Thursday, January 6, 2022

Matrix Resurrections


Yeah, there will be spoilers ...

I mentioned in an earlier post that I liked this one. I should probably clarify further to "I didn't hate it as much as some people seem to online" but I do agree with much of the criticism. Then single most applicable word I can apply here is "unnecessary" as in no one was really asking for this movie to be made. 

The original 1999 Matrix movie is great, was incredibly impactful in its time, still holds up today, and is a great, self-contained story. If someone was only going to watch one this would be the one.

The first two sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, are good movies in a lot of ways and they do expand the universe and we do see much more of the story of freeing humanity from the machines but most opinions feel I have read feel like they do not quite achieve the same level of greatness as the original. I'm in this camp as there are a ton of cool moments in them but I sometimes feel like we see too much ... by telling the rest of the story it limits what one might envision as "the rest of the story". I don't think they're bad but I think you can stop with the original and not be missing a lot of crucial information. 

The original is the story of Neo becoming The One - that's the trip we are taking. When you talk about a sequel you have to figure out what story we are telling. Is it a big picture on the war against the machines? Is it still about Neo using his new powers? Is it about Neo and Trinity? Is it about the scrappy band of rebel characters led by Neo and they're actions in the war? Is it really about the awakening and transformation of Agent Smith? There are elements of all of these in the sequels and that may be one of the things that weakens them.

For Resurrections it's still a good question. Time has passed, some kind of reset button has been pressed and Neo is roughly 20 years older and looks about like he would if he had kept on going on his original pre-red pill character's career. Trinity shows up on the fringes of his life and there is clearly some kind of connection but their lives have been configured to keep them apart - and yes, it is quickly evident that they are in the Matrix. 

One weird part is that scenes from the original Matrix are playing in the background regularly and at one point the entire opening sequence is re-done with different actors and even some different characters showing up. We end up going through the journey of "awakening" Neo all over again as well which to me is truly pointless. Then he decides to go get Trinity too so we go through the process one more time in the film. 

A mistake that is made during all of this is that the backstory that is presented as far as what has gone on since Revolutions, a civil war between machines, some of which allied with the humans, sounds like a more interesting story than what we are watching. You could have made that a sequel with resurrecting these particular characters and continued the story of the world without needing to continue those characters - but that's not the direction they went. 

And no, it doesn't retcon the events of the sequels so yes, Neo and Trinity did die. The new Architect type character decided to bring them back to life and talks about how it was difficult ... but he did it to fix some of the disruptions to the world and created a new Matrix. This is all pretty loosely defined so don't ask too many questions. 

There is a lot of self-referential, meta, inside baseball type stuff, especially early on but I thought it was fine, if not quite as clever as the writers maybe thought they were. I didn't think it damaged the movie.

My best effort at finding the point of this movie is as a take on aging. Those movies are hitting the 20+ year mark now and if you look at it through this lens some of it makes more sense. There is one line that drove this home for me:

I took it as a parallel for life in some ways: Something you thought was fixed or resolved years ago turns out not to be and ends up turning your current OK-ish life upside down. Can you measure up to those glory years or will you fail trying? What if getting your old team back together isn't enough? Then there's all the "ex" stuff and moving on, then not moving on, "who you're really supposed to be with" ... the whole Neo/Trinity thing is probably worth more examination. 

That's my best take on it.

As far as why we needed to see again the red pill sequence, the unplugging, the rescue, the training sequence complete with Morpheus and a dojo ... I don't know. I don't think we did but that's where they went. 

Overall there's no awesome moment in the film like the lobby fight or the helicopter escape, or "dodge this" or any of that. Nothing like the car chase in Reloaded, or the mech defense in Revolutions. The fights themselves are ... slow. They do not approach the fast, crisp, amazing fight choreography of the earlier movies and that was a shame. 

So I come back to "unnecessary" as my ultimate feeling on this one. Sure, it's fun to step back into the Matrix. It's cool to see some of those characters again - even if many of them have changed actors. It's just that a lot of it feels like a loop back through the first movie. It's revisited but not really enhanced or improved. There is more story for Neo and Trinity but I never felt like it was a better story and so I'm not sure why we did all that work to get ... nowhere really. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Looking ahead for '22


It's a little strange -  I haven't done one of these new year type posts in a few years and I think my approach has shifted.  I don't feel any real urgency with the goals this year as far as must-do or must-have type things. I'm fairly happy with where a lot of things are right now and I'm guessing that has a lot to do with it. 

For example EN World has a Most-Anticipated RPG list every year and there are usually a few entries that have my attention but this year ... man there is nothing there that grabs me. Partly because of subjects, partly because of systems, and also because for some of them I can think of how I could run them in existing games without much trouble. D&D 5th is still rolling along as is PF2. Star Wars and Star Trek both have well-supported games. Superheroes are well-covered too. That new Marvel game scheduled for March is really the only thing on the horizon I am sort of excited about but even there it's very much a wait and see kind of feeling rather than thinking up a new campaign.

RPG-wise I expect to keep running Deadlands for the near future, hopefully to the conclusion of this particular campaign. I like the system and the setting, my players seem to as well, and for a published campaign it's pretty open and flexible. Pinnacle's plot point approach works pretty well for me. 

When that eventually wraps up we will have some decisions to make. I usually like to change things up and I've been talking up ToEE for 5th edition as our next game but you never know. I'd say Savage Rifts is a strong candidate as well. I'd still like to do at least a short run with some version of Star Wars but we will see. The ever-burning hope of an ongoing supers campaign is still around but I suspect some of these options will have to wait until I feel like I can run a second game alongside a main campaign. I've done it before but this past year or two has worked best with one campaign going that everyone can plan around. FOCUS! Do not split the player-party!

I haven't played an RPG in a while and that's something I miss. Paladin Steve's years-long Pathfinder  campaign ended in late 2019 and Variable Dave's 50 Fathoms campaign was blocked by quarantine in 2020. he eventually started running it online but I just do not like the online option and they eventually wrapped it up last summer. There has been talk of starting up something new but nothing has happened yet. Maybe this year will see a re-kindling.

Battletech was a surprise end of year option and we have one kiddo at least very much interested so that might become a thing this year. I'm not sure if it will stay a board/minis option or if it might erupt into the RPG side too but it would be fun after this long to actually spend some time with it. It's not like I really need to buy or build or paint anything for it so it's an easy option. 

On the miniatures front 40K will stay the big dog. First goal is to finish the Necrons, then the Blood Angels and then we will see. Maybe Eldar, maybe Chaos ... plus there is always power armor work to do too. Not sure I will do a new army this year.  The robots were a unique situation being in the starter sets and all. The Tyranids are the only other army I don't have that really tempt me these days but I don't feel they're a must-have yet. The other likely candidate is the Custodes because hey, you only need about 20 models to make an army. 

Besides 40K I'd -like- to paint up and play my Flames of War ... and my Kings of War ... and some Sigmar ... and maybe try Legions.  Legions is pretty likely at this point to be the "new game failure" for me in 2022. More to come there for sure. 

That's right - Total War Warhammer III is coming soon too - that'll be fun.

I've had a weird urge lately to go retro. We know there's a reborn old-school Warhammer coming some day and I'm tempted to start building an old-school army to go with it. I still have my Chaos Warriors but all that stuff sitting half-done for Kings of War would look good on individual bases. Dwarves are also an inclination as I've never built a fantasy dwarf army in any game ... also Empire and all their crazy variety ... and Dark Elves for some reason. Not sure where this will go. It's not an urgent feeling but more of a "hey I could get a unit here and a unit there and have something ready to go whenever the new rules arrive."

So yes, this year feels way more casual than many in the past - laid back if you will. No hard schedule or agenda, just knowing what I'm doing now with a rough outline for later. The last couple of years have shown me that hard plans for 6+ months are likely to be disrupted so keep them loose. Worry about the now thing and maybe the next thing and leave the rest flexible.

More to come.