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The Matrix

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Matrix

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Andy Wachowski
Rated: R
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: March 1999
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Martial Arts, Cult

*Also starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Hugo Weaving, Julian Arahanga, Belinda Mcclory, Marcus Chong, Belinda Mcclory, Larry Wachowski

Review by Walter Frith
2 stars out of 4

The third season of my favourite television series, 'The X-Files', has an episode entitled Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'. Studying the title for the first time and making a quick judgment of that episode would lead you to believe that a man named Jose descends from outer space. Upon further review and seeing the episode, we learn that it is actually the title of a book that he's writing. So like: Stephen King's 'The Shining', we have Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'. A cleverly written episode of 'The X-Files' by the series' most bizarre and imaginative individual, Darin Morgan. The episode Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' was about perception and how we distinguish or how we may not be able to distinguish the real from the unreal. A girl was supposedly abducted by aliens but later we learn it may have been the military using alien technology to distort her perception of exactly what happened. Later, Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) meets a military pilot at a diner who doesn't know if the things around him are real or a distortion. The episode even throws in a humourous jab at it all by portraying a man in black (Jesse Ventura) as a great philosopher who gives a sermon on how human perception is not quite understood by Earthly scientists but that somehow people declare that "Seeing is believing". What's the point of all this you ask? To illustrate that 'The Matrix' is a similar type of story with a more complex and serious tone that has no humour which in this case is a bad thing.

Keanu Reeves stars as Thomas Anderson, a computer hacker who works for a large and influential software company who makes a fortune in side projects by pirating and selling high tech information. His cyber name is Neo and he's recruited by a renegade band of cybernetic crusaders whose leader, Morpheus, (Laurence Fishburne) believes that Neo is the chosen one. Morpheus' right hand girl is Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). Morpheus tells Neo that the people of the Earth are slaves and that the world is only a quality of imagination and that it doesn't really exist. He explains that people rely too much on machines in their everyday lives and that today's Earth is sort of like a virtual reality. It was created by an outside force designed to enslave humans. It's THE MATRIX, but it can't be explained. It has to be experienced to be understood. Morpheus compares the matrix to a dream where it feels so real but it isn't so, and only those who have the dream know how it is perceived. Morpheus believes that Neo is the one who can break it all up and save mankind and restore a sense of belonging and happiness that human beings should experience everyday of their lives. Sort of like the John Connor character in 'The Terminator' saga who is the chosen one to save mankind. You can't have a movie like this without villains trying to stop you. They come in the form of artificial intelligence, dressed in black suits with earpieces for communication, like secret service agents and wearing dark sunglasses a.k.a. 'Men in Black'.

It's disappointing that I can't quite recommend 'The Matrix' for several reasons. Just when the film is getting really cranked up for a grand climax, they resort to formula (it was produced by Joel Silver) and the climax is handled in a giant shoot out where the bad guys can't kill the good guys no matter how many bullets they have. It's almost as if a great script had been written but the authors had writer's block going into the final stages of its draft. Maybe there was a different ending in mind. I like to think that the creative energy was there but that it was a studio imposed ending with the ultimate decision on how to resolve things left up to the suits instead of the artists.

It would be unfair to overlook the film's many virtues such as the performances. There is an intellectual and profound style of personality executed very well by Laurence Fishburne, and Keanu Reeves is almost grown up in his best performance since 'Speed' but he still can't make you forget about his Bill and Ted days which will probably follow him throughout his career.

Further hindering 'The Matrix' are too many references to other films in the science fiction genre. Obvious comparisons to other films this one makes are to 'Total Recall', 'The Terminator' series, 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and ironically, another Keanu Reeves movie entitled 'Johnny Mnemonic' which was indefensible trash. Many film makers, like Quentin Tarantino, know how to draw on the past and take things from other movies in order to make their own without making it look obvious. 'The Matrix' does not do this.

The film is written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, Andy and Larry who made many 10 best lists in 1996 with 'Bound'. As 'The Matrix' is their sophmore effort, it fails like many others who come up with an encore for previously praised work. All you can do is re-group and hope that your next film is a winner. They just missed the mark here.

OUT OF 5 > * * *

Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith

* * * * * - a must see * * * * 1/2 - don't miss it * * * * - an excellent film * * * 1/2 - a marginal recommendation * * * - can't quite recommend it * * 1/2 - don't recommend it * * - avoid it * 1/2 - avoid it seriously * - avoid it AT ALL COSTS 1/2 - see it at your own risk zero - may be hazardous to your health

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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