“To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”
So I had never seen The Matrix. It’s one of those movies that I feel like I should probably have seen by now but never got around to watching. This whole 1001 project is pretty cool because it introduces me to stuff outside my comfort zone, but it also fills in the gaps with movies that I feel like everyone has seen but me. With a unique, gripping story and innovative special effects, The Matrix is one of the biggest hits of the science fiction genre and one of the most iconic blockbusters of the past few decades. It’s a movie I expected to enjoy, and I was not let down.
Watching this movie was strange at times because it has become such a major piece of our culture. Various images and elements from the film have been both replicated and parodied since the film’s release, so it’s definitely cool to see where it all started. The whole red pill blue pill scenario, the conspiracy about the nature of reality, the martial arts and bullet dodging in slow motion – there are so many things I’m familiar with without even having seen the film. This is clear evidence that the Matrix is an important movie, and I can see why. It’s dramatic, thrilling, and I consider it one of the greatest movies of its genre.
There are a lot of successful things about this movie, but I’ll start with the acting. Keanu Reeves brings a strong performance as Neo, the computer hacker who finds himself in the center of an existential conspiracy when he goes searching for the truth behind “The Matrix.” Neo starts out the film as weak and hesitant but makes his way to badass status by the end. Reeves gives an exciting performance well suited to the stakes of the plot. However, Laurence Fishburne really steals the spotlight on this one with his portrayal of Morpheus, leader of the resistance movement. Fishburne really embodies the nature of the film with his cool, slick performance and all-around badassery. With a plot on the more sophisticated side, I’m glad there’s an actor as engaging as Fishburne to deliver the exposition.
The special effects are maybe the biggest takeaway from The Matrix. For 1999, every action sequence is really astounding, and most of it ages pretty well. Some of the combat towards the end feels silly, but on the whole it’s all really smooth and eye-catching. I think what The Matrix does so well is merge its visual style and its plot. So many movies end up looking like garbage because the visual direction just feels wrong (Looking at you, Man of Steel,) but The Matrix really pulls off some stunning sequences because the script calls for them. They aren’t just crammed in to fit the action movie formula. There are also really small touches all across the film that add to the atmosphere. I like how everything happening inside the Matrix has this faint green overtone that doesn’t really become apparent until it’s taken away and Neo finally wakes up in the real world. There was clearly a lot of collaboration to get the visual component of the film just right, and I admire that about The Matrix.
The biggest complaint I’d have with this one is that it takes itself super seriously. The Matrix is the pinnacle of that whole 90s matte-black movement where all the blockbusters were filmed with dim lighting and didn’t have any jokes in them. I can’t just fault The Matrix for this as it was the standard for action movies at the time. More recent films have found great success being a lot lighter, both in the dialogue and the actual visuals, and these are movies I tend to enjoy more. The Matrix is likely the best action movie to come out of this whole movement I’m describing, and it does so many things well, but this dimness to the whole thing really dates the movie and makes it less exciting to watch for me. There are jokes, but they are all sort of throwaways to maintain the serious tone of it all. It’s a habit that screenwriters were really into for some reason, and I’m glad it is far less common today.
In the end, The Matrix is still a movie that I enjoyed a lot. I was never bored from beginning to end as the movie is innovative, exciting, and really just paces itself very well. I’m glad I finally got around to seeing this one, and I think all the hype over The Matrix is well deserved. It’s not my favorite kind of movie, but it works phenomenally well for what it’s intending to do. For any sci-fi fan who hasn’t yet seen The Matrix, I’d say check it out as soon as possible. You won’t be dissapointed.
Films Left to Watch: 967