2 November, 2003

I saw 28 Days Later last week, and it was pretty good. Not a lot happens. Well, I guess a lot does happen. The breakdown of civilization and the end of the world is rather a lot to have happen, but I mean that not a lot happens during the course of the movie. It is actually rather on the quiet and subdued side, and it completely sucked me in. I sat there, watching, fascinated. They walk down deserted streets. They drive down deserted roads. The movie has a lot of empty streets and deserted roads. There are hardly any of the zombie-rage infected people in the movie at all.

So, I was surprised, I guess. Then, I was surprised that I was surprised. I mean, what did I expect? Okay, this isn't really a zombie/monster movie like I was expecting. This isn't Resident Evil or Army of Darkness. This isn't even Night of the Living Dead. This is an apocalyptic monster movie where the monsters have mostly been and gone already, and it has far more in common with Day of the Triphoids and Night of the Comet then it does with any of those other movies.

In fact, this movie really reminded me of the novel Day of the Triphoids. Not the movie. The movie sucks. I managed to get my hands on a copy of the novel a few years back, and it is really good. After reading the book, I made an effort to watch the film again and was finally able to rent it sometime in the past year. Well, I was really surprised and disappointed. Aside from the basic premise and maybe one or two plot points, the movie has nothing to do with the book. The movie is stupid and it sucks. The book, however, is quietly thoughtful, and it rocks. The "Triphoids" are hardly in the book at all. It is all about a few people trying to cope with the complete and utter breakdown of civilization after a tragic accident, which renders just about everybody in the whole wide world blind. Toward the end of the book, there is a theory postulated as to why so many people went blind, and it is really rather chilling.

Anyway, 28 Days Later really reminded me of the book Day of the Triphoids, and it would not surprise me at all if the guys responsible for 28 Days Later hasn't read Day of the Triphoids more than once. My girl-friend said 28 Days Later really reminded her of Omega Man, but since I haven't seen that movie, I'll just have to take her word for it. I have seen Homega Man from that Halloween episode of The Simpsons, but I don't think that counts.

I do agree with the reviews I have read of 28 Days Later that the movie really does kind-of fall apart in the final act. I mean that whole sequence with the soldiers is just pathetic. I can kind-of understand why they did it, and I have absolutely no trouble believing that soldiers might react the way that they do in the film. It is just that it gets to be a little much. Oh, but, it does remind me of the attitude of the surviving military and government in Day of the Triphoids. Not the same attitude. But, similar. No, really, they are. Just think about it for a minute after you get over being disgusted by the soldiers in 28 Days Later.

I think the movie has a point it is trying to make, and I think the movie is just a little too blunt and heavy-handed in how it goes about trying to make that point. The point definitely seems to be that the only real difference between normal people and the zombie-rage infected people is the trappings of civilization. I mean just look at the bike messenger toward the end of the movie. It's no accident that as he gets more and more crazed he almost gets his head chopped off because they think he is infected with the rage virus. Nope, that really seems to be the point of the movie.

Anyway, the flick is pretty good.

17 November, 2003

Well, I finally saw The Matrix Revolution last night, and I don't know what to say. It wasn't good. It didn't make any sense. I sat there thinking, pondering, wondering why they were doing all that crazy stuff, but I think I've finally got it. It only took twenty-four hours, but I think I've sort-of got the hang of the movie. I mean I still don't understand why Neo was in a coma. No, I mean I understand that he was trapped in the program interface point between the machine's main server and the matrix's server. I understand that the Merovingian is the program that monitors and ultimately controls all programs that pass between the machine's home and the matrix. That much makes sense. What I don't get and what the movie makes absolutely no effort to explain is how and why Neo became trapped.

The Oracle's explanation that Neo's powers have manifested themselves in the real world just doesn't make any damn sense. I mean, sure, I guess I have to buy it because that is what the movie seems to be selling. But, I mean, come on.

Now, I will admit that there is still one possibility that makes it all make sense in my poor little head, which is that they are still in the matrix. No, seriously, it is an interesting solution to the puzzle of how to ensure that your prisoners continue to accept the prison program even after they discover that it is a prison. It is even hinted at round about the end of the second movie when Neo talks to the Architect. Neo says it and almost gets it. The city at the center of the earth is just another form of control.

The problem as first Agent Smith and then the Architect explained it is that the people kept rejecting the artificial environment that was being fed directly into their heads. It was almost as if they knew they were dreaming and that they kept trying to wake-up. This may have even been true. After all, information was being fed directly into their brains through their central nervous system or something like that, and their bodies were doing squat. So, maybe, what the machines were never able to figure out was how to deal with the real bodies. No, really, the brain is being told that it is receiving visual stimulus, but it's not coming from the eyes. The brain is being told that the body is walking, but the messages are not coming from body. So, maybe, the machines are feeding the people information in much the same fashion as say we experience dreams. I know this is a long shot that is not being helped by the fact that I know absolutely nothing about how the brain and body work. But, maybe, right? Maybe, on a purely organic hardware level, the body knows it is dreaming. Bullshit? Well, look, if they can say that Neo's powers can manifest themselves in the real world, then I feel I have the right to suggest this whole body knows it's dreaming because the stimulus is coming down the wrong channel thing.

So, okay, what do you do with the people who are starting to loose it because they can't get over the purely physical sensations that are coursing through their real bodies that they are dreaming?

Well, why not tell them the truth? Or, something resembling the truth. Set-up another area of the matrix to simulate another environment. Tell them that they have now escaped from the matrix. Tell them that they have returned to the real world. Give them purpose. Keep them busy. And, ninety-nine percent of the test subjects accept the simulation or however the Architect put it. Sure, they are still in the matrix, but you don't tell them that.

So, if they are still in the matrix. If they have never actually seen the real world or had a single solitary person or machine actually tell them the truth, then the whole damn mess starts to make sense to my weary little brain. Of course, Neo can continue to use the cheat codes that have been made available to his avatar in the real world because it isn't the real world. It is all still the matrix. He is the one-percent that has rejected the simulation.

I know. I know. These are just my ramblings. I am sure you can make an equally good argument that through a sense of wonder and awe and beautiful magic and majesty that the abilities he possessed inside the matrix have now crept out into the real world because of his interactions with the Architect. Sure. You can make that claim. Why not. There is no evidence presented to the contrary.


The movie didn't make a whole lot of sense, and I'm still working on why that bothered me. I mean am I secretly one of those people who want all of their answers served to them on a silver platter? Do I detest and abhor ambiguity that much? If I do, then I seriously need to reexamine my own writing, which makes very little effort to explain things to the audience. No, really, my take has been that if the cast and crew of the book haven't figured it out then I'm not going to explain it to the audience. There's not going to be a nod and a wink. You're going to have to piece things together and figure it out because nobody is going to know the absolute truth. At least, the people in The Magic Flute who actually know what is going on and who are flat-out lying to everybody else have very good if depressingly selfish and self-destructive reasons for doing so. No, I'm not going to tell you what those reasons are. Read the book. Figure it out. You know as much as the protagonist knows, and he gets pretty close to the truth.

So, is this a case of it is okay if I do it but just plain naughty if anybody else should? Well, I hope not.

So, I've got two basic theories as to why it bothers me that the movie doesn't bother trying to explain anything. First of all, I can't shake the feeling that the movie is being intentionally obtuse. They may be trying to engineer complexity in the hopes that people will endlessly talk and debate the issues without actually reaching any kind of agreement because the movie deliberately left things vague. If you have to analyze the subtle nuances of the movie, why you just have to go and see it again and again. You have to buy more tickets. The moviemakers make more money. All very crass and commercial. So, that is theory one. They are trying to engineer buzz about the movie through artificial complexity in an effort to become more rich than you or I can possibly imagine.

Second of all, a movie is not like a book when things get complicated. A book you can put down. A book you can think about. A book doesn't go anywhere while you contemplate the issues that have been raised. While a movie doesn't stop. Did you miss something? Oh, we're sorry, try and catch it next time you are in the theatre. The same scene cannot be studied over and over again until the damn thing comes out on video.

So, those are the two possible reasons why it bothers me that the movie is vague. This might not be it at all, but I'll just have to keep thinking about that. Of course, my money is on the first theory. Why? Well, just look at all these words I have written about the stupid thing. They got me rambling on and on about it, didn't they? Damn, if it wasn't a stupid movie.

30 November, 2003

Episode two of String Finger Theatre is almost over. I just finished converting the last two comics of episode two into GIF format earlier today. In about a week, it will all be over. The search for Zed's new groove will be complete. I'm really rather amazed that I got through it. Of course, the real question is if anybody actually bothered to read the whole thing. It's really hard to tell. No, I mean the web stats are really hard to interpret. I think the number of page requests and repeat viewers is increasing, which is a good thing, but the overall hit rate is going down. It looks really depressing to just watch that number fall like a stone. I was getting really rather depressed about it. Didn't know if I should bother working on episode three. Now, I'm more hopeful. The web stats spiked. November is lower than September, but they are still much higher than June and July. I'm strangely hopeful.

Anyway, episode three is coming along. It still scares the hell out of me. I mean I know where it is going, but I don't know how it is going to get there. Things keep happening. The story stretches. I just got through a wild tangent. It even ends with them saying they should just try to forget what just happened and pick things up again fresh next week. Oh, boy, I don't know if that is good. Anyway, if all goes well, Cat and Zed will actually put in an appearance. I think it'll be right toward the end. But, what do I know? Episode three is closing in on thirty comics, which is really about how long I wanted the whole thing to be, but it is still going. Maybe, I'll be able to wrap things up at around forty comics. I really want episode three to be shorter than one or two. It's really been kind of spooky to watch how well Mike has carried the show by himself.

I've even got some specific ideas for episode four. This one — I don't know — may be able to go a few rounds with episode one or two. Hopefully not as long as episode two. Entertaining. Just not as long. It'll be interesting. Everybody will be back. Mike, Cat, Zed, Carmack and even Spherecone will put in an appearance. Anyway, it'll be interesting. Let's see if I can pull it off.

copyright © 2003 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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