Take a shot every time I talk shit on the Matrix 2 and 3 in this review. You’ll be sufficiently drunk by the end. Here, let me get you off to a good start!
They made three of these damn things. They’re making another one! How have they not learned that this shit was lightning in a bottle?!
But let’s not dwell on the shitty sequels. We all know those are bad. Today, we’re gonna focus on the good Matrix movie. Because god damn, the first movie is great! It’s a verifiable sci-fi classic! If you haven’t seen it, then you are doing something wrong! It is an absolute must-watch!
Even if it definitely shows its age. Hey, it’s a movie from the 90s. What else did you expect?
Story: Question Reality
You know a story is good when people are making ‘trapped in the Matrix’ jokes for the next thirty years.
Neo is an average, paranoid guy with a boring job and an illegal trade on the side. One day, he’s approached by Trinity, representing the legendary Morphius, with an offer to give him the truth. After an encounter with Agent Smith, Neo is taken to Morphius himself. One pill later, and Neo wakes up in the real world. Turns out, Neo is The One, the subject of prophecy, a man destined to destroy the Matrix and lead humanity back to their freedom. Can Neo become The One, defeat the Agents, and destroy the Matrix?
The story itself is exceptionally simple. But there is a lot of depth beneath the surface, making it super easy and fun to rewatch! The sheer number of analysis videos there are online is a testament to how intelligent the writing is!
Which is kind of hilarious, considering how stupid it is in the next two movies.
The characters in this movie are exactly what they need to be: simple and likable, with enough depth to be worth analyzing. Neo is a classic ‘Hero’s Journey’ type of protagonist, and he’s exceptionally well-executed. Morphius is a great mentor-type character, though he does very little to stand out from other characters of his ilk. Trinity is awesome, being bad-ass enough to be cool and emotional enough to still be human. These three, along with the other members of the cast, have great chemistry, making each scene with all of them very fun and interesting to watch.
The setting is easily the best part, as it’s downright iconic! The Matrix itself is amazing! It’s such a chilling idea that is explored to intriguing, terrifying effect! Plus, it further emphasizes the disgusting, desolate landscape that is the real world! It makes the viewer wonder if going back to reality is even worth the effort! Which is also an idea they play with in the story itself!!
And the pacing! By god man, this movie is perfectly paced! It flows as smoothly as water, with each event moving smoothly into the next! Nothing lasts too long or goes by too quickly. It’s quick enough to be interesting while slow enough to be intriguing and give you time to think about it.
I do have two complaints, though. For one, the villains are pretty half-baked. Agent Smith tries to have some depth, but they don’t really explore it beyond a single scene. They clearly feel like AI, simply because they’re so bland and forgettable.
Plus, the dialogue hasn’t aged all that well. There are still some really iconic lines that hold up, like the whole monologue about the two pills and “There is no spoon”. But some of these other lines haven’t aged as gracefully. It’s never unbearably awful, but it certainly has its problems.
Compared to the other two, however, even the bad lines are incredible.
Presentation: The Most 90s of the 90s CGI
This is the aspect of the film that’s aged the worst. The cinematography isn’t all that bad, although the color pallet leans a little too heavily into green for my tastes (it’s aesthetic for the Matrix, I know; it’s an entirely personal complaint). And the music, while forgettable, isn’t all that bad.
The CGI, on the other hand, has aged about as well as you’d expect. They’re not the worst thing ever, especially from the 90s. Compared to Godzilla 1998, this movie looks downright masterful. Hell, even in comparison to the other two movies it looks good! It doesn’t look bad by the standards of the time. But by today’s standards? No siree.
You know what does hold up, however? The fight choreography! These fight scenes are still bad-ass as hell! Whether it be a hand-to-hand brawl or an intense shoot-out, the action scenes in this movie look amazing!
Heavily reliant on slow-mo? Oh, fuck yeah! But I’d be a liar if I said I weren’t a fan of a good ol’ slow-mo fight scene!
Performances: Keanu Reeves Joke
Quick side note: when I looked up the cast, I noticed that The Woman in Red, played by Fiona Johnson, is one of the first characters to show up. Before Tank, before the Oracle, so on and so forth. This character literally said nothing and just existed as a plot-point, yet she’s still top bill. That doesn’t have any effect on the review, I just thought it was kind of funny.
Honestly, I have a hard time picking one particular stand-out actor. Everyone in this movie is great! They take this material, both the good parts and the few bad, and make it work beautifully! They escalate even the weakest characters into the coolest motherfuckers in cinema!
Keanu Reeves is the obvious one; he kills it as Neo. But I’ll be damned if Laurence Fishburne didn’t fucking steal every scene he was in as Morphius! Hugo Weaving is always a win, as he escalates Agent Smith from a boring character that almost had depth to a genuinely creepy, intimidating force of destruction! Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity is also incredible, playing off of Keanu brilliantly in every scene she’s in! Everyone here is fantastic!
If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose a favorite, it would probably be Laurence Fishburne. Do the same thing and ask me who did the worst, I’d take the bullet. They’re all honestly incredible and I don’t have any complaints.
Man. It’s nice to end it on a positive note for once. Especially considering what the tone will be the next time I talk about this series.
There are a lot of movies that can be described as lightning in a bottle. The perfect meeting of all the right people with the right tools at the right times. Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, Terminator 2, Shrek, and of course: The Matrix. All of these are fantastic films, who’s essence could never be recaptured.
Thankfully, Princess Bride never tried. And Shrek 2 came close. But that’s beside the point.
If you still haven’t seen The Matrix, what the fuck are you doing? It’s a must-watch sci-fi classic! Sure, the sequels are bad (one last shot for the road for my alcoholic readers). But this one movie stands so tall on its own that it’s hard to care!
Though I still care just a little.