WEDNESDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
COLD AND UNEMOTIONAL
Since hey are making a fourth MATRIX 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!
*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!
Expanded version with more ways to create interesting dialogue! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!
Only $4.99 - and no postage!
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E BOOKS PAGE
E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of
text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there
will soon be novels.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES
MY OTHER SITES
B MOVIE WORLD
Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.
FIRST STRIKE PRODUCTIONS
Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.
NAKED SCREENWRITING MP3s
The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON MP3!
The 2001 London Class on 8 MP3s! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival
wrapped. The two day class on 8 MP3s,
The 2 Day Class on MP3!
Every screenwriting book in the world!
In Association With Amazon.com
From the latest screenwriting book to
guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the
BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS
FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48
pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!
THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The
nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines,
several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
CLASSES ON MP3
CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 MP3s). Full length classes on MP3. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on MP3!