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.