The Matrix - 1999
The Matrix is produced, written and directed by the Wachowski Siblings, following up their 1996 debut Bound. They teamed up with Hong Kong action cinema legend, Yuen Woo-ping (Drunken Master, Fist of Legend & Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) as their kung-fu choreographer. The movie stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving. The story centers around a human rebellion against their oppressing computer overlords. Woah.
Eighteen-years after its release, The Matrix has become somewhat of a divisive film amongst cinephiles. When it came out it was received with positive reviews and people labeling The Wachowskis as genius filmmakers. But unfortunately, the subsequent sequels tainted the way many view the original, some calling it overrated and played out. While I can see both arguments, genius vs overrated, I tend to fall more towards the side of just a fun, well-made action/sci-fi film. Woah.
The Matrix has some major elements that help it stand out among its peers. My goal will be to highlight these elements in the following ramblings. Woah.
The screenplay. The Wachowskis wrote their screenplay in a way that you can easily bucket the events and the purpose of those events into three acts. The first act introduces us to the world we are going to explore. We are given the rules, the players and the goal of the movie. The rules aspect is the most important one because if we as an audience don’t buy them, the rest of the movie will be nonsensical. The second act is the training montage and the fall of our hero. This is a classic element of any action movie. Training montages help us connect with the protagonist, in this case Keanu Reeves as Neo, as we see him as a normal human, being trained to become an extraordinary one. The fall of our hero is the most important aspect in this act, since it lets the audience know that he could fail again from this point on. The third and final act is the rise of the hero and ultimately his victory over the antagonists. This one is self-explanatory since it’s the pay-off to our investment as an audience. We have been told throughout the entire movie that Neo can and will do unbelievable things. Watching him do them is just plain old fun. Woah.
The fight choreography. Yuen Woo-ping created a beautiful dance of violence to accentuate the ability of both our heroes and villains within this world. One of the aspects that make the choreography is the fact that, for the most part, the actors are doing their stunts. Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving trained for weeks prior to filming and the results speak for themselves. Both have multiple fight-sequences that are sold to us since we are seeing them throw the kicks and the punches. My favorite fight scene from them comes towards the end in the subway station. Once Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, says out loud “He is starting to believe”, we know that the fight will be what they have promised all along. Enjoy below. Woah.
The practical effects. While the Wachowskis utilized CGI elements (some didn’t hold up too well), what makes The Matrix special is the use of practical effects. The stunt coordinators and actors are flown across the room with the use of wires. The walls shatter and break around them when they crash into them, leaving a real mark on the surroundings of the action. One of the best sequences of this entire movie comes during the elevator shoot-out. It took around ten days to complete the shoot and it resulted in three minutes of pure action perfection. Since imitated, never quite duplicated. Please enjoy below. Woah.
Quick note: I know that they are fighting people that are “plugged in” and can become agents at any point. But I can’t help to think of the mind f**k these people got when two Hot Topic employees came in with thousands of guns and started climbing the walls. Woah.
Lastly, the cinematography. The Wachowskis teamed-up with Bill Pope (Bound & Baby Driver) to bring to life the world they had always imagined. They famously gave the world inside the Matrix a green tint, simulating the green code our heroes would see on their screens. This “code” effect can also be seen in how the rain streamed down the car windows. One of my favorite visuals is how Morpheus sunglasses reflect the images in front of him. During the now famous “pill scene”, you can see the blue pill on his left eye and the red pill on the right eye. But in both eyes Neo is perfectly centered in front of the pills, showcasing the two roads Neo is faced with. Woah.
Quick note: if you are looking for a “badass” visual, it has to be when Neo saved Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, from the falling helicopter. Seeing her swing towards the camera and cracking the window glass as the building behind her explodes is amazing. Woah.
The Matrix is one of the best action/sci-fi movies made in the 90’s and probably of all time. I won’t say it’s the best, but it can’t be dismissed entirely. I certainly enjoy myself every time that I watch it. Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving kicking each other in the face is why I love movies.
The Matrix is currently streaming on Netflix. Now it’s up to you, what pill do you want to take?... This is a lame ending and a tough pill to swallow. I will lay on my pill-ow all night and think about what I did.
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