Movie Review: The Matrix (1999)

Well, here it is! Yay, after being forced to sit through the boring parts of Transformers, I get to watch one of my favorite films of all time! WHOO!

Anyways, on to the film. The Matrix is a sci-fi action film released in 1999, directed and written by the Wachowski brothers (umm…now siblings…) and starring Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, and the king of “Whoah” himself, Keanu Reeves.

Why are you so surprised all the time, Keanu?
Why are you so surprised all the time, Keanu?

So, the film begins. And how to begin a late 90’s movie? Well, first we have logos tinted green, foreshadowing an extremely green movie (not that that’s a bad thing…), and then the actual film begins. We get a falling code sequence, which is:

And I just noticed that some of the symbols in the code are Japanese characters. Weird.

We hear mysterious voices, a man and a woman, talking on a phone about “Morpheus” and “The One,” as their phone call is traced, and the woman (Trinity) is caught by police. Interestingly, she is in Room 303 (get it, cause trinity=group of three?!). One of the greatest villains ever put to screen, ever, arrives on the scene, Agent Smith. Trinity kills the police officers, but is terrified when she learns that there are “Agents” after her. We have a fantastic rooftop chase sequence, culminating in an awesome jump off the rooftop.

Trinity is nearly killed by Agent Smith, but she got out through a payphone. We meet our protagonist, “Neo,” (which is an anagram of one, and his apartment number is 101. Hmm..I wonder if he’s The One), as he is contacted in a late 90’s chatroom by someone telling him that the Matrix has him, and to follow the white rabbit. I absolutely love the Alice in Wonderland references. They populate the movie, and provide an interesting perspective from which to view the ideas from. He notices that someone with a person who he was selling some sort of code to has a tattoo of a white rabbit, prompting him to follow them to a club. We also hear a dated reference to a 90’s drug. Remember Mescaline?

It looked like this, according to Google.

Trinity meets up with Neo, and we see some fantastic acting from our two leads. Sorry for the sarcasm, it’s just true. But the acting’s not too terrible, and it doesn’t really bother me. We are left wondering what the Matrix really is when Trinity leaves. Neo wakes up late for work the next day, and gets into trouble. We learn that his real name is Mr. Thomas Anderson, something that Agent Smith will never ever let us forget.

Neo is contacted my Morpheus at his job, and is warned that people (Agents) are coming for him. He is told when and where to go in order to avoid detection. The problem with this scene is that we learn that those outside the Matrix (where Morpheus is) can only view it in code, as the image renderers work for the Matrix. So…how can Morpheus see such specific images from looking at code?

Neo tries to escape by climbing on the outside of the building, but gives up quickly, letting himself be taken by the Agents. Next comes a great interrogation scene, where our hero (Neo) and villain (Smith) meet for the very first time. Smith refers to Morpheus, the mysterious man Neo’s been looking for as “the most dangerous man alive.” Neo resists Smith’s questions by asking for his phone call, but Smith asks what use that is if he is unable to speak, and removes his mouth.

Sorry, that’s horrifying, I know. Also, it’s probably Keanu’s best acting moment. But, anyways, Neo wakes up, believing it all to be a dream. He’s contacted by Morpheus on a tapped line and told where to meet. The movie should’ve ended right there, with Agents capturing them. But it doesn’t.

He almost leaves, but Trinity tells him that he knows what’s down that road. What, the sequels?

sheep

Anyways, they remove a tracking device from his navel which was inserted during the interrogation scene. They reach the building Morpheus is in, and Neo and him meet face-to-face. You could say it’s a Face/Off… sorry for bringing up such an awful movie.

So, Neo is told that the Matrix is everywhere. That he was born into a prison, into slavery. But, no one can be told what The Matrix is, they have to see it themselves, so Neo is given the classic choice, red pill or blue pill.

MatrixBluePillRedPill

(To clarify: Red pill=leaving the Matrix, blue pill=staying) Obviously, Neo takes the red pill, and is then taken to a room where he is shown the cracks in reality and ejected from the Matrix into this nightmare:

The Wachowskis really shine in this area especially: unique designs. Seriously, how does someone think of something like that? Neo is unplugged by a waste drone, who then just flushes him, instead of killing him. If the Machines had a better system than this, the Resistance would be dead in the water. Literally. Cause, like, the machines would kill them, making them dead, and then dumping them into water! Brilliant!

But, the Machines don’t do that, and Neo is flushed down what is basically a toilet and rescued by Morpheus and his crew aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, an interesting name, but one that I’m not sure what the meaning of is. If someone knows why they chose this name, please let me know. (By the way, I already know about the biblical Nebuchadnezzar, I just don’t know how the story connects.)

Neo’s muscles have atrophied, so they have to electrically stimulate them to repair them. The Wachowskis have covered all the bases of his body having decayed from non-use. (As far as I know, not being a doctor.) We are introduced to the vibrant colors of this film: grays, browns, and greens. We learn that, instead of 1999, it’s closer to 2199. Really interesting, fish-out-of-water angle. We’re introduced to the superfluous other crew members, who nobody cares about.

Who’s your favorite Matrix character, little Timmy? Apoc! Shut up.

We are shown the “Desert of the Real,” as Morpheus put it. The world is covered in pollution, and we are given a rundown of history. Basically, man created A.I., the Machines and man had a war, and man scorched the sky to block out the sun, as the machines were solar-powered, but the Machines used humans as a new source of power, creating the Matrix to keep their minds entrapped. Basically, we’ve been turned into one of these:

Neo flips out, and Morpheus tells him that they normally recruit young, as older minds can’t handle the strain. Neo is told the legend of The One, a man born in the Matrix who could change anything within it, and that the Oracle prophesied he would be reborn.

Next, we learn that one of the memorable crew members, Tank, and his unmemorable brother, Dozer, were born outside the Matrix. Then, Neo has martial arts downloaded into his brain, prompting this iconic Keanu moment:

Then, they enter a sparring program, where Neo is taught that those who know about the Matrix can bend or break the laws of physics in order to perform impossible stunts, and that they can’t get tired inside the Matrix, because they’re not really exercising.  The kung fu (which Keanu, of course, knows) in this movie is incredibly well-choreographed and thought out, delivering a tension-filled fight which utilizes slow motion in some of the best ways I’ve ever seen it used in all of cinema.

Neo moves incredibly fast, and he still doesn’t believe Morpheus, somehow. He’s loaded into the jump program, where he fails miserably, resulting in a clip somewhat like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

Everyone’s disappointed, but not surprised, because nobody makes the first jump. Neo finds that he’s bleeding in the real world, because his mind “made it real.” So, his mind caused his lip to bleed? Okay. And if you die in the Matrix, you die in the real world. Morpheus and Neo enter another training program, where Morpheus explains that the people inside the Matrix are dangerous because they will fight to protect the system. In other words, they will “Stick to the Status Quo.”

I’m sorry to everyone who played that video, I can’t help it, I grew up with Disney Channel Original Movies. They are pretty bad though. I will admit that.

I’ve seen all of these except for the first two. Yes, even Cheetah Girls. Please don’t kill me, it’s because I have three sisters.

Anyways, Neo is distracted by the woman in the red dress, who then morphs into an agent.

This is her, by the way.

This whole exercise was showcasing that anyone in the Matrix can be your enemy. Keep your focus sharp. Eyes on the prize. Getcha head in the game. No, I won’t stick that video in here, I wouldn’t put two HSM songs on one post.

We learn that the Agents are the guards of the Matrix, and that no one has survived a fight with them. But Neo can become faster and stronger than them, because he doesn’t have to follow the rules of the Matrix.

In the real world, we are introduced to the Sentinels, or Squiddies, which are a killing machine designed for one thing: search and destroy. The ships take them out using an EMP, but have to power down all systems first, in order to remain operational.

Next, we get a scene between Cypher (the bald one) and Neo, and Cypher explains that they have to view the Matrix in code. This scene actually makes Cypher a relatable character, and quite possibly the only one (other than Morpheus and Trinity) to really connect with Neo. This makes it all the more effective when he turns evil and betrays the crew to the Agents in the next scene so he’ll be allowed back into the Matrix with his memories wiped, and as someone rich and important, like an actor. They ask him for access codes to the Zion mainframe in return, which he doesn’t know, but he promises them Morpheus, who does know.

In the next scene, we see that the crew has to eat only slimy, liquidy oatmeal-type stuff, and Mouse says it reminds him of Tasty Wheat, which Trinity tells him he never really had, as he was in the Matrix, prompting him to discuss how the machines knew how to program what foods taste like, and hypothesizing that they got the taste of chicken wrong, which is why everything tastes like chicken. Kind of funny, surprisingly.

They embark on a quest to take Neo to the Oracle, and they plug in. Now, when they jack in to the Matrix, they need somebody on the outside to plug them in, and jack them out. So, how did Cypher visit Smith on his own? Did he set up a program somehow? If so, why do they bother having someone monitor the outside at all, if a computer can do it? Pretty gaping whole there.

We come to the Oracle’s residence, and Morpheus takes his earlier statement about Neo being the only one who can open the door quite literally, refusing to open the door for him, despite being ahead of him.

We meet The Last Spoonbender, a potential candidate for The One, who can bend spoons because, as he puts it beautifully, “There is no spoon.”

This is one of the more interesting ideas present in the Matrix, that you can alter reality, but not by attempting to alter the reality, but instead altering your perception of the reality. Thus, “it is not the spoon that is bending, but yourself.”

We meet the Oracle, the most emotional character in this movie, and one that the viewer can instantly connect with. He asks if he is The One, and she tells him that he knows what she’s going to say. He assumes that he’s not The One, and she goes along with it, just so she can pull the whole Obi-Wan “from a certain point of view” schlock on him.

Neo takes a cookie from the Oracle, the crew leaves the Oracle’s house, and Morpheus refuses to hear what the Oracle told him, because it was meant only for him. Neo has Déjà vu, which is a glitch in the Matrix, and means the Machines altered something, trapping them in the building. Too bad Ackbar wasn’t there. He could have warned them.

The phone line is cut, and Mouse is killed. Morpheus sacrifices himself to save Neo, and is captured by the Agents, including Smith. They escape, and Cypher jacks out first, then he kills Tank and Dozer with an electric gun, unplugs Apoc and Switch, killing them, and then you know what he does?

He goes on about how if Neo is the one, then he won’t be able to kill him, because some sort of miracle would stop him. And he’s right, as Tank somehow survived the electric gun, and uses it to kill Cypher.

How? How does that gun work? Well, the movie never answers that question, and Tank is dead by the sequel anyways.

download

Tank jacks them out of the Matrix, and they have to decide what to do. Should they unplug Morpheus, killing him and saving Zion from invasion by the Machines, or attempt to save him? An interesting moral dilemma, but one that has one problem: They could just radio Zion and tell them to change the codes! That’s literally the best solution possible, and one that solves all problems!

Neo and Trinity go into the Matrix to save Morpheus with guns…lots of guns. Or, you know, you could bring a tank. Or a helicopter. Or a lightsaber.

Smith goes on an interesting monologue about how the true enemy is…

But in all honesty, it’s pretty interesting. Here’s the actual monologue:

So, Smith says that he wants out of the Matrix because of the smell. No, really, that’s it.

Now, we get to the awesome! Neo and Trinity break into the building Morpheus is being held in, killing dozens of innocent security guards in the process. Yay!! Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!

But, honestly, who cares? It’s just cool, awesomeness incarnate, featuring exploding concrete pillars, automatic rifles, and backflips for days.

Sweet flips, bruh!

So, Neo and Trinity explode the lobby by dropping an elevator full of explosives to the bottom floor, showcasing a reincorporation of “There is no spoon” when Neo cuts the elevator cable.

They make it to the roof, and have to have a showdown with an Agent. The Agent shoots at Neo, and we get a look at this film’s most innovative special effect: Bullet time.

It is so, so awesome to watch, and was revolutionary at the time. Trinity manages to kill the Agent, making her the first in all of Matrix history to ever manage it. They see a helicopter, and Tank downloads a pilot program into Trinity. This is one of the film’s coolest aspects, and it is never, ever utilized in any of the sequels. For some reason.

Trinity and Neo break Morpheus out by firing a minigun into the room he’s in, and managing not to hit him with a single bullet. Because he’s The One.

They escape with Morpheus, and drop him and Neo on a building as the helicopter crashes because…it was damaged, I guess? Anyways, Neo lassos Trinity with the harness cord, and Morpheus tells him that the Oracle told him what he needed to hear.

Think this is the end? Nope, they still have to make it out. The Agents locate them when a homeless man sees Morpheus disappear into the phone. Trinity decides she needs to tell him what the Oracle told her, and that this can’t wait until after they escape. Smith replaces the homeless man, and Trinity escapes just before the phone is destroyed by a gunshot. Neo chooses not to run. Now, Smith and Neo must fight!

There is some more brilliantly choreographed fighting, and I can’t help but wonder how the people who directed this also directed Reloaded. How did they fall so far?

Anyways, Smith nearly kills Neo by headlocking him in front of a train, but Neo backflips out. Neo runs, and has multiple agents on his trail. After a long chase through the city in the Matrix, Squiddies attack in the real world, but the crew can’t EMP without killing Neo unless they get him out. Now, it’s a race against time for Neo to escape. Neo runs into the same building Trinity was in in the beginning of the film, and even the same room, ironically, and is shot and killed by Smith. The End.

No, actually, he comes back to life when Trinity kisses him. Actually, though. Because “the power of love is a curious thing.” Then again, you already know that from my Back to the Future review.

Neo than realizes that he has leveled up, and can now stop bullets, and see the code of the Matrix.

He phases into Agent Smith (after beating him up without even trying) and rips him apart from the inside. The other two agents then run away from him, he jacks out, and Morpheus activates the EMP, killing the Squiddies, just in time. The film fades out, and then shows a code trying to trace a call from Neo, before the system fails, and Neo warns about what he’s going to do, show people the truth. We end with an awesome 90’s song, and Neo flying into the sky, leaving you wondering what happens next. And you should just keep wondering. Seriously, don’t watch the sequels. They’re just bad.

But enough about those films. How about this one? How well does it stand the test of time? Remarkably well, surprisingly. There are a few dodgy effects, sure, but nothing major. The story concept is fantastic and executed well, the cinematography is great, the visual effects were groundbreaking and still hold up, the ideas are interesting, the fight choreography is fantastic, and the performances are…pretty bad. Everyone is fairly bland except for Mouse (a bit role), Tank (a slightly bigger role), the Oracle (who’s in one scene), and Smith (the main baddy, who’s slightly corny, but bearable.) But a movie like The Matrix isn’t about performances, so who cares? The Matrix is practically perfect in every way in my eyes, and that sure ain’t gonna change! I give it an A+.

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So, there’s The Matrix. I’ll close the poll for the next review on Friday (U.S. Central Time) and open a new one for the review after that. Until then, this is That Other Critic, signing off.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. FilmMunch says:

    Awesome review! you’ve put a lot of work into this, and it was a delight to read! Thanks 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s always nice to hear from people like you! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love – LOVE! – your review of The Matrix. So many people write about it in breathless tones, not willing to acknowledge some of the film’s weaknesses. But I like how you were able to look at it objectively and still have a contagious enthusiasm for it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it – time to check it out again!

    Liked by 1 person

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