Look out -- it's the end of the semester, and mild-mannered law professor Jeff Cooper is on a rampage!
Hulk SMASH puny exams! Hulk SMASH students who didn't listen to Hulk in class all semester! Hulk SMASH!!
Ah, brings back those sweet, sweet memories of grading Introductory Astrophysics. And people wonder why the grad school dropout rate is so high.
So I finally caught The Matrix Reloaded yesterday. I liked it quite a bit -- the action was superb, and the plot as a whole was a bit darker than I expected. Sure, the dialogue could have used some work, as others have pointed out. Unfortunately, most of the negative reviews that did so are essentially copy-and-paste jobs from the venerable SF Action Movie Review Template:
- Complain that the plot was "confusing".
- Mock the dialogue savagely.
- Give a cursory nod to the action sequences. Or not.
- Make some not-very-nice generalizations about SF. (Optional step; extra credit.)
- Throw up hands, declaring the movie to be "critic proof". "Go have your fun, dweebs!"
In short, little to be learned here.
By far the strangest review came from AintItCoolNews, where the reviewer is apparently upset that The Matrix Reloaded had no werewolves or vampires. I rushed to go read the AICN review because another article had mentioned this in passing, and my first instinct was, "Poor guy. I bet he's been misquoted or taken out of context." But no, the first article was absolutely correct. The AICN reviewer does indeed go on for several paragraphs about how angry he is that there were no werewolves. Or vampires. For the record: while The Matrix Reloaded had its share of deficiencies, a lack of werewolves and vampires was not among them. The reviewer was also very upset about a major plot event that as far as I can tell occurred only in the reviewer's imagination. One would think a fanboy site would be more plot-detail-oriented, but one is, as usual, quite mistaken.1
The most on-point "negative" review I found was by Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post. Hunter doesn't hate the movie, but at least he understands the plot and is thus able to separate the good from the bad in a coherent manner. A major step forward.2 Sure, I can quibble with some of Hunter's complaints, such as his dislike for the "Burly Brawl". (Personally, I thought the fight really picked up when Neo picked up that pole and started swatting the Agent Smiths around.) But I can't disagree with Hunter when he says:
Alas, up front, too much time is spent on internecine Zion politics. Really, who cares, especially when expressed, à la "Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones" and every movie ever made about Imperial Rome, in a rhetorical style that might be called High Fructose-Emulsified Purple. "The Council has asked me to speak tonight at the temple gathering," intones old Anthony Zerbe in stentorian voice, in a toga, or is it a breechcloth or a nightshirt? Really, this never works, here or anywhere.
No, indeed it doesn't. Heck, not even the Imperial Romans spoke in High Fructose-Emulsified Purple, as Julius Caesar's own writings make clear. Which begs the question... why spend so much time and care crafting the stunts and fight scenes and costumes and then totally blow it on the politics?
The answer is obvious: it's my fault. Or rather, my fault along with everyone else who declares their willingness to shell out nine bucks for the stunts and special effects alone. We're victims of our own low expectations. At this point I should cry, "We should expect more!" But that sounds very movementarian to me, and I'm already getting a headache. I guess if we want a fusion of good wire-fu and good political dialogue, we'd better write and produce our own damn movies.
1. By now you might be scratching your head and wondering, "What on earth were you doing reading an AintItCoolNews review?" And you'd have a point. My only defense is that AICN is one of those habits wherein you have to endure numerous painful experiences before (hopefully) growing out of the whole thing. Like binge drinking, or Slashdot.
2. Ah, the Washington Post Style section... between Stephen Hunter and Carolyn Hax, they've almost made up for Hank Steuver.