Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Question for the Week of July 2 - July 8: Neo Sucks at His Job

Did the Wachowskis realize that bringing back Agent Smith means that Neo couldn't - and never did - defeat one single Agent?
I just realized this is the 300th post on Net-flixation! I know, I know, I wrote that one of my old posts wouldn't be included in my official count... but think about it - it's gonna feel weird celebrating some other number. The ticker only reads "300" once, right?

I thought 3 years was the longest I could work on this blog, so every new entry is me beating my own expectations. Thanks to everyone out there who's been so supportive and interested. I try to make it worth your while to be here.

I'd never want to be the only one laughing at a joke I tell, which is why I don't tell bad jokes; I hope it's the same with my writing. If you'd like to continue having a bit of fun with me, you're in luck, because I'm actually considering a serious schedule again:

This month, I'll publish 4 times per week here: 1 random post, along with 1 Question, 1 Fan-made Gem, and 1 Review. If you noticed, I've been leaning toward something like that lately. Suggestions or preferences are encouraged. Think it over, and let's move on to this week's Question.

Many things fell apart with the release of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions: my faith in the Wachowskis, my hope for a great followup to the fantastic original, and any expectation - or desire - for more stories in that universe.

There were so many things to like and be impressed by, the first time out. Among film fans, the antagonist, Agent Smith can come up pretty quickly in a "best villain" list. He's a smart enemy, very unique and with a distinct personality - both from earlier cinematic bad-guys, as well as from his fellow Agents. He's motivated, and bat-shit insane - a rare and deadly combo for a mean-spirited computer program, huh?...

With time, I've only grown to like Hugo Weaving, who played Smith, more and more. For one thing, I never saw Priscilla, Queen of the Desert until after 1999. I also got to enjoy him in the intense cop thriller, The Interview, and I loved his portrayal of the earnest (yet semi-stoned) Elrond in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings series.

Although Priscilla and Interview were more actorly, non-action roles, Smith is still a huge standout for me because of two simple reasons: Weaving is (a) epileptic and (b) a lefty. Apparently, the stress of such uncomfortable stage combat can aggravate his condition (epilepsy is a problem between your brain's two halves). As such, his stunt scenes must've been more difficult than for any other cast member.

Hugo is not just an excellent and skilled professional, he's willing to work under extra-tough conditions. As much as I may respect and look forward to seeing him on-screen, however, he never should have appeared in the sequels; certainly not as a primary or secondary bad guy. Why? Well, we finally come to the question for this week:

Am I the only who realized that Agent Smith's appearance in Reloaded meant that Neo never actually killed a single g-d Agent after he got his powers?

It's true. "No Agents were killed in the making of this movie" - those words should've been in the closing credit scenes, with a Rage Against The Machine track blasting the whole time. It's a little harsh, but the lack of dead agents only grew worse as it went on, as the Matrix sequels relied a lot on gimmicky brawls.

Soon, we're supposed to believe that cyber-Jesus' best trick is now... punching an Agent into unconsciousness. In Reloaded, Neo mutters that his newest opponents are "upgrades," but being able to be knocked out doesn't really sound like an improvement. It sort of raises the issue of how a computer program can lose consciousness at all, without being deleted or "turned off" somehow.

We can even leave aside the issue of, y'know, saving those poor trapped humans whose bodies were taken over just because they were near Neo's resistance group. Actually, wait - the Wachowskis love religious stuff so much, a computer program exorcism would've fit right in.

But fine, dropping other artistic and thematic concerns, it just comes down to Neo not really being able to defeat (a) a type of enemy that he beat(?) before and (b) become as powerful as we're told he could be. And, for some reason, we never see Neo do another "naw, son, I'm all up inside you" trick again.

In fact, if The One can "change things as he [sees] fit," then why isn't this guy deleting the Agents, or turning the ground to a bottomless hole or burning stuff with the snap of his fingers? I guess being fast, strong, and flying was as much as Mr. Anderson could imagine?...

And now there's a back-up question: was Smith so special that he could survive Neo's attack, or would that have happened to every agent that he did it to?

I don't want to dwell on my own question any longer; not just now. It gives me a pain to even think about what could have been, and how badly this series collapsed... It was mostly kinda horrifying, and I watched 4+ more hours of Matrix scenes with a feeling like the audience in The Producers, right after the show starts.

Neo killed three agents in The Matrix, four if you count getting Smith run over by that train. But after he realizes his power, he doesn't kill any of them. How Trinity isn't the one, I'll never know...


  1. Good question! Somehow, in the x many months between the original and Reloaded, Neo never had reason to use the "fly into you and blow you up from within" technique on another agent, and didn't think to use it on the agents who bust up the meeting at the beginning of the film, even though that seemed like a pretty successful strategy the last time around.

    Seriously, though, I have to admire the immensity of the hole the Wachowskis left themselves in at the end of the Matrix. They have Neo stop bullets with his mind, fly, and do that thing where he takes over and destroys Smith from within (a cool reversal of what agents do to regular plugged-in humans). Having a sequel meant having to make exceptions to Neo's powers that made no damn sense: he can stop bullets in midair, but he can't stop some guy from swinging a sword or a fist at him. He can fly, but it doesn't occur to him to do so at any of the half-dozen additional points in the story where it would make sense to do so. And there's the no destroying agents thing--even though I thought that the agents he beats up in the sequels did "die" in the same way that the agents who were shot (or in Smith's case, crushed by a train) in the original Matrix "die," by being forced to leave their digital host bodies, but still able to take over a new host.

    As many problems as I had with the Matrix sequels (mainly with Revolutions) I can't fault the idea of bringing Smith back. For a character who'd called humanity a virus to himself become viral was a cool idea, and you needed a supervening threat to resolve the man/machine war. It was one of the sequels' few good ideas, and it's a shame they didn't develop it better (and that Weaving couldn't find the magic again in his second go-around as Smith).

  2. Thanks, DJ! ├Łeah, the Wachowskis set up a situation where a guy can do anything, which would be hard to create tension or un-forced conflict. I expected those two were up to the task, and they weren't, balefully so.

    Still, I don't think Neo killed those Upgrade Agents at the start of Reloaded - their bodies didn't shimmer and turn back to human, right? They were just not moving anymore. Such a far cry from the 1st film, huh?...

    I'm sorry to write it, but I originally wrote "bring back Agent Smith, *in that way.*" He was a great character - and you're dead right about the "virus" reversal; it's nifty that Smith becomes an agent of rebellion, just like his enemy... But if I had to take Smith being dead or Smith coming back like he did, I'd rather do without. Especially that stupid laughing scene in Revolutions...

    Ugh. Is this what bile tastes like?


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