‘The Matrix Reloaded’ takes supplemental material to the next level Video game review Nine years have passed since the first film with an official Web site premiered (Stargate back in 1994); since then, producers of films have devised a wonderland of intriguing variations on using technology to supplement the stories. The producers behind A.I. backed it up with an enormously complex online game that spilled into the real world, took weeks to figure out and was, in the end, probably more entertaining than the actual film. The same was true of the TV “documentary” special Curse of the Blair Witch that was a lot better than The Blair Witch Project itself. But the most ambitious cross-format exercise in storytelling is underway right now, with the Wachowski Brothers, the minds behind The Matrix, hitting many genres at once. Games, DVDs and Web stuff are all intertwined to the point that you’re missing out on huge chunks of what’s going on if you watch only the movies. Essentially, it’s taking the hypertext concept at the heart of the Web and decompressing it to include a variety of forms of storytelling. Hypertelling, so to speak. On the Web, you can quickly switch through numerous documents and follow links to new information as you see fit. Click on The Kid to find out more about where he came from and why he looks up to Neo so much. Click on Niobe to see what her crew’s up to. Hyperlinks in multigenre form. What separates the Matrix experiment from previous multigenre stunts is the concurrence of everything at once, and the intense involvement of the original creators in the expansion. All the side stories are connected and either written or overseen by the Wachowski Brothers. The central elements to this include the free Webcomics on the Matrix site, from such noteworthy creators as Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick, which have been added regularly since 1999; Enter the Matrix, a multiplatform video game with a 244-page script by the Wachowskis; and The Animatrix, a DVD of nine animated stories that focus on different elements of the Matrix backstory. Unlike a game that basically ports the plot of the movie into gaming form, Enter the Matrix tells an entirely separate but interlaced story that follows minor Reloaded characters led by Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith). The game features an hour of new scenes written and directed by the Wachowskis. It’s literally an entire separate Matrix movie being released at the same time. The interface of viewer/game/DVD/movie is far from perfect; this is still a public beta test for a very difficult application. Anyone unaware of the video game would get the uneasy feeling from the movie that there was a lot of stuff going on with Niobe and company that they weren’t in on, and The Kid really felt shoehorned into the film, like an annoying walking talking advertisement. Nonetheless, it’s a massive experiment and things are going to get a lot crazier once this particular rabbit hole is opened for future films. Enter the Matrix is available for all game systems now. The Animatrix is available now on DVD; four of the nine shorts can be previewed at www.intothematrix.com. The free Matrix comics can be read at www.whatisthematrix.com.

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