World Record:
This one sits more independently in the World of the Matrix than the other films. It could quite easily be placed here, between the second and third movies, or even before the second film, or even before the first. There is a certain amount of mystery about the circumstances at the beginning and at the end that allow that.

This is also my least favourite, but that’s largely due to visual style. I’m not sure I can explain why, just that I find the abstraction of reality in the artist’s style to be too distracting. It’s an interesting story, but it’s also a bit of a throwaway film as a restult of it’s parallel storyline to the rest of the franchise.

There is a segment that reflects’ Neo’s own waking sequence, thus it’s well situated after the first film. However, the three I chose before and immediately after the first film seemed perfect. It just seemed reasonable to put three shorts each to precede the feature-length films.

Beyond:

From my least-favourite to my most-favourite. Again, this story sits parallel to the main storyline, but it’s helpful to have seen The Matrix Reloaded for a couple of reasons. The first is the Oracle’s speech on how everything in the Matrix has a program to govern how it works. Also, sometimes those programs aren’t working properly and that leads to a glitch.

Since this is situated in Japan  I have set it to Japanese dialogue with English subtitles. Even the walking signal music has significance. Listen to the commentary sometime to learn about it.

In this entry, some neighbourhood kids find an old house where a glitch is causing problems like screwed up gravity and time-dilation. Because the End of the War is coming, in combination with Agent Smith’s screwing around in the second film, it makes sense to watch this film between the second and third.

Wow. This is the first time I’m watching this short with surround sound. It’s completely a new film. The weirdness surrounds you like it does the characters.

Rain falling from a clear sky. A broken lightbulb lighting up. The errors in the code manifest themselves as they would in a haunted house.

I can’t say why I like this one so much. Maybe it’s because it’s the childlike wonder at the ways the Matrix can be manipulated. That can probably go some way to explaining why they don’t ‘free’ a mind once it’s reached a certain age.

Matriculated:

The final short is again a very solemn story. Again, probably one of the low ones on my list of favourites, but fits better as well as any between the second and third films. By the end, there’s a possibility of peace to be found between the humans and the robots. And while this involves humans in the Real World, it also proves to be a story showing a different philosophy on dealing with the war. As a result, they act independent of Zion and thus would not have been called back to defend the city.

I forgot to switch it back to English, but didn’t realize that until the 5-minute mark. There is no dialogue through the first act of this film. Still, I choose to watch the rest in English since this is done in the same style as the artists’ original seris, Aeon Flux. Unfortunately, the audio and subtitle buttons are locked out of the DVD programming. I have to make the switch from the menu, then navigate back into the short. Given my experience with DVD programming, and knowing the variety of languages and commentary tracks to deal with, I can’t blame the programmers of this DVD.

Back to the film, the next part of the film enters a sureal world where they try to help the machine that they’ve captured to see the ‘folly’ of its ways. I’ve never been a fan of surreal art and environments, so this movie already has an uphill battle in connecting with me. The whole thing is meant to feel like a dream, but I’m still not entirely sure of the point. In these cases, I wonder if there even is one, or if the artist is just creating something that looks and feels weird.

The Matrix Revolutions:

One point unrelated to the movie itself that I want to make is how the advertising missed a brilliant opportunity. The monochromatic tone of the first film’s campaign was blue. The second’s campaign was green. The third’s was… green again. They should have made the monochromatic tone red. Following the victory of the machines in the second film, the third could focus on the red, death-like eyes of the machines. The connection between all three campaigns could come from the tones being blue, green and red; the three colours that are used in computer monitors.

Well, no crying over spilt milk. Let’s start the movie.

Starting with another overture with green code, we see the disoriented crew trying to find why Neo is stuck in a coma. Neo, although he isn’t physically ‘jacked in’, he appears to be. He appears in a ‘train station’ named Mobil Ave… somewhere Matrix-like, but not in the Matrix itself.

Morpheus and Trinity meet with the Oracle… who is now played by a new actress. Here change of appearance is attributed to her ‘choice’ to help Neo. Sort of a rogue program Witness Relocation Program. The unfortunate truth being that the original actress died during production. It’s nicely tied up in spite of that lose end.

Storming the Merovingian’s club starts with a scene that clearly is inteded to be an ‘upgrade’ on the landmark Lobby Scene from the first movie. Since both sices bend the rules of the Matrix, gravity has very little effect. It’s pretty sweet. In the club, it’s a bit of a glamorized version of the the club in the first movie… though a little too sex-slave to make a prude like myself comfortable.

Bane – infected with Smith’s consciousness – awakens. For some reason, someone is throwing crap at him from off screen. I’m not too sure what that’s about, but whatever.

Wow. When Smith takes over the Oracle’s powers, he lets out the creepiest laugh I’ve ever heard outside anime. It’s so upsetting it even creeps out the other Smiths.

Trinity and Neo take one of the ships to the Machine City. But before they leave, they have a problem with the power. Send the woman, and “I’ll be right back”. *sigh*

Neo gets his eyes burned out, and I have to admit that I found that unexpected. It became quite apparent that with that injury that he was not going to survive the movie. I remember that adding a new level of tragedy to how this film will end. One downside to the movie is that is uses the first half of the movie to set up the final battle. While most stories would have more character development to do, this film obviously doesn’t Instead, it fills it with foreboding and suspense. While “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was able to do this effectively, I think that’s one place where this film did not succeed.

Finally, the outer wall is breached, and the battle starts. The percussion of gunfire is constant, and over five or ten minutes becomes overwhelming. However, when looks like they’re starting to hold their own, a flood of sentinels fly in and make the attack much more one sided. The possibility that the humans might not win this war suddenly breaches our suspension of disbelief.

The crew gets back to Zion and fires the EMP, shorting out the first wave of sentinels. Precisely because things were looking so dark, you really feel the same relief once the first battle is over.

The story rejoins Neo and Trinity. Neo has reached that higher state of being that allows him to kick collective robot ass just by thinking it. However, they’re overwhelmed. Beautifully and tragically, Trinity is the first human in hundreds of years to see the Sun – the real Sun – just before she loses her life. The scene as she dies is sad.. but a little monologue-heavy… a little heavy
on rhetoric. Still, it’s a powerful scene.

Neo stands at the center of the Machine City. Some weird construct appears in order to discuss the Smith program that is growing beyond the control of the machines. Back in Zion, there’s a temporary end to the violence as Neo re-enters the Matrix.

Once again, Neo and Smith show down. The fight takes on a flying-over-the-city view like we’ve seen in many anime movies. It’s strange, then, that this scene reminds me of the finale of Dark City more than any other movie. I find it strange because that movie was made as one of the very last, special-effects laden films before Computer Graphics took over all such post production. This film, on the other hand, is the pinnacle of a decade of computer effects as the status quo in mainstream movies.

I’m still not entirely sure how Neo becoming a Smith at the end conquers him, but there you have it. The literal Christ metaphor is a bit of a slap in the face of obviousness. At some point I’m going to watch with the commentary track on and find that out. For now, this is the ending the Wachowski brothers had in mind.

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