DIRECTOR: The Wachowski Brothers
May Contain Spoilers!
The world isn’t real; The world isn’t what we think it is; We’re living a lie and our place in the universe must be more than what it appears. These are all existential themes which often find a home within Science Fiction and Fantasy, but at the tail end of the Sci-Fi revival of the 1990’s , The Matrix turned up and added a new flavour to the rapidly souring mix.
Star Trek, X-Files, and almost every science fiction series of the day had already tackled this idea, almost to death but The Wachowski Brother’s innovative flare for reinventing the way we look at movies was as controversial as it was groundbreaking. The innovation in technology to allow the camera rotate 360 degrees around characters as they were frozen mid action and in mid-air was used in the 2000’s, but it’s here that it works best.
It was spectacular, as the balletic action of this Hong Kong styled shoot ’em up met The Outer Limits narrative to give up our first real taste of where Science Fiction could go in the 21st century. But it didn’t live up to that promise when all said is and done, as the best example of the 360 technology was in a parody scene in Shrek, which was all CGI anyway, so it was easy. Many felt that at the time, the film’s violence looked so good that it was seen as glorifying it.
The Matrix begins with Neo (Keanu Reeves), an everyday joe by day but a super hacker by night. He is found by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and he discovers that the “Real” world that he thought knew was in fact computer generated, (The Matrix) and the actual real world has been taken over by machines. He also learns that in The Matrix he can adopt superpowers in which to fight the system’s agents, led by Smith (Hugo Weaving).
The concepts are very clever, detailed and the presentation of Zen and mysticism are so, in a way which makes sense to the cynic or laymen. Because we understand that the rules of programming can be broken, it allows us to accept that the impossible is possible in ways that are much harder to understand or accept in the real world. In other words, magic can be explained as a reprogramming of what we know within The Matrix, but you can’t reprogramme the real world, can you? Presuming that there is such a thing…
This is accessible sci-fi, a film which everyone would seem to have a view on and tapped into ideas of the world been there just for us, our view and perception overriding common sense, or even the exact opposite, of feeling lost in the crowd, helpless to effect change etc…
The Wachowski’s also play around with ideas of Deja vu and the belief of self, such as the fact that when you die in The Matrix, you die in the real world. This was an added sence of peril which was missing from Christopher Nolan’s similar work from 2010, Inception, in which if you die in the dream, you wake up, whilst here you don’t. This is tangible peril which was missing from the latter, which I believe owes a lot to this film.
If this was set on earth as we know it, it would have been a decent enough film but nothing special, but this is the zeitgeist of concepts and ideas, the point which a well conceived narrative met a technological revolution at the dawn of the 21st century. Even Keanu’s casting can’t be faulted as the character of Neo was hardly gushing with emotion. The Bullet-time sequence has become legendary but it’s not just the story and the camera work, it’s also the pacing, with is pitch perfect.
All credit to them for managing to not only tell their complex story clearly, but manage to explain their equally baffling techno-babble and deep philosophising whilst showing us some of the centuries most spectacular action, culminating with a final 30 minutes of relentless action, which never shies away from the films heart or plot. This is action for story’s sake which happens to look great rather than contrived action for the sake of it.
So, the centuries last great sci-fi work pulled together all the key elements of the genre, with good science, dystopian future, pseudo-religious plotting and innovative cinematography and visual effects. This is a work of art, one of Science Fiction’s grandest masterpieces, with can hold its head high alongside other greats such as Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars.
It’s just a shame that the sequels didn’t hold up as well as this, but nothing should take away anything from this film. A true classic and a must see for anyone and everyone.