This entry is probably going to throw some people off, as I am indeed including it during my search for the love affairs that have impacted me most in my very limited movie-watching career. I’ll admit this one isn’t a very obvious choice. Sure, it’s a technologically-driven action/fantasy epic but to overlook the far more fundamental driving force is to essentially ignore that which makes the Wachowski’s best film(s) a truly complete legacy. I absolutely cannot get enough of this, or its sequels. (Yes, I am a supporter to the bitter end!)
Today’s food for thought: The Matrix.
Following the white rabbit since: March 31, 1999
When Trinity finally admitted her true feelings for Neo and went in for the kiss just as the Sentinels were tearing apart the Nebuchadnezzar, the hairs on my arms stood straight up. Not really, but they might as well have. It was a moment of great peace and calm, one of an elite few that confessed the true depth of the Wachowski’s vision of a future where our world would be overtaken by artificial intelligence, thereby laying waste to the vast majority of human life. This wasn’t just a kiss.
Everyone remembers The Matrix for the bullet-dodging and the gothic dress code. Perhaps as the saga sprawled out into Reloaded and concluded with a bang in Revolutions there were fewer iconic scenes to latch on to, and more common were ones of convoluted theory and the development of additional, arguably less interesting characters and subplots. I can’t sit here and say that my love for the trilogy was (or is) equally distributed; the original finds security in my top ten favorite films of all time — a potent concoction of visionary direction, commitment from a cast that will never be this cool again, and incredible martial arts/fight sequences that countless films since have gone to great lengths to try and duplicate. (Oh, hi John Wick.)
What’s less talked about, and this I can’t help but blame on the film’s tremendous visual appeal and high-brow concept, is the powerful love story anchoring Neo to a world he once was dangerously oblivious to. But in The Matrix you won’t find another case of meet-cute; it’s more like meet. . .badass. In an underground dance club bathed in only the purest of dystopian light a jet-black-haired woman named Trinity informed him of his importance. Despite appearances the introduction was anything but secretive, for there existed another world entirely — the last human city on Earth — whose fate hinged upon whether or not Thomas Anderson would trust this mysterious woman.
Worlds collided. The computer hacker’s forced to confront a reality (well, I guess he could have taken the blue pill) that would make the hardiest of men sick to their stomach. Humankind being harvested as an energy source for the continuation of Machinekind. The Matrix, of course, had little time for sappy romance; that stuff was saved for Reloaded in a spectacularly choreographed celebratory scene in the aforementioned subterranean city of Zion.
Neo and Trinity form a bond late in the first film, a unity of lips that would quite possibly seal the fate for both man and machine alike. Part of the adrenaline rush of The Matrix is watching Neo gain his powers, slowly coming into an acceptance that he is The One, a title that has since been parodied over and again. (Keanu, take those as compliments.) But if The One can stop bullets under his own strength, what could he accomplish with Trinity at his back? Hers was not the same kind of belief Morpheus stubbornly clung to for most of the film before having it temporarily, if not convincingly, wrenched from his soul. With Trinity there was never any doubt, though Carrie Anne Moss’ enviable performance brilliantly subverted a passion that would much later become quite apparent.
One of the greatest things about this romance is that the word itself doesn’t aptly describe the emotions that propel both Neo and Trinity. They are an indisputable romantic couple, again in reference to The Matrix: Reloaded and in the final devastating chapter — the most romantic thing Neo probably ever did for Trinity was remove a bullet from her abdomen with his bare hand — but the love angle is downplayed to fit the desperate times and the enormously high stakes surrounding the discovery of The One. If you are looking at The Matrix and The Matrix alone, this is tough love. I’m not sure if there’s a better way to illustrate this than when Trinity pulls rank after Neo says it’s not a good idea for her to follow him back into the matrix to save a captured Morpheus. She’s every bit Neo’s intellectual and physical equal, even if she couldn’t quite bring it upon herself to take on Agent Smith even at the most opportune of times.
“What is he doing?” “He’s beginning to believe.” The moment was anything but an epiphany. The kiss was anything but a simple act.
Recommendation: We’ve all seen this one by now, so recommending this one seems, again, unnecessary. The Matrix represents one of the most uncompromising and unique visions of the future we have ever been handed on a silver screen. Hard to believe this film debuted 16 years ago this March. There are too many interesting things going on in this film to count, but of the many things I could talk about, I find the relationship between Neo and Trinity one of the most fascinating and also one of the most rewarding. Fans of the film(s), would you agree?
Running Time: 136 mins.
TBTrivia: The filming of the helicopter scene where they rescue Morpheus nearly caused the film to be shutdown because they flew the helicopter through restricted Sydney airspace. Laws in the state of New South Wales in Australia were changed to allow the film to proceed.
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Photo credits: http://www.coroflot.com; http://www.imdb.com
Matrix is a movie that I kept thinking about long after watching it. I think the concept is brilliant and I’d be open to more stories within that universe, like how 12 Monkeys got turned into a Syfy series. Solid review Tom!
Thanks a million Eddie. Yeah, The Matrix is downright amazing. I love it as a trilogy. I know I’m in the minority on that but I don’t really care. Hhaha! My love for these stories knows no bounds!!!!!!!!
I think the sequels (as with a lot of films) take away from the power of the original film. They dilute the impact of the original ideas or bring them to a place that are too explained or different than our expectations. I almost wish this was a stand alone film – you got it near perfect the first time why add onto it 🙂
[adopts Morpheus somber tone] It was your destiny to write this review Tom. Your des-tiny.
It’s a great film but truly gets cooking when Neo and Trinity launch their rescue on Morpheus. What a game changer this was.
It really was man. I know it’s a cliche to describe a movie, esp a sci-fi as ‘mind-blowing,’ but I can only think of how much that applies to this when it first debuted. Too bad I wasn’t in a theater at the time. This must have been something else.
This is hands down the Wachowskis best film (although IMO that doesn’t say much). It’s the most interesting and well-conceived film they have made. But its funny, it still isn’t a movie I care to watch over and over. Reloaded actually has two of the coolest action scenes I have ever seen. Unfortunately that’s all that movie is three great action scenes with nothing in between. My the third film I was worn out and tired of it all.
Ah man, sorry to hear that about your experience with these. The Matrix is really, really really hard to beat in my opinion. And all the way through, too. 🙂 Love them. Can’t get enough of ’em, even though it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen any of them. (Whoops.)
great movie that should have remained a standalone. the sequels just made things more complicated and took away from the fun and innovative original!
Great review Tom!
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Respectfully, good sir, I shall disagree with you forever on that point. I am such a fan of the original I couldn’t help but love the expansion of the story through three films. The quality of both sequels don’t match the first but I love them all really. Just a great vision the Wachowski’s sadly won’t ever live up to again. Which, of course, is a ridiculously high standard in the first place.
i appreciate that! Nicely done Tom!
Those poor guards, just doing their jobs…
I hope they got compensated for a good day’s worth of work. . .oh wait, they’re dead.