It could have been sublime. Instead, it ended up being partly ridiculous, wholly pretentious (and portentous), and a great example of what might have been. I’m speaking about the Matrix trilogy, of course, the Larry and Andy Wachowski movies that combined everything from Christian myth to Greek philosophy to John Woo-style gunfights into a pop movement that, like others of its kind that have come before, threatened briefly to overwhelm all else.
The problem with the movies was their makers. Like some of the others behind other pop movements, the Brothers Wachowski didn’t seem to want to tell a story; it looked like they wanted to start a religion—explain everything from ghosts to thought processes to faith to what happens to us when we die in one Jungian whole. Honestly, I’m quite happy to live with allusions and can breeze through your average Eco, but movies 2 and 3 of the trilogy left me going d-uhh at times.
As the Wachowskis discovered, it is easy to make a movie; it is far more difficult to start a religion. What I really liked about the brothers (one of them has since become a sister, I’m told), though, was their keenness to spread the Matrix message: short movies that filled in the gap and made by masters of Anime (Animatrix), a website devoted to the company Neo (Mr Anderson) that produced bulletin boards, games, and of course, the comics.
Burlyman is the name of the comic imprint started by the Wachowskis and it has released two volumes of Matrix Comics thus far (apart from a clutch of forgettable others). The Matrix comics themselves are fairly old (the first came out in early 2003 and the second in late 2004) and are simply called Matrix Comics Vol. 1 and Matrix Comics Vol. 2. The good news is that the comics are far better than the movies (then again, if you are a regular reader of this column, you probably know that all comics are better than movies). When you become legends in your space like the Wachowskis did, you can also get the best names in the business to write/draw for you. That’s exactly what the Brothers W have done with the Matrix comics. From Neil Gaiman to Spencer Lamm to Geoff Darrow to Paul Chadwick, the finest names in sci-fi and graphic novels have contributed to the comics.
The stories themselves fill gaps in our knowledge of the Matrix and Zion. Not all of the comics are, well, comics (Gaiman has a short story, as does Poppy Brite), but the art is as stand-out as the special effects in the movie. There are stories about alternate reality; there are stories about alienation; there are stories about pursuit and capture; and there are stories about escape. In graphic novel form, the premise of the brothers is not so unbelievable after all. Maybe it’s the paper; maybe it’s the visuals; but something makes the old suspension of disbelief thing all the more easier.
(Write to R. Sukumar at firstname.lastname@example.org)