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 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: 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: 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: 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.
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.