On The Matrix

The Matrix was most certainly a film built on depth combined with cinematographic imagery to create an innovative piece. I enjoy strong elements of symbolism whenever possible. I had a crush on Keanu Reeves because of this film. According to the BFI‘s Sight & Sound review:

The Wachowski Brothers wrote and sold the script for The Matrix before they made their first film, the mesmerising crime thriller Bound. They have since reported that between comic-book conception (a spin-off from their work at Marvel on the Hellraiser stories) and production go-ahead, “the script that nobody understands” underwent considerable fine-tuning, thanks to studio insistence on explanatory dialogue. Even so, for a breathlessly vertiginous first quarter The Matrix scorns offering any rationale behind its attention-grabbing assaults and chases, leaving only its peevish spokesperson to mutter legitimate protests on our behalf (“This is insane! Why is it happening to me? What did I do?”) until reasonably concluding he must be half-asleep. At which point, naturally, he falls into the grasp of Morpheus.

The Wachowskis are good at names, as they demonstrated with the title and main trio of Bound: Corky (buoyant), Violet (clinging) and Caesar (dictatorial). Conjuring up a flock of evocations – Cypher, Tank, Switch, Apoc, Mouse – for The Matrix, they invest the film’s gradually uncovered crusade with a rich blend of messianic implications blatantly signalled by warrior priestess Trinity. Her unifying presence links – and exchanges – the powers of Morpheus the dream-master with those of the long-sought saviour Neo (note the anagram) who is at once the New Man (as in, by useful coincidence, Neo-Tokyo, subsumed by Akira) and the neophyte disciple.

More squarely, the film is an ironic rereading of Logan’s Run (1976), with a nod to Soylent Green (1973) and more than a dash of Zardoz (1973). The Wachowskis unveil a seedy utopia where mankind is preserved, protected and endlessly recycled by its own mega-computer. The alternative to this artificial stasis is, as usual, well beyond the wit of mortal proles. Necessarily, The Matrix ends much where it started, its newborn visionary poised – like Logan or 2001‘s Starchild or THX 1138‘s hero or even like Luke Skywalker (prime exponent of the “Why me?” syndrome) – on the brink of literally unimaginable new benefits. Away from the meddlesome tyranny of the machine, the superhero will be in charge. There’s always One.

The prospect is less than reassuring and the Wachowskis don’t hide their misgivings. Played by Keanu Reeves with a certain gloomy helplessness, Neo gives a good impression of being incapable of original thought (he is, after all, as programmed as any Matrix slave) and little sign of inspiring social reform. But two voices speak loudly and persuasively on behalf of the Matrix: the traitorous terrorist Cypher celebrates it for colourful comforts unmatched by the drab post-apocalyptic real world; and the fearsome man-in-black humanoid Agent Smith (not quite Winston Smith, but the Wachowskis, recognising an affinity, have mischievously appended a Room 101) spells out its evolutionary task by dismissing humans as “a plague – and we are the cure”. The same dispassionate logic was prologue to The Terminator and more recently at the core of Virus.

But if the Wachowskis claim no originality of message, they are startling innovators of method. As with Bound, the film is a feast of unexpected fidgets and perspectives, punctuated by trademark overhead shots and teasing detail and detour, such as the squeal of washed windows as Neo is reprimanded by his boss, or the White Rabbit subtext culminating in a glimpse of Night of the Lepus (1972) on a television. Just as in Bound, telephones play a vital role, while the fetishistic use of shades and black leather tells yet another story, encompassing Smith’s chipped lens and Neo’s triumphal final outfit. Primarily, The Matrix is a wonderland of tricks and stunts, light years from Kansas, combining computerised slow-motion with the extravagant choreography of martial-arts movies to create a broadside of astonishing images. As Neo turns cartwheels, blazing away behind wildly exploding decor, it seems clear that the Wachowskis have discovered a gleeful utopia of their own.

Also, TheFlickFloggers created an analysis of the film worth watching:

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2 thoughts on “On The Matrix

  1. Pingback: On The Matrix Reloaded | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: On The Matrix Revolutions | The Progressive Democrat

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