Matrix, The

Reviewed By PyThomas
Posted 01/21/03 14:59:38

"Taking filmmaking to the next level... just in time for the 21st Century."
5 stars (Awesome)

Keanu Reeves should thank his lucky stars that he stumbled upon this role. No longer will his greatest contribution to cinema be "Ted"... but an environment-warping freedom fighter named Neo.

It is 1999... or so we think. Neo (the screen name for Thomas Anderson) is an office drone by day and a drug hustler by night. A cryptic message from a computer chatroom leads him to a nightclub - and a mysterious woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). She has a message for Neo: one of his respected cyberspace peers, a man named Morpheus, wants to meet him for some important business. Before Neo has a chance, though, he is accosted by some strange secret-agency-type men at his workplace and has some kind of electronic "bug" inserted into his body. This starts making him wonder what the hell he's gotten himself into.

The situation grows even more strange when Neo has the "bug" extracted and finally meets Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who tells him that his world is not really what it seems. Which brings us to the famous scene of "Blue Pill or Red Pill?" when Neo is presented with the option of forgetting any of this ever happened, or continuing his journey into a new reality. Once he does - and he wakes up in a bizarre H.R. Giger-esque world - that reality comes into full focus, and his life and his world is turned totally inside-out.

All of a sudden the world is revealed to be somewhere in the mid-2200's... and humanity has wasted the Earth with wars and environmental neglect. The invention of artificial intelligence eventually spawned a world dominated by machines, where humans are used as living batteries to keep these machines powered. Everyone is kept in a comatose "dream state" thinking they're living back in the world of a couple hundred years ago, when they're really interacting in a superrealistic cyberworld called "The Matrix". Those who escaped the mechanoids' grasp settled in a super-secret underground city called Zion. A group of Matrix "hackers", led by Morpheus, cruise around the endless array of pods in a ship called the Nebuchadnezzar, searching for a person who is supposedly the reincarnation of the man who first broke away from the Matrix and founded Zion, in the hopes that humanity might someday rise up and destroy the machines. And Morpheus has long suspected that Neo might be "the one".

Still with me so far? I know it's real confusing; this is one of those movies that throws so much at you, it takes two or three viewings to really comprehend it all.

Well, once Neo regains his sanity, he is schooled in the ways of the Matrix, how to bend the laws of physics set by the mainframe. As a former pod person, he is able to learn things like kung fu or flying a helicopter in a matter of seconds, by downloading this knowledge into his brain through the metal "port" in the back of his neck. Also he is informed about the "enforcers" inside the Matrix (those secret-agency-type men he ran into at the beginning of the film), how they can leap from body to body, tracking down and eliminating any intruders intent on upsetting the virtual order that they've maintained. And once you're dead in the Matrix, you're dead in real life, pod person or not.

With all this in mind, Neo is transmitted back into the Matrix and sent to see a mysterious oracle, who may be able to identify whether or not he is really "the one". Meanwhile, the entire mission of the hacker rebels may be in danger, as one of them may be plotting to turn against the team and sabotage all their efforts. It's a very complicated plot, which can be hard to follow at times, and plots like this are usually prone to continuity problems. But Andy & Larry Wachowski did their homework and produced a story with very few plotholes.

And the visual effects - phenomenal. Much is used of the "3-D freeze frame" effect, spoons bend, streets turn to cushions, and buildings ripple like ocean waves. The Oscars for these effects were more than deserved. All actors involved do a pretty good job with their performances, though some characters do veer toward the emotionless. Fortunately, overall, the acting doesn't take a backseat to the visuals, something it could very easily have done.

The only fault that could really be found with "The Matrix" is that its sequels have so much to live up to. What awesome magic the Wachowski brothers whipped up in this first film, they're gonna have to double and triple it in parts two and three in order to avoid possibly disappointing their audience. Well, they made their pod, they'll have to lie in it.

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