September 03, 2014
Loved the original Matrix and the Animatrix. Reloaded was good, but really hinged on resolving so much in Revolutions....which totally disappointed. For me, it's been easier to pretend there are no Matrix sequels than to deal with 'taking the good with the bad' in the sequels.
Watched this edit with my girlfriend, who had only ever seen the original. So she was a useful barometer to me of what worked. The intro was good and the Reloaded fight scenes are a crowd-pleaser still. Figuring out what was going on with Smith and what his role was amongst all these programs, old programs, rogue programs, viruses, etc....well, that was pretty confusing for GF, but I remember it not being super easy watching the originals either, so maybe that's not the fault of this edit.
A lot of the small removals in Reloaded were fine, and not missed. The integrations from the videogame are so seamless that GF couldn't guess which ones they were. I personally found the continual checking in with these various crewmembers on other ships to be needless distractions. The acting/dialogue was often kind of cheesy and while I appreciate the attempt to flesh out this world, better to trim the fat. OTOH, I missed Seraph's fights (how are you gonna have Colin Chou in but not fight?!) and a few more bits showing Smith's progression would've been helpful.
When you get into Revolutions is where the edits really make or break the cut. I always hated the whole sub-plot of Bane betraying Neo, and he is thankfully excised from the film cleanly and perfectly. Also, the ending of Reloaded wherein Neo starts to exhibit real-world superpowers is confusing and messy and never fully explained... this edit attempts to get rid of all that, though a bit imperfectly. We're still left with a suddenly-different-looking yellow energy flash machine colliding with the ship at the end, blinding Neo out of nowhere. GF was absolutely confused by this. We're also both watching the parallels of Niobe and crew fighting like hell to get into Zion while Neo and Trinity head into the heart of the Machine City with zero guns and somehow inexplicably make it past blasts, bombs, and missles. There's no real explanation in the edit. And Neo's suddenly blind in the end and we're like...."Okaaaay. I guess that's symbolic...or something?" It really has little impact or meaning here.
As far as the Oracle, the Architect, Agent Smith, and the Machine God.... well, there's a nightmare of dense ideas to sift through here, so I totally sympathize. Coming up with a cohesive, focused narrative must be murder. In Jerick's edit, it basically comes down to those who insist they have choice (Free Will) versus those who think there is a master plan, or fate (Determinism). It's an interesting conflict, and plenty on it's own to base the argument on. It's problematic though, because characters like Smith and Morpheus make comments or act in ways that seem to flip flop from what their core beliefs are. Morpheus believes in prophecy and fate, and Smith seems to believe in that as well (adhering to a master plan/program) but then they both act against those interests at times.
This edit cuts so much of Revolutions that it becomes hard to trace how characters know things and what their motivations for doing things are. For example, I totally missed what Locke's great plan was (a huge EMP blast?) or why it failed. Seems like the kind of thing that shouldn't play out off-screen and then just be summed up in a sentence. I also missed how Neo knew to go to the Machine City or what his motivation was. GF did catch both of these, though even though the 'vision' implication of Neo's was clear, she didn't get why the Machine God would need Neo. Neither of us understood the exact dynamic of Oracle/Architect, and how Smith knew to go after Oracle, or how he found her, or how he got so powerful. Then the ending itself leaving Trinity alive worked very well with all the cuts, but for us, retrieving Neo in that weird fade seemed to hint that maybe he hadn't died? It was an ambiguous ending. Cut to Zion rave, but still playing very ominous music at first. It wasn't clear that everyone was about to celebrate, it felt quite at-odds. Also, wouldn't they first be rebuilding and mourning all their dead? Wouldn't they be making a shrine to their savior or staying at his bedside? It just didn't work for us as a wrap-up.
Ok, so most of the main narrative issues aside, I think this does replace the original 2 films. If you're looking for that. Yes, there are parts that don't really work, but if you try to do them differently, it'll probably make some other narrative aspect worse. So I don't know that there's a way to get a whole lot better than this. OTOH, that kind of just convinces me that the sequels aren't for me. I have no problem stopping with just The Animatrix and pretending R & R don't exist. There are so many repetitive cheesy bits in Revolutions especially (everyone doing the hand 'come on' gesture, "You did it!"- "No, WE did it.", sunglasses off- now this fight is serious, "Arrrggh! Arrggh! Come on!", etc) that it just really highlights how rough the material was to work with, no matter the edit. Great effort by Jerick, but I just don't think you can make a worthy sequel out of the originals. This is an enjoyable watch if you keep your expectations low, though.