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.”
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….
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.