Shortstember: Kid’s Story

Studio: Studio 4°C

Director: Shinichiro Watanabe

Writer: The Wachowskis.

Wha’ happen’?

Michael Karl Popper, a young teenage boy who doesn’t feel like he belongs, looks for answers on the internet and makes contact with a strange man who wants him to take a red pill.

By writing such deeply radical and transgressive things as “why do I feel more awake when I dream?”, Michael draws the attention of the agents who pay a visit to his school. Michael gets a call from Neo who tells him to run. He gets cornered by the agents on the roof and, putting his faith in Neo, he jumps.

At the kid’s funeral, his teacher opines that some kids just can’t handle the world they find themselves in but that Michael is now in a better place.

And the short ends with the kid waking up to see Neo and Trinity looking down at him, having managed to free himself from the Matrix (the first time anyone has ever done that).

How was it?

Damn, the Wachowskis really thought we were going to fall in love with the Kid, didn’t they?

Think of all the characters they could have devoted an entire short to fleshing out. Morpheus? The Oracle? The deja vu cat? And they go with this guy?! The Wesley Crusher of the Matrix universe?

This is my least favourite short, hands down. Pros first;

The animation has this beautifully fluid, pencilled style that’s very beautiful and the soundtrack is lovely.

The problem is the script. The Wachowskis have never been particularly strong on dialogue and I would actually say they are flat out bad at character. They are good at types. Stoic badasses. Inscrutable sages. Wide-eyed innocents. But the best Wachowski characters are the ones played by actors who can add dimension and inner life to what is almost always a stock role on the page. Even getting past the kind of gross way this short glamorises teen suicide, the Kid just is not an interesting character. He’s supposed to be the first person to ever manage to break out of the Matrix unaided (something that will be flatly contradicted by a later short), but frankly if this guy can do it, anyone can. There’s never any hint or sign that he’s anything other than a completely normal teenage boy. And the idea that he was able to break free by putting his faith in Neo isn’t inspiring, its nonsensical. He has never met the dude. They had one, very short online conversation where it’s not even clear that Neo told him anything about the Matrix.

So…what did he think was going to happen when he jumped off the building? Neo was going to swoop in like Superman? I mean, he could, but the kid doesn’t know that.

Ultimately, the short has a nice atmosphere but it’s a dull story that makes no sense about a dull character who never needed to exist.

4 comments

  1. I understand everything you just said about the writing of this short. However, did you see that chase scene? For shorts, I am willing to accept a level of writing that I wouldn’t from a feature film, because they’re short enough for the aesthetics to carry them. This is one of those shorts for me. I don’t worry so much about writing when the animation is this fun to look at.

  2. Yeah, I know the Wachowski’s really struggled with identity and belonging in their youth, which I guess is on display here. But the whole message of “and then the kid jumped, and is in a better place now – and it’s a good thing” really disturbed me in a bad way. The short would’ve been stronger if it had ended right at the funeral and left it ambiguous whether it had ended in senseless tragedy or liberation.

    Also, now that you describe it, the Wachowski’s were really hammering the “Neo is Christ” allegory here (“Believe In Neo, And You Shall Be Saved”, basically). I know the Messiah-symbolism was there from the beginning, but I guess this was the point were it got really heavy-handed.

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