- Andy Wachowski
- Larry Wachowski
- Reviewed by
- a.k.a. Coffee
- Review date
- Wednesday, August 01, 2001
Such a case is groundbreaking sci-fi flick The Matrix by the Wachowski brothers. And while it may seem pointless to many people to review a picture that – excuse me – every person on this planet who ever goes to see a movie should have seen, that is the daily bread of the critic. So stop complaining.
The Matrix sure has a life of its own. Depending on what your expectations are when watching the movie you will either get an action-thriller with strong comic-book styled tendencies or a philosophical sci-fi adventure of epic proportions. You might get a good movie or you might get a bad movie and either way chances are good you’ll only see part of the whole picture. Because the true accomplishment of Larry and Andy is not the fact that they’ve created 136 minutes of great special effects. Or an intriguing plot. Or great action.
No, what makes The Matrix so special is that it is what you might call a layered picture. Like peeling the layers from an onion the viewer can dive into the depths of The Matrix and he or she will find a genuine mixture, a piece that blends various styles without making them seem out of place. Of course although there is a truly philosophical layer underneath all the great FX and the flashy martial art scenes The Matrix is not a Shakespearian drama. The film displays something that actually reminds me more of the original Star Wars series – the characters are adventurers that fight an almost mythical evil and have a very simple ideology that drives them.
The plot is better understood if you give it room to enfold before your eyes – the hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves in one of his better performances) is haunted by mysterious visions. His dreams tell him that he has to find out what The Matrix is, although he himself is unsure what the term actually means. One night he finds a strange clue on the screen of his computer and when he follows a white rabbit knocking on his door (almost literally) he meets an equally strange and attractive woman called Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). Through Trinity and her mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) he learns that the reality that he knows is nothing more but a simulation created by autonomous machines which have enslaved humanity. When Neo sees “the real world” for the first time he has to decide whether he wants to fight the A.I.s or be ensnared by their temptations.
When I decided to dig up some facts and opinions on The Matrix I was surprised about the large variety of different views that people have about the film. Of course many movie-goers praised the movie but I want to focus on that group of antagonists who actually didn’t like it.
One guy wrote in a newsgroup that he thought The Matrix had been massively overrated and wasn’t half as innovative as most people claimed it to be. He pointed out that there were countless “Star Trek” episodes where the theme of Man vs. Machine had been present and that the holo deck concept of “Star Trek” was actually stolen by the Wachowskis for The Matrix. He basically criticized that the film wasn’t as original as it claimed to be.
The man clearly overlooked a tad.
I really do not consider myself a science-fiction expert. The guys and girls here at Criticsociety.com wanted me to cover the sci-fi drawer because a) I’d read two or three SF novels and b) because nobody else was really that much into the genre. And while I am really not too proud of myself, neither as a critic nor as a science-fiction expert I do know a few things. And here they come...
#1 The idea of humanity being threatened by an independent artificial intelligence (machines) actually derives from the 20s and 30s of this century. Various short stories were published in magazines like for example “Amazing Stories”. It is not an invention of “Star Trek.”
#2 The holo deck issue isn’t quite correct either. The idea of a virtual computer generated space that imitates reality as we know it had first been explored in the 60s and 70s. The single most influential piece of work might be German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Welt am Draht” (“World through a wire”, a little roughly translated) from 1974 that was based on Daniel F. Galouye’s The 13th Floor (surprise, surprise). Anyway before we lose sight of The Matrix let’s just agree for now that this whole theme is neither an invention of Trekkies nor of the Wachowski brothers.
#3 There are half a million ideas that can be found in the picture which are borrowed from great works of literature, movie classics, TV shows, martial arts Easterns... the list goes on. But just because these things aren’t new doesn’t mean the film isn’t cool.
Actually what makes The Matrix so good is the fact that you’ve never seen all these things in conjunction. Or to supply you with a stupid and flat metaphor for the phenomenon – an eclipse is by most people considered a great and unique event, although basically it’s nothing more than the moon hanging in front of the sun. Everyone has seen the moon and the sun, but what makes the eclipse so special is the conjunction of the two. Now before you consider flaming me - of course The Matrix is not an eclipse of motion picture art. But it is one hell of a good movie.
Into the dazzling melange of action, mysticism and cyberpunk elements the directors have mixed a unique visual style which will continue to affect motion pictures for many years. I could go on and preach on the technical issues that we’ve all heard about – bullet time, wires, cg animation.. the list goes on. But I’ll leave that to other people and instead I wish to emphasize that there are many hidden ideas and notions that find a place in The Matrix which I haven’t seen in any other movie. There are countless references to Alice in Wonderland, to the concept of mind, soul and physical body appearing in detached from one another and to the question whether man is nothing more than a virus ravaging this planet.
But, hell – no matter how much I write, there’s always someone who thinks it’s all a waste of time and rather watches “Star Trek” instead. Okay with me – as long as there’s a cool sequel to The Matrix I don’t care.
And after all – “nobody can really be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it with your own eyes.”
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