Twenty-one years ago (March 31st, 1999), Warner Brothers released a science fiction film that transcended the use of special effects and action sequences, making it one of the most influential films of all time. The Matrix was a philosophical understanding of how humans live in a world that is not “real”, manipulated by machines which use them as an energy source. Those that have been freed from this illusion are in a constant warfare with the machines and programs within the Matrix, and many believe “the One” is prophesized to free all humanity and finally end the war.
This masterpiece of a film alludes to several religions and thoughts on spirituality such as how there is a higher god that exists. Or how the world we live in is not the ultimate reality. Or even how humanity has one massive problem and solution, which are respectively ignorance and enlightenment. These speak to those respective cultures who practice these beliefs and they are drawn in further to the film’s ideology when presented through violence and spectacular action. If this feature spent way too much time explaining its thinking, it would have become an over bogged mess and exported possible determent from attaining a clear focus.
Furthermore, this film is a visual treat to watch. No matter how many times we re-watch Neo (Keanu Reeves) dodge the bullets from an Agent, it’s a scene that catapults this film from being something memorable to a feature that will continue to inspire others for the future of film-making. So many shots and bullet time effects were used to create an iconic sequence. It would go on to be utilized for games and parodied for some films such as Scary Movie and Shrek. The action sequences would serve as inspiration for Charlie’s Angels (2000), X-Men (2000) and more.
The film also strikes with the performances of Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving. Whether it is from Fishburne delivering memorable quotes or Weaving bringing an engagingly odd performance, these actors are the glue that hold the film together. Understanding their characters & philosophies is coupled by kick-ass action and breathtaking moments. Add in the music and direction by the Wachowskis, and they built a franchise we’ll still be talking for decades to come.
However, we have to address the elephant in the room though. The sequels sucked in comparison to the first Matrix film, and there’s no real argument to dispute that. The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions were shot back to back and both released in 2003, four years after the first one. While they retained their special effects and beautiful choreography in action scenes, they fell heavily in storyline routes and pacing. It came to a point where the audience was more eloped with the action and pushed aside any type of story, and that did not bode well for the franchise.
The Matrix franchise is one we all talk about similarly to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and more. It just unfortunately falls in the same boat as the Terminator franchise. One or two phenomenal films, and then a catastrophic overthinking of sequels that makes one wonder why they were even considered. Now that a Matrix 4 is in the works with Reeves and Moss returning, this writer is both joyous at the thought and somewhat fearful for its performance. Let us hope that can properly wrap up the franchise on an admirable note.
For now, we should relish in what The Matrix has accomplished ever since its release in 1999. It signified the dawning of sci-fi films, and transformed incredible effects and action pieces. It will be remembered for what complex ideas it incorporated and presenting them in an appetizing fashion to audiences around the world. One of the greatest films of all time, this is a must see to anyone who enjoys action and thought-provoking principles.