The Matrix (1999) is the ultimate sci-fi/martial arts hybrid with traces of religion and philosophy. Cyberpunk meets Kung fu intertwined with graphic-novel receptivity and Judeo-Christian ideology resulting in a remarkable picture designed to pique your intellect. When an exquisite woman named Trinity (Carrie Anne-Moss) guides supercomputer hacker Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves) into a gloomy netherworld, he deciphers the lurid actuality behind life itself as an intricate duplicity within a wicked virtual reality. Neo, “new” in Greek Orthodox (convert in Catholicism), being forced to flee from a corporate cubicle, suit & tie employer, serves as a nexus of cutthroat corporate philosophy intermixed with The Matrix ethos. The Matrix is a piece of compound cinema interpreted within secular, metaphysical, allegorical and dogmatic systems. Moreover, there is a fusion of analysis within contemporary consumer capitalist, market-driven agendas. The basic notion of everything external to the matrix is free and positive; whereas internally, when living in it – it’s negative. Thus, the mythological quality of the film interweaves itself with a cyberpunk backdrop of a supercomputer hackers’ phenomenon within multifaceted dream states that transmute into reality; an effusion of a medicated trance with corporeality.
The Matrix is evocative of mind-blowing predecessor films. The robotic parasite that ingests inside Neo’s umbilicus is reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and/or David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983). The opening sequence with Moss’s Trinity running across rooftops with the city skyline as a backdrop is absolutely paying homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). The method and means by which Neo and Trinity hold their weaponry is akin to John Woo’s The Killer (1987). The reverence of Martial Arts discipline; an obstacle for Neo to pass through as he trains with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is akin to Hong Kong Kung-Fu films of ‘70s cinema. The gloomy city backdrop remains shadowy, presenting itself with classical architecture akin to Gotham City – Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). The interior production design is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969). The long coats of costume design are reminiscent of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti-Westerns. The Matrix adds a tremendous weight of spirituality; indicating that the world we know deserves a certain degree of skepticism. The pseudo-consciousness behind being alert while you’re still in slumber within alternate dimensions; the physical and/or mental transcendence within experiences of waking hours are depicted within various narratives and dimensions of The Matrix.
The actors performing the operatic dialogue of the film is derived by conundrums and delivered with riddling perplexities equivalent to profound lyrics of meaningful music. Hugo Weaving’s character of Agent Smith has a strong voice; his bold facial presence gives him a commanding, presidential tone; akin to his portrayal of a global revolutionist leader in V for Vendetta (2005) – another film that was deeply suspicious of dictatorships and monarchies (written by Lilly and Lana Wachowski). The gravitas of Laurence Fishburne’s delivery of Morpheus is the perfect tone for the films operatic, lyrical dialogue. Not to mention Keanu Reeves’ magic of appearing immortal. Revisit Katheryn Bigelow’s Point Break (1991) or Jan De Bont’s Speed (1994) – it would behoove one to conclude Keanu could fall into the 21-34 or 35+ demographic. There’s no doubt that Keanu Reeves’ wide age-range assists The Matrix in becoming a timeless classic.
The Matrix isn’t a political film; it’s philosophical. There’s no agenda to inspire the masses, making citizens revert and/or revolt. The simplistic, cinematic genius of the film boils down to the imperial leader of the matrix versus its escape into freedom; Prophet Zoroaster’s duality of virtue versus wicked. The film simply proposes a non-political stance leaving the choice to the audience; the naivete of humanity’s perception of the world is captured through our eyes like a video camera, and recorded onto our memories from a device attached to our neck. Reality is in part, co-created by the brain that identifies it; The Matrix is a graphic description of this type of ecosphere. The notions of external coercion versus internal subjugation; furtively deciding between methods of restriction and conformity that encourages controlled repression. The external oppression is delivered by technological methods whereas interior suppression is communist; a sub-form of servitude. The infamous red drug pill induces Neo into a permanent wonderland, delving him into matrix depths, searching for meaning in a relentless world. The film thus becomes catered toward a philosophical, studious demographic, attempting to decipher analytics pertaining to The Matrix; piecing together elements of its visceral experience, with aims at being consciously competent of the film’s thesis: the convenience of freedom is irresistible; citizens choose conformity due to the lesser of two displeasures. The matrix is a creation to keep societies in order and at ease. Neo extends his message to humanity upon the climax: have faith in reality or accept the gratification that comes with illusion; be contented with unawareness as you become lost in life’s ecstasy.
Disneyland, Universal Studios, et cetera; the artificial standards of living portrayed in television advertising, to the cybernetic fantasy of The Matrix – humanity has become challenged in distinguishing between bona fide themes of life versus bogus depictions of a fabricated, idealized living; whether depicted in theme parks, commercials and our own living reality based on our perception. Ultimately, the theme of a down & out, paycheck to paycheck, nine to five grinder who gets disheveled from a 40+ hour work-week, only to discover an embedded superpower, by tapping into her mysterious resources of anger, protagonism or antagonism; using the virtuous authorization of cinema – whether heroically or villainously – said individual channels her newly found energy into uncovering the meaning of The Matrix, like Thomas Anderson/Neo; or fulfilling their social existence after getting pushed to the edge; Arthur Fleck, a.k.a. Joker (2019).
“Real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” – Morpheus
The Matrix grossed $466,364,409 on a $63 Million budget. It can be revisited time and time again on 4K UHD Blu-ray disc or On Demand.