WEDNESDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

MATRIX RELOADED:
COLD AND UNEMOTIONAL


Since we talked about THE MATRIX on Monday, and they are talking about rebooting it and/or doing a fourth film...

I loved the first MATRIX film, but was disappointed with the second, and decided to skip the third. While watching MATRIX RELOADED, several times I wish I had gotten loaded a few times before watching the movie. The movie was slow going, cold and uninvolving, and had fight scenes that put me to sleep. Here's where I think the movie went wrong:

1) Exposition. I swear, I thought I was watching PHANTOM MENACE for a while! Once we get to Zion the film just dies. It's one chunk of exposition after another.

Matrix Reloaded DVD

There's a whole pointless scene that explains why Tank isn't in this movie - and gives us this big chunk of backstory on his replacement Link. The problem is - we now know all of this stuff about Link... and we *never* knew that much stuff about Tank. Tank is just a member of the crew in THE MATRIX - he's an important member of the crew (lots of face time) but they never spent any time giving us details beyond that he was freeborn. We get this history of Link, his problems with his wife, whether he should be reassigned to another ship, etc. I know they were trying to make Link into the non-believer who comes to believe... but did we need boring static scenes to do that? Why not SHOW Link as the non-believer in action scenes?

Then we have all of the political crap with Morpheus and the commander - booooooring! Why do we need that stuff? It's this big political subplot that we come back to over and over again... and it kills the story momentum. It's there to explain Morpheus's relationship to the government of Zion - but do we even need to know that? It's also supposed to establish the love triangle - but that has to be the most boring way to establish a love triangle in the history of film! Look at the Luke/Leia/Han love triangle in STAR WARS - it's all in the action scenes!

More political crap with Anthony Zerbe (cool that he's in the film) - this leads to that booooring speech by Morpheus and the boooooring walk through the machine room with Neo. All of this to establish that Zerbe is going to side with the believers - so that when we get to another one of those booooring political scenes Zerbe will send Jada to help against the commander's wishes. Ummm - that's a boring *idea*. It's better if Jada is told by the commander (her lover) that she can't go to help Morpheus, and she says "He needs me" and goes anyway. That's a *conflict* scene (rather than a booooring political scene). We're also establishing Zion politics, here, and the religion vs. government thing. Why do we need any of this?

We introduce that French dude and his wife and their marriage troubles... huh? Why do we need ANY of that? Why do we need sexy Peri telling us how her husband doesn't kiss her anymore. How is that any of our business? What does it have to do with the story?

And that pointless fight scene with the Oracle's bodyguard just to establish that she's protected? All you have to do was ask.

There are more scenes where people just sit around and talk instead of DOING THINGS, where it's all about the politics instead of the conflict. Those scenes just kill the movie.

2) Neo & character arc. A regular guy who must grow to become a superhero is a great character arc, but what do we have in this movie? Superman. Pretty dull stuff. There were two things they could have explored - and both were mentioned in passing... but neither was what the movie was *about*. So Neo has no real character arc - he's superman.

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Early on, there's a great set up that I really wanted to see explored. Neo gets to Zion and there are people there with their sick kids who want him to heal them. There are people who have brought him gifts. There are people who worship him. People who wear necklaces with little Neos - like we wear crucifixes. In the first film, Cypher has this great line about Neo being the guy who has to save the world - and the responsibility that entails. I was waiting for us to see the dark side of that - that Neo *can't* save sick children. That he *can't* perform miracles. That it's not easy being Jesus. But instead we cut away for that boooooring Link & wife exposition scene. I would rather focus on Neo having troubles living up to the hype of being the chosen one. That would make Neo easy to identify with - more human. It also takes us back to the self-doubts of the first film. Though it's been decades since I saw it, didn't RESURRECTION have some of this stuff in it?

The other thing they could have explored better is that choice between love and duty thing. That was in the script, but kind of as a side story. He's afraid that Trinity might get hurt because he's the chosen one. That's a great idea - look at how well it works in SPIDER-MAN. Peter Parker really has to deal with his powers hurting everyone around him for the entire movie - that's his character arc. The whole movie is leading up to the scene where the villain gives him a choice between saving the woman he loves or a school bus full of children. In RELOADED Neo really doesn't have to deal with the problem very much. Sure, he has nightmares, and sure, by the end of the film he has to pick a door (like he's on LET'S MAKE A DEAL) but the rest of the time that isn't what haunts him... NOTHING seems to haunt him. He doesn't have a major emotional struggle like he did in the first film... so it's harder to identify with him. Plus - he's superman this time around - we KNOW he'll win the fights.

3) Magic & Mind Benders. The first film took us down the rabbit hole. It was one strange twist after another. This film is matter-of-fact and doesn't really have any rabbit holes to take us down. All of the reveals are kind of bland - nothing as dramatic as taking the red pill. Nothing as frightening as Cypher pulling the plug on Epoch. Everything was bland - no magic in the story. Since they don't have all of the big reveals like the first film had, they needed to make the small reveals *feel* bigger and more important in this flick. They needed to create a sense of mystery and awe - and it just wasn't there. Zion was boring. The characters they meet along the way - boring and unimportant. Smith is bland this time around - nothing nearly as cool as his "humans are a cancer" and "can't stand the smell" ideas from the first film. Remember how cool it was that the mechanical devices like the bug they plant in Neo seem to be living organisms in the first film? Where's *that* kind of thing in this film.

It's not just that we have high expectations, it's that they didn't have anything as cool as in the first film.

I know, by the end we get a *potential* mind bender or two - but that's way too late (and they seem to be MATRIX REVOLUTIONS stuff). The film has no magic.

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4) What's the story? In the first film it's clear that the story is about Neo becoming the chosen one, but what is the story here? What is the goal? Who really is the antagonist (since we have free-range Smith, he seems to be just a revenge guy, not the actual villain). I really didn't understand the purpose of the Keymaker until we came to the scene with the doors - and even then I wondered why we couldn't just get the Lockpicker instead. In a way, this goes back to the magic. If these are supposed to be important, iconic characters we need to build up their legends and understand how significant they are. We need to understand that only the Keymaker can open the backdoors of programs... and that he's LEGENDARY. Remember how legendary Trinity and Morpheus were in the first film - even before Neo has meet them they are the most important people in his life. They are the people who can answer the question - what is the matrix? Here, the Keymaker is just some dude we've never heard of before who doesn't seem all that important. He isn't a legend.

We participate in the first film. Neo sees the screens showing code and all he sees is code. Cypher says after a while you don't see the code, you see people (a blonde, a brunette, a redhead). Neo is fighting the matrix all the way through the story - we want him to be able to see what Cypher sees on the monitors. We hope that he will gain these powers, but we fear the Oracle may be right - he's just a regular guy. We've been taken inside Neo's character. So when Neo sees the hallways as code at the end, we know that he is more powerful than the matrix. We know that he can beat Smith. If we don't know what the heck anyone is doing or why, we can't fear that they'll fail. We have to be taken inside and know what the goal is. We have to be given the plan, then see it go wrong.

After wasting all of my time on Link's marriage problems and politics in Zion, when we get down to the STORY - their plan to end the war - we don't get much info and I was confused by *why* what was behind the gold door was important. The most important part of the story seemed really rushed. When they lose all of the people inside that one building, I not only didn't care about them, I wasn't sure how that impacted anything. I didn't really get what they were up to - and it seemed like they just came up with this *goal* right before the end. That it wasn't what the whole film was about, just what the last half hour was about. Not a legend, more of an afterthought.

I don't think they needed a complete mind bender like the first one - just SOMETHING.

Here are two things that could have been interestingly done - but weren't:

1) Agent Smith - instead of an "Oh my God!" moment when Smith multiplied, they telegraph it by having Smith double in an earlier scene. Wouldn't it have been better if Smith's multiplicity had been revealed in the big fight scene?

They didn't use the Smith thing the way they used the agents popping into bodies in the first film. If you remember how cool and frightening it was when the wino in the subway station turns into Smith and attacks... or the chase at the end where no matter where Neo runs, Smith pops into a body ahead of him. A cool part was when Neo runs through an apartment where a mom is making dinner.... and the mom turns into Smith and throws a knife at him.

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2) Backdoors - one of the cool ideas in the film that was underused was the backdoors between programs and sections of programs. The idea that there's a hallway that connects different places within the matrix. THIS could have been used as a big and weird reveal - discovering that doorways in what we think of as the real world may lead to different locations (and maybe even different *times*) in what we think of as the real world. What if there is more than one matrix? What if there's a *western matrix* and a *colonial matrix*... and what of there's a *2200 matrix* (or whatever year the story takes place in)? What if secret doorways could take you to these places?

Now here's the Keymaker cool idea - what if different keys opened doors differently. That is, the key you use to open the door to your home takes you to your home... but a special key would open the same door but inside would be someplace else. That using a different key on the same door takes you to a different place. This builds up the legend of the Keymaker, and creates a cool idea. Every door is like the screen in Buster Keaton's SHERLOCK, JR - when you open it you never know what's on the other side.

The backdoors and hallways idea could have been used like this: They discover that no matter where they go, Agents get there first. It's as if the agents are magic - they can travel hundreds of miles in a heartbeat. In the big fight with Agent Smiths, Neo chases one to a doorway... barely gets in, sees the weird hallway. Fight in the hallway, and Neo grabs this Agent Smith's special keys. He opens a door - it's China! He opens another door - it's Paris! It's amazing that he's discovered the backdoors - but he can't remember which door takes him home! Then a few Agents enter the hallway through other doors and Neo has to run out the first door he can open... into a desert!

This sets up the backdoors, the reason why they need the Keymaker, etc... and every time someone in the audience unlocks their front door they'll wonder what's on the other side. Are their doorways that link different parts of the world?

Here's where the hallways & doorways could turn into a great twist:

After Neo realizes there are doors that lead to different time periods - different matrixes (or is that matrixii?) - the big twist could be that there is no such thing as the past. We know about the past because people have found their way from "past" matrixes to our matrix and their stories have become history... but in actuality their worlds take place at the same time as our world takes place...

Because there was NEVER a time when humans were not batteries in the big machines. There was NEVER a time before the matrix. The past is just another matrix... and humans have ALWAYS been coppertops.

Now that would have been a cool To Be Continued cliff hanger!

THE MATRIX gave us a character we could identify with and action scenes that told the story. We were in Neo's shoes, trying to figure out what was going on. In MATRIX RELOADED Neo hides behind his dark glasses - too cool to care. He's a character without an emotional problem - no reason for us to care about him. Those dark glasses and that cool attitude keep us out, so we aren't involved in the character or the story. We are kept at a distance and observe the story instead of participate in it. When all you have is the surface of the film, that surface better be as entertaining as KILL BILL (vol. 1), but RELOADED doesn't have the humor or the wild energy of the Tarantino film. It just lays there on the screen - boring things happening to people we don't care about. Too cool for its own good. I hoped REVOLUTIONS would be better - but it was more of the same. Nothing new and exciting and nothing *emotionally involving*. Make sure you allow us inside your protagonist, make sure you amaze us with your story instead of just creating a string of events. Your screenplay needs to be an emotional experience for the audience, not just things happening. Look at every scene, every line... what is the audience feeling? How does this scene or this line of dialogue or this action emotionally involve the audience in your story? If we don't care... we don't care!

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