Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

MR redux

Saturday my wife and I went to see Matrix Reloaded. For her, this fell squarely in the category of “cultural event you go to because you’re married to this person.” (But I don’t think it was too painful to her: when some misguided couple came into the theatre with a toddler, she said, “Bringing a child into this movie verges on child abuse.” No mention of spouse abuse, fortunately. And whoever thought to bring a kid into the movie was out of their minds.)

So what’s it like the second time around? The bad bits don’t get better. The rave-turn-orgy is just as absurd, and perhaps even more cloyingly self-consciously “earthy”: Look at all those barefoot sensual colored people dancing! Wow! It’s like, an overturned cultural stereotype that’s managed to flip itself over onto its right side again, and goes from being subversive back to offensive! The first time, I was just so shocked at the incomprehensibility of the scene I couldn’t focus on its weird racial coding. And as my wife pointed out, Zion is a bit like a British colony: it’s a multitude of races, but a couple white people are still in charge. Finally, the “acting” is, well let’s say this: you really can’t tell a difference between when you’re looking at a live actor and a computer simulation, and just leave it at that. (Note to FX crew: could the computer that’s simulating Laurence Fishburne get some overclocking, or a new video card? If he slows his delivery down any more, Morpheus is going to make Orson Welles sound like the Chipmunks.)

But the movie does make more sense the second time around (it would be a really bad thing if it made less sense!), and the good parts– namely, the fighting and special effects– are even more impressive. The first time, I sat in the front row and was totally overwhelmed. This time, I could see more, and appreciate how well-crafted the effects are. The Big Brawl in particular went from being cool yet incomprehensible to really outstanding.

It’s definitely a movie that will stand up well on DVD– in part because if you get it on DVD you can skip all the stupid stuff.


  1. I hate to be the person who brings down the tone of this forum, but “Enter the Matrix,” which I’ve been playing on Playstation 2, is incredible, and makes sitting through “Matrix Reloaded” seem like a completely worthwhile experience, even if the political bits ARE a pain. The game is like an interactive version of what the second unit was doing while the first unit was dealing with Neo, etc. The characters from the movie make cameos, as could be expected, but the gameplay also helps to advance those niggling subplots that weren’t included in the theatrical release. Plus you get to kick into “Bullet Time” at will and do wicked wushu on Agents Smith, et al.

    Clearly, if you’re planning to let your brains trickle out your ears, “Enter the Matrix” is a great way to do it. Did I mention it helps answer (!) the question of how Neo repelled the sentinels as they approached Zion? (Whoa.)

  2. I saw PS2 for the first time at a housewarming party this weekend, and was deeply impressed, even with the relatively mild games that were on. The zooming camera angles, the pans– it’s all very nifty.

    I’d heard mixed things about the Matrix game, but if it helps tie up some of the loose ends in the movie, I might have to seek it out. Not like I have a lot of time for games these days: children and immersive first-person shooters are kind of mutually exclusive, particularly when you have one child who’d find the whole thing compelling yet scary, and another who’d want to chew on the control pad.

    My current fantasy tech purchase is the upcoming version of the Mac OS. I’m still running 9.21, and the features I’ve been reading about in Panther have me thinking that it’s finally going to be time to make the move….

  3. Ah, yes, well, OS X/Jaguar is a Nice Thing Indeed. Of course, then you have to replace all your software with the X version. And networking with PCs is doable, but not exactly as seamless as they say. And while iPhoto and iMovie are fun, Mail isn’t quite as perfected as Eudora or Entourage. It is, however, infinitely easier to make PDFs than ever before, and I love PDFs. Have you played around with OS X at an Apple Store?

  4. Oddly, I was just in the Apple store this afternoon, buying iTrip, an FM transmitter for the iPod. It’s now intolerable that my iPod (or “classic iPod,” as the sales people at the Apple store now call it), all my headphones, car stereo, home stereo, neighbor’s dog, etc. don’t all have Bluetooth, so I can switch the music from one device to another at will.

    But I didn’t play with OS X.

    I am, however, thinking that the smart playlist feature in the latest version of iTunes is moving us in the right direction, to a greater capacity to do collaborative filtering on ourselves. I yearn for the day when I can analyze my own preferences as well as Amazon can, and have my iPod suggest some CD that I haven’t listened to in ages, forgot I owned, but which is sitting in my hard drive.

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