The Matrix (Review)

So a few days ago I was told (slurred more aptly) that “you should do The Matrix”.

Done and done.

Before that though let’s get my disclaimers out of the way in a series of random thoughts, because if I really liked The Matrix there is a fair chance it would already be on this site.

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Ancient history

From memory I had seen The Matrix twice before I watched it last night. The first time was in the cinema, but I had actually no recollection of this until Rage Against the Machine rumbled over the closing credits and twigged my memory. Is the fact that in a 136 minute modern genre classic all I remembered was the song over the credits a bad thing – well it’s fair to say it isn’t a good sign.

The second time was somewhere in between, let’s say for argument’s sake 3 or 4 years ago. I remembered all the main plot events and of course the more famous images, but the only preconceived opinion I had going in was it was a “good” film.

I fully acknowledge the influence that The Matrix has had on film in the last decade – the damn freeze camera panning thing has been copied and parodied so much that I am positive half the guys ripping it off don’t even know the original source, and the characters of Morpheus, Neo and Trinity are fanboy faves the world over, inspiring a million internet handles and passwords and more than a few sweaty palms…

I myself and most definitely a fanboy in certain respects, I geek out watching certain films and love watching something new and daring. I realize that especially at the time of release this stuff was totally fresh, new and groundbreaking, but it didn’t do it for me then.

Put another way, I own 200+ DVDs featuring every film that I feel I just can’t do without, I might buy another half a dozen this year. The Matrix is not among them.

I will refrain from discussing elements of the film that haven’t aged well as technology has moved so far in only a decade, flashing green cursors, ringing landlines with cords and such, because the film is set in 1999, (or at least a version of it).

Now what follows is a blow by blow review of the original The Matrix made by the Wachowski brother and sister team. I have seen the two sequels but remember them as a few spectacular scenes surrounded by hours and hours of pretentious crap.

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The film

3 minutes and 20 seconds in we get the first money shot that dropped jaws and shifted the popcorn boxes ever so slightly in the laps of pasty boys the world over. The opening scene has the lead singer of Placebo in butt-huggin’ leather and an emo-boy haircut on the run from expressionless guys in suits and sunglasses. What? You say that’s renowned actress Carrie-Anne Moss? I must apologise.

Lookin’ good Carrie… Really??

So Molko *Ahem* Trinity leads the bad guys on a frantic chase across the rooftops, which  must’ve made it hard to peel the plastic pants of her sweaty legs, but also ends in the only really lousy action effect in the film as she flies Superman-style across a large gap between buildings. (I know that they can practically defy gravity but c’mon.)

I’m still not convinced.

The scene concludes with Trinity escaping in a phone booth just as a large truck pulverizes the box to pieces.

All that and we’re only 6 minutes in.

Cut to Keanu Reeves as the world’s oldest hacker – he must be every bit of 30! A random phonecall with instructions to “Follow the white rabbit” leads him to a nightclub where he meets Trinity for the first time. In the crowded and noisy club with loud techno music peeling paint of the walls Trinity and Neo share an intimate conversation with much whispering in spite of the many decibels pummeling their eardrums. (I know this happens in a million films: it shits me in those films too.)

The upshot of the conversation is that Trinity asks Neo if he wants to know what The Matrix is?

Hell yes we paid sixteen bucks to do just that.

The next day at work Neo gets a package delivered. It is a phone that rings as soon as he picks it up, the call is from Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Neo refrains from teasing Morpheus about his daughter doing porn and instead follows his orders to avoid capture from the suited and sunglassed guys that have just shown up. Unfortunately his escape bid fails and he is taken in.

A side-note: Between this and the Lord of the Rings trilogy I will forever think that Hugo Weaving is a terrible actor. His facial contortions and deliberately ridiculous voice and cadence are just plain bad and constantly distract me. And among the millions of odd voiced characters in LOTR only he continually took me out of the story and annoyed me. Maybe I just don’t like the guy – I used to many years ago – maybe I am the only one who reacts this way to his solemn and overly dramatic scene ruining antics.But also maybe he is the very reason that The Matrix just doesn’t do it for me?

In the interrogation we find that Neo is really Thomas Anderson, a bit of techno-torture later and Neo awakes assuming it was all a bad dream.

The phone rings “Morpheus?” Again! Another statement “You are the One”. This guy has already cost you your job and set you up with the ugliest co-star in sci-fi history – and I include Jabba the Hut and The Blob in that contest – now he’s hitting on you himself?

Time to go unlisted Dude.

Neo finally meets with Morpheus and his team of similarly oddly-monikored freedom fighters, he starts learning about the reality of the situation that he is now in. He is told that the Matrix is “everything”, but to fully understand it he must experience it for himself.

The truth is slimy…

From here the Spoilers really kick in folks.

The Matrix is a computer program purpose built to distract humans while our energy is harvested to fuel robotic captors. Therefore everything in the day to day “reality” is a lie, and while our minds live this lie our pasty white bodies remain cocooned and perforated with tubes to drain our vitals.

So there’s that.

Only a few humans have actually escaped from the huge number of “harvesting” towers that dot the landscape, they live in the underground city of Zion, reasonably safe from the ever-searching robot sentinels.

KeaNeo is also told that he will be the savior of mankind, but first: training.

The training is less book-on-tape than skillz-on-tape, a quick download direct into the system and “Woah” (54 minutes, 4 seconds), KeaNeo knows karate.

So with newfound abilities Morpheus and Neo spar a little to loud techno music, Neo begins tentatively but as he learns to harness his powers and ignores his own negative preconceptions he shows definite progress. As Neo learns the ropes and masters his art, his talents are evident to all and he is embraced by the patchwork rebel team.

A good thing too, as Neo learns that the Agents are basically robot friendly programmed cops, planted by the robots to weed out insurgents and negative ninnies unhappy with being human-Duracells. They are practically indestructible and the prevailing advice seems to be “when you see one – run”.

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The Sellout

Then Neo and friends are fucked over and all turns sour…

The team leaves the relative safety of the ship to go into The Matrix and meet The Oracle. As it is a special occasion they all wear their best pimp and German nightclub gear – it’s no wonder that one of the Wachowski’s chose gender reassignment after this, the evidence is all onscreen.

In the waiting room with many other much younger potential prodigies to be paraded in front of the Oracle Neo learns that “There is no spoon”.

But it’s right there in your hand boy!

The Oracle, who is a good cook, gives Neo her thoughts and we’re back on the way home – until the trap is sprung. Finally the film kicks up a gear. While it was definitely promising and exceedingly stylish over the first 80 minutes or so there were patches that were just soooo slow.

Now point in robotic fashion.

The Agents and their buds lie in wait – I thought if the Agents were so invincible why would they need minions? Aside from having some faceless provide fodder along the way they are pointless. Anyway Morpheus sacrifices himself for the team and the death toll is basically almost everyone but the guys on the poster… and the dirty Sellout.

That is until the Sellout picks the wrong time to monologue The Incredibles style and he tastes sweet justice.

But fuck the Sellout – Morpheus is in trouble? The Agents try to mind hack Morpheus using every trick in the book, aiming to uncover the secrets and location of Zion to eradicate the human race once and for all, even if that would seem to do them out of a job.

The initial thought process is that maybe killing Morpheus may be the preference over the destruction of mankind. Well if you think that is what they try then you haven’t seen the sequels!

Neeee-ooo, Way to Go!!!

Neo goes in to take on all three Agents and save Morpheus from certain death… and Trinity Molko tags along for a laugh.

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The finale

Those Zumba lessons are really paying off.

More leather, guns and slo-mo acrobatics, the shells fly, the concrete pings and there is wire-work aplenty. At 1 hour, 46 minutes the “Other” money shot happens, and the upshot of all this is that Neo, Trinity and Morph escape…

No wait. Morph and Trinity escape, Neo fucks around a little too long and gets stranded, leaving him to go 1:1 with the worst over-acting robot in the business Agent Smith. The last stoush is quite good, though I must admit the best Jackie Chan work is where you have no idea if and where they used wires and harnesses. In this film you can be confident that anytime anyone does anything remotely athletic that they are hooked up to more than the Matrix while doing it.

After a conclusion where the power of love trumps six bullets in the chest from close range, Neo Supermans his way into the sky and cinematic history just as Rage Against the Machine reminds OGR that this is the third time he has seen this film at least.

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Improvements?

Again I have no beef with the fact that this is a genre and decade defining work. But there are a few points I would still like to make that would clean up the finished product in my opinion.

1/ I know The Matrix was supposed to be a computer program and not reality, but everything seems a little too shiny and over-produced, there is little Aliens grime or even T2 pseudo-realism on display here.

2/ The fact that it was filmed in Australia might have been a boon for our economy, but it introduced some of the more dodgy American accents in movie history.

3/ In light of point 2, perhaps it didn’t help that much of the dialogue is frankly, hokey and distracting.

4/ The contrast between the cartoony nature of some characters and the more grounded nature of others is strange. Often in some scenes two or three characters will be hammy and overacting, and the rest will be struggling to appear normal.

5/ Trinity. Trinity. TRINITY! If ever there was a fantasy sports reason to make a simple trade to make a major upgrade to a team this was it. Carrie-Ann Molko might have been all they could afford when the initial budget was granted but surely the filmmakers often ponder silently what might have been?

Take a few of these names for example:

Kate Beckinsale

Charlise Theron

Uma Thurman

Kelly Hu

Cameron Diaz

Michelle Rodriguez

Tia Carrerre

27 other interchangeable starlets

… HER!!

Searching for photos for this review shows me just how many photos of doctored photos there are featuring Trinity in compromising positions with Neo, Morpheus, and often Morpheus AND Neo. Fellas, any fit chick in leather is 33% hotter, and even after that C-A.M. STILL looks ordinary. Considering the Wachowski’s desire to make a Hong-Kong style sci-fi film mebbe even casting a hot Asian chick might have helped, Zhang Ziyi or the like?

In any case this is one issue where there is substantial room for improvement.

Notice too no bagging of Keanu, I actually like the guy and don’t understand the public flogging he has gotten for practically his entire career, if we are going to judge someone based upon their private persona why the love for Angelina Jolie with the blood, the more kids than she can handle and the hubbie stealing?

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Summing up

This wasn’t planned as a hatin’ session and shouldn’t be taken as such. I really do admire The Matrix as a film, but there is a big difference between admiration and just plain liking something.

The Matrix is a very good film, especially given the fact that two brothers who were almost filmmaking rookies came up with the concept, the vision and then were brave enough to direct it and take it all their shoulders. It is simply an outstanding achievement.

But even after all that it just doesn’t hit me where it hurts, whatever fibre or muscle or brain synapse that twigs the “like” reflex is bypassed here, which is strange given that films I will admit as inferior sometimes hit it square on.

Bottom line for me =  200+ DVDs; no The Matrix, but both A Night at the Roxbury and Men at Work.

Woah. It’s like – all programm-ey!

If that makes me wrong then I’m wrong, but rewatching this, even on blu-ray hasn’t changed my opinion one iota.

Final Rating – 8 / 10. A very good movie with some iconic imagery and solid action sequences. Just not my bag. Give me Aliens, T2, even Total Recall any day.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
This entry was posted in Film, Movie Reviews, Special Requests, Worthwhile Movies. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Matrix (Review)

  1. Tosh says:

    I don’t think the choice for Trinity was wrong, dramatic part is way more important than the kick ass (they could use stunts).

    Regarding some of the actresses you’ve listed randomly, for example:

    — Cameron Diaz – she’s hot, but looks like a little girl and a sex bomb – that’s not Charlie’s Angels, too much sexual emphasize
    — Uma Turman – cold, scary, too tall (for Keanu’s height) and not that athletic type
    — Charlise – not athletic, too tall and also too sweet
    — Kate Beckinsale — sex bomb, don’t recall her dramatic acting and don’t now how good it is

    I’d rather suggest Mila Yovovich as an alternative actress.

    Overall directors should had got their reason, Carrie plays her dramatic part great, and it’s not about showing perfect sweet face and big tits, her character appears is deep, melancholic and important with the emotions. Besides maybe she was deliberately supposed to look like an ordinary and insecure girl sometimes, if it was too perfect that would be too cheep, if the character has too shiny a face and was too confident and agressive etc. it would have been another character, not Trinity from this story.

    As of Hugo Weaving’s character – I don’t like criticism which don’t understand that directors and script shape the characters, actors are casted to fit the script (or script is written to fit actors), and some deliberate annoying emphasizes or details they play are obviously made with a reason – hate the character, not the actor. Sometimes the characters should be annoying or cartoon-like, that’s part of their role in the story and what directors want to suggest to viewers.

    You should interview the authors about what precisely they wanted to achieve, if it was different than the result, that would have been a mistake, otherwise – the movie was apparently not made for your taste, stereotypes and expectations.

  2. OGR says:

    Cheers Tosh and thanks a lot for taking time to provide your thoughts.
    I find it strange that you would worry about why my possible Trinity replacements were wrong and in the next sentence suggest I ‘hate the character, not the actor’. But I’ll take your advice and say I hate the characters of Trinity and Agent Smith, but I would probably hate them less if another actor portrayed them.
    Not sure that I will get the chance to interview the ‘authors’ of the work, even less understanding of why my ‘stereotypes’ have anything to do with things. I find it strange though that since The Matrix the ‘authors’ have purposefully chosen to achieve crap, then again maybe that’s my stereotypes talking!
    Thanks again for your feedback, drop by anytime.
    OGR
    P.S. Don’t get the wrong idea, I still think The Matrix is a pretty cool flick regardless of who is on the poster.
    P.P.S. Cameron Diaz might have been a sex-bomb at one time, but I think her face detonated a while ago…

  3. Tosh says:

    Thanks for your answer, too. 🙂

    A piece of art can’t match everyone’s taste, stereotypes/expectations are what one believes the character or so should look like in certain settings, but if directors/writers/actors/directors of photography etc. (“authors”) have chosen something else, that may mean also that the appreciator of that piece of art didn’t understand or just didn’t share their “stereotypes/believes”.

    Regarding Trinity – many times in the movie it’s emphasized that Neo is the important one. The others are his supporters. Morpheus says that many times, Trinity knows it too and she does everything to save him and Morpheus. He is the one.

    The focus of the movie should be Neo, not Trinity, if she was too shiny, that would move the focus and make another story — ones who would like sex bombs would be happy (not that she’s not pretty), but then there would be another criticism – “a story about the One – Neo, is shadowed by a too shiny and sexually over-emphasized supporting character, and it turned too cheap” etc.

    IMO criticism and viewers often go wrong in the way that they have prejudices how the story should look like. IMO the story is told fine in the reality and assumptions directors has chosen, cinematography and camera work are amazing, the actors in the important parts play great IMO (such as Carrie Ann Moss), and the cartoon like characters are part of the background, sometimes background is deliberately faint in order the important to be easier to spot.

    Not that I think the movie is perfect, initially long time ago when I first saw the movie I didn’t like one significant plot-hole — the explanation of how the Matrix was created, the usage of people for batteries, people as prisoners (however how could they all survive in the Earth as it was depicted, out of the Matrix) etc.

    But this is if one gets too serious – at moments this is a comic-like movie, it’s not a standard drama or Kubrik’s “Space Oddyessey 2001” to be “scientific”, so it’s fine – sit down and enjoy.

    As of your final rating note: “Give me Aliens, T2, even Total Recall any day.”

    I agree here – T2 is my all time favorite (and a timeless movie), Total Recall is in my list of greatest SF/Action movies too.

  4. OGR says:

    I take the point on CAM, I guess I watch the film as a throwaway sci-fi action flick thanks to the flaws (as I see them). The cool FX, angles and elements are undeniable and unavoidable – seeing as how they are ripped off in every second film made nowadays, and I actually liked the ‘humans as fuel’ angle.

    Anyway my last word on this is that The Matrix is a cool film with a couple issues that prevent it from attaining greater heights, leaving it a cinematic wet patch for fanboys. Not that I am inferring you are a fanboy Tosh. (For the record I am on occasion, just not for this flick.)

    Cheers
    OGR

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