September 16, 2021

FREDDIE DEBOER: The Original Matrix is Pretty Bad — and that doesn’t really seem contrarian to me.

The Oracle when she said that Morpheus was going to die, and Neo saved him, so we have free will! But Morpheus says she told him exactly what he needed to hear, suggesting she manipulated him and he had no agency. But then isn’t Agent Smith right? I am le confuse. Also, I know the movie cares about these questions because Morpheus literally says “Do you believe in fate?” to Neo, which is part of its larger habit of just telling you what’s on its mind. That would just be clumsy, except that (again) it doesn’t know what’s on its mind, not really, so the tic is even more obvious. Do you believe in fate, movie? Wachowskis? I sat through like 7 hours of this stuff and never found out.

But then a rack of guns comes out from nowhere, and it goes whooooosh!

Look, I want to like all of this more than I do. I too just want to lay back and enjoy a bravura and kitschy triumph of aesthetics that articulates several different kinds of pre-millennium tension. I want to enjoy the guns and the Czech raver clothes and the (pre-Crouching Tiger) balletic martial arts. But for whatever reason it just never congeals; the style is too ridiculous and the substance is too confused. Perhaps what colors this for me is that there’s another 90s movie that I think pulls off the aesthetics and the action The Matrix is going for, with precisely the goofy spirit people say they like and without the go-nowhere brain teasers – Blade. The Blade trilogy, which started a year earlier, pulls off the ridiculous(ly cool) black leather and shades look with more panache than The Matrix, and it did so without posing existential riddles it didn’t want to solve or crawling too far up its own ass. And watching Blade today is a pleasure because, in contrast with the previously-mentioned Fast franchise, the movie doesn’t constantly let you know that it’s winking along with you. It premiered before this awful Age of Knowingness, and so did The Matrix, which in hindsight I think is the thing I like the most about it.

Oh well. At least “I know kung fu” is cool.

But the song “Kung Fu Fighting” was dubbed evil racist hate speech a decade ago: Mark Steyn Wishes He Were As Funky As Those Funky Chinamen From That Funky Chinatown.

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