Some scenes were used like that to create “shortcuts” that helped excise subplots, and these were the parts I enjoyed the most, for their ingenuity.
One of these is the decision to make the encounter with the Architect into a significant end goal. There’s no need to visit the elaborate machine mainframe environment, because we can visit the Architect at that point instead and it serves the same purpose! And the removal of the Trinity-death subplot means that Neo’s motivations change significantly, because his recurring visions of HIS OWN death from the end of Revolutions (in place of the visions of Trinity’s death) give him a totally different kind of internal conflict. When he says he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do and is reluctant to open up to Trinity, it’s for different reasons – he knows he’s going to die if he chooses to face Smith. In his discussion with the Architect, he finds the courage to open the door anyway, returning from there to face Smith in the matrix, even though he already knows the end result – he’s doing it because he wants to make a choice. I’d say “choice” is what this edit really boils down to and emphasizes far more than the original films, and it’s where this really shines – the Architect makes it clear that the problem is human choice – it’s something that the machines can’t wrap their brains around. So, it works extremely well when immediately after this discussion Neo returns to face Smith, because after being beaten he continues to struggle and attempt to fight, and when Smith asks him why, Neo says it’s because he chooses to. This is all thematically rock solid, and I really applaud Dangermouse for this combined sequence. There are a number of great things like this that refocus the story on something new, and give the remaining action sequences more meaning. I also really liked that the real-world-Smith character was entirely removed – a fantastic idea.
However, there are parts that I think don’t work very well at all. I can’t really nitpick about some of the hard cuts that come late in the story because they simply have to be there – the stories of the two films have diverged so much by that point that putting them together is going to mean an awful lot of jumping around. Too much, really. At the end, there are like 6 different locations with simultaneous events – so many that Dangermouse has to have a constant “location” identifier text message appear at the start of each scene, telling us where we are now and what certain groups of characters are doing, and how long it is until a certain event will occur that was mentioned earlier. If I look at this edit alone and try to forget the original films, that process just doesn’t work well; if there needs to be a message to tell us what characters are doing in each scene, the movie itself isn’t doing a good enough job at communication. Without those messages I would have been utterly lost, which makes me think there must have been a way to streamline things a bit more. There are just way too many characters at the end, characters from both films. Perhaps somehow removing some of these characters entirely would have helped, or making it so some things happen in sequence instead of simultaneously. Other reviews here are saying a solution might be to cut LESS – but since the story this edit is telling is basically something new, I might even cut MORE – whatever it takes to focus in even tighter on the characters and storylines that really matter here, if just so we don’t need that text. Some of the subplots that were kept in really only seemed to be there to show how a character got from one place to another. I’m not sure how an issue like that could be resolved with the available footage, but there it is.
Another issue I had was the ending, which, for me, hurt the edit – it felt blatant and out-of-place. I don’t know how it could have been done better, given that both Neo and Trinity survived – but perhaps leaving things a bit more ambiguous could have helped. If not, I like tylerdurden’s idea of maybe just using the entire rave sequence as the ending so it’d feel a bit more substantial – but I still respect and appreciate the decision that was made.
Conclusion: I have to say, I definitely couldn’t just show someone this edit and call it a standalone sequel to The Matrix, because while it does conclude that story within a single movie, everything just gets so fractured and dizzying that the plot progression has to pretty much be held together by text notifications as it moves along.
However, as an exercise in editing, The Matrix 2.0: Battle for Zion is a great success. I will recommend this edit specifically to those who are already very familiar with Reloaded and Revolutions, because once you see how everything has been repurposed and reorganized, you will really appreciate exactly what Dangermouse has done to establish totally different motivations and arcs for characters. It’s evident that this was really a tough thing to do and it’s a lot of fun to see the results.