Today! Because you’re a plague and we are the cure –
The Matrix (1999)
Directed by the Wachowski Brothers
Starring Keanu Reeves (x2), Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss (x2), Hugo Weaving (x2), Joe Pantoliano (x2), Gloria Foster, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Anthony Ray Parker, Belinda McClory
(How terrible looking is that foreign poster?! Woof!)
The movie A.J. Soprano gave his mother for her birthday, The Matrix is still something people watch and enjoy, right? I mean, it didn’t get parodied to death over the years, or become an enraging source of innovation for all that bullet time shit that permeated action films in the early ’00s, did it? It wasn’t completed ruined by those sequels – was it?
Or was it? I’ve gotta be honest, I haven’t sat and watched The Matrix in a while. In preparing for this endeavor, I rewatched some things – movies I remember really liking but didn’t recall a lot of details, but The Matrix – hell, I remember The Matrix. This movie was everything, for about three years, right as we were getting into the teeth of a solid run of action/adventure/sci-fi films around the turn of the century. However, once The Matrix Reloaded came out in ’03 – and somewhat underwhelmed – people were decidedly nervous. But come on, middle films in trilogies had been problematic before. The Two Towers had come out only five months earlier, remember, leaving everyone a little bent out of shape waiting for the conclusion. And Attack of the Clones was the summer before that, a movie so awful that it put me off Star Wars altogether for the next decade. So another Part Two delivering little more than a set-up for a conclusion was kinda expected. But then The Matrix Revolutions followed in the fall – in a very ill-advised release pattern decision – and killed this whole thing but good.
Nonetheless – if you focus on the original film, unencumbered by the monumental bullshit that came in 2003 – The Matrix is still terrific. IMDB seems to agree – I expected the viewer ratings to have dipped, but maybe it rebounded in the following years, because it currently stands (as of this writing) as the 19th Highest Rated movie of all-time. It went 4 for 4 for technical Oscars, winning Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and Film Editing! It probably got Joey Pants that gig on The Sopranos, considering how popular he already was with the show’s creative team, given Carmela’s birthday!
Sure, its inventiveness might not feel so wondrous anymore, given that it was ripped off endlessly afterward, but man, Neo whipping ass and Trinity and Morpheus cool as hell and Agent Smith’s “I’m going to enjoy watching you die, Mr. Anderson” – cripes! This movie had all the style, mixed with loopy pop psychology, and bad-ass fight scenes galore. It’s easy to question in retrospect if we all had it wrong – did we mis-remember how good this movie was? Does the fact that the Wachowskis never made another even good movie color everything (depends on your opinion of Cloud Atlas, I guess)? It’s a Sixth Sense style conundrum – was M. Night Shyamalan a colossal hack, who snowed us all and could never follow up (Okay, I do like Unbreakable, but come on)? I fall into this sorta trap a lot. Do you go back to re-critique a seemingly one-hit wonder filmmaker’s original success in light of later failures? Does The Matrix actually suck? I don’t think so, but does it?
All sorts of technical awards greeted this March release at year end, in a year I still hold up as one of my all-time favorites. But was there any love for Best Repeat Cat, for that convenient, overly expository feline’s random appearance/reappearance?
#347 Memento co-stars Moss and Pantoliano join the Two-Timers, along with #350 Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Harker Keanu Reeves and Elrond himself slumming it in #362 The Hobbit, Hugo Weaving.