So why am I writing a full review of a movie everyone has already seen and likes enough that the producers are already at work on Parts 2 and 3? For one, I am personally at odds over the movie. Like millions of fans out there, I adore the movie for its mixture of Eastern martial arts and Western technology (some I had never seen before in my life, like the bullet-time effects). I also enjoy many aspects of the movie, particularly the effects-laden fights and action scenes. And yet, I still cannot get over the sheer stupidity of the storyline. Once you strip away the special effects, The Matrix is a movie with a barebones plot that has been done millions of times, and many times better.
There is the “he is the one” clich’. How many times have I seen that? Millions. There is the “oracle” character who determines who is “the one” and is wiser than Mahatma Ghandi or Buddha combined (she/he, of course, will always be played by a minority; in this case, an old black woman).
Again, after sitting through a million movies with similar themes and characters, I grew bored with The Matrix when it started opening its mouth. The movie keeps my attention when it concentrates on doing what it does best — elaborate fight sequences and special effects stunts. How could you not like the helicopter rescue? Or your first glimpse of the “harvest fields” under command of giant insect-like machines?
The movie’s writer/director team, the Wachowskis, have a good sense of awe and wonder in the visuals, but they lack originality when it comes to everything else. The movie’s fight choreography is obviously the brainchild of action choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen, the famed Hong Kong fight choreographer for some of the best martial arts movies to ever come out of Hong Kong. So does that mean many of the “exciting” scenes are produced by others besides the Wachowski brothers? Not at all. It is obviously the brothers’ vision that the movie is based on, so the final credit must be given to them.
Is The Matrix an original movie? Not in the least. It’s riddled with cliche storylines and the acting is sub par. Keanu Reeves once again turns in a wooden performance and shows as much emotion as that box of popcorn I was eating while watching the movie in theaters. Carrie-Anne Moss has a one-note performance, and Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith is supposed to be intimidating and dangerous, but comes across as stoic and uninteresting.
The only character of merit is Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus, a man who exudes confidence and mystery within the Matrix construct, but vulnerability and uncertainty once in the real world. Fishburne brings a layered performance that is only possible with talent, something his co-actors have little of. Carrie-Anne Moss has since honed her acting chops on other, smaller fares such as Memento and Chocolat. Keanu Reeves, meanwhile, continues to show less emotion than Freddie Prinze Jr., who seems certain to take over the still-young Keanu’s role as “that pretty boy who can’t really act, but who the girls really dig.”
All that being said, The Matrix is a terrific piece of fluff entertainment if you are willing to ignore all the philosophy gibberish that means very little when taken apart. Forget that the plot is an amalgamation of thousands of past sci-fi movies, or that Keanu Reeves has less range than a tortoise trying out for a track meet.
Forget all that, and you’ll have a good time, because The Matrix is a revolutionary film in many respects, and people will look back at its technological achievements the way people look back at Citizen Kane’s. And that’s pretty good company for any movie.
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski (director) / Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski (screenplay)
CAST: Keanu Reeves …. Neo
Laurence Fishburne …. Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss …. Trinity
Hugo Weaving …. Agent Smith