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. .The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix is a futuristic, film noir, kung fu,
dysfunctional utopian science fiction, cyberpunk, nonanimated cartoon laced with religious
allusions. It does not have hair stiffened with bodily fluids, batmobiles, or hip hop
music. It does have electronic bugs that look like scorpions and enter the body through
the navel, lots of rata tat guns, and Keanu Reeves. It should do great box office with the
under thirty set.
The story, with a
nod to The Truman Show, is of an Earth taken over by artificial intelligences
originally created by man. Instead of Ed Harris we have Agent Smith, of the AIs.
With the exception of a small community of human survivors that has taken refuge somewhere
in the core of the planet (known as Zion), the AIs artificially produce humans in
factories and then give them totally virtual lives; a digitally programmed matrix
substitutes for reality.
A handful of humans,
led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), have escaped the matrix and function in
guerilla-like fashion, seeking the Way to save the race from the usurpers. They rescue
Keanu, in hopes that he is the One needed to defeat the AIs. "The Matrix is
everywhere," intones Morpheus, "It is all around us. It is the world that has
been pulled over your eyes to blind you to the truth..." Reeves is given the choice
to fight with Morpheus' team or return to his virtual existence. Consistent with the
muddiness of the religious symbolism, Morpheus, who initially has a Faustian sort of
presence, has Reeves make his choice - the blue pill sends him back, the red pill puts him
on the team. Huh?
Well, never mind.
Before we are done we will have an Oracle baking cookies, a Buddhist child (maybe the One)
who wills a spoon to bend in half ("It is not the spoon that bends, only
yourself."), and, of course, a Judas to betray our Messianic hero. Whew!
Yes, it is hokey. But
The Matrix keeps its tongue in cheek, is peppered with good looking special
effects, is designed in stylishly noir decor, and is generally well paced. The action
sequences are par for the genre and laden with violence. CV is often uncomfortable with
heavy violence in films, but the violence here is not bothersome because it is so clearly
kept at the comic book level. This is not D-Day, although it seems that at least as much
ammunition is expended.
Fishburne, a first
rate actor, is overcast, but intones his lines well. Hugo Weaving, as the evil AI agent is
convincingly nasty, Carrie-Anne Moss is toothsome and suitably athletic as Reeves'
Princess Charming, and Keanu Reeves is...well, Keanu Reeves - and he does have a belly
button, which was required for the role.