The One
dir. James Wong
Now playing in various theaters.

It's a fact that the philosophical theories that explained The Matrix were derived from the most exhausted metaphysical concepts about the split between phenomena and consciousness. We could only yawn when Morpheus told Neo that what seems like reality is not reality, but an illusion. Or laugh when he told Neo that humans are nothing more than batteries for artificially intelligent machines. But when one compares The Matrix's attempts to define reality to those proposed in Jet Li's The One, The Matrix sounds like Kant.

Not only is the philosophical ground in The Matrix more sturdy, it's also more rigorous. Indeed, The Matrix is a Critique of Pure Reason next to the fortune-cookie speculations of The One. Watch The One and then rent The Matrix, and you'll be amazed by the amount of time The Matrix spends explaining everything. And the parts you once laughed and yawned at now seem demanding.

But maybe we never gave The Matrix the credit it deserves. The Wachowski Brothers are familiar with the work of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, and recently the Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Zizek quoted Morpheus' famous line, "Welcome to the desert of the real," in a recent article on the WTC titled "The Desert of the Real." It's highly doubtful that The One will ever achieve such cultural notoriety.

The One, which is about a bad Jet Li vs. a good Jet Li who lives in a parallel universe, also lacks poetry. There are no moments of pure beauty, like the bamboo sequence in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the moonlit roof scenes in Iron Monkey. Even as a fighter, Jet Li lacks the poetry of, say, Jackie Chan, who raises kung fu to the condition of dancing. Though swift and agile, Jet Li is essentially a fighting robot. There's more mathematics than rhythm in his kung fu chops.

But despite its lack of philosophy and poetry (the most important subjects in the world), The One is still a fun movie to watch, because, you know, it's about kung fu in space.