If you remember, Roy went on and on about philosophy and great screenwriting last week with his review of The Matrix.
You know he’s the smert one, but here’s a bit of philosophy you’ll get from me on this script:
I type, therefore you read…hopefully…
It was suggested on our forums a while back that we take a look at pro scripts that DIDN’T do so well at the box office to see what we might learn.
Matrix Reloaded was one of the suggestions, and since Roy started the series last week, I felt it’d be a great thing to review this week.
Go ahead and read Roy’s review of the Matrix if you haven’t already.
Good? No go ahead, take your time, I’m not busy.
I know it took a while for me to read it all too.
Good, you’re done. Here we go.
The Matrix Reloaded by Andy and Lana Wachowski
Logline: Neo and the rebel leaders estimate that they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Since you read the previous review, you know the Wachowskis are great at this part.
Same holds true for Reloaded, but unfortunately that which was so good in the first became the downfall of the second. (More on that later though.)
Remember, I can’t copy and paste so I’ll do my best and recreate, then just cite samples. (Also, the page numbering is off, so I’ll try to keep things to the PDF page numbers, i.e. what you type in at the top of Adobe Reader.)
Page 1 – Opening takes us through the code again, and forms up into a punch clock. This is all good, and more or less a staple for this brand.
…his coat whipping like a strobic Rorschach test.
Hey now! This is that stuff that excited Roy, and thanks to Watchmen I learned what a Rorschach test is. Probably the ONLY positive I took away from that movie, other than saying, “Who will watch the Watchmen,” when having political debates.
The name knots muscles in his jaw.
This was just cool because it INSTANTLY sets up Lock’s distaste for Morpheus. Not only does he think Morpheus is a crazy, religious nut, he’s also dating Morpheus’s ex, so he doesn’t even like to say his name. Morpheus.
Page 59 – The scene set up like an old school western. Instead of tumbleweed, we have plastic bags. Instead of cowboy dusters we have Neo’s emo trench coat.
All in all, the description was well done. Great stuff to look at if you read the first movie’s script and didn’t get enough.
Bullets rippling through the air, fight scenes, etc. All well done.
Unfortunately, overall, you’d probably be better off picking the first script if you only wanted to read one, since you’d learn more about story as well as description.
10 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
HOWEVER, this is a detailed shooting script, so don’t use as many sluglines as was in this monster (especially when using “We see…” after each one).
On page 38, Bane fights Agent Smith and is turned into a clone of Agent Smith. His new character title, once he transformed, was “BANE/SMITH” which I thought worked well.
I only mention this because a few readers have shape shifters in their scripts (CE!) and wondered how to handle this.
10 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Like Roy, I thought the dialogue got the job done.
I also agree that Morpheus and Neo seemed well drawn via their dialogue.
New to this one were Lock, who’s the anti-Morpheus, and Agent’s Smith’s newfound abilities.
Trinity and minor characters still didn’t seem themselves. Especially Trinity’s, “I’m here for you, Neo,” gibberish.
Mostly, I found the “choice” dialogue rather tiresome.
Roy likes philosophy, and could talk about it for hours. (Seriously, try asking him questions about it, he’ll debate you till the cows come home.)
Unfortunately, most of the movie going public is like myself, and if you want us to learn something you’ve got to trick us.
We’re not impressed with a bunch of fancy words and deep thinking.
Three main parts I’m talking about:
1.) Oracle talking to Neo
2.) Merovingian talking to Neo and crew
3.) The Architect talking with Neo
Find the respective parts in the script, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
If you’re writing a sci-fi action/adventure, you better keep the dialogue streamlined or your audience is going to start yawning.
Again, I think the first script does a better job of handling the “choice vs. matrix” type exposition, so default to that one.
4 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
It’s the Wachowskis writing about Neo in the Matrix. Good luck trying to get bullet streamers on the stage.
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
Again, we’re delivered, first hand, into a world that’s yet to be copied successfully.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
Here’s what I didn’t like.
A very action defined sequence with Trinity very similar to the first movie.
Grabs our attention.
Oh noes, Trinity’s falling as she’s outmatched by an agent…
Oh, no problem, it was just a dream.
This is what I mean about cheating, and I know a lot of you get mad when I say that, but please hear me out.
It’s fine if Neo’s having premonitions about the future and the “love” of his life, but treat us to glimpses.
Don’t milk the entire scene and more or less use it twice in one script.
The difference between the first script and this one, is that it didn’t use a cheap ploy with the opening scene.
The opening scene of the Matrix was establishing the rule bending world we were entering.
A world like ours where characters are achieving fantastic feats.
The opening scene to Reloaded was just to show us how great the Wachowskis are at writing and directing action sequences.
Action for the sake of action is BAD.
Since it was cool and well written action I won’t zero it out.
(I will only subtract points here, even though we find out in the next part it was a dream.)
5 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Once we’re past that dream bit, the next part of the movie actually picks up.
We get the problem.
Sentries are driving straight towards Zion at record speed.
And we get a cool fight scene (one that actually adds to the plot I mean).
Neo fighting the new agents, who are enhanced to his abilities, and also Agent Smith comes back and CAN COPY HIMSELF!
Plus Neo can fly, with other characters referencing Superman.
(A point off for the last part. Tacky references take us out of the story.)
14 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
For as much as that last part picked things up, the rest of Act 2 more or less GRINDS…to…a…halt.
THIS is where the description brings the story to its knees.
We get a VERY detailed look at life inside Zion, which I admit, is cool, but we don’t care about it.
It’s also where we get more of the “love” story forced down our throats, a la a Trinity/Neo sex scene. (Forcing us to watch/read that should make this section a zero by iteself.)
I’m COMPLETELY with Roy about not buying into this part of the story, but that may just be that anytime Neo says he loves Trinity, I always ask, “Her?”
I used to get in SO many fights with friends about this.
She’s not hot.
If anything she proves dressing someone up in spandex and leather WILL NOT by default make them attractive.
And the greased back hair? What is she a T-bird?
I know that makes me shallow, but this is a movie. I mean she’s not even funny or something.
Anyway, where was I? Oh the plot.
Yeah, too much Zion.
Take my favorite movie, The Empire Strikes Back.
What if, instead of going to Hoth, we followed some rebels to the Rebel Fleet just hanging out in space? Then got to see some of the day to day workings of how THEY were going to stick it to the Empire.
See my point.
This script treats us to AWESOME sights of stuff we don’t care about.
Once we get back to the main plot, the characters are led through it by the hand.
Everything that they need to have happen happens.
Page 75 – Persephone gives them the Key Maker after Neo gives her a single kiss. Not the most challenging of gate keepers, but he probably did it to get that Trinity taste out of his mouth.
Page 80-ish – The fight with the twins leads to the most ultimate car chase since Bullitt, but we know they’re going to make it. Plus the twins continued phasing is just lame. Chronicles of Riddick handled defeating a phasing enemies MUCH better. (Sorry, no clip.)
Page 108 – The plan to cut the power to the building seems to be all over the place. We need 3 groups, that part is clear, but not for what exactly other than cutting off the power. And as we wonder what one part is, it’s done before we grasp the plan.
I LIKED the idea of Neo keeping Trinity out of the fight to keep her safe, which really only leads to the outcome. Very classic tragic Greek. (That part deserves some kudos points.)
Unfortunately, it’s another cheap ploy to give us more action. A team full of freedom fighters die to give Trinity her ticking clock and the chance to see her do more “hot” fighting.
And let’s not forget Neo’s bit with the Architect.
“Go through this door, and save the world but lose Trinity. Or choose the other and try to save her while dooming the world.”
“I’ll pick option C, where I’ll DO IT ALL. And I CAN because that’s how we’re making this a trilogy bitches!”
Basically, once we get out of Zion the semblance of a plot is there, we just have to dig around for it.
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
$110 million to make, and grossed $427 million worldwide.
Question though, how much of that is due to the success of the first movie?
I do find it necessary to deduct a few points, because I think there’s a stigma with this movie, and I personally know from experience folks walked out of the theater feeling less than satisfied.
7 out of 10 points.
Overall this script tried to get too technical.
From the detailed descriptions of a dark and metal oriented city, to the “choice” dialogue Neo is reminded of anytime he chats with a “program.”
The success of the first movie probably set the bar too high for the second and third, in that we had no where new to go.
Neo can only move so fast, and keep blocking so many punches before we yawn and say, “Seen it.”
Even the Matrix can only be bent so many ways, and for everything the first script was this one chose not to be.
At best this script should have been a quick footnote to the third movie.
Total 73 out of 100 points.
PS – Since this is one you wanted us to weigh in on, please leave a comment to let us know where I was right, and where you think I f’ed up.