Shortstember: Matriculated

Studio: DNA

Director: Peter Cheung

Writer: Peter Cheung

Wha’ happen’?

A woman named Alexa and her small cadre of human resistance fighters succeed in capturing a machine and plugging it into their own mini Matrix. There, they try to teach the machine the value of human beings by having sex in front of it while it watches.

I mean. That’s certainly ONE way.

After a whole heap of psychedelic faffery the Machine seems to be coming around to team human but, in the real world, the base is attacked by more machines, forcing Alexa’s crew to cut the programme short. They battle the machines and one by one are killed. Alexa begs their prisoner to help them and it does, but it’s too late to save Alexa. Holding her dying body in its arms, the Machine plugs Alexa back into the programme, uploading her consciousness. It then enters the the programme, hoping that it and Alexa can now be together forever. However, realising what’s happened, Alexa promptly dies from shock. The short ends with the Machine sitting alone on a bleak shoreline; “liberated” but completely alone.

How was it?

I’ve never liked Matriculated and it’s hard for me to marticulate, I mean articulate why. But I’ll give it a shot. Firstly, while Peter Cheung (Aeon Flux) certainly has a distinctive style I can’t say it’s one I’ve ever particularly liked. It’s a bit overly detailed and and I can’t get past the fact that everyone looks like a race of overly sexualised giraffe/human hybrids.

Secondly, the animation is done in this faux-trad/CGI style that I just can’t get behind. It just looks plasticky and cheap to me. It’s certainly not terrible but it’s a conspicuosly weak entry for an anthology with such an incredibly high standard in its visuals and animation. Then there’s the story. Matriculated is by far the longest of any of the shorts at a quarter of an hour and it doesn’t really spent its time well. Instead of fleshing out these characters whose deaths we will soon be mourning, the bulk of the short is given over to surreal imagery in the mini-Matrix as the Machine learns what it is to be hoo-man. I’m not exactly sure what the message is either. The humans state that they don’t want to simply re-program the machine and that they want it to discover the joys of free will and join them voluntarily. They reason that since the Machine is enslaved to its programming, it will want to choose to be free. But of course, the humans aren’t going to let the Machine choose to continue trying to kill them. The Machine is free to choose, as long as it makes what the humans consider the correct choice.

To the short’s credit, this very ethical quandary is discussed by the characters and honestly, that’s the part of this story that I’m more interested in. The trippy visuals honestly just feel like chin-stroking padding, especially since, with this animation style I’m not particularly in awe of them even on a purely aesthetic level.

On the plus side, the fact that the main human character has the name of what is now the most famous AI in the world is kinda funny.

6 comments

  1. Ah, ok. I think this was the section I actually remember watching. Although, after reading your summary, it turns out I didn’t remember a single thing about it was actually about, except that it ended poorly for everyone involved. So, I guess I don’t really remember it? Except in the vaguest of possible terms?

    Anyway. Thanks for your review. 😁

  2. I started typing out a well-reasoned paragraph on the ethics of this short
    and then forgot the point I was trying to make.

    Unshaved Mouse: WILL Blow Your Mind and Give You an Inability to Articulate Ethical Reasoning (It’s a positive!)

  3. I never liked Aeon Flux. When one of those segments came on Liquid Television, that was time to start seeing what else was on (as opposed to now when that applies to ALL of MTV).

    And I think these kinksters just wanted to make a robot watch them bang, and invented a reason to do so.

  4. Now we’ve reached the point where I’ve had completely forgotten that this short existed. Even your recap only gave me the faintest inkling, in the sense that I though “oh yeah… There was this short with the virtual boinking, I think…” Which tells a lot frankly. Everything else (even the Detective Story with its steampunkish visuals) had some memorable aspects, but this one just didn’t stick with me.

  5. I remember liking this one. Mainly because I always thought it was implied at the end that the “converted” machine took up the charge of freeing machines from their programming; it was inspired and converted by the humans during the simulation and when it saw what the sentinels did to its new “friends” is decided to continue on with the human’s efforts.

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