Jun 13, 2014

[Movies] The Matrix (1999)

I review movies twice a week here on the Geeky Guide. Mondays are for newer movies within the past year. But Fridays are the days I get to indulge a bit and review older movies, whether they're ones that I had seen ages ago or just older movies that I only recently got a chance to see. And given how many movies I have had the privilege of watching well before this blog was established in 2006, that means a wide range of titles to choose from.

Today I figured I might as well take the time to revisit a classic franchise that did a lot to change the way many action movies are made - the science fiction franchise of The Matrix. So yes, you can expect the next few weeks dedicated to the other movies in this series until I complete things.

As much as I was more intellectually stimulated by Dark City, I have to admit that The Matrix did have a greater mass market appeal that gave the movie more cultural strength, so to speak. As much as this movie borrowed heavily from Asian cinema, Japanese anime and other sources, this movie in turn became a model for future movies to copy in turn. Just think about the term "bullet time" being acceptable parlance in regular conversation.

Synopsis: The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction action movie written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers (who are now just The Wachowskis, I guess). This first movie won a lot of technical awards, and rightfully so.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a computer programmer by day and hacker by night. His online alterego is Neo and he eventually gets contacted by another hacker named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). She offers him answers to questions he has raised about something called The Matrix. But soon after meeting Trinity in person, Neo is approached by three men in black suits, individuals only known as Agents. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) seems particularly keen on pursuing Neo and ensuring that he does not find out the truth.

Eventually Neo finally gets to meet Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and warns Neo that finding out the truth is a one-way street. And when Neo finally agrees, the truth is indeed staggering. It turns out that the Earth has been conquered by thinking machines that they had once invented. The planet is pretty much a wasteland now with the remaining humans living deep underground in the last human city - Zion. As for the machines, they rule the surface of the planet. Denied the power of the sun as part of the war, they now use humans as living batteries to continue to power themselves.

The movie had all the trappings of something very, very cool. It had wickedly well-choreographed martial arts fight sequences, brilliant special effects and a lot of high-concept plotlines littered with different nouns with capital letters like The Matrix, The One, and The Oracle. And with most of the characters using classic "hacker" style internet handles, it really feels like something right out of the 90's in terms of thinking. And that's kind of a cool thing, too.

The weakest part of this whole movie happens to be Keanu Reeves and his lack of true acting ability. He wasn't too far away from being this era's Kristin Stewart, but at least he can look cool for as long as he's in a trenchcoat, shades and he doesn't speak up. And overall, acting isn't all that important. There's a lot more effort devoted to all the different fight scenes and of course the need to look cool while doing it.

The movie explored a lot of interesting themes that really captured the imagination of a generation. It had the classic slant of wanting to challenge the established authority that has been manipulating the world for their own ends, a degree of nobility given to an independent group of resistance fighters and loftier questions about fate and predetermination in general. Whether or not you fully buy into what this movie had to say, you can be sure to enjoy the whole thing unfold as a visual spectacle, even with the campiness of the ending.

The Matrix plays a bit role in modern pop culture and it's a movie that still has a lot of life in it, even if it seems a little dated. And this first movie remains to be the best in the entire trilogy, at least before all the high concept plot threads end up taking down the entire franchise with it.

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