Monday, November 11, 2013

The Matrix Retrospectived: The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano
Rated: R

You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?  Ignorance is bliss.

Why are we at The Matrix with retrospectives now?  The answer is really easy.  In essence, I try to tie in these retrospectives with something current coming out.  But I also like it to serve as a database for all franchise possibilities.  And when picking what's next, there's either an upcoming film, the timing is notable or I'm in a "this one's for me mode".  With current franchises in November, there's Thor...but wouldn't it be more interesting to do a full Avengers retrospective in time for Avengers: Age of Ultron as opposed to Thor>Avengers>Dark World?  Plus, after 31 Days of Halloween, I kinda rewarded myself with a break (even though I still did a piece here last week and 8 for Whys So Blu-but HEY, how I choose to take a "break" is how I choose to take a break lol).  There is also The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  How about we wait until that series sees closure. 
The Matrix franchise ended its run 10 years ago last week with The Matrix: Revolutions.  Notably, this was the perfect time to throw it in the mix in celebration of that.  Also, right now its safe to say there doesn't appear to be plans of resurrecting it yet.  This was a big time franchise for its short tenure.  It spans 4 years and 3 films, but only had films releasing in 2 of those years.  It's had its time and rested peacefully ever since.  Its also a franchise that has much debate as to the quality of its sequels.  I'm looking very forward to covering these now and seeing where I stand now as opposed to then.  Excited actually.  While the first movie is one of my favorite films, I'll admit I'd not seen it or the sequels in years (I may have caught scenes and parts out of context or late to the game on TV here and there, but not sat to just watch, enjoy and take it in).
I first saw The Matrix opening night in 1999.  And to be honest I was kind of dragged to see it.  For some reason it was not a "hurry up and get to it" movie for me at the time.  Although, through ad campaigns and such I was indeed curious as to what the hell The Matrix was (the campaign kept everything a secret and based it on the intrigue of "What is The Matrix?").  During this time to, there was some confusion regarding the movie.  There were rumblings early on in filming that the movie was a sequel to another Keanu Reeves film called Johnny Mnemonic.  Alas, it turned out not to be.  Part of my hesitancy may have been due to the fact I was leaving but ass early the next morning for spring break and didn't want to add another thing to my "to do" list.  Alas my friend, Schaf pleaded we should go, and thank the maker he did.  It turned out to be one of the greatest cinema going experiences of my life.
I was absolutely blown away by the film the first time I saw it.  There was nothing like it at the time.  Not even close.  Those who were fans of Anime back then could spot the influence it had on The Matrix, but even then, seeing it done live action was a whole other thing.  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the hotly anticipated science fiction/fantasy/action film that was supposed to come out that year and totally set the tone for digital and visual effects and leave audiences with their jaw dropped.  That film never even came close to what The Matrix did.  The Matrix was innovative, original and insanely cool to watch unfold.  The Matrix had you asking "how in the hell did they do that?" while Phantom Menace nobody asked because every just said "oh yea, computers".  Yes, while The Matrix was heavily done with computers, there was more to it and more questions about the way it was done.  This may be one of the last films that you could truly attest effects to "Movie Magic" for people.  It changed the game entirely.  Movies were different starting at this point.  Going back now for younger people might be the same as going back to Halloween in 1996 and not being as effected by what its done as well because of all the imitators, but you gotta enjoy and respect seeing where it all started.
I remember my mind being absolutely blown when it was revealed what The Matrix really was.  It was genius.  Going in, that was not even remotely something I thought it could be.  This was a movie truly inspired and made for computer geeks and lovers.  It wasn't just "hey, lets do a thriller about computers" akin to The Net.  This was the film that fully embraced where technology was, older audiences be damned.  But, smartly, it was incredibly too in depth on the techno-speak.  It seemed pretty easy to follow.  The outfits and such in the movie too, spoke volumes to us alternative/goth/punk kids in the 90s as their attire was what we were wearing or admired and wanted to be wearing.  It seemed this movie was really speaking to, and "getting" my generation.  The Matrix was a place that looked like the cool "underground" type looking city that all us in the collective thought it'd be ideal and cool to live in but in reality and if we were more mature would realize it to be a nightmare.  Plus it had all that really cool techno music (love that remix of "Dragula", Schaf and I used to wear that soundtrack out back in the day) mixed in with a really awesome score.
If you talked to me in the early 2000s, you'd hear me saying stuff that The Matrix didn't need a sequel or pretend they didn't happen, it was fine by itself blah blah blah.  I was a dummy and I was wrong.  This film is clearly and TOTALLY the first chapter in a bigger story.  And its not some ambiguous John Carpenter-type ending either.  This movie was made with the intention of more films to be added and a bigger story.  If the film flopped and it ended here, the first was ok on its own, but there was still business left to be attended to that you could just make up in your mind.  It wasn't a cliffhanger or anything, it was just the promise that this was one battle, the war was just beginning.  With that guard of mine finally down, I'm looking very forward to approaching the next two films with a much more open and positive mindset.
When watching it for this retrospective, it was incredible how much my heart warmed and I started falling completely in love with this movie again.  I was also noticing things a younger me probably wouldn't have paid attention to or hadn't learned yet.  The film held up insanely well and STILL, STILL worked on all levels.  I really dug the noir vibe the film has that I think may or may not have been present in the sequels.  When Neo has yet to be unplugged from The Matrix, the film has this very modern noir tone and look that is absolutely dynamite and enhances the mystery at hand.  Very similar to that of Seven, but also making it its own thing.  While the world of The Matrix is clearly set to 1999, its very much plays as an indeterminate time and place.  I was going along with this film like we were two best friends that had been separated for years and when we got back together it's like we hadn't skipped a beat.  I had a BLAST revisiting this movie.  I realized I don't watch it near enough, and it re-established itself as an all time favorite film of mine.
For Christmas of 1999, I got my first DVD player.  My first DVD?  The Matrix.  I'm sure that was many of you's first DVD as well, but it holds a special place right there.  I became a bigger collector of DVD than I ever was of VHS (and I was a pretty decent VHS collector).  When I replace DVDs with Blu-rays I usually sell off my DVD version of the film unless its in some tin, is out of print, has some bonus features that didn't port over or is some limited edition...on occasion cover art might be a stickler.  Anyway, when it came time to replace The Matrix series, the Blu-ray is pretty much an exact replica of the DVD in terms of features.  However, in this case, I couldn't part with it.  There was too much sentimental value to that disc.  It was a starting point of a big part of my movie collecting life.  So, it got to stay.  14 Years later, I'm still enthralled in the film and still love it.  The original film is still one of the greatest theater going experiences of all time.  Up there with recently Gravity

I'm sorry if this wasn't a bigger film analysis, but I'm pretty sure the lot of you are familiar with the film and have done plenty of reading and scouring the web on it to this point.  So I share what no other site can, my own personal experience with the this is what the retrospectives all come back to in the end.

Next Time:  The many animated fashions of The Matrix

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