Saturday, April 29, 2017

Movie #402: The Matrix

The Matrix is an action/sci-fi movie, probably one of the most influential of all time, directed by the Wachowskis (pre-transition) and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano (which I spelled right on the first try!), and Hugo Weaving.

Neo (Reeves) is a computer programmer and hacker who gets recruited into a shadow war by a mysterious figure called Morpheus (Fishburne) and a kick-ass woman in black named Trinity (Moss). He learns that what he thinks of as the "real world" is in fact a computer simulation called the Matrix, whereas the real world is a blasted wasteland in which human beings are used as fuel sources to keep the machines running. The few liberated people can pop in and out of the Matrix and, while there, can program themselves with whatever skills they need. As such, all of them are badasses, masters of martial arts, and capable of being the laws of physics. Of course, the machines have their own soldiers called agents, who are even more badass, and one in particular called Smith (Weaving) is trying desperately to destroy the humans so he can go home.

The movie ends with Neo embracing his destiny as "the One," a kind of quasi-messianic figure who's meant to lead humanity to freedom. Now, the sequels go completely off the rails, here (I don't own the third one because I kinda hated it), but this movie is pretty well wrapped up - Neo tells the machines that what happens next is up to them, and then literally flies off, breaking the system of control that is the Matrix.

So, the first thing about this movie is that there are some very uncomfortable truths about Morpheus and what he's doing. He's literally recruiting people when they're young (not Neo, but he's told that they don't free minds after a certain age) and bringing them around to his cause. Also, his people slaughter cops and soldiers with abandon, because any of them could immediately become an agent, but those people still die.

There's also the issue that using people as batteries is ludicrous, but Futurama made that point, so I don't feel I need to dwell. :)

At the time it came out (1999), I remember folks referring to it as a Mountain Dew commercial (but like, many, many more people absolutely loved it). It's held up pretty well, even the special effects, though I'm not expecting that to be the case for the next one. And, looked at through the lens of two trans directors who hadn't transitioned yet, there's a lot of depth there that cis folks like me completely missed at the time, but that I'm sure folks who were more apt to notice did.

Performances are good, and it's interesting to note the differences in vs. out of the Matrix. It always annoyed me that we don't see much of Mouse, Switch, Dozer, and Apoc before they die.

Worst thing to come out of this movie, of course, is the fact that a segment of real scumbags coopted the "red pill" imagery, though I do have to wonder how they feel about know that a trans woman gave them their "reality check." Probably it doesn't register.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: High

Next up: The Matrix Reloaded