So guess what was on in the cinema last week…
From the opening green text on a black background, flying through the air to the last moments with a kick-ass song from Florence and the Machine, The Matrix is still very much a lesson in how to do Sci-fi correctly, still holding its own twenty years later. Did I care about the characters lacking depth? No. Did I care about the plot holes? No. Did I care that I would have to watch two allegedly bad sequels to get to the end of the story? Possibly.
For all of the flaws that plague the film and the genre, what the matrix does to make it a cult classic is to get the very basics right in a way that not many can. The world building is fantastic. You see some odd things, start to question them and then get thrown into this mind bending reality, which will leave you pondering it in the days, weeks and months to come. It hits you and lead character Neo head on from the moment he takes the red pill. The idea that you are merely in a simulation has been made iconic by this film. But what this film does is take it further, showing a dystopia where humans generate heat and energy for the artificial intelligence and are nothing more than batteries. If you knew this, would you rather have taken the blue pill and forgotten everything about it? This is the question that Matrix proposes to you. It makes you think. While there are clear morals set out, the decisions we could make are blurred by constant ambiguity.
One pill, Two pill, Red pill, Blue pill
The world is complimented brilliantly by a script, in which every single line is instantly quotable. “The matrix is a system Neo, the system is our enemy”, the conversation about which pill Neo would choose, “We need guns, lots of guns”, “How about I give you the finger, and you give me my phone call”, “There are no ‘Deja-vu’s only glitches in the matrix”. Every single one of these lines compliments a scene in your mind and will do so forever.
The quotes help make these characters memorable. You know who Neo is. In film, Morpheus is stuff of legend. Trinity isn’t just some side romance, but a valuable asset in herself. Each introduction establishes these people immediately. Morpheus with his mystery, pills and brilliant matrix jacket. Trinity with her slow motion kicks and leaps across buildings is a force to be reckoned with. Agent Smith portrays a brilliant antagonist. He looks and sounds vanailla, but the fear he puts into everybody’s hearts by just being there is striking. His sunglasses hide his eyes giving a machine feel. His no nonsense demeanour telling the police chief his men are already dead before going to face Trinity shows he is her equal and a worthy adversary. He doesn’t rely on appearance or CGI, yet he stands out in a crowded genre.
His name is Neo and he combats in the sand.
While the special effects may not all hold up twenty years later, the combat certainly does. The gunfight in the lobby is brilliantly choreographed as are all of the hand to hand combat scenes. The special effects with slow motion bullets only enhance these. Each scene builds up to a stunning conclusion with a great pay off. Unlike the convoluted scenes we see in Endgame, Matrix does just about enough, but never too much in these moments.
The Holy Trinity
With brilliant concepts, script-work and action, The Matrix is and will remain a cornerstone of sci-fi cinema, setting out the foundation on which such films can grow. The amount of homages we’ve seen in the twenty years since only scratch the surface of how influential this film is.
As this is an old film, I have not graded it, but you probably should watch it if you can.