The Matrix” was a cultural phenomenon when it was released on March 31, 1999. It elevated Keanu Reeves from movie star to superstar and introduced the world to “bullet time” (the slow-motion portion of an action scene). It was a critical and commercial success, spawning two sequels and a series of animated shorts. Does it hold up 20 years later? Let’s take a look:
IDEAS AND CONCEPTS
- The idea that the world as we know it could simply be a dream, or a complicated program, was mind-blowing to me. The details throughout the film, like the idea that déjà vu is a glitch in the Matrix, are what convince us this could actually be possible. In fact, there have been numerous real-world studies done trying to prove this one way or another since the film’s release.
- As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss,” and the first film focuses on this idea when we find out crew member Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) has betrayed the humans and is working with the machines in exchange for a comfortable life in the Matrix with no memory of the real world. This concept is relatable in our lives today: Is it worth knowing the whole truth or would it be better to not know and go on living a normal life, none the wiser to the horrors of what’s really happening?
- The idea of Neo (Reeves) being The One is clearly a reference to faith. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is unquestionably faithful to the idea of Neo being The One who will end the war and save the world. Some crew members are not believers, but they follow Morpheus anyway with the hopes that he could be right and the human race could be saved from the machines. As things fall into place, we see more and more faith from the other crew members. In the later films, as the real-world situation becomes dire, we also see more people lean on faith in Neo rather than accepting the reality they are in.
BEST ACTION SCENE
Although the Morpheus rescue is the biggest action scene, the final showdown between Neo and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is the climactic moment, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s fun to watch Neo dodge a barrage of bullets and then beat up on Agent Smith. Bringing together the bullet-time effects, kung fu, wire stunts and some great fight choreography, we see Neo accept his evolution, allowing him to seemingly beat Agent Smith.
BIGGEST ‘WOW’ MOMENT
Upon first viewing, the movie is filled with “wow” moments as the CGI and effects were cutting-edge. Even upon a rewatch, the first time we see Neo dodge a bullet is pretty epic.
It may seem silly to use the main plot point here, but when Neo takes the red pill and wakes up in a cocoon in the middle of a field of unconscious humans in the machine world, it’s pretty shocking.
In the first film, the best villain is obviously Agent Smith, as he is the main foe. A computer program created to keep the Matrix stable, he basically has superpowers inside the Matrix. He is also able to take over the body of any person he chooses, making him not only unbeatable, but nearly impossible to escape. Plus, Weaving’s creepy voice adds to the effect.
DOES IT HOLD UP?
Yes. The 4K UHD release of “The Matrix” is outstanding. From the opening sequence, it is apparent this upgrade was done right. “The Matrix” has never looked or sounded better at home. The CGI and the movie itself also hold up extremely well. Although technology has changed (computer monitors are thinner, cellphones look different, etc.), it is not a stretch to believe these survivors in the post-apocalyptic world have cobbled together older tech to fit their needs. The cyberpunk feel is timeless.
Although not as revolutionary by today’s CGI standards, “The Matrix” is a sci-fi action flick that holds up 20 years later. The story is intriguing and the action scenes are outstanding. What makes it so exciting is the idea of the Matrix itself, in which the laws of nature and reality can be bent or broken. From a writing and directing standpoint, this opens the doors to a ton of fun possibilities and action sequences, which we see both in the original film and the first sequel, “The Matrix Reloaded.”
Sure, there are a few slow parts and a few things we’ve seen before, but as the credits rolled and Rage Against the Machine’s appropriately titled “Wake Up” blasted, I could not wait to start “Reloaded.” Do yourself a favor and revisit “The Matrix.”