The Matrix (1999) Retrospective Review

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The Matrix

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Joe Pantoliano as Cypher
Director: Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a man living two lives. By day he is an average computer programmer and by night a hacker known as Neo. Neo has always questioned his reality, but the truth is far beyond his imagination. Nero finds himself targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. As a rebel against the machines, Neo must confront the agents: super powerful computer programs devoted to stopping Neo and the entire human rebellion.

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The Matrix is one of the most iconic movies of all time. Its impact is absolutely massive to say the least, influencing so many other films, it just came out of nowhere at the time. I remember that I liked it when I first watched it, however with every viewing I liked it less. I know that the fourth Matrix is in the process of made, so I knew I had to come back to re-watching the original trilogy. Having rewatched The Matrix more recently, I can say that it’s still pretty good, even if I’m not exactly a big fan of it.

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I’m writing this review with the assumption that you’ve actually seen The Matrix. If you haven’t seen it, basically just go and watch it as soon as possible. It’s not just influential on a filmmaking level, but also on a story level. 1999 was especially a big year for films about identity, with the likes of Fight Club, American Beauty and Being John Malkovich, and that certainly extended to The Matrix. There are many philosophical ideas and themes and it has been analysed to death, so I won’t get into it here. There are some parts of it which I find a bit silly (like some of the overt religious metaphors which are just a little too obvious) but they don’t take me out of the experience too much. The first half is introducing to the real world, with lead character Thomas Anderson AKA Neo being our eyes as he learns about everything. I can’t say this with certainty, but I’m pretty sure that it did the best job possible at introducing these things to the audience, however there’s no doubt that not everyone will understand the concepts of the movie. I will say that watching it again, it does sort of drag, especially knowing where the story is leading (on top of Neo just not being a particularly interesting character and we are stuck with him for the entirety of the movie). The second half and particularly the third act is where it ramps up the action and it becomes entertaining. There are some really dumb moments in that second half, but I was fine with most of it.

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Keanu Reeves before 1999 been known as an actor for roles in movies like Speed, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break. However, it was his role of Neo that launched his career even further. I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves, but to put it bluntly, his here performance is bland, and even people who like the movie usually agree on that. Now some have made the argument that it was done so that the audience can picture themselves in his role. I can get that idea, but it doesn’t change him being a particularly uninteresting character to watch. Carrie Anne Moss as her character of Trinity was also sort of bland, mainly with her line deliveries. I know that she can act better from other things that she’s been in, but here she’s almost as bland as Keanu was, and I’m not exactly sure why. Even the other characters in the movie came across as more human than those two. The romance between the two is absolutely laughable. I don’t recall it being much better in the sequels, but at least they interacted with each other more. There are hints throughout the first movie that Trinity likes Neo and he sort of likes her back (I think at least, I didn’t pick that up from Keanu’s performance), but aside from the scene where they first meet up, they don’t interact all that much until the third act. At the end, basically after Neo dies after being shot multiple times by Agent Smith, Trinity in a way saves him basically with “the power of love”. It’s a silly scene in itself, but the lack of an actual believable romance makes it all the more worse. Laurence Fishburne is great as Morpheus, he does have a lot of moments where it gives a lot of philosophical word dumps, but he delivers them quite well. Hugo Weaving is iconic as Agent Smith, and it’s all to do with his performance. There’s nothing really much to say about the rest of the cast. Joe Pantaliano is the obvious betrayer, and the other members of the crew on the ship aren’t memorable and disposable, and you don’t really get to know them at all.

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The Wachowski Sisters did a really good job directing this. There are some truly revolutionary sequences that inspired so many other films and imitators, its immense level of influence cannot be overstated. People have made fun of the green tint when it comes to the scenes that take place The Matrix, but it does add some uniqueness to them. Not all the effects hold up, but it doesn’t affect the viewing experience too much, most of it is fine, and no doubt was fantastic for its time. You can tell often that it was the 90s with the use of the slow mo, and some of the music choices. The action is fantastic, endlessly entertaining, and the stuntwork is great.

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The Matrix has its issues, not all of the story and characters worked for me, and I had some problems throughout. However, it is entertaining at many points, well made and directed despite some dated elements, and I appreciate it quite a bit, especially the impact it had made. It’s not a movie that I’m exactly wanting to return back to often, but it is absolutely essential viewing.

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