Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Matrix: The Artist as Superman

Neo-avant-garde (1999); Historical Avant-garde (1916)
The impulse to write my first essay about Star Wars was born out of a frustration. My frustration was that a movie that had created such an obvious aesthetic break: even as a very young boy I could instantly recognize scifi movies made before Star Wars (because they sucked), from those made afterwards (they still sucked, but at least they looked like Star Wars). That the seminal film of my youth had garnered little, if any, serious consideration; and that what scholarly attention it had received was so obviously wrong-headed, spurred me to action.

My experience of The Matrix was entirely different. So much philosophical, theoretical and intellectual ink has been spilled over franchise that I've hesitated to write anything about it - for years. Not because I had nothing to say, but because, almost immediatelyThe Matrix suffered from an embarrassment of riches; too much - too serious - attention can, as it turns out, be as bad as too little. Or, as Joss Whedon recent quipped about his own blockbuster, "At some point the embarrassment of riches is actually embarrassing." Enough time has passed, and the logorrhea has lapsed into an embarrassed silence, as the disappointment with the Trilogy has cemented into a consensus: the sequels "ruined the mythology". For myself, I enjoyed The Matrix sequels in much the same spirit I enjoyed the Star Wars prequels (they are all good-spirited and fun, if still deeply flawed, movies). I'd like to contribute one more flood of words about The Matrix, serious, but not a philosophical. I am less interested in what The Matrix might tells us about reality, than what it tells us about movies. In a season of superhero movies, in an era of superhero blockbusters, what follows is a consideration of The Matrix as a truly singular Hollywood portrait of the avant-garde artist: the artist as superman.