Monday, April 02, 2007

There is no spoon.

It's no secret that I'm an action girl. So for Mystery Man's blog-a-thon script analysis assignment, I chose The Matrix.

This was the first DVD I ever owned and the first script I ever bought and the first poster I ever framed. I wrote two term papers on The Matrix in grad school. I love this movie.

It's a love story and a tale of self-discovery and betrayal and fate with lots of ass-kicking. But you know the story. I'm going to focus on structure.

One of the most difficult tasks in a script like this, and one the sequels failed to do, is to make the vast amounts of necessary exposition interesting. Even though there's so much technical jargon tossed around throughout the script, it never reads like that, except the scene with the woman in the red dress. I found myself dozing off and then Morpheus asks if Neo's listening to his boring speech. Perfect.

Because this script reads like a story. No camera angles. The time of day is only mentioned in the slugline if it's necessary. And the descriptions flow with imagery. For example, the initial description of the Heart O' The City Hotel where we first meet Trinity:

"The hotel was abandoned after fire licked its way across the polyester carpeting, destroying several rooms as it spooled soot up the walls and ceiling, leaving patterns of permanent shadow."

Sometimes the writing borders on too editorial: "The idea of learning one's fate begins to weigh upon Neo with a steadily growing unease." Then again, if you watch the scene - the one where Neo prepares to enter the room where he meets the Oracle - that's exactly the way Keanu Reeves portrayed it.

The Wachowski Brothers clearly come down on the side of "WE" in that argument. It's liberally sprinkled throughout the script. "We see" all kinds of things, but it's not really terribly annoying because in a lot of places it supplants what would have been an "ANGLE ON", and I find those far more annoying than the "we sees".

Then there's this brilliant moment which led to the coolest shot in the film:

"Suddenly Agent Jones stops. He hears a sharp metal click. Immediately he whirls around and turns straight into the muzzle of Trinity's .45-

Jammed tight to his head.

Dodge this."

No camera angle, no we see, because the scene is told from the perspective of Agent Jones, and that's exactly how the shot looks onscreen.

But what really interests me is the action scenes because whenever I write one I always wonder just how much detail to give. One thing the brothers do that's very effective is to hyphenate. They constantly break the action with hyphens and put the next beat in a new paragraph. It keeps the flow going. But as for detail, the script is somewhat inconsistent.

There's this scene where Neo and Trinity break into the Agent headquarters:

"Neo is a blur of motion. In a split second, three guards are dead before they hit the ground."

But then there's this description of Neo's subway battle with Agent Smith:

"A knife-hand opens his forearm, and a kick sends him slamming back against a steel column. Stunned, he ducks just under a punch that crunches into the beam, steel chunks exploding like shrapnel.

Behind him, Neo leaps into the air, delivering a neck-snapping reverse round-house."

I really wish I knew how to deliver a neck-snapping reverse roundhouse.

But I digress.

If you watch that scene in the film that's exactly how it plays out. So I guess the lesson is that if you have a clear view of what you want the fight to look like, write it that way. If you don't, give us a feel for how it should play out in a general sense.

The other major thing that stuck out when I read the script is the use of the word "Shit". Apparently that's the only cussword the machines left for us mortals to use because they use it a lot. Like too much. That's what Neo was supposed to say instead of "Whoa." I wonder if that line would have been parodied as much if he'd kept to the script.

All in all, not much is different from the script, probably because the writer and director are the same. The major stuff that was removed was big chunks of thoughtful exposition, like a three-page self-analysis Morpheus conducts on his struggle to not consider himself a failure. That scene was completely removed and the film is better for it.

Downright brilliant. With ass-kicking. And that makes Emily happy.


  1. Anonymous8:48 AM

    I'm going to disagree with you a bit on the matrix. For the common viewer it was kick-ass. But I was well-read in the essence of cyberspace, so knew what had to happen. Which makes NEO much less impressive. Especially the last scene. You don't come back from death without some severe help. But excluding that, he did what I was saying he should from say 30 minutes in.

    The fight/shooting scenes were visually great. A neck-snapping reverse roundhouse kick only works if they don't see it coming.

  2. That's where suspension of disbelief comes in. Nobody went to the theater thinking they were going to see a documentary. But there's enough reality in the characters to overcome any slightly unrealistic computer jargon that most people don't care about because they're not that anal.

    Did you think ancient Europe was crawling with Orcs and talking trees?

  3. Anonymous8:34 PM

    No, the nephilim were more the PITA of the ancients. These are remembered as the monstrous children of Loki, or those of Echidna in Greek mythos. Not to mention the giants which show up in way too many mythologies to be coincidental.

  4. Boy did you miss the point.

    This is a silly discussion.

  5. Anonymous2:30 PM

    I agree, it was also a great read


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