Chapters 10 – 11. “Slimy Rebirth” / “Nebuchadnezzar’s Crew”: 32:23 – 37:50
Logline: Neo awakens in a vast field of pods containing human bodies, then nearly gets flushed to death.
The Sequence. Neo wakes up to something that is somehow both like and so much worse than we could have imagined. If pressed, maybe we would have imagined him in some sort of laboratory with electrodes all over his skull. And when he’s awake we see that it’s that same image conceptually, only more organic and terrifying than we could have thought.
And notice how personal it all continues to feel. There’s a version of this scene that opens wide on the energy field, then pushes in and finds Neo as one pod among many as he wakes up. It would be plenty striking, but instead we receive every new piece of info as Neo receives it. Even when we get a wide shot of the pod field, it’s from Neo’s vantage. There’s humanity to this sheer insanity.
This sequence makes this, one of the most crucial steps in Neo’s journey, unforgettable, frightening, and exciting. The jarring transition from the end of the last scene, the terror of the fields and the machine creature, the naked slide down the chute. This is its own little nightmarish roller coaster.
The Big Picture. We begin the second act just as we began the first; in total disorientation. And by the way, consider that nothing since the opening has really been addressed. We still don’t know how Trinity was able to manipulate the physics of the world, where she disappeared to in the phone booth, who the Agents are. And now, over a half hour later, with no answers, we have a second world to layer atop the first, also with its own set of questions. What is the machine like bug that peers at Neo, why does it need columns upon columns of humans, what is the pink goo? What happened to the world as we know it, and when?
There’s an extremely fine line between intrigue and confusion, and the Wachowskis walk it perfectly in The Matrix. Your disorientation is Neo’s disorientation, you walk this strange, winding path along with him because you want answers as well. And because there’s enough in this world that’s interesting and engaging on its face; mainly its visual sense, we want to engage with it and understand it more. Simply put, if the Wachowskis aren’t talented filmmakers, this movie is too obtuse to bother with.
Our reward for coming along this entire way is just ahead. Today’s act is very short indeed. Morpheus isn’t going to keep us waiting much longer.
32:28 – Even if you have an idea of the Matrix the first time around, it’s almost impossible to figure out what you’re looking at in this POV shot.
33:47 – And at this point there’s just no concept for why there’s a flying bug thing. What is going on?
34:14 – So from the machine’s perspective, because Neo has been taken out of the Matrix, he probably reads as dead. And he’s being flushed into the sewer.
34:35 – It’s really impressive that Neo is able to swim and stay afloat in the sewer for a while.
34:53 – It’s the old image of the tractor beam abducting a human. And for all we know, at this point aliens are the villain. We don’t know this is Morpheus’s crew.
36:14 – How much time passes between the rescue and Neo being up and about?
Behind the Scenes
-The scene in which Neo wakes up in the pod was shot last in order to give Keanu time to lose weight. I aspire to the amount of definition Neo has in that scene, so I was looking at him and thinking “He’s in pretty good shape, considering he was just lying there for 30+ years.”
-I think Carrie Anne Moss must have sneaked out, she hasn’t said anything in several scenes now.
Chapters 12 – 13. “The Real World” 37:50 – 46:31
Logline: Morpheus takes Neo into a simulation and teaches him the terrible truth of the Matrix.
The Sequence. Back to the Future and The Matrix both use the same technique; making the character with all the exposition into a showman. Morpheus just naturally comes across like a guy who wants to walk you through the Matrix step by step, and who wants every new reveal to land with the impact it deserves. Hence, the concept of teaching through simulations. It’s a great device, but there’s still a sense of escalation. It’s all white walls, the characters watch what’s happening without engaging with it. Within the movie, Neo isn’t overwhelmed, and outside of the movie, the filmmakers have somewhere to go with the later simulations.
The Big Picture. The best way for a movie to handle exposition is to make you desperate for it. Again, we saw Back to the Future create this desperation in the space of a single sequence. Doc Brown appeared to vaporize his dog in a DeLorean, and then he explained why he didn’t. The Matrix does this, but on a grand scale; it teases what the Matrix is for nearly forty minutes. By this point we’d happily just take a scene of a character in a featureless white room telling us in simple terms what the hell is happening. And that’s what we get, and it works.
For contrast, you only have to see The Matrix Reloaded. We come back to the world with familiarity, so nothing can be revealed, only expanded upon. Neo becomes an unflappable, inaccessible figure, he doesn’t react to new information with the humanity that we see here. And when we do get a big exposition scene, it’s a Colonel Sanders looking shithead monologuing in as obtuse a manner as possible.
Not to keep piling onto the sequels, but this sequence closes with a short scene of Morpheus explaining that Neo is the One who will save the world. This movie may end with the Matrix still intact, but what happens next can be strongly inferred based on this moment. Do we need a sequel?
37:56 – Doesn’t look like I’m going to stop talking about this any time soon, but Neo continues to be a proxy character for us. Now that I’ve noticed it, I’m aware of how many POV shots are in the movie.
38:02 – Check out how Mouse furtively looks away when he’s introduced.
38:20 – Look at how sexily Trinity straightens up in front of Neo. It’s the first sign that they’re going to be paired romantically. First of maybe two? Total? Including the moment the moment where she says “I love you?” We’ll see.
38:32 – You kind of get a sense of the characters from how they glance at Neo. Most notably, Cypher is standoffish, Tank is eager. Even tiny moments can advance the characters.
38:34 – Look at how strong the family resemblance between Tank and Dozer isn’t.
38:49 – It does seem a little soon for Morpheus to show Neo what the Matrix is. The audience is more than ready though.
39:35 – I used to wonder how they did white rooms in films, TV, commercials, until I worked on a short film that took place in one. Not to ruin the illusion, but yeah you just paint a room white and stick some actors inside.
40:10 – The exact red chairs that Neo and Morpheus sat in earlier, all the better to help Morpheus sell the idea that it’s all fabricated. Really obvious but my first time noticing.
41:30 – Keanu already starting to look a bit unsteady on his feet. He’s overwhelmed.
41:51 – Terminator 2 is nothing like Inception. But Terminator 2 is a lot like The Matrix (AI wars with humanity in the early 21st century) which is a lot like Inception (people learn how to manipulate a dreamworld).
43:13 – Going from the obvious CGI human farm to the real baby being grown in the pod is just devastating. Intentionally or not, when we see a shot that looks really fake, the real one that comes after has so much more impact.
43:40 – I know there’s some controversy over script changes, the idea of humans being used as batteries is impossible. But the image of Morpheus holding up the battery is clear and impactful to 95% of audiences.
45:48 – First mention of The Oracle. For the first time religion enters what appeared to be a very tech-y sci fi thriller.
Behind the Scenes
-The baby is an animatronic thing. I thought it was real, but it’s still tactile.