The Matrix (1999)

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This film was such a spectacle when it was first released. In the summer of 1999, there was only one sic-fi movie on everyone’s lips– the return of Star Wars, when Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released. Nobody could have predicted that this original gritty film would completely steal Star Wars’ thunder and go on to be rated among the best science fiction films of all time. The sequels are a different story, but you will read what I think about them tomorrow.

The Matrix follows Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), a man with a mundane life working an office job. His life is turned upside down when he meets Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne). He finds out that his life is just a dream. In reality, he is hooked up to a machine that a race of robots are using to survive. These machines have hooked up most of the human race and are using their power to survive. To keep things civil with their human slaves, the machines have created a virtual world known as ‘the Matrix’ where humans can live. Anderson is offered the chance to enter the real world by Morpheus, which he takes and becomes known as Neo. Morpheus believes that Neo will lead the human resistance to eventually defeat the machines and is keen to get him out of the Matrix and into the battle as soon as possible. The film tracks Neo learning how to explore the Matrix and how to control himself within it. He begins to develop super powers and uses them to defeat the villainous Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), a program created by the machines that lives in the Matrix and tries to stop the human resistance whenever they become aware of their presence.

This film is pretty awesome. I was a bit worried about going back to watch this film after such a long time. I had such fond memories of it, there was always the chance the film looks quite dated by now or that the story would not be as interesting. This is not the case. The effects still look great and the story is as original as it ever was. The best part of this film is the story. For subsequent sequels, the filmmakers became obsessed with creating the most over the top action sequences they could. They completely missed the point that what made this first film so special was that it introduced us to a world we had never seen before. The story was key here, not the awesome fight scenes. Don’t get me wrong, the fight scenes are awesome, but they are the cherry on top, not the whole sundae.

The highlight of the cast for me is Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus. He has a screen presence for this film and enough charisma that you would follow him into battle whenever he asked. Keanu tries hard, but is probably a little out of his depth. His performance is one of the only low points for me. The role was originally offered to Will Smith, and I would have loved to see what he might have brought to the role. Keanu is ok, but not great.

Keanu Reeves and his dubious acting ability cannot detract from an awesome and original story though, that still holds up over 15 years after it was released. The Matrix is a fun ride with plenty of excitement and action. It was also fun seeing the streets of Sydney in all their glory on the big screen where The Matrix was filmed.

Rating: A-

When The Matrix came out I was really into it. It was cool and gritty and deep, and of course a teenager into science fiction and pretending she knew anything about anything would like this movie. It hits all the highs a sci-fi action flick should hit, wrapped up in religious allegory and philosophical references.

For me, The Matrix hasn’t aged well. I remember it being so much cooler as a teen than I did this time around. This change could be because this movie popularized a visual style that has been copied and emulated dozens of times since its release. I’m thoroughly over “bullet time.” Even seeing it here in its debut fails to impress the way it once did. I do still like the contrasting world’s of the Matrix and reality, though. The Matrix is slick and polished, where reality is dirty and unkempt. It’s an interesting take on the lived in future aesthetic that’s become the norm in the sci-fi genre. Though, I still don’t understand why anyone would choose to walk around in hot, uncomfortable head-to-toe leather/latex when you could be wearing less fashionable, but incredibly more comfortable clothing.

The plot of this film felt wholly unique at first, but it’s obvious now that it’s a basic savior story. The allusions to Christianity and Jesus become more obvious in the sequels, but I’m still embarrassed that I didn’t catch on to this when I first watched the movie. All the talk of “the One” and the prophesy that he’ll save humanity. Well, duh. Obviously I was too wrapped up in watching Keanu Reeves to really pay attention. Still, there are a lot of other references to things like Plato, Buddhism, and Alice and Wonderland that were not as obvious. It’s good to be able to fully understand these allusions now that I’ve actually studied them.

I mean, this is still a good movie. I just don’t feel like it’s as great as everyone makes it out to be. It’s fun science fiction, but it isn’t very unique. The philosophical questions it poses are interesting, I’ve just learned that all good sci-fi should be posing the hard questions. The Matrix isn’t special in that regard, but it does do this better than a lot of other movies in the genre.

Rating: B

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