Great special effects, shame about the story!
The Matrix boasts some of the most impressive and complex
computer generated special effects sequences of any movie. However,
the barrage of effects and visual imagination cannot distract from the
fundamental lack of a clear narrative - even a week later I was still
scratching my head trying to puzzle it out. At first I thought it was
because I saw The Matrix at 10.00 am on a Saturday morning, and I was
still slightly hung-over from the night before. Then I realised that
my sore head was not the problem - it is the film itself that has some
Film making siblings Andy and Larry Wachowski have an
idiosyncratic style that was used to great effect in the gritty, tough
independent thriller Bound. However, working with a large budget and
the latest in computer generated technology seems to have overwhelmed
them a little. Filmed at the new Fox studio complex in Sydney, The
Matrix is a film of style and great ambition, but very little
substance. All the money seems to have been lavished on the visual
effects, with little thought given to the actual plot that holds it
together. It pales when compared to the recent Dark City, another big
budget, special effects driven sci-fi thriller shot in Sydney using
Hollywood know-how, money and stars.
The Matrix is set in a not too distant future, where the world
is seemingly controlled by computers. Morpheus (played in grim and
humourless fashion by Laurence Fishburne) is the head of an army
battling to save the world from the domination of the computers. They
can transport themselves between their bleak future world and our
present through a series of special telephones located throughout the
city. Their nemesis are sinister men in black suits, led by the
enigmatic Mr Smith (Hugo Weaving, complete with glaringly phoney
American accent). These characters are able to assume other
identities and are seemingly invincible. Weaving seems to be enjoying
himself immensely here, and his performance at least seems to capture
the spirit of the film.
Keanu Reeves returns to action hero mode as Neo, a computer
hacker reluctantly drawn into this battle for the future of the world.
Reeve's sudden transformation from computer nerd into
Schwarzenegger-like action hero is not credible for an instant, and
this mish-mash unfortunately recalls his disastrous Johnny Mnemonic.
The Matrix ultimately seems jigged together using elements
from a number of other sci-fi thrillers, and if you take the time you
could probably identify all of the influences. The very busy plot
throws together martial arts, slow motion shoot-outs, teleportation,
nasty alien creatures, sinister men in black, people leaping between
city skyscrapers, and frantic chases through the streets of some dark,
sinister city. Ultimately, the disappointing lack of any intelligible
plot or genuine emotions will prove too alienating for audiences.
"No-one can tell you what the matrix is," declares the tag
line for the film. I somehow suspect that includes even the writers,
directors and most of the crew.
Copyright © 2000 Greg King