There’s no So You Think You Can Dance this week! I’m totally bummed. I’ve been looking forward to it all week. Wah. I guess they figured they wouldn’t get anyone watching on the fourth of July. Oh, yeah, Happy Independence Day, everybody! Still. I don’t like when my TV is postponed, even for important national holidays.

I am celebrating by watching all the Matrix movies in a row, because I have this theory that the third one might work better if the story is seen as a whole rather than as pieces. I’m not sure, though. I just finished rewatching the second (spoilers follow, if you haven’t seen it), and it’s still fun, but I’m still not loving the Agent Smith subplot, which as I recall, gets even more screen time in the third one (I haven’t seen it since it came out in 2003…was that almost four years ago? Geez!). Though I remember being upset the first time I watched them that Reloaded negated the whole narrative thrust of the first film, I’m liking that aspect better and better. After all, if the Matrix is a construct, meant to keep control over humanity, why shouldn’t the myth about the One also be a construct? The subversion is subverted. It’s only good postmodernism to have as many layers of simulation as possible, right? (I was particularly amused to notice the use of Baudrillard’s book Simulacra and Simulation in Neo’s apartment this time around, after just having written a paper which tangentially mentioned Baudrillard–and not only does the book suggest the constructedness of Neo’s world, but he’s even hollowed out the inside of it as a safe–the book itself is only a simulacra of a book! Say whatever you want, those Wachowski brothers are smart sometimes.)

Incidentally, if you’ve only seen the Matrix theatrical films, I’d encourage you to also get a hold of The Animatrix, a set of nine animated short films released between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded, which fill in some of the gaps in the narrative of Reloaded and Revolutions, and are really good in and of themselves. And while you’re filling in gaps, read Henry Jenkins’ book Convergence Culture, especially the chapter on The Matrix as transmedia storytelling, because I think one of the reasons the last two films seem so incoherent at times is because they really do require knowledge of the sections of the story told in The Animatrix, the video game Enter the Matrix (basically you play Niobe and her second-in-command Ghost during all the parts that they’re off-screen during The Matrix Reloaded, including some parts which are directly related to the on-screen action, like blowing up the power plant), and the comic books series (which I, regrettably, did not read), and the moviegoing public just wasn’t yet ready to deal with a story that didn’t give all of its narrative through the films. We probably still aren’t. Anyway, it was an interesting experiment, and one that I bet will get more popular as we get more used to it (“Lost” and “Heroes” have utilized transmedia storytelling to some extent, as well, but not to the extent that The Matrix tried to do). Of course, I’m still not sure that the third film is actually any good, with or without the transmedia knowledge. I’m about to start it now…we’ll see.

edit: I’m still not sure. I did like it better than I did the first time I saw it, and I do think that the second two benefit from being seen back to back with the first one from a narrative point of view. Still, Smith’s arc is not sufficiently explained in either Reloaded or Revolutions. It seems like in Reloaded he’s just got a personal vendetta against Neo for killing him, but in Revolutions he’s got bigger designs. Or else, he’s always only got a vendetta, and the bigger implications for both human and machine world are just bonus. Also, having thousands of Smiths is pointless, and only serves to allow for the pointless Neo vs. thousands-of-Smiths fight in Reloaded. It would have been more to the point if his taking over other people had resulted in him gaining their abilities/identities, but not creating a clone of himself. I think that also would have made more clear the Oracle’s role in his downfall. Hmm. I think after this experiment I would say that it hangs together as a trilogy better than I thought it did upon first viewing, but not as well as it theoretically should hang together. But I’m no longer bothered by the fact that the second two seem to negate the first one–really, the myth of the One was more powerful than the Architect thought it was. In fact, it was just as powerful as the Oracle thought it was…she just had to wait for six generations of chosen ones to find the real One. And of course, the first one remains incredibly superior to the other two–it’s the only one that stands on its own, and it’s the only one that brings me back to watch it over and over. This has to be the tenth time I’ve seen it. But I’m glad I did this, and I have slightly more respect for the whole trilogy (quadrilogy if you include The Animatrix, which I did watch as well today) than I did before.