The Matrix: Re-Rebooted

OR: The Matrix: Have You Tried Turning It Off And Turning It Back On Again?

Frood destroys your favourite film. Check the page marked Recurrent Phenomena for the rules/an explanation (sort of).

The year is 1999, the pinnacle of human society, with MyFace, Twatter, Big Brother and Michael Bay’s Transformers series yet to happen. Night-time and the rain and the shadows give the surroundings a carefully calculated noir feel. A young woman in a skintight vinyl catsuit is running for her life.

Hey baby, how do you get into that outfit? You can start by buying me a drink.

She’s a fiery redhead with a shapely posterior and a Glock. But her real weapon is a snarky mouth poised to destroy the ego of any male foolish enough to try stealing a kiss. That and a roundhouse kick that Chuck Norris would be proud of. Emma Stone’s Trinity is a geeky fanboy’s wet dream (even if she is only feigning interest in your online Starcraft campaign).

Chuck Norris isn’t in this film.

On the other side of town, a geeky fanboy is idly picturing a sardonic, foxy girlfriend type with whom he could share his Starcraft stories. He’s early 20s and single, which explains why he spends whole nights at a time on the internet, ‘researching’ conspiracy theories, chat rooms and hardcore pornography. But Jonah Hill‘s Neo is no ordinary 20-something with a wit quick enough to disguise dyspeptic hate bubbles as ‘quips’. He’s also an anagram of ‘one’, as in the One.

Right now all he knows is that in 1999 computers lack the processing power, and the internet the bandwidth, to give him filth in the quantities he desires. But it’s not all bad news as he’s found an internet friend; a hacker who wants to hook up in a shit nightclub and explain how there’s this enormous global conspiracy.

In 1999 the full horrifying extent of internet predators is unknown, so Neo agrees to meet him.

Do you believe in love at first sight? From the pitiful way in which he reflexively agrees with everything Trinity says, one can surmise that Neo does. Who knew girls could do computers? Especially quirky, mean ones who get all your pop culture references?

Way Trinity tells it, there’s a gnarly dude name of Morpheus who has all the answers. But before Neo can meet him, he’s kidnapped by a narc-looking government suit and two extras.

Agent Smith’s (William H Macy) had a bad day, bad year; hell – a bad decade. His department is under-resourced and overworked. He disagrees with the way management demands he do his job – all this bullying and violence isn’t him. He hates the city, the pollution, but most of all he hates the smell. His wife doesn’t respect him, barely talks to him and he’s certain that she’s having an affair with her dentist. Maybe he’s paranoid but there’s something in the way she says she’s “going to get a good drilling” that sets his teeth on edge. Besides, who visits the dentist every week?

Maybe it’s the polyester suit, air of unspoken sadness and hang-dog expression. Or the sense that all of life’s unfairness has been targeted at this one man. Maybe it’s because Neo is a callow youth with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the latest indie bands and feeling of unimpeachable cool.

Whatever, Neo’s offended by this cheap, small man. So he makes a decision that will change his life.

He ironically compares the suits to the Gestapo, so they seal his face up, stick a robot up him and dump him under a bridge. He’s found there by the team, a collection of pill-popping Eurotrash, all leather and vinyl and sunglasses.

Then there’s the pill-pushing leader. Neo’s never known crabby rage like it: a batshit crazy, wheelchair-bound drill sergeant prone to comments like “necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste.”

Rip Torn may not be everyone’s idea of a wise guru, but his Morpheus peddles drugs and escapism with the best of them. He later teaches Neo to dodge wrenches, “if you can dodge wrenches, you can dodge bullets.”

Indeed.

Neo wakes up hairless in a bag of KY jelly, possibly the worst trip ever committed to celluloid. Welcome to the real world, kiddo. He gets flushed down the U-bend, an apt metaphor for something.

Unbelievably, despite never having used them before, his muscles aren’t atrophied into nothingness and he’s able to tread water until the team picks him up. And what a team.

First there’s Mouse, formerly an artist-in-residence for your average comic book house, which explains both the white rabbit girl and red dress woman from elsewhere in the movie. He’s played with creepy and sweaty competence by Steve Buscemi.

Tank and Dozer are freeborn men of Zion. They’re mo-capped CGI animations both portrayed by Andy Serkis – one as Gollum, the other as Captain Haddock. Rigorous studies have shown that pointless CGI boosts box office revenue by precisely 11,019%.

Next there’s Switch and Apoc, played by two actors of your choice from Grey’s Anatomy. They’re irrelevant but will get a misleading amount of screen time in the trailer. Hollywood still thinks in such binary terms as films for the girls and films for the boys, but recognises that some of the target demographic may have girlfriends. Or won’t leave the house without their mothers.

They’ll be attacked by…

In the matrix born and raised on a digital playground where he spent most of his days, chilling and relaxing and playing EA Sports basketball games outside of his school. A couple of software programs, who were up to no good, threatened to corrupt his program because he wasn’t exactly diligent when it came to updating his anti-virus. His mum got a-scared and packed him off to live with his auntie and uncle in Zion, which is near the planet’s core where it’s still warm.

Everyone else might be rocking an underfed, shaven-head-and-baggy-rags look made popular by the likes of Kate Moss back in the 90s, but Cypher prefers a more colourful palette, just one reason why he’s so desperate to get plugged back in. Also, other Zion folk don’t take him seriously as an artist.

Will Smith famously turned down the part of Neo to star in Wild Wild West. This haunts his portrayal of Cypher, motivating him to get back to a world in which The Matrix, and thus his professional embarrassment, doesn’t yet exist. Ignorance truly is bliss.

But the real shock for Neo is that Trinity isn’t quite who she says she is – she’s an avatar and the real Trinity is a bit…different. With hindsight, he should’ve known: who says ‘gnarly dude’ in 1999? Even ironically?

Morpheus, Trinity and the team have had trouble getting recruits. Luckily, Mouse is pretty good at creating improbably beautiful women in impractical outfits. Otherwise you’d be subjected to Jack Nicholson in skintight vinyl.

This is understandably confusing for Neo, who’s in love with Emma Stone-Trinity (or at least plans on saying that to get her into bed) but at least it explains how he can end The Matrix as Superman, end the trilogy as a literal Jesus Christ metaphor, and yet after all that, the matrix still exists even though he’s committed to destroying it.

Because then he’d have to face up to having whispered sweet nothings into Jack Nicholson’s ear.

Neo’s all set, but first Morpheus insists he needs to get his palm read by the Oracle, a maternal computer programme turned rebel. More pointless hippy drivel that Neo could do without.

The word maternal conjures up certain ideas – fresh cookies, a soothing voice, a steady hand with a band-aid. This is what Neo assumes. But he’s not encountered an angry, cornered mother defending her cubs.

And The Oracle is a mother, as in one mean mother. Just another thing that Morpheus and the team failed to mention. Consequently, Kathy Bates comes as a shock. There’s no spoon bending on her watch – cutlery costs good money. Now go on, get, y’hear?

You’re waiting for something, Neo, maybe your next life.

Well by now Neo’s really pissed off. Bad jumpers and lumpy baby food aren’t the worst of it. First he’s the messiah, then he’s a very naughty boy. He thought he’d met the girl of his dreams, turns out she’s the figment of someone else’s fevered imagination. When he fights Agent Smith, Trinity deadpans “How do you do that. You move just like they do.”

About the 62 year old Agent Smith.

And then, the irascible Morpheus, source of all Neo’s torment and rumbling stomach, has the temerity to get captured. The stage is set for a rumble in the concrete jungle….

Fin

Why all the anger? Why the nasty sexual undercurrent? Because The Matrix is a metaphor for the internet, duh. And to be fair that’s a slight improvement on pretending that it’s some kind of treatise on Kant, Plato, Descartes and Baudrillard, like the Wachowskis did.

There you go, internet. Any thoughts on the casting choices, vent spleens in the comments section.

Star Wars Episode 4: A New Remake

By now, Disney has followed my advice and begun production of the Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Editions, rehabilitating Star Wars for the diehards and introducing it to a new generation to boot.  Nice work, Disney, you couldn’t have done it without me.

For its next enterprise, Disney will be releasing Episode 7.  That’s fine, as they say: carry on.  Me, I’ve found more enjoyment/less abject terror in imagining my own remake of Star Wars: A New Hope.

It’s the same film, just with a different cast and some added dialogue. But because of the casting, the characterisation is different which in turn shifts the meaning of the words, making a brand new movie without needing to spend the GDP of Belgium on CGI.  Clever, eh? 

Suit yourself.

And so it begins (natch) with the flying words and spaceships and the laser noises and some stormtroopers.  A man in black leather strides into shot.  A big, tall man (not Bono then).  His physical size is matched only by his gargantuan talent.  Brendan Gleeson’s face can’t be seen behind the mask, but you’ll recognise the voice, the gentle tone with the hard inflections.  He’s a badass mofo, sure, but he’s also a touch world weary.  After all he’s been crushing the galaxy beneath his platform boot for a long time and he’s not even been able to accessorise in decades, let alone freshen up with a whole new look. 

Vader’s been taking a lot of crap from the officer corp since that spaceship debacle.  Sure he captured it, he even got a hot slice of princess out of it, but one tiny oversight, a couple of droids escape and suddenly he’s on some frickin’ goose chase.  Plus he can’t help but feel that people laugh at him behind his back.  He’s tired, lonely and just wants a friend, but in his loneliness he overcompensates.  In feeling that he’s shared too much with the wrong people, he then has to crush peeps’ larynxes with his Jedi mind kung fu.

He also finds himself feeling strangely protective of the princess, almost…paternal.

R2-D2 is la poubelle we all know and adore.  He escaped with his bezzy mate, C-3PO (Morgan Freeman) and between them they comment on everything that goes on around them – an idea Lucas purloined from a movie the name of which escapes me, for those who like their movie trivia half-assed.  Freeman has a voice made of gravitas particles and as such 3PO is a highly authoritative voice of reason, albeit completely ignored by everyone else.  He points out that a parsec is a unit of distance, not time, but Han Solo tells him to do one. 

Anyway, they meet…

Luke Skywalker, who dreams of escaping Hicksville and relocating to the corner of the galaxy labelled hipster.  Michael Cera has a nice line in geeky-but-zeitgeisty characters who are ironic but sweet-natured.  Also, he messed around with a lightsaber on Arrested Development, which is the sort of pop culture reference only the people who like the same things as me will know, which means I’m basically exactly like Quentin Tarantino.

Plus, I picture him pink-faced, staring intently at his Converse mumbling “I’m here to rescue you…” to Scarlet Johansson’s Leia; a woman once described by Woody Allen as “sexually overwhelming”.  Bit nasty, given we know they’re blood relations, but that’s Lucas’ fault, not mine. 

Anyway, purring, pouting ScarJo has the kind of career that means she won’t settle for being mere eye candy and wants some half-decent dialogue and a gun.  She faces off against older chaps quite well, too, which brings us to love interest douchebag and all round cool dude, Han Solo.

If you look up the words ‘louche’, ‘dry’ and ‘quip’ in the latest iteration of the Oxford English Dictionary you’ll find that the words have been replaced by a picture of Robert Downey Jr’s face.  His Han Solo might be conflicted when it comes to doing the hero stuff, but at least he’s the kind of asshole who not only wears sunglasses while in deep space, but somehow manages to do so without being forced out of an airlock.  He’s seedy, he’s been around, seen a few things, cynical but charismatic. His faithful pet wookie likes him anyway.

It also adds a creepy vibe to his constant hitting on the much younger Ms Johansson, which is a send-up of Hollywood’s golden age and all those Cary Grant flicks. Which is, like, totally meta, yo.

He’s also completely comfortable shooting Greedo first, because that’s how Solo rolls, George Lucas.  Greedo, in a nod to celluloid tradition, has to be played by a Brit because he’s a bad guy.  Bill Nighy is that Brit – camp and slightly ineffectual, entirely boneless when lounging around Mos Eisley bars.  He snorts his lines, gets shot, our heroes wander off in the company of…

Obi Wan Kenobi.  Way I see it, Kenobi is responsible for Vader, and thus the death of all those younglings and most of his Jedi pals and the rise of the emperor (if only because Vader didn’t kill that cross-dressing megalomaniac).  This has to screw you up a bit.  And he’s been living alone in the desert for decades, so he’s gonna’ be a bit…unusual.  

He’s a tricky old dude with a glint in his eye – you know he mind tricks the shit out of people whenever he feels like it.  Jedi aren’t monks – they just like the outfits – and this one’s a little nuts.  When Luke gets into that scrape in the Mos Eisley cantina, Christopher Walken steps up.  Staring a little too hungrily at the other man’s jugular vein, he says “This little one’s…not worth the effort, me, I could burst your heart in your chest. With my mind.” Pause, open hands, all friendly smiles “ah?! AH!? Come on, let me get you something.” Whips out his lightsaber, off comes the man’s arm.  THAT’s how Obi Walken Kenobi throws down. He picks up the appendage by the fingers, offers it back and says “I gotta’ hand it to you” because who’s gonna’ tell him not to do puns?  Exactly.

It’s the past and they do things differently there.  Women aren’t concerned about the glass ceiling so much as they are about being tethered to the floor, which, in conjunction with her youth, makes Grand Moff Tarkin’s stewardship of the Death Star even more impressive.  It was difficult at first, with all the lame ‘what a grand muff’ remarks and general sexual harassment, but since she made a couple of subordinates go for an EVA walk in their underpants that’s all settled down.  Funny how the sight of a man’s eyeballs imploding in the cold depths of space quells the chauvinist impulse.

Tarkin’s not been laid in ages because she out-ranks and out-earns the men on board – they say they’re cool with it but she can tell they feel emasculated, which is pathetic.  It’s fine though, she’ll just have to wait for shore leave, get her fake tan on and go out golden of skin, slender of limb and with her tits hoiked up to her chin.  It stings her to have to placate the fragile male ego by talking in a giggly, girly voice and pretending to be slightly stupid, but mama’s got an itch to scratch.

She’s also suffering from low blood sugar because she’s been dieting since she was 14.  Some old law about movies aimed at children/infantilised males dictates that her uniform must be skin tight (Ordnance No. 871623/1967 Something For The Dads Act). 

The tightness of the uniform means she’s forever concerned about VPL undermining her authority or, worse, a spot of dromedary hoof which might result in her picture appearing on a tawdry website to be gawped at by sweaty men with hairy palms.  

Which is just disgusting.

Then, to compound matters, some princess pitches up whom all the officers have been trying to get amongst.  She’s wearing something white, floaty and 70s-inspired, which is so chic. She’s worn it for several days but it’s pristine.  Not even crumpled.  Best explode her home planet, that’ll show the snooty bitch what’s what.

Now that’s a lot of backstory and baggage for such a small (but crucial) role.  Luckily, Charlize Theron is an Oscar winning actress, so she can communicate all of it with just a single look.  You go, girl.

Anyway, Tarkin’s just calmed down some swinging-dick, bullshit posturing when all hell breaks loose.  One thing leads to another, Obi Walken Kenobi exits stage left, Princess Scarlett joins the crew. 

Cera makes an ironic, self-deprecating joke which is taken the wrong way and suddenly he finds himself in an X-Wing with a group of extras and Wedge Antilles (Nathan Fillion, in a nod to Joss Whedon fanboys who still aren’t over the cancellation of Firefly).  

Wedge pops up occasionally in the films, does sweet FA, but does have an intricately detailed back story because Lucas apparently loves licensing the Star Wars brand to any old content creator in exchange for money.

DS gets blown up, which means that Charlize Theron died hungry and with that itch resolutely unscratched, which just goes to show that crime doesn’t pay.  Except that it does because Charlize was paid an inordinate sum of money in exchange for her 3 minutes of screen time.

Fin.

That’s My Star Wars remake, internet.  What do you think of it, internet?  Who would you cast, and why?