The Matrix (1999) Review

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Simulacra and Simulation

The Matrix (1999): 9 out of 10: Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is an Office Space style employee during the day and a well-renowned hacker nicknamed Neo at night. One day, a mysterious group reaches out to him, promising to let him in on a new reality.

The Good

The Good: The Matrix is clearly a passion project for The Wachowskis. Casting is excellent. Nitpicks are few. And the awful stuff doesn’t really show up until the sequels.

If I have to pick one good thing to highlight, it is the filmmaking itself. I praise all sorts of special shots below in the screenshot section, but the entire look of the film is genius and was unlike anything seen before. The Wachowskis use of bullet time is still revolutionary and has affected movies, commercials, and video games for the last two decades.

Speaking of long-term effects. The concept of taking the red pill is still with us. The Matrix along with Fight Club introduced some interesting philosophy to the youth of its time. The effects of which we can see in the political arena even today.

The Bad

The Bad: Bad is a strong word, but the relationship between Neo and Trinity, well… Actress Carrie-Anne Moss certainly gave her all for what was to be her big break. (She hid a rather severe injury to avoid being recast) . She is game for the role. But Lord Love a Duck she has zero chemistry with Keanu Reeves. Considering her love for him is part of the whole chosen one storyline, it is a bit of a problem.

Now in fairness to Carrie, Keanu is not known for his smoldering on screen chemistry. (Possible exceptions Diane Keaton and Alex Winter). Despite appearing in multiple movies with both Winona Ryder and Sandra Bullock, his smoldering romances seem to leave once the cameras start rolling (Cough Bram Stoker’s Dracula Cough).

The only exception I can think of is Ana de Armas, who honestly could make Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men smolder.

The Ugly

The Ugly: Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces has lots of victims. (A virgin birth in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace? Really, George?). The Matrix is one such victim. Now, many of the references are so obvious (Neo is the One, for example) that they are simply part of the tale. But at the very end, we have True Love’s Kiss resurrecting our Jesus figure and creating a Superman. All within a minute.

It is to the great credit of The Wachowskis that it works at the moment. We are all on the edge of our seat clapping our hands, wishing Tinker Bell back to life. Five minutes after the movie was over, however the feeling faded and I felt a little silly.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: As I stated above, in The Good The Matrix is one of the most influential films of the past twenty-five years. Its lexicon has entered the mainstream. Its filming techniques are still used. Keanu Reeves is still an action star.

Despite two very disappointing sequels, I am still looking forward to The Matrix Resurrections despite all the characters being dead (I guess hence the resurrection) and the apparent lack of Laurence Fishburne.

Screenshots

Okay, raise your hands if you had this as a screensaver in the early aughts. Yeah, me too.
Having just finished my review of Jurassic Park and Nedry’s junk filled IT station, I am really curious about this trope. I know some proper IT professionals and neither their home nor work stations are filled with random junk. Now a crafter’s computer desk, on the other hand.
Ada Nicodemou (AKA Rabbit Tattoo Girl) is my dark horse character for this film and the one I wish would have somehow wormed her way back into the plot in either this film or the sequels. (A similar Rabbit Tattoo Girl appears in The Matrix Resurrections trailer). Oh, and fun trivia. Her name in the film is Dujour and her boyfriend there is Choi. And of course, choi du’jou is the choice of the day. Which is exactly what Neo is making.

Silly point of the day. Somehow Dujuor was not one of the French resistance names in “Top Secret!”.
I always felt the giving the finger was out of character for Neo.
The camera work in The Matrix is first class. The Wachowskis seem to follow the same philosophy of, say, a Brian De Palma. No reason to make the scene visually dull.
Neo shows us the proper prairie-dog technique.
Not just is this an iconic shot, it is a fantastic shot in a movie full of them. The Matrix uses reflections, particularly from glasses and other non-traditional sources, to great effect throughout the movie.
Okay, this was a bit out of left field.
There is some really great Sci-fi in The Matrix
Man, you need to be up on your nose hair maintenance to be in a Wachowskis directed film.
Strange War of the Worlds vibe in this scene. Not the best digital effects in the film.
The white room is giving me Merovingian flashbacks from The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The sequels do slightly take away from re-watching the first film.

I also want to note I love the TV in this scene that I always assumed it was a prop made for the film. I was wrong. This is a real television. What a great find. I need one for my Fallout cosplay.
Good CGI baby. Well, I hope it is CGI. Anyway, I have seen the word of God reports that the idea of humans as batteries was forced by a studio. Per TV Tropes “This was all Executive Meddling. The original story had the brains of the humans being used as part of a neural network for additional computing power. But the suits thought that was too hard for people to understand. So instead we get them as batteries, which is a major liberty with the laws of physics, as well as a huge head scratcher – why not keep the humans sedated, and not have to waste power on the Matrix? Or just use animals?”

I have no doubt about this after just watching Predator 2 where the studio demanded that the Rastafarian gang practice Voodoo despite the fact they were… well, a Rastafarian gang, because people wouldn’t know what Rastafarianism is.
John Woo doves?
Somebody stole his Lucky Charms.
I miss phones like this. I like my smart phone, mind you. Can’t imagine going to the bathroom without one. But the slider and flip phones were so cool.
Yeah, I can’t watch this without thinking of the Millenium Falcon either.
Now this is a proper IT set-up.
You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth; the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?
[Takes a bite of steak]
Ignorance is bliss.

Not to get too philosophical nor to endorse the murder of my crewmates. Not to mention why or even how one would trust a computer program to keep its word. (Cypher’s plan has a lot of holes and caveats.). All that said. Cypher has a point. Why not live your life in a reality that gives you pleasure and fulfillment rather than keeping it “real”.

I sense another stoicism vs. epicureanism debate forthcoming.

Night of the Lepus is in the house.
When Belinda McClory auditioned for the role of “Switch”, she was only going for half the role. The character was originally planned to be played by androgynous actors. In the real world, it would be played by a male actor and in the Matrix be represented in a female form, hence the name “Switch”. Warner Bros. refined the idea and McClory ended up getting a single female role in both environments.

I love the way the above quote from IMDb’s trivia section uses the word refined for Warner Brothers reaction to using two androgynous actors. Either way, Belinda pulls off the look all by herself (Her allergy to bras helps). Plus, she has one of the best line readings in the movie “Not like this. Not like this.”
The iconic sunglasses worn by the Matrix characters are from the cult-ish label Blinde, which prides itself on producing handmade glasses. The company’s founder, Richasrd Walker had to tender against large companies such as Ray-Ban and Arnette to win the film’s sunglasses contract, and set himself apart by scratch-designing pairs of glasses based purely on the characters’ unusual names. When his tender was successful, Walker was flown into Sydney where he spent the duration of the Matrix shoot by custom-designing sunglasses for the cast in the back of an Oxford Street optometrist.
To quote The Tick. “Spoon!!!!”
Speaking of The Tick, I love how everything is named The City USA. hence the City Phone phonebook upon the fridge. Also, somewhere there is someone trying to figure out what the letters on the fridge represent. The Matrix is that kind of deep detail oriented movie where I wouldn’t put it past The Wachowskis to slip something in there.
Here we have the out-manned and outgunned City Security. For those in my reading audience who are not elderly, that is a walkie talkie he is using. Which is like a cell phone that can call only one other phone.
Kitty!!!
Say hello to my little friends.
“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

Is it bad form to point out that ” Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment” is a patently false statement, thereby rendering the entire speech a logical fallacy?
Honestly, I have been going back and forth whether this is Carrie-Anne Moss or a really good stunt double?
This is just a weird special effect. A Star Trek transporter effect as designed by H. R. Giger.
With all the generic names in The Matrix (See The City above) what is with the Hewlett Packard poster? Bizarre product placement? A joke by the evil computer programs? Also nice Jazz hands Agent Smith.
For some reason, this reminds me of the tv channel they play in casino hotels that teach you roulette and recommend the top flight entertainment at the Lido.
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