Film: The Matrix: Part 1 of The Matrix Trilogy

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Film:

The Matrix

Series: Part 1 of The Matrix Trilogy
Director: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Warner Home Video

By following up their debut thriller Bound with the 1999 box-office smash The Matrix, the codirecting Wachowski brothers—Andy and Larry—annihilated any suggestion of a sophomore jinx, crafting one of the most exhilarating sci-fi/action movies of the 1990s. Set in the not too distant future in an insipid, characterless city, we find a young man named Neo (Keanu Reeves). A software techie by day and a computer hacker by night, he sits alone at home by his monitor, waiting for a sign, a signal—from what or whom he doesn’t know—until one night, a…

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By following up their debut thriller Bound with the 1999 box-office smash The Matrix, the codirecting Wachowski brothers—Andy and Larry—annihilated any suggestion of a sophomore jinx, crafting one of the most exhilarating sci-fi/action movies of the 1990s. Set in the not too distant future in an insipid, characterless city, we find a young man named Neo (Keanu Reeves). A software techie by day and a computer hacker by night, he sits alone at home by his monitor, waiting for a sign, a signal—from what or whom he doesn’t know—until one night, a mysterious woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) seeks him out and introduces him to that faceless character he has been waiting for: Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). A messiah of sorts, Morpheus presents Neo with the truth about his world by shedding light on the dark secrets that have troubled him for so long: “You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” Ultimately, Morpheus illustrates to Neo what the Matrix is—a reality beyond reality that controls all of their lives, in a way that Neo can barely comprehend.

Neo thus embarks on an adventure that is both terrifying and enthralling. Pitted against an enemy that transcends human concepts of evil, Morpheus and his team must train Neo to believe that he is the chosen champion of their fight. With mind-boggling, technically innovative special effects and a thought-provoking script that owes a debt of inspiration to the legacy of cyberpunk fiction, this is much more than an out-and-out action yarn; it’s a thinking man’s journey into the realm of futuristic fantasy, a dreamscape full of eye candy that will satisfy sci-fi, kung fu, action, and adventure fans alike. Although the film is headlined by Reeves and Fishburne—who both turn in fine performances—much of the fun and excitement should be attributed to Moss, who flawlessly mixes vulnerability with immense strength, making other contemporary female heroines look timid by comparison. And if we were going to cast a vote for most dastardly movie villain of 1999, it would have to go to Hugo Weaving, who plays the feckless, semipsychotic Agent Smith with panache and edginess. As the film’s box-office profits soared, the Wachowski brothers announced that The Matrix is merely the first chapter in a cinematically dazzling franchise—a chapter that is arguably superior to the other sci-fi smash of 1999 (you know…the one starring Jar Jar Binks). —Jeremy Storey

The Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix took the well-worn science fiction idea of virtual reality, added supercharged Hollywood gloss and a striking visual style and stole The Phantom Menace’s thunder as the must-see movie of the summer of 1999. Laced with Star Wars-like Eastern mysticism, and featuring thrilling martial arts action choreographed by Hong Kong action director Yuen Woo Ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), The Matrix restored Keanu Reeves to genre stardom following virtual reality dud Johnny Mnemonic (1995), and made a star of Carrie-Anne Moss, who followed this with the challenging perception twister Memento (2000). Helping the film stand out from rivals Dark City (1998) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999) was the introduction of the celebrated “bullet time” visual effects, though otherwise the war-against-the-machines story, hard-hitting style and kinetic set-pieces such as the corporate lobby shoot-out lean heavily on Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Elsewhere the influence of John Woo, from the ultra-cool near real-world SF of Face/Off (1997) to the raincoats and sunglasses look of bullet-ballet A Better Tomorrow, is clearly in evidence. The set-up isn’t without its absurdities, though—quite why super-intelligent machines bother to use humans as batteries instead of something more docile like cows, for example, is never explained, nor is how they expect these living batteries to produce more energy than it takes to maintain them. The Matrix is nevertheless exhilarating high-octane entertainment, although as the first part of a trilogy it perhaps inevitably doesn’t have a proper ending.

On the DVD: the anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image is virtually flawless, exhibiting only the grain present in the theatrical print, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is demonstration quality, showing off the high-impact sound effects and Don Davis’ fine score to great effect. Special features are “data files” on the main stars, producer and director and “Follow the White Rabbit”, which if selected while viewing the movie offers behind the scenes footage. This is interesting, but gimmicky, requires switching back from widescreen to 4:3 each time, and would be better if it could be accessed directly from one menu. There is also a standard 25-minute TV promo film which is as superficial as these things usually are.—Gary S Dalkin

Barnes and Noble

Take a pinch of The Terminator, a dash of William Gibson’s computer cowboy sensibility, add a healthy dollop of Hong Kong action cinema and the result is The Matrix, the most inventive science fiction flick to light up a movie screen in recent years. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a super-cool, philosophy-spouting rebel with psychic abilities, and his latex-sheathed female sidekick, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), turn disaffected computer wiz Neo (Keanu Reeves) into a kung fu-fighting warrior who goes head to head against the forces of evil deep in cyberspace. Even if some viewers get lost in the twisting storyline, the dazzling special effects and mind-blowing sets will keep most of them on the very edge of their seats. Kryssa Schemmerling

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Musically avant-garde elements have been utilized in film scores for decades, usually as shock elements to denote horror or the otherworldly. In recent times, modern composer Philip Glass has enjoyed varying degrees of success adapting his minimalist techniques to film scoring. Given that background, Don Davis’s powerful, innovative score to the Wachowski brothers’ 1999 sci-fi hit The Matrix has all the makings of a landmark. Utilizing his extensive interest and training in the avant-garde, Davis has composed what’s been touted as the first “New York…

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