BY NOW YOU'VE probably already read my review of the third Matrix movie (see p. 83), which opens today. To further stoke fan-boy anticipation, part two debuted on DVD Oct. 14, and it's already sold a gazillion copiesnot to mention the video-game revenues also lining the Wachowski brothers' pockets. Indeed, watching this two-disc set as homework prior to The Matrix Revolutions, I was struck by how much the ancillaries are driving the franchise. Most of the extras concern production minutiae, and most of that is "pre-visualized" with computer imagery thatta da!basically looks like a computer game simply headed from their hard drive to yours.
Thus, Jada Pinkett Smith raving about the martial-arts training she did for her small Reloaded role comes off as her boosting the Animatrix game. The behind-the-scenes stuff about the big car chase on the fake freeway yields pirouetting SUVs and cascading bullet shells that, again, are standard vidgame tropes. Go back to the movie, and its escalating plot structure also basically amounts to a game: Neo faces one successive challenge after another, rising level after level from easy fights to hard, from kissing Monica Bellucci to catching Carrie-Anne Moss in midair.
Since the Wachowskis famously refuse to discuss their work, producers and actors are left to gush and fawn about the duo, and embarrassingly so. (To judge from Laurence Fishburne's solemnity, the role of Morpheus has gone to his head, and embarrassingly so.) I think that's a pity, a real mistake. Like George Lucas, who couldn't be bothered to add a commentary to the recent Indiana Jones box set, the Wachowskis are in danger of retreating into a similar Skywalker Ranch seclusion from the real world. Just look what that's done for Lucas and the latest round of Star Wars sequels. I don't think the Wachowskis' work is quite so staggeringly inert and humorlessafter all, they did create the flamboyantly silly "Merovingian" character, the best thing about Reloaded. But, judging from this DVD, they need to get off the ranch more often.
THE BIG RELEASE for Nov. 4 is Finding Nemo on two discs with lots of family-friendly extras. Also out, Legally Blonde 2 is lame; the French feminist revenge farce Chaos deserves a long DVD afterlife; Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights doesn't even provide entertainment for one sane evening; the 1957 Polish World War II drama Kanal is unforgettably bleak and affecting; and Warner is putting out a nice Bogart collection that includes High Sierra.