The Matrix Is Twenty Years Older- And I’m Not Feeling That Young Myself

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So, I’ve just discovered that it’s been two decades since Neo first said, “Whoa.” To be sure The Matrix was a big deal at the time and a bit of a game changer for Hollywood. The slow motion, CGI fight choreography were copied in by other movies for years to come and its special effects were revolutionary for the time. However, looking back twenty years, you have to ask does The Matrix stand the test of time?

My answer; well sort of.

Oddly, in a story about what it means to be human in a cybernetic world the character, I found most compelling was the program known as Agent Smith. Hugo Weaving’s performance of a frustrated cybernetic being showed the true frustration of one trapped in an online reality. But perhaps the reason I identify with Agent Smith so much because I too have often felt frustrated with the new online world.

You see, I was born in 1967 when the internet wasn’t even making an appearance in science fiction. In the mid-90s it started to invade our lives but only to a limited extent and it could be safely ignored if one wished. Now, it is impossible to exist in modern life without internet access and even a troglodyte like me finds it impossible to escape. And like The Matrix suggested, people now live double lives through this new tech. Online, we can be these well dressed, cool, and sexy heroes who can do amazing things. Meanwhile, in reality, most of us are living paycheck to paycheck in as bleak an environment as Zion.

I never believed that science fiction is a purely predictive endeavor.  What passes for prophecy in SF is more often a matter of modern people superimposing current trends over the wistful dreams of past writers. That being said, stories like The Matrix can give context for our conversations about the present and the problems we now face. As such, The Matrix, for all its cheesy goodness is a great cultural reference and I applaud the Wachowskis for their achievement.

Clayton J. Callahan


Solo Vs. Star Wars

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On the whole, I applaud the plethora of new Star Wars films coming out these days such as Solo: A Star Wars Story. Oh, maybe to me they aren’t as good as the original movies, but then again…I’m not ten years old anymore.

Perhaps that’s what makes the new stuff a challenge for us old-school fans. In the 1970s and 80s, we were all at a very different place in our lives. We had no preconceived ideas about how a Star Wars movie “should be” in 1977. We were a blank slate in that regard and we accepted the Force and the hyperdrives without much fuss. Now, however, we are in our late 40’s and 50’s. We feel we know best how a Star Wars movie should look, feel and taste.

Even though I am affected by this virus as much as any older fan, I try to keep it in check. After all, much of the fun of seeing any new Star Wars film is discovering another person’s interpretation of Gorge Lucas’ original vision. Which brings us to Solo: A Star Wars Story.

First off, I have to give kudos to the entire cast. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover both did excellent jobs. I imagine it is very difficult for an actor to follow behind another actor’s interpretation of a character, but both these guys pulled it off flawlessly. And frankly, for me, that’s the most important part; the characters.

I love characters. Rich, textured, deep, and convoluted characters make for the best fiction. Thus, one of my chief complaints about The Matrix wasn’t the world building…but that I never gave a crap about one-dimensional Neo! Give me characters I care about and any movie or book is well on the way to giving me a story I care about. Skip that part, and you might as well go home and forget about it.

Comming back to Solo: A Star Wars Story, I must say it could have done better. Here’s where I hike up my old-fogy pants and shout, “Kids, get off my lawn” I suppose, but I felt the film put too much emphasis on action and not enough on characters. In total, I counted eight action scenes in the movie whereas the original Star Wars had only five. The action in Solo was done well, but it took time away from character building scenes that I felt the movie could have used more of. In fact, my favorite scene of the film is where Tobias Beckett teaches Chubacca how to play space chess. The scene is short but it connects us to the old beloved original movie while deepening our understanding of who this Tobias guy is.

Perhaps that’s modern movies on the whole for me. Too much well-choreographed action and not enough well-written character scenes. In the original Star Wars, Lucas took his time. We had long conversations between characters like Luke and his Uncle and Aunt. We had meaningful banter between Han and Leia.

Of course, I write books, not movies. Action scenes connect with an audience differently on a screen than on a page. Characters, however, are just as important in both mediums. and it’s characters that matter.