Jason: Welcome back to The Incomparable. I’m your host, Jason Snell, and tonight, we’re going to be talking about a movie. I guess this is the latest in our series talking about classic movies. Movies from the past that we think about fondly. And this is the movie where we take the red pill, is the red pill that’s the good pill?
Steve: It’s the red pill.
David: You don’t want to take the little blue pill.
Jason: No. The little blue pill and you go back in The Matrix, which is what we’re talking about, 1999’s epic sci-fi movie, The Matrix. What we’re not talking about, by the way, except maybe obliquely, are the sequels, because I don’t want to bring you down!
Steve: What sequels?
Erika: The what now?
David: There are sequels?
Jason: There we go. That’s the stuff. That’s what I was looking for exactly. So let me introduce the people, the fine people who are here to talk about The Matrix with me tonight. We’ve got David Loehr. David, welcome back again. We can’t get rid of you now. You’re on every episode. You’re the new Dan Moren.
David: I’m the new Dan Moren. Orange is the new Dan Moren.
Jason: Okay. Fair enough. It’s good to have you here. John Siracusa is here as well. Hi, John.
John: Hello, Jason. You mentioned that this is going to be a show where we talk about movies from the past that are classics and that we love? I may be on the wrong show.
Jason: Well, yeah. I think … Didn’t I say that they are loved, or they’re generally loved? I loved The Matrix when it came out but we can … This will be very interesting. Steve Lutz is also here. Hi, Steve.
Steve: Good evening, Mr. Snell.
Jason: Okay. Very good and we have … We have a new guest who has not been on before. She is one of the hosts of the very excellent Doctor Who podcast, Verity. It’s Erika Ensign. Hi, Erika.
Erika: Hi. It’s great to be here.
Jason: Thank you for being here. I appreciate it. You saw The Matrix lots of times in the theater, didn’t you?
Erika: I saw it nine times.
John: Nine times, Mrs. Bueller.
Jason: I saw it only once in the theater but what I remember is, I was teaching a class, a web design class back in the ’90s. That was a thing we taught, was web design—HTML! To a bunch of grad students. I remember one day, all of the Mac screensavers in the class where we taught had been converted to The Matrix screensaver. I was, “What the heck is this?” and then four of them came up to me and said, “Oh, man. You got to see the Matrix. It’s the best movie ever, it’ll blow your mind.” I was, “All right. Okay,” and we went and saw it and I liked it a lot. This is the first time I’ve seen it in years though, and I thought that was pretty interesting.
I think this movie is very influential and sometimes, we cover these movies and things that really blew your mind at the time, sometimes you look back on them later and they don’t seem as impressive because everybody’s copied them. And once you’ve seen it in a million beer ads in the Super Bowl, the Bullet Time is a little less exciting, but I still had a lot of fun with The Matrix. So we’re going to talk about it. We all watched it, right? We all watched it again, did we recently?
Erika: Oh yeah.
Steve: We did.
Jason: All right. Good. Not together but we all watched it. Well, where to start? Does anybody have any opening remarks; I guess I should ask before we …
Steve: I bet John does.
Jason: Before we get into it.
John: You bet correctly. How did you know?
Jason: This is why I ask, because John often likes to set the stage and tell us … Paint a little picture of where we’re about to go, the journey we’re about to take.
John: Yeah. I have more casual opening remarks, two things to say. First is that, and then we should all about talk this at some point, what our experience was seeing the movie first time. For me, the memory of seeing Matrix for the first time is defined by me knowing nothing about the movie …
Jason: All I knew was that it will blow your mind and there was the screensaver.
John: I didn’t even know that. This is the before times, kids, when it was possible to go into a movie not even knowing that there was anything to know, not even knowing that someone said it’s amazing.
Jason: There were those ads and all the ads were was, “What is The Matrix?” So it didn’t explain anything.
John: Nope, I had nothing. I think I saw the poster while walking in with my ticket in hand…
Jason: Into the theater.
John: So it was in the movie, I knew absolutely nothing about it and that, I think, is the ideal way to go into a movie. I think as an experience it’s probably not possible unless you’re a very young person to go into a movie. At the very least, you’re going to know there’s something about this movie. There’s some sort of big revelation. There’s some kind of twist something, and even just knowing that, if your mind works the way mine does, can ruin some of the surprise. So that was exciting, interesting and it really gave the movie more punch.
And the second thing is that for a long, long time, I harbored very bad feelings about The Matrix. Mostly because it was so lauded by the people in my sort of circles of nerds and everything as being this amazing movie and everything, and I could not get over the ridiculousness of the premise. I expected so much more of the movie to… It wanted to do everything right and yet, the foundation of the movie made no sense.
Jason: Uh oh, guys, this is a set up. Siracusa’s here to get us.
John: Yeah and that bothered me. No, but what I could say is that, when I re-watched the movie, not for this podcast, actually. I re-watched it on my own a couple of weeks before you suggested re-watching it. I had much better feelings about it, re-watching it, getting some distance from my anger about the backlash. Like, everyone loves The Matrix and I didn’t like it because there was … I mean, I did like it. It did have good feelings for me. Getting some distance and being able to see it, sort of see it again for the first time, I felt better about it. So that’s what we’ll talk about today.
Jason: Yeah. And that’s a good thing that we should probably talk about now. I mentioned that I had the grad students say, “Oh, it will blow your mind, man” and John’s told his story. Erika, we touched on the fact that you saw it a bunch of times. I guess that means you liked it.
Erika: Yeah. I’m not that masochistic. I saw it the first time and I didn’t know anything either. I had seen I think one of the teaser ads where you saw Morpheus jump and then Neo says, “Whoa” and that was it.
Jason: That’s still Keanu, right.
John: That’s the whole movie though.
Steve: That’s really all you need to know.
Erika: Yeah and I think going along with what John said that … That was … One of the things that worked for me so much about the movie, I loved back in the day being able to go into a theater and not know anything. In this one, not only did I not know anything when I walked into the theater, I still didn’t know very much about half an hour into it. I thought that was fantastic. It was sort of a reversed dramatic irony. The characters knew what was going on, well, most of them, but I didn’t and I thought that was awesome.
Jason: Steve, what was your Matrix experience? Did you have some grad students come up to you?
Steve: I try to keep my distance from grad students.
Jason: They were paying me to be close to them.
Steve: Yeah. Well, that would be the only reason. In … Yeah, I didn’t get around to seeing this until 2006 as usual because I was forced to for other reasons that I actually wanted to see it.
Jason: You missed The Matrix entirely. Wow.
Steve: I did. I think both of the horrible … The theorized horrible sequels that don’t actually exist and had not yet come out but had both come out and I was already aware that I was probably setting myself up for disappointment if I wanted to see the whole trilogy. So … But I sat down and watched it knowing already basically that I … There’s a computer simulation and everybody lives in it. What I didn’t know was the bit where Keanu is actually pulled from The Matrix and emerges from his pot of goo and that part, I was very entertained by because I had not … Been properly prepared for it. I watched the whole movie with pretty much my brain turned off, trying not to pay too much attention to the utterings of Morpheus, and really enjoyed it.
This time, I watched it twice in the run up to this podcast and thought a little bit more about some of the things that were being said and tried to determine whether the plot actually made any sense and enjoyed it slightly less. As a spectacle, as just entertainment, it’s a great movie. I can’t deny that. If you’re willing to turn your brain off and you’re willing to overlook the main actor, then it’s a great film.
John: Wait a second. You want to overlook the main actor? This and Point Break are the peak of his career.
Steve: Yeah. Isn’t that sad?
John: Yes. No, but we’ve talked …
Steve: Peak Clooney the last time.
John: These are the rules that he was made for. This, I guess Bill and Ted … This, Bill and Ted and …
Erika: Point Break.
John: Yeah, Point Break … He is perfect in these roles. It’s so perfect. Every other role, he is terrible but these roles, he is perfect.
Steve: He’s terrible in everything. It fits in Bill and Ted. In this, he’s a piece of wood, and I cannot watch this movie without thinking how much better would this movie be with somebody who could act?
Erika: I think that would ruin it.
Steve: Yeah, maybe, I don’t know.
Erika: I think you need somebody who is pretty much just … Cipher, wow … Not [crosstalk 00:09:13] .
John: He’s embarrassingly earnest. He’s embarrassingly earnest in that movie that really, if the production values would lower would basically be a B movie, right? But it’s not.
Jason: I assume that they did some work on the script knowing who their lead actor was, because I mean, the best example being when the oracle says he’s not too bright, right?
Steve: First time the oracle knows what she’s talking about.
Jason: If you had a smarter seeming kind of actor, that character would have to be different because that is one of the beauties of this is that he kind of bumbles along as not really getting it and not wanting to get it and just being this dude who’s got this … Is fulfilling this prophecy. I don’t know whether that character would have worked better if it would have been a more intelligent character because they would have to change the script to make it … The dynamic a little bit different, I think, because I think that’s why it works.
John: He’s the Forrest Gump of this movie.
Steve: I don’t think he has to be more intelligent. I just think he has to be slightly less monotone. I think there are ways to do monotone and confused and being a cipher without necessarily … I mean, with some character growth. With Keanu, his first line is, “What?” and he maintains that exact tone and delivery for the next 129 minutes. It just … For me, not my thing. I’d like to see somebody with a bit more range.
Jason: He’s not my favorite.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, there’s very little change in … What, the two hours and 10 minutes or whatever it is.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, I like him. I like him just fine, but yeah, he’s just sort of on that plane and … Even when he’s changed and when he’s evolved and when he … He realizes that he could be the one. He’s still sort of talking like this, “Whoa” and he … He gets a little angrier. There’s a line of him, like, “I am the one” but it’s okay. Clear your throat. That’s …
John: Well, he’s like an action figure because … We’ll get to this later in the movie is that he expresses the change in his character through his actions. The most … One of my favorite parts of the movie, one of the most important parts when I watched it, many times, again, I don’t think it was supposed to be as important as I made it is … For the whole movie, it’s like I kind of understand how the world works. He learns the truth and then they’re trying to convince him he’s the one. He’s not sure and goes through all this stuff but the key point of the movie I think is when the helicopter’s going over the edge, right? There’s the rope that’s dangling out of the helicopter. It’s going over the edge and it’s kind of in slow motion.
At a certain point, what he decides to do is …
Jason: By the way, spoilers for The Matrix, it’s been out for 14 freaking years. Spoiler to The Matrix, just saying. Okay.
John: The helicopter’s going over the edge of the building kind of in slow motion. It’s … Everything is very slow and he … The decision-making process ahead, you can see it going is he decides to pick up the rope that’s attached to the helicopter with the intention that he is going to stop the helicopter from falling off the edge of the building, which is a decision you would never make in the real world. That’s the point when he realizes, “Hey, wait a second. I can grab this rope and stop the helicopter falling off the end” because this is not the real world. This is a simulation.
Jason: You don’t think he’s just assuming that she’s going to tie the other end to her and jump off?
John: Even that wouldn’t work in the real world either because they do … If you watch it again, you’ll see that they … They don’t linger on it but they do spend a little bit of time because in no real world … even in an action movie, it’s preposterous. The only reason it works is because he figures out finally, “Oh, I can be an agent of my own destiny in ways that have no bearing on reality because I’m strapped in a chair with the thing shoving the back of my head.
Steve: In fairness, he does play the role very much like a man who’s had a metal spike shoved into the base of his skull.
John: There’s no dialogue in that scene. He doesn’t think to himself. He doesn’t have a voice-over. He doesn’t have a conversation about it. All of his transformation as a character is done through his actions and deciding what to do with his big dorky-looking body and his funny little bouncy walk.
David: That’s very true.
Steve: Most actors wouldn’t be brave enough to play a completely flat face like that. They would actually show some kind of emotion or facial expression.
John: He shows emotion. You’re being unfair to Keanu.
Erika: Let’s be honest with this. This isn’t really a film about character development, really. Seriously, the characters, they’re all archetypes. I mean, you’ve got the wise leader and the clueless hero, the mysterious woman, the tech guy. I mean, this would make a really good RPG party. They don’t even have real names. So it’s not that kind of a film. So I’m really okay with a wooden, and I completely agree that he’s wooden and doesn’t really emote very much at all. I’m all right with that because it fits in this kind of film.
Jason: They’re avatars. They’re literally avatars. That’s what the … Before we get into the plot, David, you have any Matrix story? Did you see it in the theater and …
David: I did not see it in the theater, but I bought it before it came out on DVD. I pre-ordered and I was, all right.
Jason: You had to get [crosstalk 00:14:10]
David: I watched it the night it came out.
Jason: See what the grad students are talking about.
David: Exactly. Well, we don’t have grad students every … But we have a lot of college students who are like, “Whoa,” same thing except they don’t pay me so I don’t go near them.
Jason: All our listeners are grad students and we’ve just killed the podcast. We apologize to the grad students of the world. All right.
David: Yeah. No, I mean, when it came out, all anyone knew about it was, “Oh, science fiction film by the Wachowskis,” and I had seen Bound. I thought, well what kind of science fiction film are they going to do because I mean, they came out of nowhere. So when I saw it … And again, part of the curiosity was just, “Really? They’re doing sci-fi? Okay.” I mean, Bound is a good, just solid pulp thriller with some nice hooks so to speak. So … When I’m watching the movie, I’m going, “Wow. This is pretty good. I like this,” and it’s got a little bit of fake Philip Dick but it’s not Philip Dick and it’s better than all of the actual adaptations of Philip Dick that aren’t anything like Philip Dick. So I really liked it.
Jason: You’ve mentioned Bound. I also saw Bound before I saw The Matrix and the opening of this movie is Carrie-Anne Moss in leather, in what is she … In the building … Is in the heart of the city hotel?
David: Heart O’ The City.
Jason: Heart O’ The City Hotel.
Erika: Actually, before that you get the cold open where it’s just voice-overs.
Jason: Right and it turns out there was Joe Pantoliano and the numbers are there, and we go into the matrix and you can hear that phone call that’s going on in the background.
Erika: Which I only mentioned for the sake of symmetry because they echo it again at the very … Near the end of the film.
Jason: Right. Right.
John: The first sign there in The Matrix should have been the phone number with the 555 prefix.
Jason: Somebody on Twitter was saying how when you re-watch it, you realize how much of the plot involves telephones and phone booths, and wired phones. They do have cellphones but I said, “Well, this is why the machines set it in 1999,” is because they needed to have phone booths, I guess.
David: Is it a coincidence that shortly after this film came out, public phone booths started disappearing from existence?
Jason: I don’t think so. I think it’s the machines. They figured it out. So we see Trinity in the heart of the city, I watched with my wife, and she said that … She quoted dialogue. My wife likes lots of movies but she doesn’t generally quote sci-fi movie dialogue back at me. I’m the one who tends to do that in this relationship. She turns to me as we’re watching it and says, “Lieutenant, your men are already dead,” which is such a wonderful thing because there’s the police that’s kind of … That police guy who says, “Oh, my guys can handle a little girl.” He’s just this complete awful, obnoxious cop and we meet Agent Smith. He says, “Your men are already dead,” and then we see Trinity dispatch all of these guys.
Then we get that huge chase scene. It’s quite a statement this movie makes right at the top. That this is not maybe the kind of movie that you’re expecting. We have the strong female character who is in this action sequence and the chase and does some pretty amazing things. You’re like, “How is that possible?” right? That leads off to her running to a phone booth and the car smashing into it and it’s like, “What did I just see?” It really is a spectacular action scene to start a movie and I love it.
David: Oh yeah. No, I … The other night when I re-watched it, I watched it with my 11-year-old who again had no idea what he was in for. He’s already doing the thing where he’ll have a tablet or a DS or something while he’s watching. As that’s going on, he’s just looking over the top of it and finally just turns it off and puts it down. It’s like, “Yeah, okay. Okay.” The thing that really struck me especially looking at some of the lighting and just the framing of shots, especially when she’s in the midst of the fight and on the roof later, all these different things, is that this really is a comic book. It’s maybe one of the best-looking, most comic book-looking movies I’ve ever seen.
Erika: Yeah. That scene is … That’s where I bought in. I mean, we can credit the fact that I saw it nine times in the theater. That was a very expensive summer for movies because Phantom Menace came out that year, too. Good grief.
Steve: See, I only saw that once.
Erika: Yeah. I saw that nine times as well. I’m that geek.
Steve: So, what, earlier you said you weren’t a masochist.
Jason: We all did things at the time that we might regret later, Steve. Well, just …
Steve: Never, never doing that.
Jason: You were all very excited about the Phantom Menace came out.
Erika: I thought it was really bold to start the film with … Like you said Jason, a female character because that’s not something that … Actually, that’s not something you still see in the movies very often. I was just not only blown away by the fact that it’s a woman that’s kicking ass but how much she was kicking ass. I also have to mention another little bit of symmetry because that’s the kind of stuff that really gets me going. When she lands at the bottom of the stairs and they’re saying, “Get up, Trinity. Get up.” That’s … I quote again at the end of the movie, which we’ll get to.
Jason: Right and I love that moment, too because we’ve seen her … At that moment, when she’s at the bottom of the stairs, laying on her back with the guns pointed up at the window, waiting for that agent to come through. We’ve seen her do things that seem super human and we definitely have seen the Asian do things that seem super human. They’ve left the police behind. There was that moment where immediately following this super-human chase; she’s lying at the bottom of the stairs. She’s vulnerable, she’s scared, she’s waiting for that horrible monster to come through the window, and then she has to kind of like talk herself into getting to the next thing.
That’s a great combination, too, because we’ve just seen her super part and now we see her as … Obviously, she is vulnerable. There’s something that these super people that we’re watching are afraid of. I love that combination, and then she runs down the street. It’s an indelible scene. I love that scene.
Okay. Let’s step out of The Matrix briefly and back into the real world so I can tell you about this week’s sponsor. It’s namecheap.com. It was voted best domain name registrar by Life Hacker raters. It’s one of the top domain name registrars, and it offers some of the cheapest prices in the industry. I have several domains at namecheap.com including my home domain, intertext.com. It’s known as one of the best registrars in the industry.
It’s got over a million satisfied customers. Since 2000, namecheap.com has been offering an unparalleled level of service when it comes to customer care. They’ve got professionals, support, representatives standing by to assist you, answering any of your questions, 24/7/365. Namecheap offers some of the most affordable domain names in the industry in addition to full-featured web hosting packages, secure SSL certificates, WhoisGuard domain name privacy and much, much more. For a limited time, there’s a great offer for Incomparable listeners from Namecheap. Get your private ad-free email and a dot com, dot net, or dot org domain for only $6.99. In order to do this, you have to visit my favorite URL in the world this week.
It’s namecheap.com/incomparable. When you go there, you’ll see our logo, our Zeppelin is there, our rocket is there, our dragon, our robot, all the cool Incomparable stuff is there. There’s also a really great deal for you. So thank you to namecheap.com, the place where I registered my own intertext.com domain for sponsoring the Incomparable. Okay. Now, everybody take the red pill.
John: One of the many reasons that the geeks like this movie is the reason that geeks like a lot of movies is that … It doesn’t … It assumes a level of intelligence and being able to follow the plot that many blockbuster action movies do not. So the opening of the movie where they don’t explain who is this person, why are these people chasing her, why can they do these things? A lesser popcorn action movie would have to set up all those things before you see a dramatic action scene or at least explain to you who the people are. Maybe if you don’t do explain it because it’s a franchise movie and everyone knows who Batman is and you can have an opening scene.
People has accepted he’s Batman, no explanation who these people are, what’s at stake, why they’re chasing each other, why they can do these things in the premise of the movie or in the advertising or anything. In a movie, like in a good book, the story unfolds and you learn things but that is so counter to the way blockbuster movies are done. So any movie that gives you any credit to be able to follow a plot and reveal information later, that lets you look back in the earlier scenes and explain them, gets such a big thumbs up from nerds, especially when it’s sci-fi because finally, you’re not talking down to me as badly as you usually are. I definitely felt that in this opening scene because again, going in knowing nothing, I knew these wasn’t franchise characters.
It’s not based on anything that … It was based on a comic book or property that I hadn’t heard of or anything and they just went right into it. Here we go. They’re fighting. You will learn later why they’re fighting and it will make sense and sure enough, you did and I like that.
Erika: Yeah. That’s exactly the reverse dramatic irony I was talking about. I like movies like that because it makes me feel like my time was worth something. I’ve accomplished something. It’s not like Captain Info Dump at the beginning of the movie telling me everything I should know.
David: The thing that’s really striking is that because it’s not based on an existing thing, because we don’t know who this is, because it’s not either of the two big names who are advertised in every piece of marketing, it’s not Laurence Fishburne. It’s not Keanu Reeves. Who is this? Maybe the truck really did kill her when it crashed into the phone booth. We have no idea who this is and suddenly, we realize that any one of these characters could die at any moment and suddenly, there are stakes where … James Bond is not going to die.
Jason: Why are these phones so important that people run into them, even though the truck is going to smash?
David: Again, spoiling later, when Keanu dies, and you go, “Wait a minute,” and then suddenly, he’s not dead. So they’ve even changed that rule by the end of the movie and it’s …
Jason: Spoiler alert. Keanu Reeves doesn’t die at the end of The Matrix. Again, that was worth catching up. Sorry to ruin it for you. It’s been out for 14 years.
David: Not that you’d know.
Jason: So that we cut, we cut. We meet Keanu Reeves and he is this kind of schlubby programmer guy living in his little apartment. There’s a knock on the door and there’s some kind of … There’s a really douchy guy who wants a desk or something and talks about mescaline … That’s one of the most embarrassing lines in the entire movie.
Erika: It’s the only way to fly.
Steve: This clawing ginger who has the audacity to call Keanu Reeves whiter than usual.
Jason: Yeah. I know and … But the girl who’s with him, she’s got the white rabbit tattoo and he’s gotten his mysterious texts, glowing green text message on his computer that says to follow the white rabbit. So, we get what … Now, I think about it is this descent into the mystery of The Matrix, but at the time, I’m thinking, “Oh. This is what the story is going to be.” The first time this movie unfolds is like, now I’m understanding what I’m seeing. It’s a regular guy who … It’s almost like … Well, it’s the Martin Scorsese movie, After Hours with Griffin Dunne, right where it’s a regular guy who gets in the series of ridiculous situations and goes further and further into the underworld. Originally, that’s what I thought of this, what it is, and now we know it’s really just him getting to the nightclub so that he can meet Trinity, right?
John: That establishes this character as not the character that the geeks will identify with. The moment that he credulously believes that … He doesn’t like … An actual nerd would have been like, that’s an actual coincidence, and my brain is applying significance to it because it seems like, “Whoa. That must mean that like … They’re totally just saying white rabbit and someone has a white rabbit.” He is credulous, and he is stupid, and he is the Forrest Gump of the movie. So he goes along with it. So right out the gate, we know, okay. I’m not identifying with Neo because …
Jason: He also goes out to the club.
John: He’s not as skeptical and I would not have done that.
Steve: I do like that his super secrets are on Sony mini discs in a hollowed-out copy of Simulacra and Simulation, open to the page of Nealism.
Jason: I love the Sony mini disc thing by the way. That looks better and better as time recedes. What kind of crazy tech is this?
John: The second layer of this movie is that … When I showed it to my son as well. The idea of like 90’s technology, phone booths, that the Nokia cellphone that snaps open was supposed to be impressive. All that kind of retro futurist stuff.
Erika: It was impressive. That was super impressive.
Steve: It’s one honking phone, too.
David: It makes a great sound when it clicks open. That’s what you want.
Jason: You’re right. I remember … So this is one of my references as Jason always makes on podcast, it’s not about the Micronauts. It’s about Max Headroom. Max Headroom, the art direction is lots of weird anachronistic stuff so there’s like Studebakers that everybody drives and stuff. What I like about it is it’s like this bizarre combination of things. The Matrix, watching it now, I feel more of that. When they’re in the matrix, at the time it was there, in the present day. Now, it’s they’re in a simulation of 1999 and it feels like it. It actually kind of works that they’ve got the mini discs and the cellphones and all of that.
David: Well, here’s the thing with perspectives. So I’m watching it with my son and Neo gets the computer, wakes him up with the messages and he goes, “That’s a weird looking IM message.” It didn’t even faze him. Of course, the computer’s going to talk to you. It’s not the computer.
Jason: It’s less creepy if it’s just a … It’s a message from your friend, Morpheus. Okay. So Neo goes to work. He’s a cubicle drone.
Steve: He’s specifically a program writer for a respectable software company, whatever that is.
Jason: I left … He meets Trinity, we should say that. He meets the Trinity at the club.
John: The Trinity, Jason?
Jason: There’s a nice scene where he says, “I thought you were a guy.”
Erika: She says, “Most guys do.”
John: A couple of good lines in this movie still stand up.
Jason: He ends up in the cubicle farm and we see his soul-crushing job with his soul-crushing boss and so he gets the Fed Ex’d cellphone and it immediately rings. He’s like, that’s the scariest thing in this movie is what if somebody sent you a phone in the mail, and when you opened the box, it rang. Well, they’ve been calling in every five minutes, but …
Steve: Nokia, it was a hook.
Jason: So he answers it and it’s Morpheus and I really like that scene where Morpheus tells him exactly what to do, like he can see every single thing and knows the sequence of events. Go now and he runs across and it’s very tense but it’s also how is this possible? How is this guy doing this? He leads him to the window and he goes out on the ledge and then again, kind of going against your expectations. Keanu’s like, “No, forget it” and then next scene, he’s with the agents and his boss. It’s like, “No. I’m not going. I’m not going to follow this Morpheus guy. Who is this guy?” I don’t [crosstalk 00:29:23]
John: At this point, we still have no idea what’s at stake, why they’re chasing him, why he’s important in any way because he doesn’t know and we don’t know. Why are these people going to catch him? What are they going to do when they catch him? What … Anything is just … Are they criminals? Is he a criminal? Are they going to kill him? Are they part of his boss’ work? Is it a computer? We know nothing, which is great. You got so long into the movie without them explaining it to you.
Erika: I like that scene because … You’re right. We don’t know anything but at that point, I no longer feel like I’m alone in not knowing anything because that’s when Neo really joins us as the audience in being like WTF, I have no idea what’s happening.
David: This is the first place where I kind of start having problems with the movie having re-watched it a few times. If the computer’s running this whole simulation, shouldn’t hiding from the agents be basically impossible?
Jason: I think the agents … I think, I mean; obviously, the premise of the movie is that the agents are artificial intelligence …
John: They work within the matrix.
Jason: They’re loose within the system and that’s the … Smith even says later, I hate the smell and they’re obviously …
David: They’re clearly getting some kind of information from their little headsets.
Jason: Right, but the matrix … They have to play by the rules.
David: He’s almost like a virus.
John: That’s why they have to have headsets.
Jason: Yeah. I think that’s … I mean otherwise, what’s the point of the movie if there’s just … And then a hand appeared out of the sky, picked up Neo, and crushed him and the end, right? So they have to … They can break the rules but they still have to be in the world and play by … To some degree the physics of the world. That’s just the premise we have to go through.
David: I saw him as sort of like a virus that you sort of stick in there that’s working as a free agent so to speak, which … Who knows how intentionally they put that in there but …
Jason: If they ever did sequels, they might have explained it but … Sadly …
David: Yeah. I mean, someday. Someday.
Steve: Has everybody seen the imagined sequels?
Erika: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Yes, I have.
John: I have seen all of them and I don’t deny the existence of those movies although they are terrible but I like … They had seeds of possible …
Steve: They had interesting things.
John: Yeah. They had interesting ideas. It just came out poorly.
Jason: Actually, the first half of the trilogy is good because I think the first half of the second movie is actually pretty good and then it comes to a screeching halt and never resumes.
Erika: I think they’re good popcorn movies. They’re just fun to watch, not fun to think about.
Jason: The car chase in Matrix Reloaded is amazing. It’s just … Then the architect appears.
John: Yeah. There’s great action scenes but you have to figure out for the first movie, there’s a clear arc that we’ll travel through of the beginning, middle end, we see … In the beginning you don’t know, then you do know and then it’s revealed and there’s a climax and blah, blah, blah. They just didn’t come up with that for the next two movies. They just wanted to finish telling the story but didn’t figure out. Then we have to have two more movies and each one of those movies, you used to be a satisfying, self-contained story then continues the plot. They said, no, we’re not going to do that.
Jason: There’s a lot more downloading happening in those movies in terms of mythology and stuff instead of really more satisfying stories. I mean, the fact that the third movie ends up being a giant Mac gun battle kind of thing is sort of disappointing.
Jason: Although you could say that about the end of this movie, too and maybe we’ll get there. Although we’re going gracefully through it. They put a bug in him. They put a bug in him and then he wakes up and I feel like we’re still at the point in this movie where there’s a question about whether anything truly fantastic that’s going on. We’re sort of in that … Is he imagining this? What’s the reason behind this? Is this the real world? I feel like the moment where … The moment where he gets what his mouth kind of [crosstalk 00:33:00]
John: Well, his mouth closes up.
Jason: They stick the bug in him and all of that is like, “Oh my God. What is happening now?” That’s that moment where it’s just terrible.
John: Once the mouth closes up, you’re like, “Okay. Does this movie have magic?” or is this all like a drug trip or hallucination? Previously, everything had been guns, fighting but no fantasy elements. Once his mouth closes over like that, it’s either a horror movie or a fantasy movie or there’s some sort of drug thing. I tease you by saying, okay now he wakes up, maybe he dreamed all that. It seemed like a dream sequence didn’t it? You’re still not sure what’s going on but now, you don’t even know what genre the movie is anymore which is great.
Steve: The first time that things are not quite right is for me, the best thing in the movie. That’s the way that Hugo weaving talks. He’s amazing. He’s halting. He’s got that kind of weird half accent. He has little pauses here and there. It’s like he’s struggling to figure out how humans talk. He’s trying to wrap his programming around and it’s wonderfully done. It really racks up the tension, I think. Something I noticed for the first time during the scene where they insert the bug this time out, there’s this funky little davit, a little up into the left of Keanu Reeves’ belly button. It’s like a bonus navel. It’s really weird. I think the reason this guy talks so weird is he was grown in a lab.
Jason: That’s his stem. That’s where he was plucked off the Keanu tree.
Steve: It’s just odd. I wasn’t sure if it was some weird piece of CD. They just throw in to confuse me or what the deal was.
Jason: Steve, you’re a connoisseur of horror movies. So I’m sure there has been lots of belly button related horror things in the past movies, but I love when they extracted the bug. It’s kind of like we’re going to stick … It’s like the belly button is a … Stay away from the belly button but …
Steve: It’s such a sensitive area. It’s a really effective deal.
Jason: I know. I know. It’s really effective but it’s … Every time I see it …
Steve: Especially when it comes out and it’s sloshing around in that purplish sludge in the tube.
Erika: It would be more effective if his line was delivered a little better. “Jesus Christ, that’s thing’s real?”
Steve: See? That’s what I’m talking about.
Steve: That’s the sort of thing where somebody other than Keanu would improve the film.
John: The secret is not to give him lines.
Jason: That’s right. He should just be going, just a lot of that, a lot of groaning.
John: This scene by the way, this grossness, and the horror of this scene in this thing is excellent. It gets even better once you realize that all of that was inside a computer simulation. Why does that have to be that gross and horrible? Well again, to some degree, you have to play by the rules of the thing. The physical representation of hacking or modifying the code of a running system is so much better when you abstract entirely from real code because God forbid, you try to show someone doing real hacking which they did I think in one of the sequels or maybe in this movie, too. I don’t remember. It’s so much better when you say, “No, this is a metaphor” for they put a bug on him and we’re going to extract it.
The metaphor is disgusting and terrible but really, what’s going on is you’re just changing one’s and zero’s in a program. This is just the manifestation of that. That’s at another scene that looks … That becomes more interesting in retrospect. When you first see it, it’s just gross and weird. I mean, you realize it was all fake, it takes on a new meaning and it becomes even more interesting, I think.
Jason: Well, and obviously, watching this movie this time, I noticed the … Again; this is probably why the graduate students were telling me, “Wow. It’ll blow your mind, man” is when Neo now goes to Morpheus and …
Steve: They drive him to Tim Burton’s Batman.
Jason: Morpheus talks. On my notes, I’ve got my notes in front of me that I took while I was watching this. What I have written down is Morpheus talks like a fortune cookie.
Erika: Well said.
Jason: It’s just … It’s hilarious and I think again, I kind of like it. I like that he is a spouting off, philosophical; everything he says is made to blow your mind. That’s what his job is, is to be that guy who is going to say these things. Laurence Fishburne says them incredibly well, these crazy things. What I noticed this time, I mean, I noticed the first time but what I really noticed this time is clearly, what the Wachowski’s goal and message of this movie is, the underlying message is that … Morpheus talks about paying your … You see it every time you pay your taxes. The Matrix is society. It blots individualism and free will. The Matrix is the system. It is society. It is the world around us. Of course, that’s the moment where you’re like, you guys were out there.
You think you’re not in The Matrix but you are in the matrix, which is the message. I mean, it’s not necessarily the most shocking and deep of messages but that clearly is what they want you thinking about this entire rest of the movie is are you in your own personal matrix? Morpheus is your guide to kind of like dress it up in sort of some BS pychodelia but it really is … When he says it’s when you pay your taxes, it’s like okay. I get what you’re doing. This is a … I don’t know what a … And with the bugs, government agent bugs, too. Is this a kind of libertarian anarchist kind of …
Steve: That’s actually two prominent mentions of paying taxes in the first 20 minutes of the film.
Steve: Agent Smith mentioned that as well. Trinity famously hacked the IRS database.
John: Well, they do balance it off. They are self-aware enough to balance it because Morpheus does talk like a fortune cookie and he spouts all these crap. There are characters that intentionally put in the movie who are that Morpheus guy, he’s nuts, right? Even his crew around him is … All right, Morpheus. They realize he talks like a fortune cookie. They realize how ridiculous it is. So there’s skeptics in the movie. We’re not supposed to take him seriously. Obviously, he takes himself totally seriously but the people around him are … That Morpheus guy is a little bit off. I may or may not believe all that crazy crap that he’s spouting and it’s amusing or whatever.
So he is balanced by that and I think the movie is not like … Clearly, that’s Morpheus’ role but I don’t think it’s the filmmaker’s position that … Hey, man. The matrix has you every time you pay your taxes. That’s what … That’s a one character in the movie says. Other character think he’s nuts and they just try to find the balance between is Morpheus nuts or are the skeptics right or what is the real situation.
Steve: I appreciate that a lot of the drive for Joey Pants turning code on them is he just can’t take Morpheus as BS any longer.
John: Exactly because he’s annoying. He’s a pompous ass.
Jason: He wants the steak and he’s tired of the fortune cookie, I think. He didn’t realize what he was signing up for, Joe Pantoliano, Joey Pants, who is cipher and betrays everybody. Yeah. He wants a steak and he didn’t realize what he was signing up for.
Erika: Speaking of Morpheus, originally Val Kilmer was supposed to play that part because that’s what they wanted. Every time I watch it now, I constantly am picturing Val Kilmer. I think that he could quote off pretty well.
Jason: I saw The Doors. He could totally do it.
Steve: Unlike Laurence Fishburne, he doesn’t have the texture of a fortune cookie so it doesn’t work as well.
Jason: What else … So they … He takes the red pill, right? You take the blue pill, you go back and we’ve got our whole Alice in Wonderland returns here. The next scene, again, a really memorable scene and John mentioned earlier is … I know it’s say, Neo wakes up in his goo coffin. He is covered in goo and he’s bald and I mean, I don’t know whether they shot this out of sequence so he could seem like emaciated but he seems so messed up in these scenes that it’s actually really great.
Steve: They got prosthetics or something on his chest.
John: Yeah, he does basically. Yeah, it has to look different. This was the point of the movie like right up to the pill point; he’s spouting all these crap. I’m like, “What the hell is he talking about?” because it sounded like just terrible BS or whatever. As soon as they showed him in the goo, I think pretty much every sci-fi there is like, in every … Every single piece falls into place. You need to see the end of the goosiness, soon as you see bald guy with tubes, you’re like, all right. Now I understand the whole movie. At that point, the exhilaration of saying I understand everything that has come before and I know exactly where this movie is going now, go. That was an exhilarating turn of events.
Whereas, I think non-sci-fi nerds at that point in the movie have not had enough explanation at all because that fortune cookie crap makes no sense to know what’s going on. Some of them make it through the whole rest of the movie. I’m not going to throw any of my parents under the bus but … The rest of the movie without understanding the premise and other people have to wait for the explanation later and see more of it for it to sink in. So everyone has some … You can put them on like a bell curve. How long after you see red goo do you understand what is going on in The Matrix? That could go out to infinity on the right side versus …
Jason: In The Matrix, where do they park their spaceship?
John: Exactly. That problem does exist.
Jason: Yeah, I suppose.
Steve: He does move pretty good for a guy who has never used his muscles before though I have to say.
John: Well, they have to keep him at certain strength. This is also the point where my little nerd brain started going and I started to turn against the movie because … I mean, I will briefly give my complaint about the premise of the movie. If you are a computer, artificial intelligence that wants to rule the world, the worst thing for you to do is to keep your only potential rival for the planet alive in any possible way for any reason. That is the worst decision you could ever make and in the movie, you can say in the comic book, they explained it. In The Matrix, they explained it. In the movie, there is no explanation why a super intelligent machine would keep humans around any capacity of them to create dramatic tension.
Jason: Even if living things were batteries which they’re not … Why not cows? Why not dogs? Why not …
John: Geo thermal heat … The worst thing you can do is keep humans around. I’m not even getting into … Is it good to get energy from living things? Not even discussing that, I’m just saying the worst thing you could do is keep humans around. Get rid of the humans. Job zero.
Jason: This is the Sky Net AI version of the villain not killing James Bond before he tells him his plan.
John: Sky Net had the right idea. Why did Sky Net want to do? Kill all the humans. It’s pretty simple.
David: What is the point again of having to feed the battery people this dream world in order to keep the amount of control? [crosstalk 00:43:10]
John: Yeah. It just goes downhill from there. Once you’ve got that premise given a false premise, anything follows.
Jason: So if you take the science out actually … I like to believe and this is again going outside of the scope of the movie. I like to believe that what’s really going on here is that the machines know that they lack creativity. They know that they need the humans but they want to subjugate them. The Matrix exists to get that human element and get the creativity and the things that machines lack and ciphen it off in this controlled environment. I like to believe that that is what’s going on there but its’ never said in the movie. It’s more just like we give this thing for you to play around in while we use you as a battery. That’s a nice statement of like human life has been reduced to being a Duracell battery. There is some product placement by the way.
David: The problem is that they try to explain a lot. They explained just enough that you feel like, okay. Well, it’s thought about some of this but then they stopped.
John: Well, they can’t get past the premise of keeping the humans around. I believe in the comic book, they tried to incise that by saying that the brain power of the humans was being used as a computational aid to give them more computing power because they couldn’t … The hardware wasn’t sufficient so they needed to use organic brains to help them compute. That’s why they needed these human brains. That doesn’t really hold up either. My favorite take on this is … We could talk about this more at the end, why these two things are better than the sequels. The Animatrix, the animated movies, which are prequels to this, they are … I like them better because I like Anime.
I like them better than the first Matrix movie and they’re shorter as well. So that’s exactly … It’s right up my alley. So it’s not surprising that I like that, because in those movies, it explains how this AI comes to be and that AI really wants to kill the humans. Then, kind of towards the end, you know it’s going to lead off into this premise where you keep the humans around for some reason but you can pretend that doesn’t ever actually happen. So I recommend everyone go watch those if you can find them.
David: I just think it would have been even better if they had said even less about why the humans were being kept around and just left it a complete mystery.
Jason: We don’t understand the ways of the machines. Well, yeah especially if their agents aren’t really the machines, they’re just the security agents running in the matrix, then yeah. It would be better if it was really just like we don’t even understand why they do it what they do.
John: Because it’s a terrible decision.
Jason: It’s a bad idea.
David: I assumed it was like the dream state and the creativity of … It’s one thing to be in a coma but it’s another thing to be actively living and creating and dreaming in that dream state and that that was what really charged up the batteries as it were. It wasn’t enough for them to just be living, breathing, pumping blood. They had to be creative, too.
Jason: Yeah. I don’t think that’s supported by the script.
David: It’s not. It’s not.
John: The magic of emotion and thought that somehow, there’s this extra physical world in which our emotions are harnessed into energies that are beyond the powers of machines and blah, blah, blah, which is fine if you’re going to do a superhero movie with telekinetic stuff or whatever. If you’re going to do a sci-fi movie, not so great.
Steve: I know a film with great spectacle is that you’re willing to say, all right. Well, I’m enjoying what’s going on here enough that I’m just going to stop thinking at this point about the major plot holes and the things that they aren’t explaining and I’m just going to go.
Jason: I do that when the battery thing comes up. Yeah. Okay.
Steve: Yeah and that’s something that I’m willing to do with The Matrix because the film is so well done in other ways.
Jason: Okay. Let’s see what else we got here. I wanted to mention the prophecy stuff. I’m not a big fan of the prophecy thing although I think they do some very nice things with it in this movie especially that moment in the plot where Joe Pantoliano is basically about to pull the plug on Neo. There’s that whole question, well this can’t be because we know that he’s the prophecy guy and they’re going to prove him wrong here. So they push that to the limit. Even though the actual prophecy doesn’t really make a whole sense because they say that there was a great prophet early on and we’re waiting for him to return, which is it’s a very Christian image.
So is Neo a reincarnation of somebody or is he … It’s not explained but it just seems … It seems to me like a sort of slapped in there. We need something kind of mystical but I’ll explain later is when …
John: I liked it because the prophecy … Of course, the oracle actress is great. I liked it because like Morpheus’ crap, you’re like, come on. No one’s expected to believe this crap. It’s unreliable. It’s not accepted at face value. In many points in the movie, they don’t tell you all this. This is the prophecy. It’s totally going to be the whole time, you’re like, this sounds like crap and other characters … Yeah. That does kind of sound like crap and then things happen that seems to counteract the prophecy. See, that prophecy stuff was crap. They kind of try and want to have the cake and eat it, too, making you disbelieve the prophecy just like Neo does and you believe it.
Even when it all comes to Farrish, you’re like, was that the prophecy, or was that what just happened? I like that. It’s like they don’t present you with a prophecy and expect you to swallow it whole. They expect fully that you’re going to hear this prophecy and it will sound like bogus crap. That wonderful scene in the kitchen plays off of that I think deliciously requiring again Keanu Reeves to do nothing except for looking like an idiot the whole time, which he does great. Well, that actress … What’s really going to crumble your cookie later or whatever.
David: Bake your noodle.
John: Bake your noodle, yeah.
Erika: Bake your noodle.
David: Like it could get much more baked.
Erika: Actually, they were sort of threading that throughout the film. I like that they sort of walked the fine line and said that you don’t necessarily need to believe this. Even at the beginning, the quirky guy at the beginning says, “You’re my own personal Jesus Christ” and then you got him flying away at the end. He’s definitely some sort of … He dies, Christ-like superhero figure rises again.
Jason: At least his name isn’t like John Carol or something like that where it’s like …
David: John from Cincinnati.
John: Another talk and tie in here is the … I believe it’s the end of … Is it The Hubbard or Lord of the Rings, some of them will tell you where again, [inaudible 00:49:20]. Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies just because you had a part in bringing them about. Again, I’ll speak thing is … I did all the stuff. Look what I did. He’s like, what does it mean? The prophecy wasn’t true just because you helped bring it about. You were a tool of the prophecy versus being your own free agent. Gandalf and the oracle would have some disagreements about prophecy problem.
David: Well I mean, that’s one of the things that really tickled me the first time I watched it, too is again, just seeing all the little religious allegories, the little things they stuck in there and not from any one particular religion.
Jason: It’s all over the place and not taken too seriously. The whole oracle scene I feel like is actually is great because Morpheus is so serious about it. She totally, the oracle totally diffuses it. It’s not that serious. You want cookie? Have a cookie. You’re not too bright. Have a cookie.
Erika: Just the fact that she’s completely subverting your expectations as being … Oh my gosh. We’re going to see the oracle. The oracle, the oracle, it’s so exciting and then you get there and she’s just this cute little lady who’s baking cookies in a very non-descript apartment.
Steve: She lives in the Brady Bunch’s kitchen.
Jason: Yeah and she also completely contradicts Morpheus, right? She’s like, sorry kid. You’re not the one, which is, what a relief. Keanu’s not the one.
John: They ended, what did she tell Morpheus?
Erika: She never actually says that though. If you listen to the exact words she says, she never … She just says kind of … Looks like you’re waiting for something.
Jason: Yeah, disappointment. Yup. Yeah. I know it’s great. So I can talk about there was a person before and all that but I feel like that’s the set up, right? We’re supposed to buy into Morpheus’ … He’s super excited. Finally, this is my thing. I find the one and I finally found him. It’s really awesome. Then you go there and … Don’t get too excited about it.
John: Morpheus doesn’t want to hear about it. Don’t tell me what she told you. [crosstalk 00:51:05]
Jason: I know it’s awesome but you can’t tell me, but it’s super awesome. Although again, I have a note down here, who is the oracle? Is she a program or something but I think that’s what the sequels talk about and it’s sort of. I like that. Anyway, they leave the oracle and we get the black cat who is the glitch in The Matrix, which is every now and then I see a black cat out in the street. I’m … Is that the glitch in The Matrix?
Erika: Déjà vu.
Jason: It makes me paranoid. When I pay my taxes … No, that never happens. I never think about The Matrix when I pay my taxes. We skipped over there, there’s no spoon, which … Has become a catch phrase, although at the time, I was … Yeah. There’s weird kids with a spoon.
David: That whole training sequence and stuff, too goes on before that.
Jason: I should say I know Kung Fu. I’m sorry I skipped right over that which is the instant learning.
Steve: That’s one of my favorite scenes of the movie.
Jason: The whole instant learning concept and they’re in the white room and they’re doing their training. That’s really your virtual reality movie. I think … I looked it up. I think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came up the following year in 2000. So I think this was the first movie I really saw with extensive wire work and this style of fighting as somebody who didn’t see a lot of Hong Kong action movies or anything like that. It’s a very …
David: It’s the same choreographer.
Jason: Yeah. So we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it since but at the time, I was like, “Whoa.” This is not like anything, I think me, and a lot of Western audiences have ever seen in terms of fighting.
John: Not to say action, they did the genre … The Kung Fu movie you’d see in the afternoon on Saturday mornings when we’re kids. You’re granted with the wire work makes it more impressive but the basic premise of … Your master and student being taught. Stop trying to hit me and hit me, that fits in any Kung Fu movie I watched growing up. You don’t need virtual reality. You don’t