#4 The Matrix

(1999, Andy & Larry Wachowski)

“No one has ever done anything like this before”
“That’s why it’s going to work”

So, what is The Matrix? It’s a late 90s sci-fi action movie from brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, famed for its revolutionary special effects and storyline mixing elements of cyberpunk and philosophy to create a mind-bending blockbuster. But how warranted is its iconic status?

The Matrix in its simplest terms poses the question “what if the world we know wasn’t real?” We follow hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) as he meets a man called Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) who shows him the truth – humanity has been enslaved by the machine race, essentially turning every single person on earth into a battery, and they are all locked into a virtual reality simulation called The Matrix, keeping them in place. Morpheus informs Neo that he is The One, the prophesised saviour of humanity, and the movie questions whether the prophecy is true.

It’s an interesting concept, and a highly entertaining one. We learn the nature of The Matrix as Neo does, viewing this new world through his eyes, an effective device that means we’re not dumped into the events and trying to keep track of everything. What was potentially a confusing concept becomes fairly simple to understand, and thus the movie manages to entertain for its two-hour running time.

However, at times it feels like it only scratches the surface of its concepts. Neo comes to accept the new world alarmingly quickly, despite the fact that his whole life has completely been blown apart in an instant. He’s shown to be still slightly confused about everything that’s going on around him but this is the extent of it (what’s more, this may be down to Keanu Reeves’ “dull surprise” style of acting more than anything else). A little more examination of how he feels about the revelations presented to him as the film progresses would have made for a more effective storyline in my opinion.

Instead of this examination, the film chooses to throw us into Hollywood action movie territory fairly quickly. This is both a good and a bad thing.

It’s a good thing primarily because the actions sequences are thrilling, and while pop culture has become oversaturated with “bullet-time” homages and parodies following the release of the movie, the special effects are no less impressive for it. The slow-motion bullet dodging, the genuinely thrilling lobby shootout scene, and the impressively choreographed martial arts sequences are all highly entertaining. Visually, the film excels, from the flashiest of CGI effects down to the subtle green tint on all scenes taking place inside The Matrix itself. The Wachowskis went all out on creating a special effects masterpiece.

But on the flipside, this visual flair does detract from the story, and ultimately makes the film a bit muddled with its ideas. On one hand, it seemingly wants to raise philosophical questions and provide a thought-provoking postmodern sci-fi story, and on the other, it wants to provide a big Hollywood blockbuster, packed with action and quotable lines, and while it’s fairly good at doing both, it’s not very good at bringing these two disparate elements together as a cohesive whole. Which is a shame, because The Matrix does promise a lot, and it does deliver on some counts, but overall, it could do better.

Certainly an entertaining film with strong pop cultural influence, but lacking in a few areas.

Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano
Written by The Wachowski Brothers
Produced by Joel Silver
Music by Don Davis
Cinematography by Bill Pope
Edited by Zach Staenberg

Favourite Scene: Neo’s martial arts training, one of the few scenes that seems to blend the action with the philosophy effectively. It took the principle of “freeing your mind” prevalent in many martial arts and applied it to a virtual reality. It was a nice touch.
Scene That Bugged Me: Radio operator Tank gets injured, and never do we see him get patched up, but he seems to carry on just fine. What was all that about?

Watch if: You’re a fan of long leather coats and the music of Propellerheads
Avoid if: You’re convinced that there is a spoon

Originally posted on Blogspot Sunday 16 October 2011

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Posted on March 12, 2012, in 1990s, Action, Sci Fi and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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