Chapter 3 (What was the Matrix?)

Apparently, it was the best example we’ve seen yet of transmedia storytelling. This according to Henry Jenkins in chapter three, entitled Searching for the Origami Unicorn. Here I must pause to admit that it has been more than a decade since I saw Blade Runner, and back then, in my young and tender years, the movie made no sense to me whatsoever. Thus, when Jenkins references Neil Young talking about an origami unicorn, it didn’t make sense to me either.

That being said, I did get the basic point behind the reference which was to illustrate “additive comprehension.” This is the way that directors shape and mold the way viewers perceive the film. One “origami unicorn” can change the entire way a film is perceived. Remember the way you felt when you discovered that Bruce Willis was really a dead person for most of Sixth Sense? That knowledge changed the way that you viewed the movie the second time around. An origami unicorn is such a moment, only more subtle. It may be a prop that a character uses, or it may be the way a director chooses to construct a shot in the film, but it is something that drastically changes the way an audience member interprets the film.

Going back to The Matrix, Jenkins details the ways in which the Wachowski brothers used many forms of media to tell the whole story. They utilized film, animated shorts, comic books, and video games. Jenkins explains that to really understand The Matrix, one needed to have pursed the story line through each one of these mediums, to which my response was “What the Heck?!?”

I, though a latecomer, was totally blown away by the first film installment when I watched it with some friends on DVD. After viewing the second film at a pre-opening day midnight screening, which raised an almost infinite amount of additional questions, I could not wait for Revolutions to hit the theaters. I again waited in line to see the third installment at midnight before opening day and left feeling like a hollow shell of the man I had been before seeing it. I had no answers, only more questions. My main question to those who were with me was, “Are we sure that thy aren’t coming out with a fourth one? I mean this one didn’t answer any of our questions . . .”

So, getting back to our text, I again felt empty (and mad) when I realized that I could have gotten more answers. I could have had a deeper and broader understanding. It really would have been nice if the Wachowskis had taken the initiative in one (of their plethora) of interviews to say, “Hey y’all. If you don’t want to be pissed after watching Revolutions, it would probably be a good idea to go ahead and watch our animated shorts, read our comics and play all of the video games.” Better yet, they could have delineated the order in which we should have done these things. I doubt I was the only person in the world who thought that it was unfortunate that “they” were going to pimp out The Matrix franchise to turn out some cheap video games and comic books and animated shorts. If only I would have known . . .

The Wachowski brothers are geniuses. I don’t begrudge their story telling strategy at all. I admire it. I only wish I would have known. Jenkins touches on the fact that most fans aren’t ready for the transmedia experience (particularly movie critics, who I think were irrelevant 15 years ago anyway). He also mentions that many media houses are ill-prepared as well. Who leads first, the gamers or the filmmakers? The TV producers or the comic book writers? I agree with Jenkins when he indicates that certain players are better poised than others to pull the transmedia gig off. Warner Bros, who housed the entire Matrix franchise, owns half of the world, including every aspect of production needed to exceed even the Wachowski’s expectations. I would like to see somebody else come along and use every single tool at their command to accomplish this exciting way of storytelling, but I fear that 99% of consumers would find it too much to bear.

Sources:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.