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The Matrix 4.0

The original Matrix is my favorite movie. Not because it was the best movie. Rather because it’s the most important, at least for our Digital Age. (It’s also among the most rewatchable. Hear that, Ringer? Rewatch the whole series before Christmas.)

And now the fourth Matrix is coming out: The Matrix Resurrections. Here’s the @TheMatrixMovie‘s new pinned tweet of the first trailer.

Yeah, it’s a sequel, and sequels tend to sag. Even The Godfather Part 2. (But that one only sagged in the relative sense, since Part 1 was perfect.)

If anything bothers me about this next Matrix it’s that what had seemed an untouchable Classic is now a Franchise. Not a bad beast, the Franchise. Just different: same genus, different species.

Given the way these things go, my expectations are low and my hopes high.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering why Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and Lilly Wachowski don’t return in Resurrections. Not being critical here. Just curious.

Bonus link: a must-see from 2014.

Also, from my old blog in 2003:

William Blaze has an interesting take on the political agenda of The Matrix Franchise.

My own thoughts about the original Matrix (that it was a metaphor for marketing, basically) are here, here and here.†

That was back when blogging was blogging. Which it will be again, at least for some of us, when Dave Winer is finished rebooting the practice with Drummer.

† I know those two links are duplicates, but I don’t have the time to hunt down the originals. And Google is no help, because it ignores lots of old material, including much of my first seven years of blogging.

Wonder What?

Our Christmas evening of cinematic indulgence was watching Wonder Woman 1984, about which I just posted this, elsewhere on the Interwebs:

I mean, okay, all “super” and “enhanced” hero (and villain) archetypes are impossible. Not found in nature. You grant that. After a few thousand episodes in the various franchises, one’s disbelief becomes fully suspended. So when you’ve got an all-female island of Amazons (which reproduce how?… by parthenogenesis?) playing an arch-Freudian Greco-Roman Quidditch, you say hey, why not? We’re establishing character here. Or backstory. Or something. You can hang with it, long as there are a few connections to what might be a plausible reality, and while things move forward in a sensible enough way. And some predictability counts. For example, you know the young girl, this movie’s (also virgin-birthed) Anakin Skywalker, is sure to lose the all but endless Quidditch match, and will learn in losing a lesson (taught by … who is that? Robin Wright? Let’s check on one of our phones) that will brace the front end of what turns out at the end of the story to be its apparent moral arc.

And then, after the girl grows up to be an introverted scientist-supermodel who hasn’t aged since WWI (an item that hasn’t raised questions with HR since long before it was called “Personnel,” and we later learn has been celibate or something ever since her only-ever boyfriend died sixty-four years earlier while martyring his ass in a plane crash you’re trying to remember from the first movie) has suddenly decided, after all this time, to start fighting crime with her magic lasso and her ability to leap shopping mall atria in a single bound; and then, after same boyfriend inexplicably comes back from the dead to body-snatch some innocent dude, they go back to hugging and smooching and holding hands like the intervening years of longing (her) and void (him) were no big deals, and then they jack an idle (and hopefully gassed up) F111, which in reality doesn’t have pilot-copilot seats side-by-side (or even a co-pilot, beging a single-seat plane), and which absolutely requires noise-isolating earphones this couple doesn’t have, because afterburner noise in the cockpit in one of those mothers is about 2000db, and the undead boyfriend, who flew a Fokker or something in the prior movie, knows exactly and how to fly a jet that only the topmost of guns are allowed to even fantasize about, and then he and Wondermodel have a long conversation on a short runway during which they’re being chased by cops, and she kinda doubts that one of the gods in her polytheistic religion have given her full powers to make a whole plane invisible to radar, which she has to explain to her undead dude in 1984 (because he wouldn’t know about that, even though he knows everything else about the plane), and the last thing she actually made disappear was a paper cup, and then they somehow have a romantic flight, without refueling, from D.C. to a dirt road in an orchard somewhere near Cairo, while in the meantime the most annoying and charmless human being in human history—a supervillain-for-now whose one human power was selling self-improvement on TV—causes a giant wall to appear in the middle of a crowded city while apparently not killing anyone… Wholly shit.

And what I just described was about three minutes in the midst of this thing.

But we hung with it, in part because we were half-motivated to see if it was possible to tally both the impossibilities and plot inconsistencies of the damn thing. By the time it ended, we wondered if it ever would.

Bonus link.

black hole

Last night I watched The Great Hack a second time. It’s a fine documentary, maybe even a classic. (A classic in literature, I learned on this Radio Open Source podcast, is a work that “can only be re-read.” If that’s so, then perhaps a classic movie is one that can only be re-watched.*)

The movie’s message could hardly be more loud and clear: vast amounts of private information about each of us is gathered constantly in the digital world, and is being weaponized so our minds and lives can be hacked by others for commercial or political gain. Or both. The movie’s star, Professor David Carroll of the New School (@profcarroll), has been delivering that message for many years, as have many others, including myself.

But to what effect?

Sure, we have policy moves such as the GDPR, the main achievement of which (so far) has been to cause every website to put confusing and (in most cases) insincere cookie notices on their index pages, meant (again, in most cases) to coerce “consent” (which really isn’t) to exactly the unwanted tracking the regulation was meant to stop.

Those don’t count.

Ennui does. Apathy does.

On seeing The Great Hack that second time, I had exactly the same feeling my wife had on seeing it for her first: that the very act of explaining the problem also trivialized it. In other words, the movie worsened the very problem it solved. And it isn’t alone at this, because so has everything everybody has said, written or reported about it. Or so it sometimes seems. At least to me.

Okay, so: if I’m right about that, why might it be?

One reason is that there’s no story. See, every story requires three elements: character (or characters), problem (or problems), and movement toward resolution. (Find a more complete explanation here.) In this case, the third element—movement toward resolution—is absent. Worse, there’s almost no hope. “The Great Hack” concludes with a depressing summary that tends to leave one feeling deeply screwed, especially since the only victories in the movie are over the late Cambridge Analytica; and those victories were mostly within policy circles we know will either do nothing or give us new laws that protect yesterday from last Thursday… and then last another hundred years.

The bigger reason is that we are now in a media environment summarized by Marshall McLuhan in his book The Medium is the Massage: “every new medium works us over completely.” Our new medium is the Internet, which is a non-place absent of distance and gravity. The only institutions holding up there are ones clearly anchored in the physical world. Health care and law enforcement, for example. Others dealing in non-material goods, such as information and ideas, aren’t doing as well.

Journalism, for example. Worse, on the Internet it’s easy for everyone to traffic in thoughts and opinions, as well as in solid information. So now the world of thoughts and ideas, which preponderate on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, are vast floods of everything from everybody. In the midst of all that, the news cycle, which used to be daily, now lasts about as long as a fart. Calling it all too much is a near-absolute understatement.

But David Carroll is right. Darkness is falling. I just wish all the light we keep trying to shed would do a better job of helping us all see that.


*For those who buy that notion, I commend The Rewatchables, a great podcast from The Ringer.