Talking Movies [Sci-Fi Sunday]: The Matrix Resurrections

January sees the celebration of two notable dates in science-fiction history, with January 2 christened “National Science Fiction Day” to coincide with the birth date of the world renowned sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov, and HAL 9000, the sophisticated artificial intelligence of Arthur C. Clarke’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), being created on 12 January. Accordingly, I have decided to spend every Sunday of January celebrating sci-fi in all its forms.

Talking Movies

Released: 22 December 2021
Director: Lana Wachowski
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: $190 million
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jonathan Groff, and Neil Patrick Harris

The Plot:
Twenty years after the events of The Matrix Revolutions (Wachowski Brothers, 2003) Neo (Reeves) lives a seemingly ordinary life as Thomas A. Anderson in San Francisco where his therapist prescribes him blue pills. However, when Morpheus (Abdul-Mateen II) offers him a red pill, Neo finds his mind reopened to the world of the Matrix.

The Background:
Andy and Larry Wachowski (as they were known then) hit upon their greatest and most notable success when they were able to sell Warner Brothers on The Matrix, a science-fiction film that was heavily influenced by manga and anime and made an instant and lasting impression on cinema by popularising “bullet time” and “wire-fu”. Produced for a paltry $63 million, The Matrix was a massive hit that is spawned not only two sequels but a whole slew of multimedia merchandise. However, neither of the sequels garnered quite the same critical reaction as the quasi-cult hit original; while the directors were content to allow the story to be continued, and ended, in The Matrix Online (Monolith Productions, 2005 to 2009), rumours continued to persist that a fourth film was being considered, with stars Reeves and Hugo Weaving both expressing interest in revisiting the franchise. Development of a continuation finally gained traction in 2017, when writer Zack Penn was confirmed to be working on a fourth instalment of some kind; although Lily Wachowski chose not to commit to such a large scale production, she gave her blessing and her sister, Lana, officially returned to direct the fourth film alongside returning stars Reeves and Cary-Anne Moss. Framed as a direct continuation of where the third film left off, fans were left confused when the first trailer dropped and Lawrence Fishburne announced that he was the only member of the original cast not asked to return. The movie also attracted undue criticism when filming damaged buildings and street lights in San Francisco, and was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but The Matrix Resurrections finally released and accrued a disappointing $15738 million at the box office. It was also met with largely mixed reviews; critics praised the film’s sentimental value and the return of its familiar characters while also criticising it as a redundant revisitation suffering from muddled execution.

The Review:
If you’ve read my review of the original film, you’ll know that The Matrix is one of my all-time favourite films and franchises; I was obsessed with the first film when it came out and watched it religiously on sleepovers with friends. The film was ground-breaking and endlessly alluring at the time and, while some elements haven’t aged too well, it remains a firm favourite of mine. I even really enjoy the blending of philosophy and high-octane action featured in the second film and, though I was disappointed by the third, I felt like the trilogy had been wrapped up decently enough and was somewhat annoyed to find that the franchise was going to be dusted off some twenty years later (twenty years! Man, do I feel old!) as I felt like the story had been told and it seemed like a cheap cash grab to me. But…it’s the Matrix, and I do love me some Keanu Reeves, so I was obligated to check it out if only to satisfy my own morbid curiosity and having been intrigued by the vague trailers and marketing.

Thing are not all they seem for Thomas Anderson, whose perception of reality is skewed by fragmented memories.

It’s a good job that I am such a fan of Keanu’s and the Matrix franchise as those elements ended up being some of the best parts of The Matrix Resurrections. Framed as a kind of re-quel, which treads over familiar ground (and even splices in footage of the original trilogy as flashbacks and dream sequences) while advanced the story twenty years after the last film. Despite apparently sacrificing his life to bring about peace between the machines and the humans of Zion, the man once known as Neo is alive and well in a new version of the Matrix, one without the green tint and grungy filter. Back in his original identity of Thomas A. Anderson, he is a successful videogame designer who found fame and fortune by creating an incredibly successful trilogy of (presumably virtual reality) videogames based on his disparate memories of the first three films. However, just as Anderson’s dreams and fragmented memories have created a virtual world for millions of players, so too have them plagued his sense of reality, and even drove him to try and leap off a rooftop in order to “fly away”. Following this apparent suicide attempt, his business partner, Smith (Groff), requests that he attend regular therapy sessions with the ominously named Analyst (Harris) and, thanks to a constant prescription of blue pills, Anderson is able to keep himself from suffering a psychotic break.

Anderson is captivated by Tiffany, whose visage stirs up memories of Trinity and he borrowed for his videogame.

Despite being deep into the production of a new videogame, Binary, for is company, Deus Ex Machina, Anderson is disturbed by Smith’s insistence that they work on a new Matrix videogame, leading to a montage sequence wherein Smith, Anderson, and his fellow programmers and stuff wax lyrical with some metatextual, on the nose commentary about big corporations mining familiar franchises just to make more money off previous successes. Sadly, this kind of fourth-wall-breaking discussion permeates a great deal of The Matrix Resurrections, with even Anderson himself being saddened to be taking a creative step backwards rather than trying something new and innovative. His only reprieve is his infatuation with Tiffany (Moss), a beautiful woman he sees on a consistent basis in a coffee house and who reminds him of Trinity, a woman from his dreams and whom he programmed into his videogame. When not struggling to strike up a conversation with her, or debating his sanity, or working on Binary, Anderson is running a singular module of The Matrix that recreates the iconic opening of the original film, but with a few alterations to mix things up, but for the most part is fairly convinced that he’s just a videogame designer with mental issues and a skewed sense of identity.

Allies old, new, and fundamentally changed work to bring Neo back to the real world.

All of that changes when he is suddenly met by a new incarnation of Morpheus, one seemingly pulled from his videogame world, who offers him a familiar choice: stay in his reality, or return to the real world. If you were wondering whether Lawrence Fishburne makes an appearance in this film, or his perhaps adopting a new avatar, you’ll be disappointed to find that Morpheus is long dead and only appears in archival footage; instead, where get this new version of Morpheus, one apparently spliced with elements of Neo’s old nemesis, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), to act as an agent within that loop. A far more mischievous version of the character, this new Morpheus is actually a sentient program, of sorts, who is able to communicate with and assist the heroes in the real world thanks to an advanced kind of nanotechnology, but he’s far from the wise mentor figure of his predecessor. Instead, he ‘s more like a necessary component to help convince Anderson to leave the Matrix and reclaim his identity as Neo, something he is largely reluctant to do thanks to the Analyst’s influence on his perception of the world. Still, Neo’s curiosity and familiarity with the words and images presented to him by Morpheus override his hesitation, and he’s soon joining Captain Bugs (Henwick) and the rest of her crew aboard the Mnemosyne hovercraft, sixty years after sacrificing himself to save Zion. Neo is disorientated and melancholy to find that his sacrifice didn’t appear to change much about the world, but Bugs takes him to the new Zion, Io, and reunites him with an elderly, cynical Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and learns that a peace does exist between man and machine. Shortly after the end of the war, the Matrix was purged of all former anomalies and blue-tinted machines helped the remnants of humanity to build a new haven and worked with them to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, while staving off attacks from the red-tinted, squid-like Sentinels that refused to abide by the peace treaty. The original Morpheus refused to believe that Neo’s sacrifice would fail, which led to Zion’s destruction, and a contingent of people have grown up idolising and even deifying Neo and Trinity for their actions, but Niobe’s primary concern is keeping her people safe, which leads to her reluctantly locking Neo up and pushing Bugs to defy her commander’s direct order and help spring Neo so that he can lead a desperate reinsertion into the Matrix to try and rescue Trinity.

The Nitty-Gritty:
If you’re a fan of the original film but haven’t really seen it in a while, then The Matrix Resurrections really has you covered, for the most part. It opens almost exactly like the original film, and the majority of its call-backs and references are to the ground-breaking original while repurposing some of the stronger elements of the sequels in new ways. One thing that is sadly largely absent from the film, however, is the kung-fu (or “wire-fu”, to be more accurate) fight scenes that so heavily influenced action cinema right up to present day. The first half of the film is a slow, introspective reintroduction to the world of the Matrix, one both familiar and disconcertingly different, as we follow Neo and try to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. Thanks to his fragmented memories and a skewed avatar, his sense of reality is more shot than ever, but he starts to piece his identity back together once he reawakens in the real world and is put through his paces by Morpheus. However, this isn’t really the all-powerful, full capable Neo we knew and loved; instead, he’s plagued by self-doubt and has no interest in fighting any more, especially after giving everything he had seemingly for nothing. While the world is noticeably better than the one he remembers, humanity is still somewhat divided; less and less people have been freed from the Matrix thanks to Niobe’s focus on keeping those who are free safe and the system of control he fought so hard against has simply been repurposed by a contingent of malevolent machines.

The new Smith offers little in the way of challenge for Neo, or interest to me as a viewer.

After his sacrifice, Neo’s body was taken away by the Analyst, who is revealed to basically have replaced the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) and is behind the stability of the Matrix’s new iteration and the resurrection of Neo and Trinity. Initially looking to study them, he patched them back together using a combination of the cloning technology used to grow humans and additional mechanic parts, only to find that their incredible bond threatened the very Matrix itself. However, when kept safely apart, their very presence in the Matrix vastly improved the energy output and acceptance of those plugged in, thus largely negating the peace Neo so desperately fought for. With Neo unplugged, the machines are on the brink and a new reboot of the system, something which Smith is adamant to prevent as it would mean he would once again be absorbed into the Matrix code. However, this is not my Smith; I’m sure Jonathan Groff is a great actor, and he’s clearly doing his best to channel Hugo Weaving at points, but he’s a faint shadow of Waving/Smith’s former greatness and I actually question including him at all. Had the filmmakers brought Weaving back and had Smith, like Neo, also suffer from fragmented memories and a new life, then maybe his inclusion would have been worthwhile but, instead, Smith feels very tacked on and largely inconsequential. There’s a moment where it seems like he and Neo would join forces this time around (and that does crop up again in the finale, with very little explanation), but it quickly gives way to a bust-up between the two that is one of the few highlights of the film, recalls their subway fight from the first film, and is spoiled only by the inexplicable and completely pointless insertion of the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and his exiles.

While there are some good moments, it’s mostly an unnecessary retread of things done better in the previous films.

A great deal of the film’s emphasis is, instead, on reuniting Neo with Trinity; while their romance was severely lacking in chemistry in the original trilogy, save for a few choice moments, they seem much more comfortable at ease with each other here, arguably because of the Analyst’s efforts to bestow them with new lives and personalities. While still a troubled and largely stoic reluctant saviour, Neo has a few more moments of levity here than in the original films, where he rarely showed much emotion at all, but is still as blinded by his love for Trinity as ever as he risks the fragile peace between Io and the machines by leading a risk attempt to convince her to return to him and the real world. This involves Bugs and Morpheus infiltrating the machine city, where Trinity’s body is held, with the help of their machine allies and Neo bartering with the Analyst with everyone’s future on the line. This proves to be a risky proposition as Neo’s God-like powers are both neutered and noticeably different this time around; although he still knows kung-fu, he cannot yet fly and his more acrobatic feats come in bursts, but he can still stop bullets and even has much more emphasis on creating shields and blasting foes away. The Analyst, however, proves to be a formidable foe as he’s ability to manipulate the Matrix’s famed “bullet time” technique to slow even the One to a crawl, but in the end he’s undone thanks to a tricky plot that sees Neo get through to Trinity, Bugs swap out with her physical body, and Trinity randomly revealed to be a new incarnation of the One as she and Neo fend off the Analyst’s swarm of ‘bots and fly off with a promise (more like a threat) to rebuild the world free from the Analyst’s influence.

The Summary:
I was hesitant about The Matrix Resurrections; the trailers were questionably vague and trying a little too hard to be mysterious for my liking, something which has only led to disappointment where the Matrix is concerned in the past. They also made the film seem to be a retread of the original, but over twenty years later and with some cast members inexplicably returning or absent. I feel like I could have maybe understood the need for a new Matrix movie if we’d had an entirely new cast, with maybe only Keanu returning, or seen the One reborn within the Matrix but in Keanu’s body once again (confirming a long-held theory of mine that the One always looks like Neo) rather than finding a pretty weak excuse to bring both Neo and Trinity back. It was pretty great seeing Neo back onscreen and revisiting the Matrix lore after the third movie to see where things had progressed, but I think the film played things a little too safe; not much has really changed thanks to the contingent of machines still warring against humanity, and I would have preferred to see humans and machines living and working together without any major discord and maybe have some the rogue faction be a more prominent plot point. So much of the film is focused on reintroducing Neo and the Matrix to us, which would probably be interesting for anyone who hasn’t seen the original films, but I’d wager that the vast majority of the audience has so I kind of wanted to get things moving, or maybe spend more time seeing how the Analyst was screwing with Neo’s mind rather than retreading the same old ground again but with different actors. In the end, it was an interesting enough epilogue to one of cinema’s most influential trilogies, but I honestly dread to think where the story will go when Warner Bros. greenlight an inevitable follow-up.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you seen The Matrix Resurrections? If so, what did you think to it? Did you enjoy the direction the story took Neo and how it handled his and Trinity’s resurrections or would you have preferred to see the franchise stay dormant? Which of the new was your favourite and did you like seeing how the relationship between humanity and the machines had progressed? Were you disappointed by the lack of Lawrence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and proper fight scenes? Which of the other Matrix sequels or spin-offs was your favourite? How are you celebrating National Science-Fiction Day today? Whatever you think about The Matrix Resurrections, sign up to leave your thoughts below or drop a comment on my social media, and be sure to check in next Sunday for more sci-fi content!

Talking Movies: The Matrix

Talking Movies

Released: March 1999
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Budget: $63 million
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano

The Plot:
Thomas A. Anderson (Reeves) is a nobody; by day, he sits in a cubicle and works a monotonous job as a software developer but, in his spare time, he has crafted a reputation under his hacker alias “Neo”. When he is targeted by Agent Smith (Weaving), Neo is brought to the enigmatic Morpheus (Fishburne) and offered both a startling truth and a destiny he could never have suspected.

The Background:
After managing to sell their script for Assassins (Donner, 1995) and the success of Bound (The Wachowski Brothers, 1996), Andy and Larry Wachowski (as they were known then) were able to sell Warner Brothers on another of their scripts: The Matrix. Featuring an impressive mixture of martial arts, philosophy, and science-fiction not often seen in major Hollywood releases and heavily influenced by manga and anime, particularly Ghost in the Shell (Oshii, 1995), The Matrix made an instant and lasting impression not just on the science-fiction and action genres but on cinema as a whole. The film both popularised the concept of “bullet time” and wire-assisted kung fu (or “wire-fu”) in movies and cemented Keanu Reeves as an action star. Suddenly, parodies were everywhere and movie heroes were all sporting long dark coats, shades, and flipping all over the place and it was all largely thanks to The Matrix. When I was a kid, The Matrix as a big, big deal. My friends and I watched the film constantly, eating up the action sequences and the cool aesthetic and soundtrack. Produced on a paltry budget of $63 million, The Matrix was a massive commercial and critical hit, making over nearly $500 million worldwide. So great was The Matrix’s success that is spawned not only two sequels but a whole slew of multimedia merchandise, including comic books and videogames. While the sequels may not have garnered quite the same critical reaction as the quasi-cult hit original, The Matrix’s important at the time (and today) cannot be understated and a fourth film is currently in production, proving that The Matrix still has an enduring legacy in cinema. Considering today is “National Science Fiction Day”, this seems the perfect opportunity to look back at this classic piece of cyberpunk cinema.

The Review:
The Matrix has a pretty simple concept, one that has been done before and since in cinema, but complicates it with musings on fate, destiny, and the sense of identity and reality. At its core, the plot is incredibly simple, though: the world as we know it is merely a computer-generated construct, a form of virtual reality in which we have been enslaved by a race of machines in a post-apocalyptic world. Amidst this, though, we have themes regarding providence, choice, and some of the most impression action and fight sequences put to cinema.

Apathetic to his everyday life, Anderson has far more prominence as “Neo”.

Our window into The Matrix is Thomas A. Anderson (or “Neo”, as he is known throughout the hacking community), a bored program developer who has lived most of his life with a feeling that there’s something not quite right with the world. Thanks to his illicit activities, he is acutely aware of the legendary Morpheus, a charismatic and prophet-like figure in Neo’s circles, and “the Matrix”, an undefined concept that is enough to rouse Neo’s curiosity. Keanu Reeves makes for a perfect audience surrogate; you instantly buy into the idea of him as an isolated, distracted hacker who is unfulfilled in his mundane life and eager for change but not quite confident enough to really buck the system more than showing up late for work or being generally apathetic. Once he meets Trinity (Moss), though, and is set on the path towards Morpheus and answers concerning the Matrix, Neo’s outlook begins to change; he was too afraid of plummeting to his death when trying to escape Smith and his cohorts but, once captured, is defiant enough to give them the finger and, after being reminded of the poor choices he’s made in life that have kept him stagnant, resolves to follow Trinity and her teammates towards an uncertain future.

Agent Smith is a chilling, complex villain.

Opposing Neo is the aforementioned Agent Smith; in this movie, he’s just one of a number of men in black who target our heroes and are meant to be indistinguishable from each other. As the de facto leader, and the most charismatic of the three, Smith’s personality is revealed over time and in layers; he goes from a monotonous, fittingly robotic agent of the system to being wracked with personal animosity for Neo and being overcome by his own pride and hubris. Weaving is excellent in the role, exuding both menace and charm with the subtlest of movements and the merest of words and seeing him break out of his shell and reveal just how layered Smith is beneath his cold exterior is both captivating and terrifying at the same time.

Trinity is a capable, if underwhelming, character.

Luckily, Neo is not alone in his journey; Trinity is his main link to Morpheus’s world and serves as his eventual love interest. Yet, while Carrie-Anne Moss is acceptable in the role and more than capable at holding her own in her fight scenes, I never really bought into the attraction between the two characters. People like to rag on Keanu for being “wooden” but I’ve always enjoyed his work and found him very charismatic and that’s no different in The Matrix, where’s he’s able to showcase a variety of emotions and character quirks. Trinity, however, is a very guarded and reserved character through and through; some of this is due in part to the way those awakened to the truth of the Matrix tend to be more emotionless and reserved, especially inside the Matrix, but it’s also because of her reluctance to admit her feelings to Neo out of the fear that he isn’t who she thinks he is and the fear that he is what she thinks, as it means a dramatic change for the world if true.

Morpheus is easily my favourite character (…after Neo, of course).

Morpheus, however, fully believes in Neo from start to finish and never once does his belief falter. Morpheus is the enigmatic captain of the Nebuchadnezzar and is regarded as a legendary figure not only by Neo but his crew as well. Years ago, the Oracle (Gloria Foster) prophesised the return of “the One”, a man born inside the Matrix who would be able to manipulate it in superhuman ways and spell the end of humanity’s subjugation, and Morpheus has dedicated his entire life to finding the One. For whatever reason (it’s not really explained how or why), Morpheus believes that Neo is the One and actively seeks him out, shows him the truth, and pushes him to break beyond what he has been conditioned to know. Never once does Morpheus’s conviction falter and Fishburne makes for a very fitting mentor and father figure; he anchors the film, offering exposition, and is the heart and soul of The Matrix. Subsequent sequels may have ruined (or spoiled) Morpheus’s mystique somewhat but it’s captivating in The Matrix as he seems so infallible and believable that you can’t help but be sucked in by his words.

Most of the rest of the crew is largely expendable and inconsequential.

The rest of Morpheus’s crew is largely one-note and expendable; Switch (Belinda McClory) and Apoch (Julian Arahanga) are pretty forgettable and have maybe three lines between them and Mouse (Matt Doran) is the young, naïve crew member whose death is meant to be heartbreaking because of his youth but ends up falling a little flat as his characterisation amounts to “enthusiastic/annoying kid”. Tank (Marcus Chong) and Dozer (Anthony Ray Parker) stand out a little more thanks to Tank acting as the team’s operator (when inside the Matrix, he directs them, uploads additional training material and resources, and provides them with a way to dial out) and their status as brothers born naturally in the real world.

Cypher was an insufferable prick but he did have a point…

Luckily, we also have Cypher (Pantoliano), the more outspoken and neurotic of the crew who takes an instant dislike to Neo thanks to his largely jaded attitude. Cypher is, if his name and Pantoliano’s scenery-chewing acting didn’t make it clear, the ultimate betrayer of the crew as he has grown disillusioned with Morpheus’s teachings and the reality of the real world and therefore deceives his crewmates, killing three of them and leaving Morpheus in the hands of Smith and the other agents. Cypher’s motivations are entirely believable, however, as the real world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be but it’s still extremely cathartic to see that smug smile blown off his face after his heel turn.

The fights are varied and grow in intensity.

Of course, as good as the majority of the cast and characters are, the film’s main draw is its extensive action and fight scenes. Thanks to a combination of computer-generated imagery (CGI), wire work, and an extensive training regime, the film’s fights are high intensity and a spectacle to see; the film begins with Trinity performing that iconic leaping kick in slow motion as the camera pans around her, includes a playfully enjoyable sparring session between Neo and Morpheus, emphasises the aggression and nigh-unstoppable nature of the agents when Morpheus is effortlessly pummelled by Smith, and ends with a long, multi-layered fistfight between Neo and Smith. Unlike the majority of action films, The Matrix presented a world where characters don’t need to appear athletically competent to perform superhuman feats as knowledge and techniques are literally downloaded into their minds, instantly turning them into a master of the arts when plugged into the Matrix.

While the sets and practical effects look great, some of the CGI hasn’t aged too well.

Unfortunately, the special effects falter a bit in the real world; the sets and interiors are great, with the film favouring the “lived in” look of similar movies like Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) and made popular by the Aliens movies (Various, 1979 to 2017), but the CGI elements haven’t aged too well. The squid-like Sentinels, especially, look particularly cartoony these days and most of the sequences involving them and the Nebuchadnezzar don’t quite hold up to the more practical effects of the film. Similarly, some fight scenes, particularly those using bullet time or other camera tricks, can result in the actors taking on a rubbery appearance but, when they’re inside the Matrix, I feel this effect actually works better and serves to highlight the falseness of that reality.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The Matrix still holds up very well to this day thanks to its enduring themes and the intensity of its otherwise over-the-top fight sequences. There are, of course, a few plot holes and questions raised by the film’s concept that are either not answered in subsequent sequels or poorly addressed. First and foremost for me is the question of how, exactly, child birth happens when humans are simply grown in endless fields. The idea of the fields themselves seems to suggest that the machines are cloning humans, but this isn’t really addressed; neither is how the awakened humans built their ship and other equipment, where their food and clothes come from, or how they don’t simply freeze to death under the scorched skies that blanket the real world.

The machines grow and harvest humans to use them as a power source.

Most of these questions are left intentionally unanswered in this film; we’re told (briefly) about Zion, the last human city, and given snippets of information regarding their war against the machines but nothing concrete. This adds to the mystery of what exactly happened to turn the world into a post apocalyptic hellhole ruled by machines and is completely believable; if all of humanity were blasted to smithereens, why would we have any specific information some one hundred years later? Truthfully, the real world is of little consequence in The Matrix; it’s there and a stark contrast to the artificial world of the Matrix but is never portrayed as being preferable. Instead, the idea is that the truth and the concept of being free from the machines’ control is preferable to being a slave, a literal biological battery, to the will of the machines. As a result, any human awakened to the truth is immediately drafted into the resistance effort but Morpheus is explicitly honest about their chances:

They are the gatekeepers. They are guarding all the doors, they are holding all the keys, which means that, sooner or later, someone is going to have to fight them.

The agents are the nigh-unstoppable arms of the system itself.

The agents embody this philosophy; practically nameless and faceless, the agents are able to possess (more like overwrite) any person currently plugged into the Matrix, effectively allowing them to endlessly respawn even in the rare instances that they are defeated or incapacitated. Yet, Morpheus also states that everyone who has ever tried to fight an agent has died, which isn’t that surprising considering that, as computer programs, they are faster, stronger, and far more durable than a mere human. In a reflection of Morpheus’s conviction, though, he doesn’t hesitate to take on Smith in hand-to-hand combat to allow Neo to escape; Morpheus, previously portrayed as calm, collected, and a severely disciplined fighter, is absolutely dominated in this fight. His near infallibility is then tested to the limit when the agents subject him to a concoction of drugs, torture, and questioning to try and obtain access codes to the Zion mainframe. Morpheus resists, however, and retains enough of his strength (both physical and mental) to break his bonds once Neo and Trinity affect their action-packed rescue plan and, throughout the entire movie, maintains a quiet confidence that, in time, Neo will see the truth about himself. It is therefore heartbreaking when Neo is executed by Smith, leaving Morpheus so distraught that he doesn’t even care about living any more.

As the One, Neo effortlessly stops bullets and parries Smith’s attacks with one arm.

In the wake of Neo’s death, Trinity finds the resolve to finally admit her feelings for him and, with a kiss, restores Neo to life. As cliché as this sounds, it’s actually one of the most affecting scenes in the film; previously, the Oracle said that Neo was “waiting for something”, specifically suggesting that “something” was his next life, and Neo’s resurrection sees him assume the confident, God-like status of the One at last. His wounds healed, the speed and power of Smith is as nothing; Neo easily blocks and parries Smith’s attacks with one arm, looking hilariously and awesomely bored by the conflict, and easily dispatches the agent by blasting him to pieces. Now able to view the complex code of the Matrix itself, Neo ends the film fully able to manipulate and alert the environment as he blasts off to the sky to the sounds of Rage Against the Machine (a fitting band if there ever was one).

The film is not without a few logistical concerns regarding its world.

This ending is as exhilarating and cathartic as you could hope for; all throughout the film, Neo has struggled with the destiny Morpheus has laid out for him and seeing him grow in confidence and ability leads to some of the film’s more impressive action and fight sequences. The gunfight between him and Trinity and a bunch of guards is worth the price of admission alone but seeing Neo effortlessly take out Smith, especially after the gruelling physical battle they went through previously, never fails to get my blood pumping. That’s not to say that the film isn’t without a few flaws, though. Chief among them, for me, is the “bug” that Smith implants into Neo; it makes sense, as he wants Neo to lead him to Morpheus, and it’s a nightmarish sequence, but it’s rendered immediately mute when Trinity pulls it out of Neo in the very next scene. Ironically, if Smith had simply just waited outside Neo’s apartment building he would have been led right to Morpheus but…no, apparently the bug is more efficient. Additionally, the scene where Neo is awakened is a bit confusing; he swallows a pill to help the crew find him in the real world, randomly gets smothered by liquid glass with no explanation, and when he does wake up the Nebuchadnezzar isn’t even there to retrieve him until he is literally flushed away. Finally, while I like that the film addresses that Neo’s eyes and muscles would have suffered atrophy, I would argue that the plugged in humans would be next to useless in the real world, especially upon being unplugged.

The Matrix raised many questions, some which ended up with disappointing answers.

The Matrix’s philosophical musings are far less as explicit as in its sequels; here, exposition is delivered in snippets that are easy to digest and understand. There’s no double talk or complicated words here; we’re simply told as much information as these characters know and even Morpheus explicitly says that he (and even the Oracle) doesn’t have all the answers for Neo’s (or our) questions. Clearly, the film is left with many questions still to be answered but, unfortunately, it didn’t really turn out that the Wachowski’s were capable of delivering interesting answers to those questions. As a result, as much as I enjoy the sequels, neither are on the same level as the original, which is still one of the most compelling and original movies ever made that never fails to deliver despite a few flaws.


The Summary:
The Matrix still holds up really well even after all this time; sure, some of the effects aren’t as impressive as they once were and a lot of the tricks popularised in this film have been done bigger and better since then, but it’s still a great piece of cyberpunk cinema. The sequels may have somewhat tarnished the legacy of the first film, and retroactively raise more questions than answers, but the concept and action on display in The Matrix is just as exhilarating as ever.

The Matrix has some flaws but they’re far outweighed by the positives.

The film is also full of some strong performances; Keanu Reeves proved with this film that he was a competent leading man in Hollywood, Laurence Fishburne set himself up for similar mentor roles in the future, and the film all but launched Carrie-Anne Moss’s career and put Hugo Weaving on the map. It’s not a flawless film, or even a perfect one, but it’s still highly enjoyable from start to finish; effectively a live-action anime, The Matrix is a perfect example of a strong, original concept bringing new life into tried and tested ideas we’ve seen executed in previous films and media. Ahead of its time in many ways, The Matrix set the scene for the slew of action and superhero movies that followed and built upon many of the techniques on display here and its legacy still holds up to this day.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


What did you think of The Matrix when it first came out? Did you enjoy the sequels or do you feel they spoilt the concept of the first movie? Which of the film’s characters or many spin-offs was your favourite? Are you excited for the upcoming fourth movie or do you feel it’s maybe best to let the franchise lie? How are you celebrating National Science-Fiction Day? Whatever you think about The Matrix, or sci-fi in general, drop a comment below.