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The Matrix

THE MATRIX is, I continue to believe, one of The Great Movies. It absolutely holds up today, and also it reminds me so much of then. I will always remember what it felt like when this was a new movie, and our entire understanding of the MATRIX story. When we all imagined where it would go next, and then we had a couple years enjoying or rolling our eyes at all the movies obviously influenced by it, whether that means corny outfits and techno music or that brief, glorious window when Hollywood actors could be convinced to spend months preparing for action scenes with the great Hong Kong choreographers. But mostly I like to remember what it felt like to be surprised by it. Going in wondering if it would be good and then coming out knowing it was this.

I did have hopes. I had come to respect Keanu Reeves’ taste in movies after SPEED and, say what you will, JOHNNY MNEMONIC. I liked BOUND and it was exciting to see directors like that doing a sci-fi movie. And then a day or two before it came out I heard something about there being kung fu in it? So it wasn’t completely out of the blue that it was good. But I don’t think I was expecting something that a couple decades later would still be thought as highly of as the fucking MATRIX is.

It’s both a timeless classic and a thoroughly 1999 movie. Maybe that’s because it’s so singular that it can’t be adequately imitated, and so popular that it came to define its time. It also speaks to many issues that were in the zeitgeist in ’99, but continues to reveal additional meanings and interpretations as time passes. In the years since, of course, the Wachowskis have both come out as trans women, providing a piece of the puzzle we didn’t know was missing at the time. So a large percentage of MATRIX discourse has morphed into queer and trans readings of the movie, and I like that because this is such a huge movie across a broad spectrum of moviegoers, including some more reactionary contingents, so it’s interesting if that stuff was in there all along.

Other people have and will continue to dig into that aspect better than I can, so I won’t focus on that. I also can’t claim to understand the various philosophical ideas underlying the script (unlike the cast, who were required by the Wachowskis to read and discuss a number of books before reading the script). To me THE MATRIX is still about the less specific, more 1999, but definitely related matter of wanting to be recognized as an individual and find meaning under an oppressive system. In his lead up to explaining what The Matrix is (not the movie, but the virtual world its characters live in or enter for kung fu purposes), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne, DEATH WISH II, CHERRY 2000) says, “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

What he’s describing is, you know… the bullshit. Shitty governments, shitty jobs, shitty churches, shitty lies about how the world works in your news or entertainment. Like the same year’s FIGHT CLUB, it addresses fears of becoming a bland, nameless cog working in an antiseptic office building honeycombed with cubicles, having to impress some asshole boss you share nothing with, to make money you feel you’re being told should fill your emptiness, but that you know will not.

Keanu’s now-iconic character, known as “Thomas Anderson” to his boss, “Mr. Anderson” to Agent Smith, “Neo” to the internet, Morpheus, and us, clearly feels unfulfilled at his job. But at home in his dark bedroom, lit mostly by the green glow of a monitor, surrounded by stacks of hardware clutter and CDs as clicky techno bleeds from his headphones, he sells homebrew hacker tools to local industrial/goth clubbers aware of his talents, and through that underground scene he stumbles upon his destiny. Like many young cool people (then? always?) Neo can see the job trying to turn him into a conformist capitalist, he maybe seeks refuge in chat rooms and music, follows a tattoo to a dance club, falls in love with an amazing woman in black latex who leads him to who he was looking for. Just as Boone in NIGHTBREED has been searching for Midian, he’s been searching for this Morpheus. Doesn’t even know who he is, just knows he needs to find him. And then Morpheus finds him.

Of course we’ll need to discuss the matter of red and blue pills. Following an Alice in Wonderland eating-things motif and a counterculture enlightenment-through-psychedelics tradition, Morpheus presents Neo’s two possible paths as two pills. Take the blue and he’ll “wake up” back in The Matrix (the artificial world, the capitalist system, etc.) with no memory of all this, and just go on living in… well, not blissful ignorance since he’ll probly still have to work that shitty job. But without the burden of knowing the truth. Or he can take the red pill that literally wakes him up in the actual real world, where he will have to face the harsh reality of seeing through his eyes for the first time (which hurts), and living in a cave hiding from robotic squids dominating a devastated planet without sunlight (or plants?), but at least he’ll know the truth and won’t be enslaved.

Years later the term “red pilled” has been co-opted by shitty misogynistic goons and racist fuckwads to glorify the moment they “woke up” to the convenient “reality” that their race, gender and sexual orientation happen to be superior but unfairly treated by the scary women and minorities they should rule over. I don’t know what to say about this other than it sucks and they obviously got the wrong things out of THE MATRIX and I would like to invite them to consider fucking off.

But it does bring up another contemporary issue I wanted to mention. In THE MATRIX, being unaware of the truth is equated to sleeping, and becoming aware to waking up. The Matrix is compared to a dream – going down a rabbit hole. The red pill causes Neo to literally wake up in the real world. Sleeping/waking is a commonly used metaphor – examples that come to mind include the phrase “wake up and smell the coffee,” the titular graffiti in THEY LIVE (“they live, we sleep”), and the last several minutes of Spike Lee’s SCHOOL DAZE, in which Dap – played by Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne – runs around campus yelling for everyone to “WAAAAAAAAKKKKEEEEE UUPPPPPPP!,” before turning to the camera and asking us very seriously to “Please, wake up.” In fact, Zack De La Rocha also yells the same thing on the end credits of THE MATRIX, in the song “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine. (It’s still unbelievable to me that the perfect songs to end the first two MATRIX movies happen to be by a band whose name describes the basic conflict of the movies both literally and figuratively!)

Unrelated to all of these things, but parallel to them, is the African American slang term “stay woke,” which goes at least as far back as a 1938 Lead Belly song (“best stay woke, keep their eyes open”), continues through a 1971 play about Marcus Garvey (“Now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon’ stay woke”), and was re-popularized this century when Erykah Badu started using #staywoke as a hashtag, having used “I stay woke” repeatedly on her song “Master Teacher.”

Of course, after the term was widely used by activists in the movement for Black lives, it was adopted by white people, first in earnest, then to attack each other for supposedly going overboard, and then was adopted by the right wing as a non-specific way to belittle anyone against any kind of racism or injustice they enjoy. In that iteration it has been so widely used that my 90-something-year-old grandmother-in-law asked me this summer, “So, what is this ‘wokeness’?”

And I only bring this up to note how funny it is that today’s conservatives feel no shame in waging an anti-awareness campaign, adopting the language of the machines, the THEY LIVE aliens, the bad guys. We must keep people asleep! They’re trying to wake them up! Don’t listen to that raging machine guy. Go back to sleep. Take a nap.

But I guess it makes sense that they’d be on the side of Agent Smith, a weird blowhard who forces people to sit and listen to his stupid theory about humanity being a virus. Of course that’s their guy.

Let’s go back to raging against the machine. Morpheus and friends find that the best way to do it – or at least to recruit more people to do it – is working within The Matrix. They don’t try to climb around on those battery towers unplugging people, they use The Matrix itself to free people’s minds from The Matrix. So if you believe the Wachowskis are sincere about what this movie is preaching – and I absolutely do – then it makes alot of sense that they’re doing it in a series of big expensive wide release Warner Brothers genre movies. To the extent that messages can get to people through movies, this is the way to get them across to more people. I would argue that CLOUD ATLAS also has heartfelt messages for the world, but an arcane art house sort of movie like that just can’t connect with as many people.

Of course, we’ve already seen that many did not receive the messages the Wachowskis were sending in THE MATRIX. They wanted to create their own truth that makes them happier, like Cypher. But that doesn’t mean the siblings didn’t get anything out of raging within the machine. It’s hard to overstate the enormity of coming out as trans after having created a work of popular art as huge as this. In recent years there have been some famous people revealing themselves as transphobes, and I don’t get it because I feel like it should go without saying that if you don’t understand somebody that doesn’t mean you should go around declaring your unsolicited opinions about their lives and struggles and existence. In that case some better things to do would be 1) be nice 2) shut the fuck up stupid 3) mind your own god damn business for once in your life you narcissistic goofball.

So I don’t get being a dick about it but I do get feeling like you don’t understand. I was definitely there at one point. I knee-jerk rejected the “they” pronoun when I first heard about it. I still have trouble getting my brain to do it, but I try because people deserve to live the way they want to. It’s the same as I don’t call Jennifer Lawrence J-Law because she didn’t want that nickname but I do sometimes call Jennifer Lopez J-Lo because she did want that nickname. Just be respectful to people, silly.

My point is that in the middle of me trying to evolve on this stuff there were these directors I greatly admired and one of them turned out to be a trans woman and then the other one also turned out to be a trans woman. And what am I gonna do, say “You created amazing art that is important to me, but I don’t understand how you could be a different gender than I previously thought, here are my opinions of how you should live your life”? No, I did not do that. So even if I hadn’t met many trans people at that point it turned out there were a couple of them in my life in this other way. Examples like that really do make a difference. I know they do.

Okay, I wanted to mention all that, but at this point in the review I would like to set aside the substance and just talk about that THE MATRIX is cool as shit. I would like or love this movie just for coming up with such a cool sci-fi concept that has meaning to me, but that’s only one of the great ingredients in an absolute knock out of a recipe. Like Tarantino and some of the other pantheon ‘90s directors (and in the tradition of sampling and remix culture), the Wachowskis take clear influence from a number of different genres and mediums of which we may or may not also be familiar and combine them in ways we haven’t seen before, or that we haven’t seen done on this level, or in a big Hollywood movie. So we could recognize where some of this was coming from but it still felt ferociously original, new, of-the-moment, of-the-future.

Those influences include but are not limited to:

Anime, including GHOST IN THE SHELL, AKIRA and NINJA SCROLL. In those days anime was not as widely distributed in the U.S., and it was unusual for a major Hollywood movie to take influence from it.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer and other cyberpunk literature, which also influenced GHOST IN THE SHELL. Also, the paranoid reality-bending concepts of Philip K. Dick. (see A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX review for more info)

The ‘90s movement of “mature” comic books and so-called graphic novels. Some people have said that THE MATRIX is a rip-off of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint from 1994-2000. The comic involves a group of rebels trying to free people unknowingly enslaved by aliens or something, but I haven’t read it so I have no idea if those charges are fair or not.

But before working in film, the Wachowskis scripted Clive Barker-based comics, including issues of Hellraiser and Nightbreed. Writing seven issues of Ectokid (one of the titles in the Razorline mini-universe Barker created for Marvel Comics) they worked with the artist Steve Skroce, who they later hired to storyboard THE MATRIX so executives would understand what the fuck they were talking about. (NOTE: If you’re curious and/or extra nerdy I wrote about all of the Wachowski/Barker comics in a post on Patreon.) They also brought on the great comics artist Geof Darrow, known at that time for Hard Boiled with Frank Miller.

A more mainstream influence is THE TERMINATOR and T2, with their dark post-apocalyptic future where bands of human survivors battle machines that have conquered the world. I think the Wachowskis also follow in the James-Cameron-circa-THE-ABYSS-and-T2 tradition of trying to push special effects technology to show us things we’ve never seen before. “Bullet Time,” as they called it, does have a few precedents (including in BLADE) but the way they did it exploded a bunch of minds and was widely imitated. Sometimes in a poser-y sort of way, but also it was surely an influence on the way later movies could depict super powers, for example with the Quicksilver scene in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST or the Flash scene in ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE.

Also you have John Woo, whose over the top gun fights with endless ammunition, agile movements and massive damage to building interiors had to have been an inspiration in the lobby scene and other shootouts.

Another cinematic influence that I think tends to be forgotten is the noir that you’d expect from the directors of BOUND. Especially in the early scenes before The Matrix has been explained, we see these unexplained people running around shadowy, rainy streets, in hallways lit by flashlights, and across roof tops. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, Models Inc., F/X: The Series) doesn’t necessarily seem like the good guy when she’s cornered by cops in a dingy hotel or when she and her friends drag Neo into a car and zap him with a weird machine. We only trust their mysterious rebel cell due to the sinister vibes of the shades-wearing “agents” chasing them

But also we know something’s up when time freezes for the camera to rotate around Trinity’s trademark seemingly super-powered crane kick, and when she leaps off a building, spins like an arrow, blasts head first through a window, somersaults down a set of stairs, and lands aiming two pistols back at the window.

Which brings me to the part of the movie I fell most in love with, the one I heard about shortly before seeing the movie, the kung fu, the action direction, the infusion of Hong Kong style wire work. They cited FIST OF LEGEND as the reason they hired Yuen Woo-ping (DRUNKEN MASTER, GAME OF DEATH II, TAI CHI MASTER, WING CHUN) as choreographer, though for the record he’d already done some work on another Joel Silver production, LETHAL WEAPON 4. Famously, the actors trained with Yuen’s team for several months to perform much of the choreography and wire stunts themselves, unheard of for Hollywood movies at the time (though duplicated by Yuen for KILL BILL and his brother Cheung-Yan Yuen for CHARLIE’S ANGELS). Yuen got to know their strengths and weaknesses and developed the choreography around them, giving Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and Agent Smith each very distinct fighting styles. Trinity’s takes advantage of the lanky, jagged shape of Moss’s body, Neo’s concentrates on punches since a neck injury prevented Reeves from training as much on kicking.

I think Yuen did a particularly good job creating Neo’s style, with all its tai chi sort of movements that really express the idea that he’s harnessing and redirecting some sort of energy within the Matrix. And I like the way his skills grow through the movie to the point where he fights Smith and seems almost bored with him, the way he seems to predict every movement and counter it perfectly. He goes from being taught “If you see an agent, run” to being so good that the agents see what he’s doing and run from him.

There’s probly less martial arts than in, say, a Jet Li movie. But whenever it pops off it’s a thrill, it’s well performed, it’s shot beautifully, and it’s just made so cool by this sort of lucid dream concept that because they know they’re not in the real world they can learn how to do things they’re not supposed to be able to do.

It would be another 15 years before most of us realized the true action influence of THE MATRIX. When the well trained actors and wires were replaced by shakycam in most Hollywood action, it seemed like that would be the end of it. But Reeves’ stunt double Chad Stahelski was quietly continuing the practice with his (and David Leitch’s) action design company 87Eleven. They both worked on the MATRIX sequels and the Wachowski produced V FOR VENDETTA and NINJA ASSASSIN, but the real payoff was when Reeves convinced them to direct his 2014 watershed action movie JOHN WICK. Since then Stahelski has directed the WICK sequels and Leitch did ATOMIC BLONDE, DEADPOOL 2 and HOBBS & SHAW. 87Eleven has turned into 87North Productions, a trustworthy name brand in action that gave us NOBODY and KATE this year.

Another legacy of THE MATRIX stunt crew is the friendship between Reeves and Tiger Chen, a protege of Yuen chosen to train Reeves for the fights. 14 years later Reeves directed and played the villain in Chen’s excellent starring vehicle MAN OF TAI CHI, with choreography by Yuen. They also fight briefly in THE MATRIX RELOADED and JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3.

THE MATRIX came out a few months after I started writing reviews online, and for some reason I didn’t review it at the time, though I awarded it Best performance by a non-Badass in a Badass role (Keanu Reeves) and Best Badass, female (Carrie-Ann Moss) in “the first ever VERN’S motherfuckin OUTLAW AWARDS 1999 brought to you exclusively by VERN.” I did review THE MATRIX RELOADED when it came out in 2003, but for some reason did not do THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. So for 15+ years I’ve been meaning to really sit down and write up these movies and do them justice. At least one time during those years I did watch them and take notes and start working on it and then not finish for some reason and lose the notes. And in the interim there have been whole books written analyzing the movie(s) and more than one generation of critics revisiting them, but it always seemed like there could be a lull when people weren’t really talking about them, and just as I was maybe gonna get around to it— ah, fuck. They’re really making another one? I knew every fuckin body with a websight was gonna do their revisit now, but I couldn’t put it off any longer.

Which is to say I don’t know how to live up to all that, but I’m glad I’m finally trying, and I hope I came up with a few good angles. And yes, I will be reviewing the sequels and the anime anthology next.


Random notes:

The fact that being killed in The Matrix means being killed in real life because “The body cannot live without the mind” is basically Freddy Krueger rules. That the rebels can become aware of The Matrix and develop great abilities is Dream Warriors rules. And waking up in the real world feels like HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II. (Again, Lana wrote a bunch of HELLRAISER comics. Not a coincidence.)

When Agent Smith first meets pre-pill Neo at the workplace he confronts him with print outs about his double life as the ordinary computer programmer Thomas Anderson and the infamous hacker Neo. “One of these lives has a future, the other does not,” Smith says. This turns out to be true, but not in the way he expected – it’s his chosen identity, Neo, that survives, not the one society has prescribed to him.

Have I never noticed how much the green-tinted rain drops in front of street lights or dripping down car windows look like the famous opening credits lines of code?

It seems to me that Fishburne, like Weaving, uses a very odd cadence and enunciations. I wonder if this was intended to make us suspicious that he’s not real either? But also occasionally I wonder if he’s trying to imitate Orson Welles.

I think most of the soundtrack has aged really well, much better than some of the early 2000s movies like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. We now know Marilyn Manson is a much worse person than the horror villain he pretended to be, but musically the song holds up. The Prodigy and Ministry still capture the right aggressive electronic black leather dudes vibes. The only one that seems a little goofy is Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” playing in the club, but it’s mostly just because I know the song and associate it with Zombie’s Munsters fandom and shit.

Tank says something about “Mikey, I think he likes it!,” a reference to the ‘80s Life Cereal commercials. Since Tank doesn’t have plugs and has never been in The Matrix, this must mean he watches TV on those little code screens he watches the missions on. (Or maybe other people say it to him and he just picked it up without knowing what it means.)



This entry was posted on Monday, December 13th, 2021 at 7:17 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

58 Responses to “The Matrix”

  1. I *have* read the Invisibles, and let me tell you, “group of rebels trying to free people unknowingly enslaved by aliens or something” [heavy emphasis on the “or something”] is the exact limit of the similarity, most of the people who were saying it was a ripoff of the Invisibles did not read or understand the Invisibles (fair, it’s fucking weird), and/or were being churlish (less fair, grow up, just have fun please).

  2. Pssh. Next thing you’ll tell me RESERVOIR DOGS isn’t a scene-for-scene, line-for-line ripoff of CITY ON FIRE.

  3. That movie is filmmaking for the ages!

    I rewatch it every few years, wondering if it still holds up, only to be blown away by it’s precise style. There really isn’t one wasted frame in this and if the Wachowski would now suddenly announce a “definite director’s cut” after all these years, I would tell them to fuck off, because, as much as I see them as geniuses who deserve our trust, you can’t improve perfection!

    Yeah, it’s too bad that many of its messages were appropriated by the wrong people, but this is the problem with those “Fight the system” stories. They are too relatable! Everybody believes that whatever system they are stuck in is flawed and they are smarter than all the sheep, who just accept their fate. That can lead to many good things, from something as simple as some kids writing kick ass songs with political lyrics in their parents’ garage, to younger generations realizing that they don’t have to be “manly”, it’s okay to never talk with your family again if they treat you like shit or that there is no reason to be “loyal” to your workplace, even though those were all highly valued things of former generations.

    Too bad that it also leads to many bad things, like Antivaccers, Capitol stormers or incels with Guy Fawkes masks.

    Not the fault of this movie, though. It still lost a tiny bit of its impact, thanks to being heavily copied and parodied, but still holds up over 20 years later.

  4. Great review, Vern, as always!

    CJ, hard agree about there not being a wasted frame in this. The editing, camera work, movements and compositions are out of this world. Editor Zach Staenberg’s Oscar was extremely well deserved. Even if there were no kung fu or ground breaking action scenes in this, it would still be one of my favorite movies for the visual storytelling alone.

    I was a teenager in ’99 so of course it hit right at home. Being a white dude without any deeper knowledge about transness, I was absolutely thrilled to learn about the trans subtext in the movie. Really happy to discover another layer of interpretation to one of my favorite movies. It didn’t negate or lessen the movie as I knew it, but made it richer and better, and my respect for the Wachowskis deepened.

    This however I didn’t know about until now, and it’s pretty upsetting to learn:

    [“Years later the term “red pilled” has been co-opted by shitty misogynistic goons and racist fuckwads to glorify the moment they “woke up” to the convenient “reality” that their race, gender and sexual orientation happen to be superior but unfairly treated by the scary women and minorities they should rule over. I don’t know what to say about this other than it sucks and they obviously got the wrong things out of THE MATRIX and I would like to invite them to consider fucking off.”]

    Like, what the hell is wrong with these people? Just so insanely stupid.

  5. Apropos of nothing, this is a pretty great watch even if you don’t know advanced musical theory:

    Decoding the Music of The Matrix

    Follow the white rabbit.So with all the theory in this video, I knew I was bound to make a mistake at some point.In the part where I explain the whole/half s...

  6. When this first came out I was deep into the first few years of my Hong Kong action movie geekery, and young enough to be more of a snob, so I found the action kind of underwhelming, Hollywood taking its best shot at replicating what was amazing about Hong Kong movies but just not being fast and flexible (both the actors and the movie itself) enough to really deliver. I remember thinking something like “everybody else in this theater thinks they are watching something so cool but if only they had watched FIST OF LEGEND or HARD BOILED a million times they’d know better!” But coming back to this a year or two ago I saw it really differently – I could accept it as its own thing, and I loved every second of it. And, somewhat ironically given the overwhelming plethora of superhero stuff since 1999, THE MATRIX seems to me like a better representation of comic books than any of the Marvel or DC movies… this is totally a graphic novel come to life, with the mutated color schemes and slow-motion action sequences transmitting the feel of reading comics panel by hand-drawn panel.

    One thing that kind of nagged at me after my recent rewatch – Vern does a super accurate job of conveying the movie’s message that the Matrix is the bullshit system that is keeping our eyes closed. But there’s a lot of other stuff in the Matrix that is equally part of the simulation – Keanu Reeves’ hacker / drug dealer / underground rave lifestyle, including presumably late 90s industrial dance rock as heard on the movie soundtrack… not to mention the noodles at that restaurant he liked. So in that logic both everything we do to obey the system PLUS everything we do to rebel is all equally part of being kept asleep in the Matrix. I’m assuming there were a lot of cool kids in the Matrix going to subversive movies and reading Baudrillard and whatnot…

    Vern, there’s probably a cut scene where Morpheus explains that Parliament Funkadelic and/or Fishbone are actually Zion agitprop being transmitted into the Matrix, or something.

  7. Terrific, thorough write-up Vern. It’s often forgotten, I think, that the first movie does have a lot of noir visual elements, maybe because the sequels don’t as much. That shot you posted of the rain coming down next to the underpass is my favourite of them. But it speaks to how THE MATRIX was packaging a lot of familiar elements in a new and enthralling way.

    And sorry if this topic has been exhausted in discourse I haven’t seen, but how do you feel about them killing people within the Matrix? I have a friend who is really bothered by this, but I think that’s only because the movie calls attention to the nature of being alive in a way that other action movies (with as many civilian casualties) don’t.

  8. Our heroes shooting the shit out of a group of technically innocent security guards at some point, always rubbed me the wrong way. But in the sequels they said that the Matrix is not only inhabited by humans and agents, but also by programs, so I guess the people who were working hard to protect the building where the agents were torturing Morpheus, were probably just some 1s and 0s that were created by the bad guys.

    At least that’s how I took it.

  9. Ah the brief Hong Kong influence. I think Charlie’s Angels was the only one that got it right, combining the wirework with the absurd comedic shifts of lots of HK movies. Daredevil perhaps was the shoddiest tho I have no doubt Garner could learn the moves like Uma in Kill Bill.

    I wonder how much this changed the stunt industry since A listers like Matt Damon would ask to learn the moves himself like Keanu did? All the way to Odenkirk training for Nobody. I suppose they still find things only a pro can do, and they do facial replacement anyway.

  10. Hard to think of a film that matches this one for sheer cultural penetration – its influence can be seen all over the place to this day.

    I always loved the strange cadence that Weaving and Fishburne give their dialogue readings. Especially Weaving – he is just stone cold brilliant.

    And although I don’t think much of the two sequels (always felt like the Wachowskis’ really didn’t have a clue where the story should go after part one) the one thing I really loved about the three movies was the effortless inclusion of people from the entire spectrum of culture and society – the movie feels very worldly and looks like the way a world looks.

    Instead of the two sequels I much prefer an informal trilogy of:

    1. Dark City – 1998. Proyas excludes the razzle dazzle of action for some even more interesting philosophical ideas and some even ballsier conceptual breakthroughs than The Matrix. A real overlooked masterpiece.

    2. The Matrix.

    3. eXistenZ – 1999. Minor Cronenberg, but even so, still interesting. Mostly because, a rarity in science fiction (especially movies) is an emphasis on the sexual.

    The Truman Show is another film that deals with a number of the same ideas ( albeit in a more comedic tone.) And godbless it that we have Ed Harris’s immortal impersonation of James Cameron.

    And it goes without saying (although it’s not often said) that the 1960s TV show The Prisoner is a huge but subtle influence on The Matrix and these movies. The Prisoner is still the smartest, most intellectually challenging TV show ever aired

  11. Alan, 100% yes to your trilogy. Though when I first glanced at your comment I thought you were proposing DICK TRACY, not DARK CITY.

  12. Another Invisibles reader here. I’d argue the two had a few more similarities beyond the basic conflict/themes braak points out (maybe the most striking being the “liquid mirror” imagery in both). I think you can understand Grant Morrison’s initial knee-jerk reaction seeing the movie and going, “Hold on a minute…!” But I’d agree you can’t honestly see The Matrix as a “ripoff”—both are just drawing on common motifs and things in the counterculture zeitgeist.

    They are superficially similar enough, though, that the existence and success of The Matrix pretty much hosed any chance of an Invisibles adaptation. But The Matrix is considerably more focused and accessible. (I think a big difference here is that the Wachowskis as far as I know mean the “giant computer simulation” as a metaphor, whereas Morrison does or at least did believe that the universe actually IS, like, a hologram generated by two intersecting planes of information floating in 5D space). If there had been an Invisibles movie, it would be unlikely to occupy The Matrix’s space in our culture.

    I will say, in reference to the discussion above, The Invisibles deals with the issue of the rebels blowing humans away in a hail of gunfire a little more directly and acknowledges, yes, the “hero” is pretty callous in killing paycheck guards who have no idea who they’re working for.

  13. Alan – Have you seen The 13th Floor? That’s a good one worth mentioning.

  14. There’s one scene in The Matrix that bugged me in 1999 and still does. When Cypher reveals himself to be the turncoat, fine. But that scene goes on for 5 whole minutes as he monologues about how evil he is and no one can stop him… giving someone plenty of time to stop him.

    I can excuse a trope but wrap that up in 2 minutes. Needless to say I wasn’t too shocked when Reloaded devoted lots of screen time to certain scenes.

  15. Out of curiosity, will you be taking a look at the video game ENTER THE MATRIX at all? It’s… not a good game, but it is an incredibly interesting artifact of early transmedia storytelling, and it’s part of why RELOADED’s climax feels weirdly disjointed for me—a whole big chunk of the overall story is told over in the game, including a significant hunk of RELOADED’s last act and a major story beat for REVOLUTIONS.

    Subsequent gargantuan multimedia projects haven’t tied things quite so closely together, which is better for the individual works, but darn if that’s an aspect of THE MATRIX sequel project that isn’t -fascinating.-

  16. CJ: Sorry, but there’s a whole speech about how those security guards are DEFINITELY just regular-ass people doing their jobs. The point is, everybody in the system is part of the system and thus a threat to the revolution. Which is exactly how terrorists think. It’s something the movie forces you to deal with. You can’t head canon your way out of it.

  17. I was a shade too young to see this in cinemas in 1999, but it still became one of my favourite films on VHS (first saw it early the next year, I think, at school on one of those ‘teacher puts a movie on’-days). I finally saw it on a big screen in 2019, for its 20th birthday. The thing that really struck me is how perfectly the metaphor of the agents holds up – the fact that until they are disconnected from the Matrix, anyone can be taken over by the enforcers of the system and so can’t be trusted, is wonderful.

  18. Felix – very vague memories of The 13th Floor – I’m sure I saw it exactly once in 1999. It did have some interesting ideas – but I remember that in comparison to my ‘trilogy’ it was very amateurish in execution/filmatism, especially compared to the three other films mentioned.

    The 13th Floor was based on a 1970s German tv film “World on a Wire.” Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Criterion released it in 2012, this version is definitely worth checking out. In an example of how science fiction literature predates film by decades – “World on a Wire is based on a ‘Simulacron-3” a novel from 1964.

    Going even further down the rabbit hole – it’s totally worth seeking out some of British writer Dennis Potters’ work – especially ‘Karaoke’ and ‘Cold Lazarus.’ it has some very telling parallels with The Matrix. Especially ‘Cold Lazarus.’ Potter might be most familiar as the writer of 2003s’ ‘Singing Detective.’ Potter was a legendary, brilliant, combative, uncompromising writer who wrote some of the greatest, most berserk and challenging scripts every broadcast, tragically they remain largely unknown outside of the UK. He was always intermingling all kinds of ideas about identity, memory, power structures, capitalism, childhood trauma (and trauma of all kinds) in a sort of gleeful disregard for genre conventions. He though nothing of throwing in a musical number at any point in the narrative.

    He gave a final televised interview in 1994 where, battling terminal illness (by drinking a concoction of champagne and morphine!) he gives one of the most impassioned, achingly beautiful and defiant arguments for artistic integrity.

  19. Very excited to see these films officially reviewed by this websight.

    I rewatched the Matrixes (Matrices?) last year during lockdown, after a break of 10+ years. The noir-ness also stood out to me, and I wonder if the opening with Trinity was particularly intended to communicate that tone for the purpose of orienting the audience with what could be the most widely-known cinematic language referenced in the films. Then, as we first start seeing things that are “off”, like Trinity’s abilities, we are intrigued because we realize we are seeing a familiar set of rules (camera angles, lighting, editing), and then those rules being broken in specific ways. Maybe it builds a sense of trust that the filmmakers are going to show us new things, but not because they don’t understand the old things.

    I dug Reloaded and Revolutions much more this time around. Reloaded because the action scenes don’t look like things I see in big movies today, and thematically because it handles excess as a concept in an interesting way, particularly while still being a blockbuster sequel. Revolutions actually gave me a lot of nice Star Wars-esque band-of-misfits vibes this time, and I think it does point toward an important aspect of AI that is now being talked about in the tech world but at the time could only be substantively talked about in scifi. I think they’re good movies.

  20. Great re-look at this classic, Vern, thanks. Not to get too dark with the movie’s long shadow over our culture, but the first casualty of its potential negative impacts (by the media’s reckoning, not necessarily mine) was the shooters at Columbine High School who adopted some of the look and attitude of the Matrix as they shot up their classmates.

    I don’t think anyone can “blame” the movie for anything. I just think the idea of being “outside the machine” is a feeling everyone gets at some point and this movie lit up that idea like a torch and anyone with a beef against the system, be it left wing anti-capitalism activists or right-wing incels or a couple of disturbed kids, this movie addressed that feeling and gave one solution: guns, lots of guns. One could see it as just awesome symbolic fighting…with only the first movie, the concept of fighting was all inside the machine. Outside the machine, it was scary and all you could do was run.

    But inside the machine, they explicitly said they used the program’s rules against them. Symbolically this is shooting and kung fu but people who protest peacefully do the same thing. Fight against capitalistic impulses to exploit the working-class? Fight it by not working (striking) or not buying those goods (boycotting). Using the system against the thing you oppose. Sadly, disturbed people lack that imagination to see beyond their actions and in a culture so obsessed with guns as a tool of the oppressed and oppressors, they sometimes mirror the pop culture around them.

    But what a piece of popular culture! I am so looking forward to the new movie, especially since the trailers (spoilers for those who are avoiding it) seems to hint at the movie within the movie. It would be really intriguing if the story that continued reflected on the “real world” impact of the first one in a way that reflects in the film, as well. How deep does the rabbit hole go, indeed. All that while still having awesome gun fights and stunt work.

    I am really looking forward to your takes on the sequels.

  21. Justin – That’s interesting, I hadn’t ever thought of needing to know the game to understand the whole thing. I did order a copy of the game but it hasn’t arrived yet, so it may not find its way into these pieces before they post.

    Sabalos – I never thought of it that way – great point!

  22. Just wanted to add that everyone should check out Steve Skroce’s comic book work. The guy is a mega-talent who deserves more attention. All of the comics he’s drawn and written over the last few are worth checking out:

    -We Stand on Guard
    -Doc Frankenstein: Post Modern Prometheus (a ‘complete’ collection of the Doc Frankenstein comic he worked on with the Wachowski’s years ago)

    He also just wrapped up ‘Post Americana’, a comic book about a burnt out scavenger cyborg-lady & a bunch of other wacky characters taking back a post-apocalyptic bubble facility that was created to help rebuild the world, but instead was taken over by CORRUPT POLITICIANS & WEALTHY ELITES. Really fun and beautifully drawn.

  23. this was a pretty good recent watch, and rather meta on the subject matter:


  24. Vern you might want to just check out one of the “movie” versions of the ENTER THE MATRIX game — I’m not sure how playable it’ll even be at this point.

    I’ve been looking at this one, which is only about an hour long:

    Enter the Matrix All Cutscenes (Game Movie) Niobe Edition

    Follow GLP on Twitter - http://twitter.com/glittlepFollow GLP on Instagram - http://instagram.com/bigmikelittlemikeyLike GLP on Facebook - http://facebook.co...

    . It seems well enough put together to get the point.

  25. Having just re-watched all three movies, and liking them much better than I did as a “kung fu head who’d seen everyting” back then, especially the second one, AND having a trans person in the house, I must ask: Are we going to touch upon the “true meaning of the trilogy” according to the Wachowski sisters?

  26. Didn’t I touch upon how much I was gonna touch upon that?

  27. Sure, but this sight seems to have a life of it’s own, and I was wondering if anyone had some insight they wanted to share. But if you don’t want us to go there, I will of course let it lie.

  28. Oh no, sorry, of course, please do! I thought you were talking about the review. Do you have a good quote from them about it?

  29. Pegsman, like Vern, I feel underqualified to discuss the whole trans metaphor aspect of THE MATRIX. But I’ll say this: as a cis male, I’m impressed by how obvious that reading is and how many times I must’ve missed it in early viewings of the movie. Once you know, it’s very easy to see – hell, as subtext, it’s barely under the surface – but it went clear over my dumb head plenty of times. So it’s a metaphor that asks me to question my assumptions, which is what the movie does too. It’s elegantly recursive.

    I wonder if I would’ve been more alert to the whole thing, if Switch had in fact changed gender on entering the Matrix, as was apparently the original intention, but somehow I doubt it.

    But hey, I comfort myself that I didn’t misread it all as justification for some bullshit incel misogyny.

  30. I guess it speaks volumes about the quality of the script that it can be interpreted in so many ways, but I also know how much joy it brings to my trans daughter and her frinds that they know the Wachowskis have their back. I don’t really have a good quote from them about it, but I heard Lilly on BBC saying that the world wasn’t ready in 1999. It is now.

  31. “Take both of them I love speedballs!” That’s what I yelled at the screen during the Morpheus pill reveal during my first watch. I was spectacularly high and out with a few friends and had promised to keep my trap shut (though I was allowed to hoot, holler, laugh and clap, exemptions often regretted by those who negotiated such things).

    I love The Matrix, it’s a stylish, well-paced sci-fi actioner. This was a good year for movies in all sorts of genres, but it was easy to see where this one set itself apart.

    I’m able to enjoy the movie at face value. I’m able to enjoy it as ridiculous meditation on computer overlords. The only real problem is people who think one or the other camp is “wrong” as to how they find entertainment in the flick.

    I won’t annoy everyone coming at all the movie’s shortcomings as a computer dude, I save that show for live audiences lol

    I just wanted to point out some of my favorite things. There’s a great cast that was directed well and delivered awesome performances. There’s always talk of Morpheus and Smith’s cadence, and I always enjoyed that as a way to power act through sunglasses. I don’t think I’d seen Hugo Weaving before but his big bitch session sans glasses versus the way he works his jaw when he’s got them on made me a fan. Always a Fishburne fan and really liked his choices here, as he plays different layers of intensity depending on circumstances. I like the actors behind the other two Agents which help better differentiate Smith. For me that was a foretelling on the level of the wall of screens shown before Neo’s initial questioning that mirror the scene in the sequel with the reveal by the Architect. The fashion was something tough for me to not laugh at (Morpheus with legs crossed in the chairs facing Neo wide shot) but it was cool how they stood in for capes, particularly the whole Superman parallel coming out of the phone booth and flying with coat flapping.

    That’s all I’ve got for now, I’ve altready had to backspace over too many “gotcha” bits that are only favorites in a silly context.

  32. I was such a dope as a teenager that even though I enjoyed The Matrix in the theaters, I went about shitting on it afterwards, in part I’m sure as a backlash to its popularity. I would usually say that although The Matrix was all right (I don’t think I ever claimed it was outright bad), Dark City is sooooooo much better. Dark City holds a special place in my heart, but this isn’t a competition. I have read Morrison’s The Invisibles, and The Matrix isn’t more of a rip off than The Invisibles is a rip off of The Prisoner. All these themes arguably go back to Plato’s allegory of the cave.

    As others have mentioned, the metaphors of the Matrix can be applied across the political perspective, and it’s kind of interesting that Plato’s allegory is so often presented as an example of enlightenment and becoming aware of the world around is, but in context, Plato’s using it to justify his weird, authoritarian view of government. He believes that the philosopher kings who have left the cave now have the right to not just rule over others, but also to further the deception (what he calls the “noble lie.”) At least in the film, Neo dedicates himself to freeing others from the Matrix.

    Anyways, over the years, I’ve rewatched The Matrix a bunch of times, and it has only gotten better in my estimation. It’s such a perfect mix of different influences as well as the unique eye and viewpoint of its creators. The closest parallel is the original Star Wars.

  33. One thing Philip K Dick, Grant Morrison in the Invisibles, and the Matrix have in common is Gnosticism – there’s been loads of discussion of this online but to my knowledge the Wachowskis never acknowledged it directly (but it’d be silly to think they were unaware of it.) Dick and Morrison acknowledged it as a big influence. It was big(ish) among the sort of people who would discuss occultism in the early days of the internet. Not that I would know anything about that.
    Basically, it’s a series of Christian heresies that rose as their religion was cross-pollinated with eastern philosophy (the world is an illusion!). There’s several distinct variants- Manichaeism, Valentinianism, the Albigenensians, some aspects of Sufism and the Hermetic tradition of occultism, among others – stating that the world as we know it is a prison and keeps us away from the ‘real’ reality. Some of them get pretty involved, casting the Christian god as the bad guy keeping us imprisoned, or saying that you accumulate knowledge (gnosis) across multiple lives that will eventually allow you to escape.
    It’s a remarkably beautiful heresy, and if I had to chose a religion, I’d take it in a heartbeat… although it’s hard to shake the impression that at least some of them were charismatic cults that used the excuse that this world’s laws didn’t apply to them to do the usual shit cults do. But then you read about how the Albigenensians had built very egalitarian communes (for medieval standards) up in the mountains, before the crusades came knocking. Fun fact: that’s where ‘Kill them all, god will sort his own’ comes from.
    If you can stand some literary navel-gazing in your reading, John Crowley’s Aegypt series is a beautiful synthesis of several gnostic beliefs in a modern setting (with emphasis on the hermetic side of things).

  34. It is an interesting point about The Matrix not having as much martial arts as we remember. There’s Trinity’s opening fight, the training simulator and the finale but that’s really it. Maybe a few moves within other action sequences.

  35. Just rewatched it, and happy to agree with everyone saying it gets better and better over the years. Just well written, incredibly shot, and (as I noticed this time) really well acted. Like, I remember Weaving being good, but man, he’s just an all-time great villain here (as is Pantoliano, since the movie does such a good job making him sympathetic and the wisecracking comic relief at first). Fishburne is so good here I’ll actually be sad if he really isn’t in the new one (he’s gotta be, right???) I absolutely loved the Oracle scene – Foster is so effortlessly charming delivering exposition I don’t know why the Wachowskis didn’t learn a lesson from that and proceeded to make every exposition scene in the sequels a giant static bore. And I know we’re not supposed to like him because of off-set stuff, but Marcus Chong is really great here. I’m actually kinda wondering what they had in store for the Tank character in the sequels now.

    Serious Question for y’all – when did Trinity fall in love with Neo? Like, I never paid too much attention to the line right before she leaves him in the subway, where she says “everything the Oracle told me has come true…everything but this…” She clearly knew the Oracle told her she’d fall in love with The One, so is she saying, “You certainly seem like The One, but I haven’t quite fallen in love with you yet”? And then when he died she realized that she did love him? Thus fulfilling the prophecy and actually turning this guy who was an above average fighter but was definitely Not The One into The One, and bringing him back to life? I mean I know alot of “hero’s journeys” need them to “die” in order to be reborn as a hero (the new Dune totally plays with this notion the entire movie), but I never really thought of the Terminator-esque “chicken or the egg” timeloop that the Oracle’s prophecy brings up (I think I always just thought “ha they threw in an inverted fairy-tale ending with the princess waking the prince into their scifi/action/martial arts smorgasbord”)

  36. The thing THE MATRIX most brings back for me is that once upon a time, Liberals were allowed to toss out vaguely-defined far-fetched stoner-y conspiracy theories. Man, those were good times. Nowadays we’re stuck begging people to trust the system, in the face of utter social collapse. The mainsteam may be bad, but it turns out that the alternative is even worse, most of the time. We’re desperate for people to believe the corporate media we once disparaged, if only so we could at least agree on basic facts of reality. We learned that just rebelling against the system is not inherently a good thing. Not too many guys in Rage Against The Machine shirts shouting to tear down the system anymore. A movie about a a guy uncovering a sinister conspiracy to hide the truth from the pliable normies is more likely to be made by fringy right-wingers than well-meaning bleeding hearts. Seen in that light, it’s almost no surprise that “red pill” has become a right-wing phrase. We got to have a little nostalgic conspiracy fling with the Russiagate stuff, but it wasn’t really the same, basically just allegations of corruption, not an indictment of the whole system. Nobody was gonna make a thin pastiche about that that suggested the answer was violent revolution. And hell, it put us in the position of defending the CIA and FBI! Weird stuff.

    I’m trying to put my finger on what changed. Maybe it’s evidence that we basically won the culture war and are now The Establishment? Or is there just an increasing sense that collectivist action which can really only be implemented by a functioning government is the only way to address wide-scale systemic problems like Climate Change, and that radical, libertarian calls to break up government just leave us at the mercy of huge corporations? Either way, man, being the responsible party is no fun. Give me the days when dudes passing around a joint and folding a dollar bill up to show the secret illuminati symbolism were just good-natured stoners, not well on their way to becoming violent white supremacists.

  37. Thank you for that post, Subtlety. I have thought about some of these things but I could not have put them all together that well. When I was young I really did think that some celebrity mentioning MK Ultra or some shit gave them extra cool points. Now every time I catch some conspiracy reference in a rap lyric I think “Oh no, they got him.” I’m not sure when I’ll finish my review of the new MATRIX but I’ll be interested to see what you think of it when you see it. It doesn’t address the specific things you brought up but I think it’s really interesting as a follow up to a classic Gen-X rebel movie looking back at and updating those ideas as an older person.

  38. “Charming and delightful” is not something I ever thought I’d say about a Matrix sequel of all things, but yeah, that’s my two word review of Resurrections. Having just suffered through the insufferable morose slog that was the sequels (somewhere out there, Keanu and Anthony Zerbe are still in that basement having stoned thoughts about machines), I’m happy to report I had a giant ear-to-ear grin from almost beginning to end of the new one. My two main surprises was how cheap and shoddy the action was, and also how little that bothered me. It’s an action movie with very little interest in the action sequences which sounds like the exact opposite of the mission statement of these movies, but I was having too much fun to care. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  39. I can’t watch M4TRIX until tomorrow at the earliest, but it’s giving me serious LAST JEDI vibes, where it’s getting all this praise but absolutely nothing anybody likes about it makes the movie sound any better.

    I really don’t want to hate this movie but I got a real bad feeling that I’m gonna hate this movie.

  40. The worst thing I can say about Resurrections is that it feels like an audition to direct a Marvel movie. Lots of smart-alecky, Whedonesque dialogue. Lots of ‘hilarious’ bathos undercutting serious moments. Lots of fanservice to go with that bathos. Lots of perfunctory, cheaply shot ‘fighting’ that you’re not even sure counts as an action sequence. Lots of nonsensical attempts to score woke points. And a guy being imprisoned in a really high place *with a balcony* in a setting where everyone has a hovercraft. Like, shit, you’re not even gonna put a padlock on? Why don’t you just make him pinky promise not to leave?

    Basically, if you thought the part of Die Hard 2 where John McClane asked “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” should’ve been forty-five minutes long, this is the movie for you.

  41. My initial thoughts on RESURRECTIONS (NO SPOILERS)

    Looks like Nostalgia is in Season. Barely has Spider Man: No Way Home made it’s way to theatres, banking on a slice of Nostalgia Whimsy to woo it’s audience than we get The Matrix Resurrections, that practically demands it as a requirement.

    It’s one thing for the MCU to make a largely 2 hour Fan Service Ode, as they’re pretty much powered by a dedicated base that’s completely invested in their decade plus narrative, quite another for Lana Wachowski to make a “Strictly For Fans Only” installment off a series that ended 18 years ago with the now widely accepted opinion that it contained one amazing, ground-breaking film followed by a bloated sequel that was a mixed bag and finished off with a disappointing trilogy capper. Which is one of the reasons why I like and admire the Wachowskis. They rarely play it safe.

    Oh…and I liked RESURRECTIONS by the way, but am fully prepared for this to not be the popular opinion.

  42. It was not what I expected. For that reason alone I think I really dug it. Still processing it. Will give my thoughts on the eventual review thread. One thing that completely got a big laugh out of me was Chad Stahelski playing a guy named…Chad. Too bad he wasn’t consulted on the action though. Then again the lackluster action is probably another way of Wachowski trolling everybody. Seriously it felt like SHITPOST: THE MOVIE. Take that as you will. Blue Hair girl is gonna get a lot more roles after this btw. She was pretty good.

  43. Is it safe to say THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS is the GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH of sci-fi action sequels? all we needed was a wrestler cameo.

  44. It would’ve been way more fun if they went full Mel Brooks with the meta and started having, like, Agents capturing Will Smith because they mistook him for Neo (“Man, I wish, I did Wild Wild West instead!”), but as is, the meta just feels like a sixth-grader in a snit about doing a homework assignment and putting in a bunch of jabs at the teacher.

    But then, I feel like the Wachowski have put out too many legitimately bad movies for the “they’re making a lousy movie on purpose!” hot take to pan out. Sometimes shit just isn’t Shinola.

  45. RESURRECTIONS manages to be BOTH GREMLINS and GREMLINS 2 which is no mean feat. I would not quibble with a wrestler cameo but equally would have had no objections if the film reel had burned off mid-way and spliced with an Euro Soft Porn of naked women’s volleyball.

    I too got a big chuckle out of the Chad Stahelski cameo. In a movie that frequently goes all meta, here’s a director making an appearance in the 4th installment of a successful Keanu Reeves franchise…while he’s shooting the 4th installment of a successful Keanu Reeves franchise.

    And Blue Haired Gal had already impressed me way back, being one of the only bright sparks in the otherwise disappointing IRON FIST Tv Show.

  46. I gotta go into Respectfully Disagreeing Mode when I see a comment like the Wachowskis putting out “legitimately bad” movies.

    Their reach usually exceeds their grasp, but I admire their ambition. Provided blockbuster money along with most likely a dozen studio notes to give “another Matrix”, they’ve been like” Nah, done that” and marched to the beat of some crazy rhythm only they can hear and put out stuff that has confounded expectations frequently.

    SPEED RACER’s crime was apparently being a frothy kiddy movie, adapted from a frothy kiddie cartoon. It’s only grown in my esteem over the years and I laud the Wachowskis’ restraint in refusing to take material aimed at children and Dark Knight-ing the shit out of it.

    CLOUD ATLAS, based off of a David Mitchell novel I love and thought un-filmable at the point of reading it, touched on themes of reincarnation, karmic cycles and how we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes of class and power struggles while traversing 6 different genres, in an independent film that had a tentpole budget which the Wachowskis had to partially self-finance when WB bailed. And every snooty critic couldn’t look past “I can’t believe they Yellow Faced White Actors”, conveniently forgetting Black Actors got yellow faced and Asian Actors got White Faced. On hind sight, having actors essay multiple roles via sub-par prosthetics and make-up to depict generational inter-connectivity was maybe not the way to go, but I doubt if 2 White Siblings who populated a wildly successful action trilogy with a mostly non-white cast had anything but the best of intentions. Although to be fair, let me also give co-director Tom Tykwer (another film-maker I greatly admire) his due.

    Which leaves JUPITER ASCENDING as the sole Wachowski misfire. But I haven’t watched that in years.

    Maybe I should.

  47. “Lots of nonsensical attempts to score woke points.”

    Whaaaaaat!? The movie series in which the heroes literally wake people up to fight the systematic oppression around them, with a cast that has more POC than white people and was conceived by two transgender siblings is suddenly woke!? Damn, liberal Hollyweird really knows no shame when it comes to forcing political correctness down our throats these days…

  48. I’ve heard the Ambitious Misfire vs. Played-Safe Success debate a lot, and it’s one of those cases where the answer is between the two extremes, since I’m sure we could name plenty of both that we like or dislike for whatever reason.

    The thing is, with Matrix 4–I really can’t see any ambition on Wachowski’s part. It’s a very paycheck movie, just with a lot of grousing over reboots and sequelitis thrown in. I don’t consider “man, it sure would be dumb to make a fourth Matrix movie” to be a good enough theme to make a fourth Matrix movie exploring that. And me personally, I can’t look at Resurrections’ uninspired visuals, bland characters, and dull action, and think “They really worked their asses off on this.”

    I don’t think there’s a single moment that outperforms anything the John Wick movies have done.

  49. I’m glad I saw it, but my interest dropped quite a bit after the first act. I agree with Kaplan that it would have been better if it had gone full meta, or at least stuck with lightly humorous drama. For me it doesn’t live up to the films it’s being compared to; it’s more SCREAM 4 than NEW NIGHTMARE, and if GREMLINS 2 is like a classic Warner Bros cartoon, this is more like a Nicktoon. It’s also not as much fun as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. Of course, a lot of people weren’t mad keen on any of those films when they came out, and it’s entirely possible I’m on the wrong side of history here, but I’m OK with that.

  50. Holden, I’m talking stuff like Neo not using guns (yes, this was meant to be a statement) and the super-logical AI from the future going on about how human women are inferior and calling Trinity a bitch. (The inhuman AIs suddenly all making wisecracks, gloating, bantering, et al is stupid all around, but that’s particularly egregious.) What happened to them thinking of us as cattle? Could you imagine being prejudiced against one specific kind of cow? Could you imagine if in the first movie, they had Smith say that he hates Morpheus because he’s black? It just strikes me as so lazy, that they’re not even bothering with trying to organically work this into the movie’s subtext–it’s just “Here’s the bad guy, and he does bad stuff, because he’s bad.” So half-assed compared to how clever and well-executed Smith’s hatred of humans was way back when.

  51. I will point out that in Matrix Revolutions, when Smith in the human body attacks Trinity he says “I should’ve known he’d send his bitch first.” (I only know this cause I re-watched it last night and that line stood out to me as not seeming to be in character…)

  52. I won’t argue for the Matrix sequels, except to say maybe the idea is that Smith hates Neo so much he’ll say anything to get a rise out of him? He has shown a sadistic sense of humor on other occasions. But in Resurrections, a lot of the AIs’ ‘human qualities’ were just over the top to me.

  53. I myself did appreciate it that AI not just programs but actual machines were far more human after Neo’s revolution than they had ever been. It was a neat touch from a world building standpoint. Also gave the movie the much needed cyberpunk feel that is characteristic to a Matrix movie.

  54. Eh. I didn’t hate it. It’s definitely more interesting than good. Like, everything positive about it is purely metatextual: what it says about its source material, its audience, its makers, itself. None of the actual text itself stands out. The style is basic as fuck, the action is alarmingly perfunctory both in conception and execution, the dramatic stakes are vague and consequently the plot is only involving in a mechanical, puzzlebox kind of way, and the new characters/new versions of old characters range from adequate (blue-haired girl) to fun but off (NPH) to confusing and pointless (the hollow, glib new Morpheus) to flat-out embarrassing (the new Smith is so bad that Hugo Weaving should get a retroactive Oscar as an apology). It’s full of neat little doodles in the margins to keep your interest but none of it particularly resonates. As always, the real-world scenes are a total drag, but the surprise is how much less distinct and immersive the Matrix itself is this time. It doesn’t feel alien or surreal or off or any of the qualities that made it so fascinating in the original. It now has the standard digital sheen of a generously budgeted streaming show or allergy medication commercial. Maybe that’s the point, but do you see what I mean when I say that this may be an interesting choice metatextually, but from a practical standpoint it just means the filmmaking is less dynamic and thus the story is less impactful? I get that the new Lana is loose and improvisational and not tightly controlled like the old Lana, which, you know, good for her on a personal level, but it’s made her directing about a thousand times less interesting in just about every way. The fact that so many shots in here are simply sloppy do-overs of shots from the original only brings the new ones’ inadequacy into sharper relief. Even if it’s intended to be a statement on half-added retreads, it is still, functionally, a half-assed retread. It has stared too long into the abyss and become the monster it sought to battle.

    It’s kind of cool that the only aspect that feels like an actual story worth getting invested in is the romance, which I think we all agree was one of the least successful aspects of the original trilogy. Neo and Trinity’s longing for each other is so much more palpable than their supposed deep passion and devotion in the original trilogy. Which, sadly, shows how little the film has to offer in terms of thrills when the most involving scene is just two old friends having coffee.

    It kept me entertained for the duration but all in all it never made a compelling case for its own existence. If that was the point, well, I probably could have told them that before they went to all this trouble.

  55. A perfect example of what I’m talking about is the end credits song. Thematically, it is the perfect choice: a feminized remake of the original’s extremely male closing anthem. Nailed it. But as a piece of work, there’s no getting around the fact it’s just a much worse song than the original. The whole movie is like that. It makes choices that are interesting to analyze in relation to the original films while being objectively worse choices in every way. It functions mostly as a conversation starter, not as work of art in itself.

    In other words, it’s the perfect Twitter movie.

  56. Interesting you say it’s the perfect twitter movie Mr. M when the main villain is the literal personification of twitter itself. Using people’s emotions to trigger them into being impulsive and making poor decisions.

  57. The villain being a SPOILER SPOILER TRYING TO BE COURTEOUS AND NOT GIVE AWAY DETAILS TO PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN WATCHING THIS BUT HAVEN’T HAD THE CHANCE YET EVEN IF I THINK THEY’RE GOING TO BE DISAPPOINTED I WOULD HATE TO BE SO OBNOXIOUS AS TO PREEMPTIVELY RUIN THEIR SUBJECTIVE ENJOYMENT OF THE MOVIE OUT OF CERTAINTY OF MY OWN DISSATISFACTION WITH IT evil psychologist, like, right out of a Scientology handbook was another… Choice. I don’t want to be so politically correct as to say that movies can’t depict evil psychologists or evil, randomly sexist robots posing as psychologists, but for a movie that takes such pride in being intellectual and having all its little plot points Mean Something…… yeah. Yeah. And the glorification of Neo committing suicide or trying to commit suicide… very Ummmm.

    Not saying there can’t be depictions of this stuff, but this felt like a depiction that was a long way off from the right way of doing it.

    And while it’s damning the movie with faint praise to say they made the right choice in not taking a time-out to criticize certain other parties who like to talk about red pills–the Analyst going on about humanity caring more about feelings than facts. Yet another Choice. I guess the idea was that he was proven wrong because feelings gave Neo and Trinity literal supernatural powers? In the doubly fictional world of the Matrix’s Matrix? Or that Love feelings are more powerful than Hate feelings, as has been symbolized on countless movie knuckles? I guess, like with The Bad Place, Hollywood can only get so metaphysical before defaulting to Love Conquers All.

    Ironic, considering the divorce rate of your average celebrity…

    I mean, I don’t want to get into the binary of every movie being the worst thing ever or the best thing ever and get triggered by something that’s just another shoddy, harmless reboot–but man, they’re positively *gloating* about what a shoddy, harmless reboot this thing is! It’s like the paintball episode from the gas leak season of Community. “Jeff, we made paintball cool again!” No, my dude. No, you didn’t.

  58. For a movie that now in retrospect nailed the coffin for 1980s action films, its poetic this was produced by ole Joel Silver who of course made his legacy in classics from that era. He’s got a bad rep (before his death, Richard Donner in an interview basically referred to him as a “He who shall not be named” ex-partner pretty much) but regardless one has to respect Silver for seemingly able to take this pitch and roll with it.

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