Another Review


The Matrix
Warner Bros. 1999
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano
Written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski


Spoiler Space provided by Death by Star Creature

Since I've got space to take up anyway, I'll explain. There's spoiler space because there are things said in this review which you really shouldn't learn any way other than watching the movie (unless, of course, you never plan to watch it).

But that wasn't what I was going to explain. You see, I used to say that some pieces of writing were "Courtesy of Death by Star Creature." And some people were very confused about this. I suppose it's my own fault; the phrase is not a real company name but the remnants of an inside joke which probably only I understand anymore. It's not real, people; it's just a stupid thing that I made up for some silly credits on a story I'd collaborated with a friend on. I came up with every credit I could think of, from writing to "Getting it Read" to "Death Scene"... which read "Death by Star Creature". There you have it. Now, on with the review.


The Matrix
Warner Bros. 1999
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano
Written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski

There is admittedly quite a lot of The Matrix which is somewhat clichéd. A man wakes up one day, so to speak, to find that he is the one hope left for freeing the human race from the machines that have enslaved it. He trains, he and his fellow freedom fighters are betrayed and their leader captured, they rescue the leader, and finally he comes completely into his power. And along the way he falls in love, or at least a woman falls in love with him, which fact winds up bringing him back after he dies. So what's so great about this movie?

The answer lies in the Wachowski brothers' writing. They've taken the old, tired themes and thrown in a new twist, or a new angle. So love conquers all. So let's not be too obvious about the romance factor; perhaps it will be almost--almost--as much a surprise to the audience as to Neo (Keanu Reeves). So he's The One. So let's make him a part of a team, special only in the ability to change the Matrix at will. And let's limit him until the end of the movie; he has to work to overcome the odds. And let's make this completely different from that other reality-twister, Dark City. Let's not have an alien invasion or anything--let's make it the human race's own fault that it's imprisoned.

The other thing about the movie that draws people in is, obviously, the action. Aided here and there with support wires, the martial arts mainly relies on the actors themselves to carry it through. And they did--to the point that stuntmen were reluctant to work with Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity) because she could not learn the Hollywood trick of coming close enough to hitting them to make it look real without actually hurting them. Interspersed with plenty of gunfire, chases, and well-placed special effects, it helps pull the movie along at a quick pace.

Unfortunately, as enthralling as The Matrix is, it is not perfect. Some find it too confusing in the first half-hour or so. I tend to reply that the audience should be confused; after all, they are seeing this all through Neo's eyes, and he certainly has reason to be confused. Most of the characters, with a few notable exceptions, are not very well-rounded; they are the perfect image of the Bad Guy or the Betrayer or the Hero. On the other hand, the acting mostly makes up for this, the exception to that being that Reeves' portrayal of Neo sometimes comes off a little flat, not quite right. He begins as a tired, overworked hacker whose manner of speaking is a bit too reminiscent of Ted (of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, a role which Reeves would undoubtedly prefer be forgotten)--a bad beginning. By the end of the movie, though, Neo actually does more or less feel like a human being, rather than a cardboard cutout. One of the few other problems lies in the subtlety of some parts of the movie, the most glaring one being the romantic sub-plot. On the first time through, some of these things pass over the viewer's head--either they were too busy figuring out what was happening to get it, or they were not yet able to understand the significance of a particular line. These things that are missed are not generally crucial to the plot of the movie; however, on the second time through, they do make for a richer, fuller story.

All in all, The Matrix is a love-it-or-hate-it movie. And I love it. If any one of a number of details had been changed, it would have been as disappointing as Dark City--but as it stands, it succeeds in making us ask the questions that Dark City tried to pose about reality and our existence. It's worth seeing twice to get everything. Kudos to the Wachowski brothers for this one.

(4 stars; A- for plot/A for action/A+ for theme)

Visit the movie's official site,
Back to my Page, or
E-mail me with comments.