Sunday, May 31, 2009

10th Anniversary: The Matrix (Part 1)

10th Anniversary is a column where we talk about popular movies that are now 10 years old. Are they still popular? Culturally and artistically relevant? If they're franchises, have they retained their commercial viability?

We start out with a discussion about The Matrix with Tyler Foster and Nicholas Prescott. Look for more on The Matrix with other members of our writing staff.

Tyler Foster: saw The Matrix really recently, didn't you? You saw it when I had us watch it.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah, I think so. I saw parts of it here and there, but I think I watched the whole thing with you.
Tyler Foster: And you'd already seen the sequels.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah.
Tyler Foster: Was there a reason you didn't watch it when it came out, or during the height of its popularity?
Nicholas Prescott: I don't know...
Tyler Foster: I mean, nobody recommended it to you, or lent it to you or something?
Nicholas Prescott: Nah. I mean...1999 I think I was still in middle school, and it was before we had a DVD player.
Tyler Foster: Do you think the movie's still relevant?
Nicholas Prescott: Culture-wise?
Tyler Foster: Anything-wise.
Nicholas Prescott: Well, it's a pretty closed universe. The ideas are as old as old philosophy can get. But Zion and everything, it holds up just as well as any other sci-fi epic. The scene in the third movie where Neo goes inside the machine city and plugs in to fight Smith for the last time is amazing.
Tyler Foster: The first movie is pretty effective, especially in its pacing, and the acting is a little better than the other two, which becomes more portentous.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah. I have issues with the storyline not in terms of ideas, but execution. The relevance of choice and overbearing philosophical tones are a bit annoying at points.
Tyler Foster: Do you think the sequels damaged the reputation of the original, or do you think as time goes on it might be more accepted as a continuous story?
Nicholas Prescott: That's hard to say, since I saw it kinda backwards. Obviously, the first movie is the best.
Tyler Foster: I always felt that as much as people criticized them, they felt like part of a whole. The main problem with the series as three movies, a conceit that Hollywood invented, really, is that they actually have about 2½ movies to tell, and the last movie is considerably padded.
Nicholas Prescott: I feel Revolutions was the weakest, but maybe because I was just upset that Smith lost. I really liked Reloaded for its audacity.
Tyler Foster: What specifically about Reloaded did you think was audacious? The major thing about Reloaded for me is the scene with The Architect. Maybe people thought he was just babbling, but I mean, it's the one part of the series that's the thickest with information. Important information, too.
Nicholas Prescott: I feel it laid down a lot of groundwork for the universe. Not the beginning, not quite the end, but definitely the beginning of the end.
Tyler Foster: So, the universe prompted you to want to write about The Matrix video games?
Nicholas Prescott: Well, the reason I picked The Matrix was: 1) The Matrix Online is closing down, 2) I can't believe there are only 3 major titles for this series, and 3) It's probably not going to see any more iterations. It's pretty much a dead franchise, so short of seeing Neo in a fighting game, I doubt you'll ever see another Matrix game -- but why? It's not like Star Wars isn't going to continue making games indefinitely, or even the Lord of the Rings series.
Tyler Foster: That's a good point. It's kind of shocking to wonder: is The Matrix franchise dead only ten years later? As far as popular culture goes, this was a huge series, and now it seems like there isn't much more to it.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah. I went back to The Matrix site researching one of the story writers for MXO, and they have all these comics up. I never saw The Animatrix, but the comics are pretty intense. Many of them steal ideas from classic novels, but yeah...there won't be another comic, video game, movie, or whatever in the foreseeable future.
Tyler Foster: Well, while The Matrix provides a lot of details that would lend itself to comic books, animated stories and video games, do you think the universe is really cut out to be expanded? If the story of Neo is at the heart of it, that story gets resolved. Does that leave room for more Matrix or not?
Nicholas Prescott: Well, obviously the possibility of prequels is basically infinitely deep.
Tyler Foster: Right. Especially since The Architect says there were previous people prophecized to be The One that were forced to give up and restart Zion.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah. Just because Luke kills the Emperor didn't mean Star Wars didn't come up with more stories. As far as what I'd like to see in a Matrix game, it'd do pretty well in an open environment, so, maybe an open level map, if not an open world like GTA. I don't really know if you'd want to play as Neo.
Tyler Foster: Well, you could have it be mission based, so you have to complete each mission in a set amount of time, before your ship inside the real world has to move. I mean, if you have something like The Matrix, you're going to want to take advantage of the fact that you have two worlds to play in. That game Enter the Matrix seemed to have it designed so you only played levels in The Matrix, and all the "real world" stuff was the movie footage they recorded just for the game.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah, I liked those games but they wouldn't cut it this generation.
Tyler Foster: I think there's plenty action you could be doing in the real world, like escaping from the squid robots, and occasionally you'd probably have to dock at Zion, and your goal would be to take down like central Agent points, although you'd want to avoid the Agents because regular people aren't supposed to be good enough to defeat or escape from them.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah. Alternatively, you could also play as an application, a rogue application trying to help the humans --
Tyler Foster: No, wait: imagine if you wanted to be an agent, this would be a rare opportunity to make like an almost completely player vs. player MMORPG where the agents you're like trying to avoid might be other players. It could have starter levels where you would be only trying to avoid preprogrammed Agents, but then as the game progressed you could move to missions that would be completely PvP and no AI villains.
Nicholas Prescott: Yeah, although, as you said, you're in a situation where you can't deal with Agents, so instead there could be situations where you end up fighting other humans that are still asleep and think you're a thief or a criminal, or you're fighting the applications or something, but Agents would still need to be unbeatable. They are working on a game that is supposed to be a single player campaign where the enemies are humans, but it keeps getting put off.

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