Sunday, November 16, 2003

Matrix or LOTR? Eowyn or Arwen?



Hullo Kari,

Well, I finally got around to seeing Matrix: Revolutions. Expectations were down in the basement after the bloated Matrix: Reloaded. It was almost impossible for the third installment to be as abysmal.

Thumbs up with a 2.5 stars out of 4. This time the mind-numbing dialogs weren't as interminable and the CGI/FX set pieces were more effective this time around. And (gasp) was that weak attempts at humor? Reloaded took itself way too seriously.

Suffice to say the film was a salad bar of religious thought - a little Hinduism, a heaping of Taoism, a sprinkle of Christian messiah notions, doses of dualism and sprinkle in some Buddhist enlightenment shaken not stirred with some technological stuff and you get what you get - shake and bake post-modern philosophy.

As for the relative merits of the different philosophical threads, I leave that to other bloggers and brighter minds like yours.

Instead, I'll go with a more mundane and pedestrian compare and contrast essay tonight.

It doesn't take an expert on our personalities to know we agree on this: we share a passionate love for Lord of the Rings and something less than marginal affection for the Matrix.

Proof: I'll buy the DVDs for LOTR but not Matrix.

More proof: I get teary-eyed watching LOTR but not Matrix.

Still more proof: I'll embarrass myself blogging about my admiration for Eowyn and Arwen but not Trinity. Please know, I stood behind Carrie-Anne Moss in the checkout line of the market one evening and umm, she is, err very pretty!

But why do I love LOTR so much more? Why do you?

Both are tales of good and evil. Both are epic struggles involving one individual against the odds in the context of a far wider conflict. Both grow out of dissatisfaction with modern technology with Tolkien crafting a pre-modern mythology and the Wachowski brothers producing a post-modern science fiction fantasy.

I think part of it is character development. The LOTR characters are far more interesting and a number of them hold your interest. The Matrix has a few strong characters and the rest are cardboard cutouts who you really don't care about. Though Merry and Pippin aren't the "stars" of LOTR, you still want to know how they fare and root for them. Can one say that of any of the subordinate characters in the Matrix? And even the main character of the Matrix, Neo, doesn't compare to any of the main LOTR characters in my estimation.

What about the clarity of good and evil? The LOTR story at one level is clear cut: you know who the bad guys are. But at another level, it is more layered in that there is the struggle of evil within the heroes themselves. In the Matrix, the issue of good and evil is more muddled. Perhaps I'm just a simple minded golden retriever but the clarity of LOTR at a global level and the struggle at the individual level resonates with me.

Finally, the New Zealand as Middle Earth backdrop simply appeals to my sense of aesthetics. The Matrix world is just simply too drab to really capture my imagination and affections.

So off the bat, those are three things. What do you think?

And lastly, engaging in stereotypical male behavior, I have to say that of course Aragorn has to choose Arwen because she is his first love and it is the hopeless love appropriate for mythic stories.

I'm sure the male audience is split 50-50 between Eowyn and Arwen, the two strong willed, capable and oh, incidentally, beautiful women of LOTR. Though a very tough choice, if I had to choose, I'd have to go with Eowyn. I like her blend of strength and vulnerability though I obviously appreciate the wisdom and grace of Arwen also.

Of the other characters, I really like Gandalf because I like wise old guys (like Obi-Wan Kenobi) being a (growing) old guy. I also like Sam because he is so fiercely loyal.

Can't wait for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Be well,
Rene

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