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The groundbreaking 1999 science fiction film directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski.

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One of the greatest lies of cinema history. 19%

  • May 17, 2012
Rating:
-1
You may be wondering what exactly I mean by that title. What I mean is that it's widely-believed that the Matrix is one of the best sci-fi action films ever made. Oh what a grand lie that is. By the time you're done reading this review, you'll know that the Matrix is NOT original, intelligent, thought-provoking, or even that entertaining.

PLOT

The plot is that in a not-too-distant future, a software technician by day and computer hacker by night named Tom Anderson (day identity)/Neo (night identity) (Keanu Reeves) is tracked down by two mysterious people named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and soon finds himself learning that the world he's known is all a lie and he's the one “destined to free the human race.”

CHARACTERS

The characters in this movie are pretty dull. Aside from all the people still “plugged” into the Matrix, even the people that are “freed” don't seem to have much emotion or personality. Because of this, it's pretty hard to care what happens to them.

LACK OF ORIGINALITY

Again, I don't mind a lack of originality as long as the final product is well-done and has enough unique nuances to have it stand up on its own. Much like how the horrendous Dark City is an extremely uninspired cocktail of elements taken from Akira, Total Recall, Metropolis, and The Addams Family, The Matrix is an extremely uninspired cocktail of elements taken from Ghost in the Shell, Total Recall, and various Hong Kong action films. In other words, it's like the Wachowski brothers just ripped off a bunch of other peoples' works so they didn't have to create anything on their own.

Examples of this intense derivative nature is that with Ghost in the Shell, it's like the style of opening credits animations were lifted right out of GITS, and even towards the end of the film, there's a shoot-out between Neo and one of the Agents by an bunch of Asian-styled street-side markets that's very reminiscent to the one in GITS.

When Tom/Neo goes through all the trouble to evade the Matrix Agents in his workplace, it feels way too much like Doug Quaid's escape from Cohaagan's henchmen near the beginning of Total Recall (Dark City would be another movie to rip off this TR element).

I can keep going on here, but I think you get the picture.

HOKEY ACTING

The only actors I though were putting any effort in his roles or were at least entertaining were Lawrence Fishburne and Joe Pantoliano. It seems like everyone else either acted stiffly or was over-acting. Reeves is the most guilty of this, because so much of the time he's on the screen without any charisma or worse, when he's trying to be more dramatic, he comes off like William Shatner. Joe Pantoliano as Cypher at least had some eagerness on screen and cracked the only somewhat amusing line in the whole movie, which was “Better strap in, Dorothy, because Kansas, is going bye-bye!!” Carrie-Anne Moss felt really flat when she was on screen, and most of the others are guilty of this.

LACK OF INTELLIGENT CONTENT

Despite all the movie's attempts at coming off as an intelligent movie that will leave you thinking long after the movie is over, they're more like window dressings to cover up the fact that there isn't much beneath the surface of overstaged fights and tacky “bullet time” gun fights. First, there's the rather silly choice to give the protagonists names like Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Cypher, and the naming of Morpheus's ship the Nebuchadnezzar. To me, they come off as loose references to ancient Greek mythology and Biblical locations that add up to nothing else other than for the sake of having them in order to make the movie look “culturally-developed.” Second, the references to Alice in Wonderland and Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation don't add up to anything that will make you think when the movie is over. It seems like the movie uses exposition about everything that happens and with any “spiritual” mumbo jumbo so that you don't have to mentally work for the film. Overall, given how hokey-feeling and convoluted the movie feels, it's nearly impossible to take seriously.

SOUNDTRACK

Don Davis's score for the Matrix is okay, nothing terrible, but nothing special. However, I must deeply scorn the Wachowski brothers's choice to add in such banal 90's music from the likes of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, the Deftones, Rob Zombie, and Rage Against the Machine. They should have been much more adventurous and tried to get to use music from underground bands like Godflesh and Front Line Assembly (these bands create far more daunting music that's far more appropriate for cyberpunk media).

BORING ACTION SCENES

Now you're probably asking “Can you at least acknowledge that the action scenes are cool?” Well, I'd like to be merciful in this area, but not even the action scenes make this movie entertaining. The “bullet time” effects have been heavily-lauded and imitated since the Matrix's release, but despite the fact that I know why this effect exists in the Matrix, it just looks too silly and just feels more like a way for the special effects teams to show off their skills than to create any riveting visuals. Also, despite the fact that some protagonists face some grave, believable danger in the film, I honestly didn't feel much tension during these scenes because of how bland the characters are.

FINAL WORD

The Matrix is merely a jejune, bloodless sci-fi/action film that fails at both being thought-provoking or entertaining. If you want sci-fi and sci-fi/action films that are either thought-provoking or entertaining (both with some), check out these much superior films.

 

Alien
Aliens
Blade Runner
Akira
Ghost in the Shell
The Terminator
Robocop
Total Recall
Paprika
Predator
Solaris (1972 Tarkovski film, not the 2002 remake with George Clooney)
Stalker
2001: A Space Odyssey
THX-1138

Leave this derivative, poisonous pap on the store shelves.

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May 19, 2012
yeah, I cannot deny what you have stated. Ok, I liked this movie, but it truly wasn't anything exceptional. The stuff were mostly ripped from anime, but I did like Trinity here.
May 20, 2012
I can understand its appeal to an extent, but you'd have to be totally blind to not recognize that it owes a lot to cyberpunk anime. Thanks for popping by, William!!
 
May 18, 2012
I can remember a time in my life when the Matrix was the coolest thing ever. After repeated watches, the film started to lose its appeal, and the flaws became evident, especially after watching Ghost in the Shell and other films which "inspired" this film. Great review.
May 18, 2012
Thanks. Hell, I remember watching this for the first time back in 2001 and I wasn't really impressed with it then. Hack joke here, but I think the Wachowski brothers have created their own "matrix" that makes most people think the Matrix is a work of genius, and have an army of fanboys that'll usually strike at anyone who reveals that this film franchise is what it really is, crap.
 
May 18, 2012
Well done. My loathing of this picture has been expounded at some length, yet I feel compelled to supplement your thoroughgoing text with some additional critique.

PLOT

As so many who've censured this flick have noted, cows - which are docile, produce more energy and haven't so advanced an intelligence to tenaciously manipulate - are far more ideal species for enslavement by the movie's mechanized antagonists.

CHARACTERS

Each a stock archetype with nearly no persona or quirks thereof, the character set here is actually ideal: most of the cast are best likened to a lumberyard, anyhow.

LACK OF ORIGINALITY

See also: Neuromancer, The Invisibles, Barca's Life is a Dream, etc. Plato's Allegory of the Cave is also to be credited, as well as numerous other sources with which I'm not familiar, but enthusiasts thereof have fumed in regard to the Wachowskis.

Streaming monochrome lime data text was a cliche when utilized to risible excess in this flick's production design; even Oshii hesitated to implement it in Ghost in the Shell in '95, fearing it was already passe.
As for the marketplace shootout in GitS, the Wachowskis entirely failed to note that scene's undercurrent of social tension, as it occurs in a Chinatown of enduring resistance to Japanese cultural integration - a dynamic that hasn't such import in North America. Again, melons are exploded by gunshot...!

HOKEY ACTING

I concur that Fishburne and Joey Pants are the only able actors of their cast, but both are directed so poorly, that much is almost indiscernable. Despite his redoubtable presence, Larry's nearly so stiff as his castmates and burdened with pretentious, tediously circuitous dialogue. Pantoliano always excels as a loathsome figure, and his role here not only telegraphs his intent as predictably as any (every) other plot twist, but reduces him to a one-dimensional traitor. In my opinion, Memento was Nolan's weakest effort, but his decision to cast Pantoliano against type was an inspired decision to which the Wachowskis couldn't aspire.

LACK OF INTELLIGENT CONTENT

Even the shuttlecraft Narcissus in Alien was christened with thematic intent! Here, teenage notions of fashion were more prominent than motif when these characters were named.
Baudrillard posited that his text was misinterpreted here, and anyone who's read his book with comprehension will indubitably agree, and note in turn the oversimplification of the Wachowskis' erroneous interpretation.
Never mind that "bullet time" only resembles an especially dull sequence in a third person shooter; slow-motion of various forms had existed for over ninety years before this film was shot, invented by August Musger and famously realized with far more artful technique by Pudovkin, Kurosawa and Peckinpah.
As for its excessive exposition - have you noticed that as a result of its copious explication via dialogue, this film and its successors have no subtext whatsoever?!

SOUNDTRACK

At least the musical selections are unintentonally funny.  Prominent in everyone's favorite philosophical masterwork: Rob Zombie's Dragula! At the end of my first viewing, I couldn't stop laughing at the noise of Morello's obnoxious counterfeit Jimmy Page riffs (themselves shameless imitations of Willie Dixon, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Elmore James, etc.) and de la Rocha's grade-school nasal shriek during the end credits. Fight the powah whilst consuming and propagating corporate-produced and distributed music and cinema, MAAAAAAAAAAAN!

BORING ACTION SCENES

You've noted what I should have: all tension throughout the film is undermined by a complete dearth of character appeal. Had the lot of them perished, I'd feel nothing.
Here's a challenge to enthusiasts of this picture: watch Fight Club, The Wild Bunch, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Police Story, Heat, Return of the Jedi, Okamoto's unfinished adaptation of Daibosatsu Toge, any chanbara flick helmed by Misumi or Kobayashi or Kurosawa, nearly everything that John Woo produced prior to his precipitous Hollywood decline or John Carpenter's every action flick preceding the unfortunate Escape From L.A., then tell me that The Matrix is especially exciting.

It may well be the most overrated major motion picture yet produced...but I still haven't seen Titanic...!
May 18, 2012
Thanks for the addendum on my review, Robert!! I also read somewhere that Baudrillard declared that the Wachowskis misinterpreted his work, and with the Wachowskis oversimplifying it, that makes a ton of sense. Great remarks about the phoniness in Rage Against the Machine's music, too.

To add to the "traitor" in Joey Pants's character, it shows him in a luxurious restaurant in the Matrix, and when it shows how good that life is, you begin to think that maybe the "real world" isn't so great, so why are we supposed to root for Fishburne and his cronies to "unplug" everybody?
 
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When Thomas A Anderson, aka Neo (Keanue Reeves), ends up on the run from the police, and in the same room as legendary fugitive Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), he must choose if he wants to discover the truth of the Matrix. He is given two options: 1) take the blue pill and "believe whatever you want to believe," or 2) take the red pill where "you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hold goes."      The Matrix is a futuristic action movie …
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About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
Ranked #22
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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About this movie

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Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss
Directed by Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Writer:  Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
1999

Product Description
Set in the 22nd century, The Matrix tells of a computer hacker (Reeves) who joins a group of underground insurgents fighting the vast and powerful computers who now rule the earth. The computers are powered by human beings...

By following up their debut thrillerBoundwith the 1999 box-office smashThe 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...
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Details

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: March 31, 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
DVD Release Date: November 14, 2000
Runtime: 2hrs 16min
Studio: Silver Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures
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