Many years ago [I just looked it up on Google and saw it was launched in 1999] there was a futuristic science fiction film called The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves, which was very cleverly produced and featured new special effects, including ‘bullet time’, in which – via mixing footage shot in normal time with slow-motion high definition – the supposed heightened perception of the characters was demonstrated. The action was stylised, fast-moving and flashy – a theme I shall return to in a minute.
Two further movies (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions) followed, actually shot back to back and then both issued in 2003 [it says here on Wikipedia].
I also have to admit that I very rarely watch movies, well except when I notice them by chance in the television schedules. I have an aversion to doing so in the cinema because the expedition is ridiculously expensive and I don’t much like being surrounded by human beings chatting, going to the facilities, eating popcorn, making out or coughing and sneezing all the while.
I mention this whilst acknowledging that for some others part of the joy or enhancement of ‘going to the movies’ is the shared collective experience of being wowed, or horrified, or moved to tears or hysterical laughter in the company of others.
Anyway, to my point. When The Matrix first came out my kids offered glowing reports of this fantastic film and urged me to see it for all the reasons that you can imagine. It was great cinema, cutting edge, a step forward – all that sort of stuff. But I resisted their recommendation because I just wasn’t interested. I did see some sort of extract of it on television – maybe in a review, or maybe some kind of trailer – but this didn’t change my mind, it seemed all too fast, confusing and weird.
Some time later – four years later if the above-mentioned Wikipedia entry is correct – I did go to see the second Matrix movie (presumably The Matrix Reloaded, though I remember it as Matrix II, which probably says more about my ability to recall things than anything else!) in my local cinema, on my own in the middle of an afternoon. The cinema concerned was thinly populated at the time (and the price of my mixed sweet and salted popcorn extortionate I recall) but I cannot say whether that was a reflection of the movie’s success (or lack of it), or just because everyone else who might have gone at the same time as me was quite properly at school or work.
At about thirty minute into the movie, I then walked out.
I wasn’t enjoying the experience and sensed that there were better things I could be doing with my time that afternoon … and then that I’d really rather go and do one or more of them than sit through any more of it.
The truth is that I just couldn’t get a handle upon any of it. I didn’t know who the characters were, what their back-story was, why they were there, what task or quest they were being set, how they related to one another, what the attendant dangers were, who the baddies were and why they were all trying to do what they were doing. I found the quick-editing style – and the special effects – particularly confusing and disconcerting. In short, it was doing nothing at all for me. I did try to give it some time, an opportunity to ‘grow upon me’, but there was no point. The whole thing was passing me by.
Last night, with high expectation, I stayed up past my bedtime, until 9.00pm – and then through to 10.35pm – in order to watch the one-off festive period special edition of Sherlock, the newest incarnation of the great Baker Street detective, written by Steve Moffat and Mark Gatliss, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the hero and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson his sidekick, and all set in the present.
I’ve been a fan of the series from the moment I first saw it. It’s very well made, the scripts are wonderful, the plots and twists clever and the ‘references’ to classic Sherlock Holmes stories and props welcome and sometimes ingenious. What’s not to like? Admittedly, there have been episodes down the years when I’ve not quite been able to work out what’s happening but then again, it is a highly-acclaimed and cerebral form of the great detective and so I am half-expecting at any time (and frankly unconcerned about the prospect) to be defeated by the obvious brilliance of those making it – after all, this is part of what is attractive about the series in the first place to those of who are less IQ-endowed than they are.
However, after last night’s episode I was left a little disappointed. Just a bit. It was of course magnificent top quality fare and the dialogue was dazzling and/or amusing and/or fascinating at times, in fact probably throughout. But the plot twists and flash-backs between the present and 1895 – where, with great ceremony, the bulk of it had been set – were sufficiently confusing that I experienced a touch of the ‘Matrix-effect’ about it. For me, personally, that is – I cannot speak for anyone else.
It was, of course, the best and most enjoyable thing I’ve seen on telly … er, since the last episode of Sherlock I previously saw. But I couldn’t give it five stars out of five because of the degree to which I could barely keep up and/or indeed just did ‘give up’ as I recognised that trying any further, or indeed harder, would be futile.
So that’s four stars from me, then.
Here’s a link to the review by Lucy Mangan – who’s plainly more intelligent than me – as it appears today on the website of – THE GUARDIAN