The Matrix

Recently, Warner Bros. Entertainment invited me to take part in an online community of movie lovers called Blu-ray Elite. They’ve offered to send me a collection of new release and classic Blu-ray movie titles to keep. That’s right, as in FREE! In return, I’ll be writing about my thoughts about the Blu-ray movies they send. Pretty much what I do anyway. Here is the 1st in a series of titles to come.

Thomas Anderson is a computer programmer, who moonlights as a hacker named Neo. One day he’s visited by a mysterious woman who introduces herself as Trinity. She reveals to Neo that a man called Morpheus would like to enlist his services in his “fight against the machines.” What that entails is something best left to be discovered, but rest assured, all will be explained in detail. Neo’s journey of self discovery is a visually astonishing takeoff of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The literary reference is actually uttered by Morpheus himself while developing his new pupil, who must swallow a red pill before proceeding. The first half of this influential science fiction is heavy with dialogue of a didactic nature. Indeed The Matrix has enough philosophical thought and religious implications for 10 pictures. Much of this is espoused in the teaching segments as Morpheus explains to Neo what the Matrix is all about. It is during these scenes we learn just what is at stake. This training process wisely builds anticipation for what is to come and sets the stage for the ultimate showdown in the second portion.

The script appropriates a dizzying array of influences from various sources to assemble a wholly frightening view of the future. There’s an incredible amount of special effects in this film. Honestly, on occasion, the narrative can feel a bit cluttered. “Now take a look at THIS expensive spectacle!” the Wachowski brothers seem to be saying at times. Yet it cannot be overstated that The Matrix is one of the most stylish science fiction movies ever created. The iconic approximation of cameras orbited around bullets being fired in slow-motion is now legendary among combat displays. Even the costume design is a memorable portrayal of cyberpunk fashion. Sunglasses and shiny black leather merge with the soundtrack’s frequent use of techno to form a singular apocalyptic spectacle.

The Matrix didn’t invent a new vocabulary. Hong Kong action cinema is clearly the inspiration for the martial arts fighting for example. There’s allusions to comic books and Japanese animation as well. That’s not its legacy. The point is that The Matrix so perfectly adapted many divergent notions into an exhilarating unified science fiction and then brought these ideas to the masses. By and large, this is a dazzling work. Now and then the human destiny presented here can be pretty icky. There are visions of human life in which biology and technology intermingle in a way so unsettling it would give David Cronenberg pause. And Keanu Reeves surfer dude accent can be unintentionally funny. But I suppose that’s part of the film’s charm. One thrilling set piece after another impresses with such artistic zeal and excitement, it more than makes up for the narrative’s occasional lapses in clarity. The Matrix is the inspiring realization of the Wachowski brothers’ imagination made real – their self acknowledged understanding of a live action anime fulfilled.

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25 Responses to “The Matrix”

  1. Have the effects stood the test of time? It was so bleeding edge then, but nice effects have spoiled us now.
    Also, largely important for giving the home DVD format traction.

    • It’s so appropriate you mentioned the home DVD format. I’ve finally made the transition to Blu-ray and this was my inaugural title. Perhaps there are a bit too many special effects for the audience to absorb. Yet all things considered, it still looks fantastic. I haven’t seen this in years and if anything, The Matrix has improved with age.

      • Congrats on the Blu-Ray purchase, your home viewing experience will likely be greatly enhanced. I much prefer that format, but oddly enough I bought the Matrix trilogy on HD-DVD so I bet on the losing horse, unfortunately. I think I still have my DVD copy, though.

  2. Sir Grout Says:

    Are there any new features, or just the same as the Ultimate Matrix Collection?

  3. atothewr Says:

    They should have stopped with this one. I haven’t seen it in a while. It would be interesting to watch it again.

    Good luck with the reviews and the free stuff. My hands up if they need anything from me.

    • Yes the first is head and shoulders above the other two, but I enjoyed The Matrix Reloaded. Revolutions? Uh not so much.

      • atothewr Says:

        Funny thing is, I liked the sequels when they first came out. Now I’ve soured on them because they took some of the closure out of the first one.

  4. I’ve been meaning to see this for so long. Great review, Mark. It’s so wonderful that you got so many Blu-Ray titles sent to you for free! How do you do that? Blu-Ray seems to be the new big thing in the world of video technology and whatnot, but I don’t see a point in it. I usually watch movies on a 48″ TV, and unless I’m closer to it than 10 inches, it appears to be perfect high definition. What are some others that you got? I know you’ll be reviewing them, but I, personally, like to know what to anticipate. :D

    • I’ve gotten Inception, Contagion, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I must admit the clarity is better. There definitely is a noticeable difference.

      • It appears The Matrix is the only one I haven’t seen on that list. Inception, Casablanca, and Gone with the Wind are some of my favorites, whereas Extremely Loud and Contagion I thought were all right.

    • What are you waiting for, buddy? The Matrix is a science fiction classic. Being the respected film critic that you are, you should definitely see it soon. :-)

    • Probably not. It’s got some pretty intense scenes though. There’s an interrogation room scene and a hatching from a pod scene that aren’t for young kids.

      • Yeah, I don’t consider myself a young kid, and neither do my parents, so I should be fine. By the way, I’ll be watching The Godfather and Notes on a Scandal soon. The former is in at me at the library, and the latter is in transit.

  5. martin250 Says:

    congratulations Mark! am looking forward to your future reviews of the classics. The Matrix is a great start.

  6. Really cool thing you got going here. Great review as well. The Matrix is truly a classic in it’s genre that has stood the test of time.

    • Even though it hasn’t been around as long as something like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), I agree with you that The Matrix is now considered a classic of science fiction.

  7. Holy smoke, Mark! You mean to tell me YOU are now part of the BLU-RAY ELITE? Those are some of the machines Neo and Morpheus are out to destroy! Keep your eyes open. The free humans’ll be coming to get you.

    (Actually it sounds pretty nifty. I suspect even machines get a kick out of it when Warner Bros. chooses to give them things for free.)

  8. Congrats on being selected for “Blu-Ray Elite”; that’s very cool. I’m jealous, hehe. Great review, too. I need to rewatch this. I think I last saw this one when I was like 12 or something.

  9. Had Dr. Seuss written the script for this film, we would know it as “One Pill, Two Pill, Red Pill, Blue Pill”, would we not? :)

    I just rented this from the library, and I’ll be watching it within the next month or so.

  10. Yes, definitely one of the “most stylish films of the year” and arguably one of the most inventive across the genres since. Sure they have been other eye candy delights, like 300 and the Immortals, that bubble gum pop flick and others – the argument could be made that Nolan’s latest romps have indeed stretched the boundaries of the various genres, and imaginations, but hardly has a film had such a profound cultural impact and continues to do so – never mind what has happened to the W’s careers.

    That being said, finally wrapping up our shared experience on the Blu-ray elite team. Posted my little wrap up here, drop by give it a whirl. http://rorydean.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/warner-bros-blu-ray-elite-team-member-wrap-up/

    Solid review here and elsewhere, you always bring something to the table – even when we disagree :)

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