Saturday, August 18, 2012

#733. The Matrix (1999)

Directed By: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Tag line: "The Fight for the Future Begins"

Trivia: Will Smith was approached to play Neo, but turned down the offer in order to star in Wild Wild West

The Matrix is a groundbreaking, earth shaking, special effects laden extravaganza. Directed by the Wachowskis, it features cinematic bells and whistles of every kind, each working in service of a unique, fascinating sci-fi tale.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a corporate employee by day and a notorious computer hacker by night. Known in the technological underworld as “Neo”, he’s eventually tracked down by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a mysterious cyber terrorist who promises to reveal a shocking truth to Neo if he agrees to meet with him. 

Curiosity gets the better of Neo, yet nothing could have prepared him for what Morpheus had to say. 

In a nutshell, Neo learns his entire life has been a lie, that what he believes to be real is merely an illusion, and that mankind has been enslaved by a race of supercomputers and trapped in a virtual reality known as "The Matrix". 

With the help of the multi-talented Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) and several others, Morpheus is waging a war against the Matrix, and now he wants Neo to join the fight.

The Matrix is jam-packed with special effects, yet knowing this in advance will in no way prepare you for just how stunning these effects truly are. Sure, many have been duplicated over the years (including countless variations of Neo’s slow-motion bullet dodge), but this is the movie that started it all. 

Before we even realize what’s going on, our jaws are scraping the floor in utter amazement as we watch Trinity, surrounded by about a half-dozen cops with guns drawn, kick a whole lot of ass. She moves fast, climbing walls and leaping off furniture, using her knowledge of the Matrix to sharpen her senses, and we get to see her every movement in astonishing detail. At one point, Trinity jumps to attack a policeman and the action slows to a standstill, leaving her frozen in mid-air. The camera swoops around her to give us a full 360-degree view of her hanging there, waiting to strike. 

As opening sequences go, this one is beyond belief.

It’s easy to impress an audience with a slew of special effects; Hollywood has spent countless millions in recent years trying to do just that. But in the end, many of those films offer spectacular imagery and little else. What makes The Matrix a great motion picture is that its incredible stunts and startling visuals are presented in unison with a very hip, very engaging tale of man vs. machine. 

Strip the effects away from most modern blockbusters and you’re left with the opening and closing credits. Take them out of The Matrix, you still have a story that will blow your mind.


Anthony Lee Collins said...

How many movies looked like this before The Matrix? Answer: 0. How many action movies tried to look like this afterwards? All of them (or at least it seemed that way :-) ).

I agree with all of your comments, but I do feel that the movie trails off a bit towards the end. The first half hour or so is a textbook example of how to hook an audience, how to reveal just enough without revealing too much. The action is amazing throughout, and the dialogue is quotable ("there is no spoon"), but it doesn't have much of an ending (it's sort of like they held up a sign saying, "Hey, sequels are coming!").

"Will Smith was approached to play Neo, but turned down the offer in order to star in Wild Wild West." I'll bet he regrets that. :-) (And it might have been an improvement for the audience, too.)

DVD Infatuation said...

@Anthony: You're absolutely right...this movie defined actions films for years afterwards (and is still doing so).

I enjoyed the film as a whole (ending included), but agree with you about the opening: it IS a textbook example of reeling an audience in.

As for the sequels, I like to pretend they don't exist!

Thanks for the (as always) excellent comment!