Chapters 20 – 22. “Off to See the Oracle” / “There Is No Spoon” / “Choices… And a Cookie” (1:05:13 – 1:17:45)
Logline: Neo is taken to see The Oracle, who throws him a curveball about his destiny.
The Sequence. Wow. Do I have mixed feelings. This sequence, which encompasses Neo’s re-entry into the real world as he goes to see the Oracle, is very long, and features numerous characters and locations. So there’s a lot of individual moments I really like. Yet the fundamental purpose of the Oracle violates so much of what I like in a good story. And yet, without her, we wouldn’t have the last thirty minutes of the film, which I adore. And yet and yet, some of what she says… I could really do without.
I don’t like fate. Not in life, and especially not in storytelling. More often than not, if fate is a competent of your story, it’s just there to excuse convenient plotting. Besides, it’s unsatisfying to watch that characters that are on a pre-ordained path. I mean, ok, movies aren’t improv’d. Scripts are a thing. But why remind me of that? And in the case of The Matrix, it gets even weird to start mixing prophecies and pseudo religiosity with what had been hard sci-fi.
But here’s the thing; The Oracle might be the single most charming character ever put on film. Gloria Foster was a goddarn national treasure, and she brings not only warmth and humour to the Oracle, but a genuine sense that this is a person playing a role she doesn’t like. If it was up to her she’d spend all day baking cookies and looking after spoon bending bald kids, but when called to help she does. She’s self effacing about her own role, and although she offers Neo a warm smile and a cookie, she’s bad news. Both for him, and for me as a viewer.
Before all that happens, it’s a good sequence for character beats, which are better touched on in the Live Reactions.
The Big Picture. I was whining, but in all seriousness, I only have a negative reaction to the Oracle in concept. Because she does tee up the rest of the movie, in which Neo must choose to sacrifice himself or sacrifice Morpheus. That’s going to lead to some powerful, and ultimately pretty thrilling storytelling.
And it doesn’t feel like an inescapable fate, more like a warning. The Oracle lays two paths in front of Neo, he’s the one who ultimately decides which one he must walk.
And there’s an interesting reversal at the end, the idea that Neo believes he’s not the one, while Morpheus does. Part of me does want Neo to wipe the smug look off of Morpheus’s face when he steps out of the meeting with The Oracle. But much as I think blind faith is harmful, there’s something poignant about it.
The Trinity thing, I’m less happy about. Oh you’ll fall in love with The One and that’s going to bring him back to life when he dies? Vomit. Oh well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
I don’t want to hold this against The Matrix, but part of me does resent this scene because in retrospect it’s starting to build towards what doesn’t work in the sequels. This movie is “What if the world you didn’t know was real?” And the only place The Matrix Reloaded has to go is “What if machines could learn to love or some such shit?” The Oracle is a stepping stone towards that.
1:05:13 – It helps to go from the elegant steak meal in the restaurant to the rest of the crew eating what looks like sperm. It makes Cypher seem even less villainous by making his choice seem easier.
1:05:54 – Mouse is the stoner at a high school party who’s like “How do we know we’re all seeing the same colours?” and thinks he’s having a profound thought. It’s entry level philosophy, but maybe it’s meant as more of a conversation starter for you to have more interesting post-movie chats.
1:06:00 – Then Mouse is told to shut up. Have to give The Matrix this, it undercuts its own pretentiousness every opportunity it gets.
1:07:35 – Suddenly this is a Wes Anderson movie.
1:07:48 – The door is painted the same green as the Matrix code. Neo is crossing back into the digital world. (Speaking of undercutting my own pretentiousness…)
1:08:09 – Having spent a lot of time away, I’m noticing how stylized even simple conversations become once we’ve returned to the Matrix. Far more than the real world or even the simulations, there’s more reflections, shadows, slow mo. It kind of makes the Matrix more seductive, everything about it is more appealing than the ship.
1:08:25 – “I used to eat there.” This is one of the best moments of the movie. It humanizes Neo’s reality with so little. Don’t ever let anyone (even me earlier in this review) tell you that Keanu Reeves can’t underplay a moment.
1:10:12 – When characters speak with ambiguity in The Matrix, they speak facing away from the camera. Trinity faces away from Neo when she says she heard a prediction from The Oracle, Morpheus faces away when he answers Neo’s question about whether or not the Oracle is ever wrong. When they’re more emphatic, they turns back to Neo. It’s a simple but effective way of cuing the audience what’s being said earnestly.
1:10:38 – They do keep undercutting themselves. “I can only show you the door. You have to walk through it.” Only for someone to open the door for Neo as reaches for the handle.
1:11:29 – Another T2 connection, Neo’s reflection in the metallic bending spoon resembles how a couple of characters are reflected in the T-1000.
1:11:51 – Is the bald kid reading off cue cards?
1:12:40 – Neo bumps the vase even as he steps into the scene.
1:13:05 – “What really going to bake your noodle…” This kind of shit drives me crazy, “If I hadn’t predicted it would it have even happened, DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND AGAIN?” Yet there’s going to be a whole movie based on this scene (Minority Report) in a few weeks that I’ve got nothing but love for.
1:15:17 – Interesting that the Oracle never tells Neo he’s not The One. He just says “I’m not The One,” and she says “Sorry, kid. You’ve got the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something.” It’s like Neo stops listening after “Sorry, kid.”
1:17:26 – The mentor becomes the mentee here, for the first time Neo has information that Morpheus doesn’t.
Behind the Scenes
-Neo and Trinity’s conversation in the car was shot with green screens, and the footage of the street outside Neo’s window is going much faster than on Trinity’s side. All to give you the impression that something is off in the Matrix, but so subtle you don’t register it.
Chapters 23 – 24. “Glitch in the Matrix” / “One Left Behind” (1:17:45 – 1:25:00)
Logline: The crew comes under assault by agents, and Morpheus sacrifices his freedom in order to ensure Neo escapes.
The Sequence. After all that, we’ve returned to the full on dilapidation from the film’s first act. This is a wonderfully ugly sequence, in which the environment is as much a character as anything else. The danger begins to escalate here as well, for the first time we see a character stop and try to confront an Agent. And Smith just stomping Morpheus to the ground sells their physical danger in a way we haven’t yet seen.
The Big Picture. If you have to pigeonhole The Matrix, it’s still an action thriller. And now that the exposition is through, we can put the character back in relentless danger and keep them there until the very end of the movie. The nearly full hour of teaching and laying groundwork to this point has paid off. No matter how chaotic things get from here on out, there’s complete clarity at every point.
1:17:52 – “XO from the Woman in Red.” There is something funny and uncomfortably real about Mouse putting so much effort into creating this woman’s sex appeal, and then not bothering to give her a name.
1:18:10 – Neo is the one guy who isn’t wearing sunglasses. His integration into the team isn’t quite complete.
1:18:25 – Cypher’s mouth twitching into a smile is creepy. His motivations have seemed understandable, but he’s going to enjoy what he’s about to do.
1:18:42 – Deja vu isn’t really the same thing happening twice in five seconds, is it? It’s something that seems really familiar from a time you can’t remember. If I saw the same cat twice I’d think something was wrong.
1:19:18 – There’s some great intercutting here. We go to a shot of Tank getting flustered in the middle of the conversation on the stairwell, then to Mouse in the main room hearing helicopters coming. Just through editing we get a sense that calamity is about to befall in multiple locations. It’s not the end of The Godfather, but it’s great for the purposes of this sequence.
1:19:59 – Great shot of the SWAT team bursting in in a cloud of green smoke.
1:20:05 – It’s a quick shot, but look at the terrific use of the flashlights through the beams of the stairwell.
1:21:35 – There’s something I really just love about the black space on either side of the wall. It’s so cinematic somehow, even though it’s deliberately not using most of the frame.
1:22:20 – I can’t be sure, but it doesn’t seem like it’s part of Cypher’s plan to cough and give away their location, considering that puts him in just as much danger as everyone else. Maybe since we’re going to hate him in the next scene anyway, they figure hey, might as well make everything else his fault.
1:23:12 – This is a film that loves flying plaster.
1:23:42 – Cypher did mean to stay behind, but it had to hurt him to see Trinity abandon him him.
1:23:57 – “You all look the same to me.” A nice reverse racism joke in 1999.
1:24:09 – How do they do that creepy shot where Smith stands up like that?
1:24:59 – The overhead shot of the clean men in black swarming Morpheus in the filthy bathroom. Don’t know if there’s anything behind it other than it being the most effective way to show Morpheus getting overwhelmed.
Chapters 25 – 26. “Heroes Unplugged” / “Cypher’s Burnout” (1:25:00 – 1:31:22)
Logline: Fulfilling his deal with the agents, Cypher sets about murdering the helpless crew members still plugged into The Matrix.
The Sequence. One of the darkest and most upsetting moments of the movie. Cypher has got the crew at his total mercy, and it’s really terrifying to see characters start dying without being able to stop it. I have this fear that, in my dying moments, Switch’s “Not like this” is going to haunt me one last time.
Our complicated feelings about Cypher get less complicated here. He performs the most monstrous acts in the movie. But it all was rooted in an uncomfortably identifiable place.
This Joey Pants movie started and concluded within about a half hour and I’m sorry to see it end. The story moves on from this, but this is a great portrayal of a person who’s simply not cut out for war. In this movie, once you’re out of the Matrix, the world being what it is you’re automatically part of a resistance. Immediately, you’re a soldier. Most of us aren’t cut out to be soldiers, and that’s fine. Cypher never knew what he was getting into, and his anger and desire to escape his life was acceptable. What he wound up doing was not.
The Big Picture. As new and fresh as The Matrix seemed at the time, it does hue close to a very familiar heroes’ journey. Here we’re in full on the Darkest Hour. And if Tank’s miraculous survival seems a bit contrived, we’re going to get a more satisfying dark/light reversal in the next sequence.
1:28:27 – Morpheus blinks right at this second. Is it a mistake?
1:29:40 – I should be taking notes but this scene is just riveting. Until Tank is just alive at the end.
1:29:45 – It should be a weird concept, this idea of people dropping dead as opposed to waking up when Cypher unplugs them. But we all know not to unplug a computer without properly shutting them down so it reads.
1:30:41 – “You’re still gonna burn.” I don’t like it when movie characters have one liners long enough to let their targets get away. It worked out this time but this is the kind of shit that lets Thanos wipe out half the universe.
1:31:11 – “You’re hurt.” “I’ll be alright.” Though presumably Tank has succumbed to these injuries by the next film, right? You wouldn’t know it based on how he’s acting all the way through the end.
Behind the Scenes
-The scene is really effective, but the commentators take the edge off by pointing out that in reality, Joey Pants is spending a couple of days running around yelling at actors who are pretending to be unconscious. The world is so real at this point of the movie this never even occurred to me.
Chapter 27. “Matters of Belief” (1:31:22 – 1:37:19)
Logline: Neo chooses to save Morpheus’s life, even knowing that it means the end of his.
The Big Picture. Ehhhh. Not every sequence is going to inspire much discussion. The scene where the three nearly unplug Morpheus is well performed and sufficiently dramatic, but is anyone going to call it their favourite moment of the movie? Probably not. It gets the job done.
I do like the story construction here. Neo has been told he’s not the hero of this story. And in going to save someone he views as more important, that process is what turns him into the hero. Maybe Neo was fated to be The One, but he earns that fate throughout the final act of the movie.
1:31:46 – The beginning of this sequence is nothing if not one long series of awesome establishing shots. The crazy upwards angle of the helicopter reflected in the glass building. The dolly that starts on the running feet before landing on the agent. The wide shot of the city. The close-up on Smiths face. Which one do we use? We can’t pick, so hell, let’s use them all.
1:33:15 – This is good world building. Smith’s lecture about the previous utopian Matrix that humanity rejected adds interesting layers and history to the world, but makes sense for his character’s point of view (a hatred for humanity) and for his objective (to wear down Morpheus).
1:33:41 – One of the creepier ideas of the film, that the agents are hacking Morpheus’s brain to bring him over to their side. Would they be able to bring him back or would he just be Agent Morpheus from now on? Morpheus already enunciates the same way as Smith so he doesn’t have much further to go.
1:33:57 – Why make Dozer and Tank brothers? Tank isn’t broken up at all.