I watched The Matrix: Reloaded last night on TBS. I've got it on DVD, but sat thru the commercials and the poor voice-overed cursing, and even almost forgave the missing gore. I read a lot, too, because I know the movie pretty well, as well as I know all of them.
And yes, I loved the last one, too.
I was thinking, especially while watching the Neo/Seraph combat and the Burley-Brawl, where Neo fights about a jillion Agent Smiths, about the very dance-like quality of the fights. And it's not just The Matrix, it's just about every martial arts movie ever filmed. They're so...choreographed.
And yes, before you tell me there's no Santa Claus, I KNOW it's choreographed. They're all choreographed, so that the risk of permanently destroying an expensive actor is removed. I think the better word might be "stylized." Watch any of the Matrix movies, and specifically Reloaded, if you have it. Watch any of the fight scenes--Morpheus battling the Agent on top of the tractor trailer. The Burley Brawl. The combat between Morpheus/Trinity and the White Twins in The Merovingian's garage. All of it has a very stylistic thing going on, more so than most any fighting I've seen anywhere, although I've been seeing bits and pieces of it from all over for a very long time now.
The upcoming Aeon Flux movie should be completely rife with that sort of hyper-stylized combat sequences, unless I really miss my guess. How many times have you seen someone land in that perfect, one-leg-outstretched crouch, or curled into a half-ball, ready to explode with stored-up chi energy? How many black-vinyl clad heroes and heroines have leaped off tall buildings, only to land perfectly on their feet, ready to stride away to do battle with the baddies? 'Nuff said.
I've seen real, honest-to-Buddha martial arts fights. You can do the same on any video website, or on that pay-per-view what is it...Ultimate Fighting Something or other. Or, most obviously, professional wrestling. The real martial arts is not about someone's face being Right There Perfectly Lined Up so you can throw a beautiful Iron Palm at it. No-one is ever set up so that you can climb them, throw yourself into a beautiful backflip and land square on your feet, ready for a Scorpion Kick at the guy in front of you. No, real martial arts is a flurry of missed punches, kicks at nothing, a lot of dancing around and jockeying for position, and a very few very good landed impacts that finish the match.
But I enjoy the stylized stuff. And it's getting to the point that I feel that movies in the next decade or so will have raised that stylized action to the point that it becomes sort of an American noh theater sort of thing, with simple gestures meaning volumes and things as simple as a look implying whole loads of menace and ass-whipping ability. It should be interesting stuff.
So for now I watch Neo fighting in a sort of almost-full-speed mode, slow enough that we can all see exactly where each punch is blocked, each kick is jumped over, and we can enjoy the dance-like quality of fighing in a world where fighting has nothing to do with actually hurting someone.
Anyway, all of us know that it's all done with smoke and mirrors.