The Matrix (1999) walks the path of complexity and entertainment

May 27, 2014
The Matrix movie review
Photo Credit: The Matrix/ Warner Bros
Directed and written by The Wachowski Brothers, this 1999 sci-fi flick takes us deep into a new reality called The Matrix. The world as we know has utterly collapsed from mankind's egotrip known as artificial intelligence. Sentient machines we created betrayed us and scorched the Earth. In doing so, they subdued humans into a simulated reality and use our natural bodies' heat and electrical activity as their main energy source.

The Chosen One Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker who is shown the truth. A group of human resistance fighters led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishbourne) guides our hero to realize his potential to save the rest of the human race and end the war.

Before watching The Matrix, expectations from the film's hype since my teenage years weighed on my mind. Mostly, the thoughts stemmed from the film's glory days when it was a huge hit in the late 90s / early 2000s. Fans' love for this movie made me excited but also anxious I might encounter nothing but disappointment; only be reminded of the criticism and parodies that often plagued the first installment when it came out.

Some movies throw all the darts to the wall and let the chips fall where they may. For a percentage of films, the results don't live up to the expectations. The story falls apart, characters are reduced to flat caricatures, and there is simply not enough world-building especially science fiction movies. I was surprised to see that for as ambitious The Matrix was, it all worked.

If noir and cyberpunk got it on, the results would be this movie. The opening defines the "supposed law abiding cops" versus a vixen in black attire with a major chase scene. Leather jackets replace trenchcoats. When characters are threatened, everything from cinematography to an actor's physical movement is choreographed to move fast. When the tension rests, the production moves ultra-slow. Dialogue, action, and script all balance an unique rhythm, avoiding in-authenticity or corniness. All of the components at first almost feel too genre(s) specific to be its own original film.

As layers begin to peel off, it's easy to grasp onto the matrix and let it plunge you into this engaging and intriguing science fiction ride. You begin to question what is the true matrix? what is the truth - in general - reality or what our brains are wired to compartmentalize as reality?

The cast of characters leads us on a wild chase and become the good guys to root for. Neo is the hacker trapped searching for answers to a question he has long held onto. Morpheus as the father-leader we must simply trust is telling the truth about a reality that seems impossible. Trinity (awesomely played by Carrie-Anne Moss) is the mysterious femme fatale carrying a major secret. The main villain Agent Smith - a sentient machine posing as a human - all but jumped off the screen as someone you love to hate, or just love to love. The movie became something I loved and questioned why hadn't I taken a chance on it sooner.

It's almost impossible to dwindle down the worldbuilding or character into one post because there is a list of things I loved: Neo is the hacker trapped searching for answers to a question he has long held onto. Morpheus as the father-leader we must simply trust is telling the truth about a reality that seems impossible. Trinity (awesomely played byCarrie-Anne Moss) is the mysterious femme fatale carrying a major secret. The main villain Agent Smith - a sentient machine posing as a human - all but jumped off the screen as someone you love to hate, or just love to love. The movie became something I loved and questioned why hadn't I taken a chance on it sooner.

The Matrix rekindled what a fun and intellectually stimulating moment in cinema it must have been to see in theaters. For such a big movie, it feels wonderfully intimate. Action sequences combined with special effects, combat fighting, and wire techniques are iconic. And, then there's that damn question again: what is truth? Is what we truly believe or what we are shown to believe? Would you (do you) accept a reality if it's a comfortable lie? The list goes on and on.

Often I feel the poorest films are the ones that have to sell a moment; one that so pushes characters and scenes off the screen to evoke sympathy, anger, or understanding - they become cringe-worthy in their force and efforts. Even though action and science fiction have grown with its use to special effects but the hiccups have grown larger too. Studios judge that audiences aren't smart enough to follow complex worlds, and stories often fall short balancing entertainment and enlightenment. In its huge collage of genres and blockbuster mechanisms, The Matrix maintains being fun and complex.

With all of the components of The Matrix brings together, fifteen years later after the movie's initial release, it succeeds on almost all of its levels. It gels in a way that the movie makes me realize how much I miss when science fiction was cool and could make me think. It's not a perfect film (the Trinity + Neo relationship I could've done without but in a world with no human contact, you're gonna love the ones you're with) but it's an enjoyable one. I was reminded of an exciting time in cinema when movie stars like Keanu Reeves were at the top of their game but weren't detracting from enjoying an engaging blockbuster. Like Neo who chooses to see the truth of reality, as the audience, we're asked to follow the white rabbit into another world that takes a while to come to terms with. It was a good decision to watch this movie.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen The Matrix? What do you think?

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