Film Blunder Blunders

The MatrixI found a YouTube account CinemaSins, which produces a series of videos with titles that start, “Everything Wrong With…” It sounded like fun, so I watched Everything Wrong With Jurassic Park In 3 Minutes Or Less. Some of it is remarkably observant and often funny. But it is wrong at times. For example, it notes a page from a tabloid taped on the lab refrigerator that proclaims, “Space Aliens Stole My Face!” The video notes sarcastically, “Exactly the kind of article I would expect archaeologists and paleobotanists to hang on their fridge.” This is not an error. This is the video maker assuming that scientists are stodgy and humorless. When I was in graduate school, I had numerous covers from the Weekly World News covering my lab walls, including the classic “Bat Child Found in Cave.” It was observant of the video maker to see the story, but clueless not to realize it was put up as a kind of joke.

It also makes other errors by simply assuming the worse. For example, it misunderstands what is happening when Hammond gets out of the helicopter. But overall, it isn’t bad. It seems that CinemaSins is mostly interested in humor. Things are far, far worse for MovieBlunders. This isn’t to say that it is bad. As a matter of fact, the level of detail is truly amazing. The problem is that the blunders are sometimes their own, and since they take it more seriously, it is worse when they are wrong. I watched their video Everything Wrong With The Matrix, but it is actually about the whole series:

Before getting to that, the first thing they bring up is something that has always bothered me (although they don’t make it clear). Neo and Trinity cut the elevator cord, sending the bomb down and them up. But how do they get out of the elevator shaft? Wouldn’t the elevator falling cause them to be crushed at the top of the elevator? Of course, this is not actually an error. This is what we call “off screen action.” I’m sure our daring duo jump from the cord out of the shaft in the nick of time. Just because the film didn’t show it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

They ask how Mouse didn’t manage to hit anything as he was firing while being blown away. I don’t want to play apologist here (which I could do for most of the things they mention), but the movie doesn’t indicate that Mouse hit no one. He clearly didn’t hit everyone and so was shot and died. A similar situation goes on when Trinity shoots Agent Jones. We see her when she shoots so we don’t know where he was shot, only where the gun was pointed when the shot cut.

Most of the things they note are amazingly trivial. For example, they note that bullets don’t make cars explode. That’s true. But it wouldn’t be a movie if bullets didn’t make cars explode. What’s more, they didn’t have any problem when later a sword made a car flip over and explode. They also have an odd fascination with guns. Two separate blunders were the lack of rifling marks on the bullets. And two other times they mention the fact that when someone was shot, the bullets did not land in the rear wall. And at least three times they complain about bullet casings.

But there were a couple of things that really annoyed me. One was at the beginning of the film when the phone trace is started on Trinity. The time stamp was 13:24. They note that it was the middle of the night and this would indicate the time was midday. Have these people never heard of local time? This kind of thing is anti-apologetics. It is taking something in a movie and not making a reasonable assumption about it. Instead, they make whatever assumption is worst. That’s not reasonable.

Finally, we get to the real reason I wrote this: painful misunderstand of movie making! When Neo and Morpheus are plopped down on a rooftop in the training simulator, they are far away from the stairway entrance. But after the cut, the stairway entrance appears to be close behind them. This does not mean what these guys think it means. The filmmakers are doubtless using a telephoto lens, which causes all of the scene to be crammed together. This is why I’m not fond of them, even though some of my favorite directors have used (overused) them.

I don’t mean to be down on the people who make these videos. And in fact, I think they are great. What’s more, I’m a same way: I love to over-analyze films! But you have to expect some push back, especially when you overstate your case.

Afterword

No one ever mentions what I think of as the two biggest problems in The Matrix. The first one is really basic: why didn’t the machines power the matrix off squirrels or some other animal that wasn’t constantly trying to reject the matrix programming? After all, they are just using the humans as batteries (Also a ridiculous idea!) so any warm blooded creature would work. But I can get past that. It’s a movie. The second problem is the worst.

Why do the agents “bug” Neo? Couldn’t they just monitor him, wait until he meets Morpheus, and take over his body? Morpheus even tells Neo that the agents can take over anyone still connected to the matrix. It isn’t “any weak minded person.” So why didn’t they just do that? In fact, it is pathetic. Switch holds a gun on Neo until the bug is removed. Some good that bug did! Too bad the agents are too stupid to think of changing into him right before he got into the car! It seems that The Wachowskis were just being lazy, because I can think of loads of ways to avoid the problem.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Film Blunder Blunders

  1. At one point I thought about writing here in detail vis-a-vis the Wachowskis (and other Hollywood leftists, and their different ways of looking at things.) Life and writer’s block derailed that attempt, but here’s as good an opportunity as any to resurrect a piece of what I’d planned to say.

    The robots in "The Matrx" don’t power themselves with squirrels, or fossil fuels (surely global warming would not be an issue for them) because the movie is half-assedly meant as political metaphor. It HAS to be humans in bondage. The theme of the film is "Wake Up" (also the title of the end-credit song by leftist rock group Rage Against The Machine, which fans of that band — I never was one one — admire.)

    Lest we wonder what humans are supposed to wake up from (besides robot hypnosis; this is a metaphor, after all), at one point weary human rebel Joe Pantoliano is approached by robot enforcer Hugo Weaving, and given the choice of turning his back on reality and selling out his shipmates to re-enter the fantasy Matrix. "Ignorance is bliss," Pantoliano’s character sighs, and while he has been known only as "Cypher" in the real, rebel world, his Matrix name is (wait for it . . .) "Mr. Reagan."

    I’m not entirely sure what the subsequent "Matrix" movies are intended to symbolize. I suspect they were rather haphazardly written (although the second is wonderfully filmed), and if there’s any political meaning I can discern, it’s a mishmosh of religion and gender roles.

    Clearer is the Wachoswski’s "V For Vendetta" (2004), apparently written before the "Matrix" sequels, and once again featuring Hugo Weaving. Here, again, we see people inhabiting a drearily bland existence, waiting for a hero to make them "wake up" and resist oppression. The political relevance to our day is overt; the English citizens in "V" live in a quasi-totalitarian state that demonizes Muslims and gays to keep the public in a constantly stuporous state of fear.

    Besides the obvious criticism to be made of both movies (the role of a lone "hero," which is problematic at best in reality but a useful tool for movie excitement), I’ll throw out two of my own.

    First, the concept of "waking up." As though, all one needs is to realize that one damning truth, and one will be forever converted to the side of the angels. No doubt many people have epiphanies like this, but the majority change their views through years of experiences. It’s rather like the logic of those obsessed with the WTC bombing being an "inside job," as if proving such a claim would finally end their fellow Americans’ misguided political inclinations. ("V" actually has a major plot point along these lines.) I think there’s been quite enough evidence that conservative economics and the maintenance of empire are murderous. Quite a few people, for emotional reason of their own, simply do not care.

    Two: Gender roles and GLBT rights definitely are a major theme in both "The Matrix" and "V" (Stephen Fry, especially, has in "V" maybe his meatiest big-screen role as a forced closet case) . . . but it’s odd that there’s little else in the way of actual leftist politics for us to "wake up" and demand. There’s almost no hint of economic inequality (perhaps in the "Matrix"’s Oracle character being Black, but that’s about it.)

    I suspect that the Wachowskis are, for personal reasons (and social ones, given the world they work in) what we would call "cultural" liberals. They abhor racism and sexual discrimination, quite rightly and quite plainly. I see no evidence that their liberalism goes far further than supporting an individual’s right to be who they wish to be — not to have enough security to live as a human deserves to live.

    In fact, I think it’s possible to make the case that their liberalism goes no further at all. The last two "Matrix" movies are a logical mess, yet they seem to hint at some sort of reconciliation between the humans and the more forward-thinking robots. What they intended by this, Buddha only knows, but one could easily suggest that the Wachowskis, like many celebrity/entertainment "liberals" (Bono, say, comes to mind) have swallowed whole the fiction that "free markets" and "globalization" will do for world poverty what "governments" never did. (In fact, what quite a few were doing, until they were stopped by those with a profitable interest on stopping them.)

    And so that’s why the "Matrix" robots didn’t use squirrels, or coal, or even wind/solar (you’d think their logic circuits might kick in and suggest one of the above.) Because the Wachowskis wanted to make a point, which, in two films at least, they have made smashingly effectively.

    Unfortunately, under further review by the referees, only part of their point is well worth making.

    — So that’s my Wachowski thing! Include as comment, or delete as is your WebMaster prerogative. If you keep it, I wouldn’t mind you throwing my way some editing suggestions first (yes, my email is real.) But whatever!

  2. @JMF – Sorry to respond so late. But that’s what you get when you write so much!

    Clearly [i]The Matrix[/i] has a basic Christian take where Neo is "the one" who eventually dies to save all of us. On top of that, they throw a whole bunch of diverse mythology, much of which is great fun. I especially like Satan and his Club Hel. Very clever.

    I think I disagree about [i]V For Vendetta[/i] because all that V does is get the people to rise up. Yes, again there is some Christian iconography, although it seems more like Viking with the train and his body being sent off. It isn’t a great film, but much of it is quite fun–mostly the V parts.

    If enough people could "wake up" it might matter. Although I agree with you that opinions change slowly, there are ways of seeing the world that can shift rather suddenly. Like my change from libertarian to plane old liberal. The individual things changed slowly but at a certain point I suddenly realized that I had been looking at the world wrong. I’ve seen that in people going both directions. (Note: I was [i]never[/i] a conservative; at worse I was what is now called a "bleeding heart libertarian.")

    The Wachowskis are pretty private, but if I had to guess, I would say they were libertarians. It is extremely common among people in that set. Bleeding heart libertarians, but still.

    The implication of the last film is that there are still robots (powerful robots) who will want to enslave the humans again. Of course, it is also implied that most of the humans will stay self "enslaved." One could certainly claim that this is some statement about class and race learned helplessness, but I don’t think they thought that deeply. (I even have a personal justification for why it had to be humans in the matrix, but there is no indication of this in the films.)

    I think there are two things going on. First, they wanted to make a kung fu movie but didn’t have the power at that time to do it straight. [i]Bound[/i] was well received, but it wasn’t successful. So they weren’t in a position to do just anything. They needed something to dazzle the studio with. Second, I don’t think they were aware of just how big the film would be. It is very clear that the first movie has a fine ending. They weren’t thinking of doing anything more and so they had to push to come up with two more films. I think they did a surprisingly bad job of it, too. Plus, they really only wrote about [i]one[/i] more film and padded it (That terrible long long long action scene in the middle of [i]Reloaded[/i]!) into two.

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