|Photo Credit: The Matrix/ Warner Bros
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, my thoughts stemmed from the film's glory days when it was a huge hit in the late 90s / early 2000s. Fans' fervent love made me excited but also anxious I might encounter nothing but disappointment; to 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 as ambitious The Matrix is, 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 the 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.
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. We must trust Morpheus as the father-leader 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.
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.