I heard a “This American Life” once where one of the stories was about this guy, a huge Star Wars fan as a kid (as was I), who had been so upset by Phantom Menace that he found himself rewriting it, nightly, as he fell asleep. He worked out a whole elaborate plot and explained, in the radio piece, how his version would have been So Much Better.
I felt that way about the third Matrix movie. And the time has come for me to get this off my chest.
SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the movies and you care about such things.
I remember seeing the poster for the first Matrix and thinking, wow, that looks nifty. It still does, doesn’t it?
And the previews all had all super-cool looking clips, all from the first half of the movie. I saw the first Matrix in the theater on a huge screen that no longer exists, as it was later cut up into two tiny theaters, and then closed down altogether. The theater was packed—wow, when was the last time I saw a movie with that many people? I was immersed in the story, enjoying the mystery of it all, and then WHOOSH—
—Neo wakes up in the Vat of Goo, and WHAMMO! Remember that feeling? That the bottom had dropped out? This is a dream sequence, right? A drug induced weirdness? No? WHOA! This is a totally different movie than I thought it was! COOL.
In a movie full of awesomeness, that moment was, by far, the best.
I liked the second movie. I did. I know some people had problems with it, and it didn’t do for me what the first one had, but it was full of complicated chewy goodness, questions of identity and purpose, meaning of life, ethical choices, and cool leather jackets. And it promised so much.
I was stoked at the end for what they would come up with next, I believed they would make good on their promise. I believed!
But the last one. Revolutions. Oh, man. It hurt, didn’t it? The stupid Kid subplot was awful. The whole business with Niobe and the dude infected with Agent Smith, Bane, what a waste of time. And whe whole Machine City thing made no sense. Neo being a blind prophet, having powers outside of the Matrix, dying in the end—none of it worked.
I’m sorry, but gawd, what happened?
Let’s now have a moment of silence for our hopes and dreams for Matrix: Revolutions.
No, forget that.
Instead, I’ll tell you want should have happened.
At the end of Reloaded, Neo had just saved Trinity and then somehow repelled the incoming Sentinels with some kind of EM pulse from his bare, supposedly human (that is, not in the Matrix) hand. And Agent Smith seems to have taken over a human.
But all of Neo’s powers came from his ability to see through the Matrix code and manipulate it. Outside of the Matrix, he’s just this guy. And Agent Smith is a program, a bit of code—if he is a program, he’s got to have a computer to infect, right?
So clearly, they’re still in the Matrix.
Wouldn’t that have been cool? The Wachowski brothers could have pulled the rug out from under us a second time.
That’s righty, the whole Zion world could have been just another Matrix program, designed especially for those human minds that the Architect said were too rebellious by nature to tolerate the more mainstream 1999 program. Give the rebellious minds a revolutionary city to love and protect and they’ll happily go through their days fighting the Machines while their bodies provide electricity to Machine City.
But no, let’s take it further. Maybe that whole image of fields of human beings in pods, maybe that’s from the past, too. Maybe, just as 1999 was chosen as a time period with which to distract the minds of the majority of humans, maybe 2199 is just another time period chosen as a distraction for these other humans. It was real at one point, but no longer.
So what would real life be like in the Now?
I say, the Machines advanced on. When Neo does his thing to pierce the 2199 program and is awakened from the Matrix-within-the Matrix once more, he finds the Machines wearing beautiful human-like bodies, in a beautiful light-filled, enclosed, city. Here, some of the Machine population argue that the humans are no longer needed for energy, are no longer a threat, and so they should be set free. Kind of PETA for People. And maybe the Machines need the humans for something, creativity, art, ingenuity, maybe they’ve ground to a halt, maybe they’ve lost their sense of purpose. Maybe they want to know their creators. I dunno. But whatever it is, Neo and some of his friends are put into new (cloned, perhaps?) bodies, given a tour of the Brave New World, and are confronted with the idea that the Machines are no longer their enemies.
Should Neo and Trinity trust this version of the Machines? Can they trust their senses? Is the war really over?
And then there would be some intrigue between different Machine factions where some wish to destroy the humans forever, some are just using the ‘Human Question’ to distract from something else, or as PR to make their group look good, meanwhile they really are doing the opposite. Maybe the big secret is that the Earth has repaired itself, that the humans COULD be set loose into it, to coexist with the Machines, while some Machines cover this up for their own reasons. Some programs want to help the humans, some are pretending to want to help, some want to destroy, some could care less. The nature of life, the meaning of existence, what are we here to do with our time, all of that could be questioned and explored. Conflicting information, conflicting goals—what should Neo do?
But it won’t be a cool Matrix movie if it doesn’t have some time in the Matrix, right? So, say the humans can join the Machine communications, like hooking up to the internet, only instead of nasty spike in the head, there is some elegant hand-in-a-light-beam interface or something. Lots of cool mileau stuff you could do here, exploring Machine City. Neo gets to do his thing, maybe some fights, throw in some sex, yada yada, all in the Machine Matrix. Woo hoo!
Until finally, the bad Machines are trounced and a group of humans, in their nice new bodies (no freaky holes in the head!), and some Machines in theirs, escape the confines of the Machine City and go out into the natural world, the environment repaired by the passage of time, to begin anew. Neo is back to being just this guy. Trinity gets to see her sky. We walk out of the theater stoked.
Wouldn’t that have been So Much Better?
I am certain it would have been.