This is the Review About What I Believe
Must Be Written About the Language That Is Used By Wachowski
Brothers In Their Movies About What It Is That The Matrix
After the universal panning of Star Wars Episode 1: The
Phantom Menace, many asked who would inherit George Lucas'
legacy as Hollywood's premiere mythmaker, especially when
it was obvious that Lucas himself wasn't up to the task. Many
nominated the creators of The Matrix upon its summer
1999 release, but with the winter release of The Fellowship
of the Ring, Peter Jackson made his bid for the throne.
In the wake of the disappointing box office of The Matrix
sequels, and assuming that The Return of the King fulfills
its promise, we can declare Jackson the rightful heir. The
Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, instead,
reveal the Wachowski Brothers as inheritors of legacy of the
new Lucas, not the old.
Volumes have already been written about why The Matrix
sequels are so bad, but I want to focus on the most insistently
Lucusian aspect of the films: The dialogue, which is the most
telling sign of the Wachowski's limited storytelling capacitythe
worst dialogue of any overblown, two hundred million dollar
movies, including Attack of the Clones. Consider this
bit of self-understanding from Morpheus:
"I know only what I need to know. I know that what I
need to do is go to the Frenchman."
That's twenty-one words that could easily be reduced to ten
("I know only that I need to see the Frenchman"),
or maybe even seven ("I need only to see the Frenchman.").
Why do the Wachowski's double the number of words? Because
the more words, the more meaning, even if those words are
short. Would Hamlet sound nearly as turmoiled if he said,
"Do I need to be?" (five words) than if he said,
"To be, or not to bethat is the question."
(ten words)? I think not, so the more syllables you can pack
into a sentence, the more profound it will sound.
Or, at least that seems to be the logic of the Wachowskis.
This is their chief means of developing Morpheus' characterhe
must be the the source of all knowledge about the true state
of our existence because he's this self-aware: "'She
told me what she always tells me: What I needed to hear."
Ok, but what does that tell us? Not much that "She
always tells me what I need to hear" wouldn't have. Or
these Morpheus-isms: "I can only hope that you know what
you are doing." "Neo is doing what he believes he
Why all these "that"s "what"s and "do"s?
The Wachowski's punch up lines with empty pronouns, and unnecessary
auxiliary verbs because the lack of antecedent gives them
a vague, pseudo-profound quality. They never drop the relative
pronoun "that" from an subordinate clause ("We
hope that Neo will save Zion."), or define
what "what" actually is. The extra infinitives "(to)
do," are simply redundant: "Work" often implies
that the work needs to be done, so it can often remain unsaid.
This line gives us case examples:
"I don't know what he can do to save us. But I do know
that as long as there is a single breath left in his body
he will not give up and neither can we."
The phrase "what he can do to" could be replaced
by a simple "if he can" without sacrificing meaningagain,
note the extraneous "what" and "do". Also,
"I do know" isn't necessary because Morpheus must
know, or think he knows, if he's going to say it. "Left"
doesn't add anything, either. In fact, the whole phrase is
puffed with filler to make it sound a lot more important than
it actually is. This isn't just a Wachowski problem; literature
is trending toward the vague, that if meaning is obscure,
then it must be profound.
Take this line as an example:
"Karma is a word, like love, a word that means 'I am
here to do what I need to do.'"
I have no idea what that means. Of course "karma"
is a word, one I thought concerned destiny. But the Wachowskis
make us dig through a series of undefined pronouns to make
a circular definition. That's not profound; it's just murky.
The cleanest line in the whole of the trilogy plays precisely
to my frustration with the dialogue. The Frenchman tells Trinity
to "Bring me the eyes of the oracle, and I will give
you your savior," to which she replies, "I don't
have time for this shit" and kung fu's his ass. You got
that right, sister.