Mr. Bill George Presents

Revisiting The Matrix

In Film on October 19, 2009 at 12:15 AM

In my mind no movie has been more marred by the sequels it spawned than The Matrix. While I do believe Reloaded has some merit in terms of worthwhile action sequences, Revolutions is a laughable mess.

Sadly, in the wake of the sequels, their hype and the endless parodies that have followed, the quality of the original Matrix and its status as a landmark action film have been lost. I am here to right this wrong.

Believe it or not, I remember March 31st, 1999 like it was yesterday. Those who know me know my memory (or lack thereof) is borderline clinical, but I’ll never forget the excitement I felt in the theater the opening day of The Matrix.

All I had seen going into the film was the teaser trailer, predominately featuring Keanu Reeves dodging bullets on the rooftop (using a filmmaking technique that would latter be dubbed ‘bullet time’). Not only that, but it featured a voice over of Laurence Fishburne saying that “no one can be told what the matrix is… you have to see it for yourself.” Not to mention using the web address http://www.whatisthematrix.com. If that doesn’t get you into the theater, I don’t know what will.

As you know, most films open on a Friday and this one was no exception. Yes, it was a school day, but being the student I was and having the parents I have, I was dismissed at lunch time for this particular occasion. Keep in mind that I was a 13 year old American male… A.K.A. one of the exact demographics I’m sure this film was aimed at. And by God did it deliver.

Until this time I had never seen an action movie with a legitimate, thought-provoking storyline. (With the exception of the Terminator series.) I was in total awe throughout the experience. Starting with the badassery of Agent Smith showing up to apprehend Trinity and informing the officer in charge that the men he sent up to do the job were ‘already dead.’ Her escape in that scene is as riveting as it comes for an opening set piece.

Looking back on it and adding it all up you realize just how iconic every scene in that film is and how much it has become a part of pop culture. Red pill vs. blue pill. The dojo. The rooftop. The subway. The construct. And of course: the lobby.

The lobby shootout scene was a watershed moment in my life. (Again, I was 13.) I had never seen anything like it before… ever. Think about it: almost every action movie released since has used slow motion, techno music and/or bullet time. The Matrix changed the way action sequences are filmed. Period.

The other thing about the film that makes it stand out in my mind on a personal level is the fact that I saw it in theaters. Granted, seeing something in theaters versus at home doesn’t have much of an affect on how much you’ll like it. A number of what I’d consider my favorite movies I didn’t discover until they were released on DVD. But still… there’s something special about seeing it in theaters, especially considering the fact that the majority of my peers did not have the pleasure. I’m guessing most of them were not as hip to the movie watching scene at age 13 as I was and they missed out. But now I talk to people who love it and hold it just as dear as I do… but I saw it in theaters. And frankly, that makes me feel special (regardless of whether it should).

So, now that I’ve revisited it in my mind, I’m going to revisit it on disc. I probably should have watched it prior to writing this (that would make this column make sense). But I just had it on my mind and wanted to let it out. Now that I’ve done that, I’m dying to watch it again. By the way, before I let you leave thinking that I think it’s a perfect movie, I readily admit it isn’t. The end is schmaltzy, some of the performances could be better and it could be a bit tighter lengthwise. But there is no doubt that it is a thinking man’s action flick and a landmark film for the genre.

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