Matrix Bloat

Like the phrase “jumping the shark“* or our own “monkeycam” it is helpful from time to time to have descriptive phrases within an industry that can be used to express a complicated idea in simple, concise language.

I will begin with a simple premise; some movies were meant to be single works of art, rather than parts of an overlong and poorly organized series.  For example, the original Matrix was written as a single story and was self-contained and cohesive. When that story was expanded beyond its original breadth it lost much of the focus and clarity that typified the original. Thus the following two movies felt like add-ons to the original, like artificial limbs grafted onto a well-formed original.

The same problem occurred with the Saw series. While the first of the series was arguably original in design and structure, the following three films were attempts to recapture, unsuccesfully, the originality of the first.  By contrast, some movies are created from a story that is too complex to be told in a simple two-hour film. Star Wars Episodes IV through VI are excellent examples. Each movie is a self-contained unit, but the sum of the whole of all three is greater than the sum of the parts that make up the films.

Sometimes, more is too much, and a little of a good thing is worth more than a lot. When the greed of a studio overwhelms this judgement and profitability reigns supreme, it is the art of film that suffers.


*”Jumping the shark” is a term used in the television industry to describe what occurs when a television series tries to continue to maintain audience interest beyond the point of natural attrition. It is derived from the television show Happy Days. During the last, flagging season of the show, the producers tried to re-interest viewers by creating an episode with Fonzie “jumping a shark” while waterskiing. Despite this desperate attempt to create interest, the show was cancelled. And thus a new descriptive term was created. . .

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.