The Matrix

The Matrix ★★★★★

Watching this for the first time wasn't the revelation I was expecting. Watching this for the second time today was.

The Matrix is, in my mind, the perfect blend of action cinema and science fiction. Something truly worthy of thousands and thousands of essays and deep dives, and also of countless fight choreography spoofs from both B-comedy and triple A films alike. It wears its influences on its sleeve, and yet it becomes something unlike any other. Everything just clicks when it honestly shouldn't sometimes — even the "dated" graphics somehow seem intentional, feeling like such an integral part of this fabricated worldspace. Every actor is in on the act, with even late-1990s Keanu Reeves giving it his best.

It's always astonishing watching a piece of media from a bygone age — all born in the 20th century (including me), you can cry now — that contains so many prescient messages and relevant themes that it's actually scary to think about it. The Matrix being a trans film is an open secret by now, and you can feel it everywhere from the big scenes to the small ("I just thought ... you were a guy." "Most guys do."). There's also the fact that Morpheus teaches Neo about the Matrix being a "system", and that regular individuals are so seeped into this system that they are inadvertently enemies to the cause. Sound familiar in this post-Kaepernick world? I mean, the Wachowskis literally shows us a shot of a cop while Morpheus talks about "them" being the enemy — it can't get any more blunt.

Then there's the gun-fu, the balls-to-the-walls action that practically redefined how action is portrayed in American movies. The Wachowskis' influence from Hong Kong cinema is apparent, but that style works so well with this film that it has become its iconic trademark, so much so that future action flicks remotely resembling The Matrix have been countlessly compared to it by critics. How can you blame them, though, when the shots are so iconic, the choreography is so well executed and the technical innovations are still so awesome? Trinity's leaping kick, Agent Smith's whip zoom punch, Neo's bullet time bullet dodging, the entire dojo fight, the entire subway fight, the lobby shootout, every darn action scene is perfection! (Another tidbit — the frequent slow-mo actually makes sense in-universe! Garnering control of the system, and using it to their advantage in combat is such a cool concept in general, but the Wachowskis implementing it to the narrative is such a big brain move.)

The final shot of Neo flying to the sky is super ridiculous, but it's the kind of ridiculousness that makes absolute sense. It's the Wachowskis doing a victory lap at the end of the movie, knowing that it's a banger of a film and that they've created something really special. It's about him finally breaking free of the oppressive system, seeing the codes behind the beings, being granted the power to choose his own path. It's the entire message of The Matrix, seeing the shadows in the cave for what they are — simulations of the real thing. Break free and rise, o prophesied one. What a marvelous film. I think me not fully appreciating it the first time around actually allowed me to appreciate it more with this second viewing. I just really, really like this film. Lilly and Lana, I love you so much.

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