I really enjoyed the narrative choices that were made in this fanedit. Several of little things that bothered me in the original films were cut like the Kid and Link's wife. Like others have stated, the location markers are a little distracting but I can understand why they were used especially during the second act climax as Neo enters the source and the Hammer is preparing to return to Zion.
There were a few audio jumps that I noticed while wearing headphone and the visual editing is slightly 'choppy' in spots, as another reviewer mentioned. However, the run-time for this fanedit is in what I like to call the sweet spot, between 90-120 minutes, and like I stated earlier the narrative is unique and refreshing. I particularity like the new ending.
Overall, I really enjoyed this take on the Matrix sequels and think that the editor did a fantastic job.
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.
Do you recommend this edit?
Thank you plurmonger.
Oh, if I could have gone and filmed some pick-up shots....! The second half IS a bit too choppy, but there's just no footage to work from. :-(
I think one day I might revisit this in HD, and I'll definitely consider if any scenes can be excised or perhaps strung together to make them longer and easier to follow.
And yes I did struggle with the audio - it was a bastard to get ok, never mind good. And, yes, I think I overdid it with Neo's voice - although on some systems it sounds perfect, others way too loud.
Thanks for the constructive criticism. Appreciate it.
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.