The Matrix (1999)
September 30, 2014 9:12 AM - Subscribe

THE SPIRIT OF 99 VIEWING CLUB - A young tech worker in an anonymous city crosses paths with a group of armed outlaws who insist his reality is a computer simulation he must break free of to save them all.
posted by The Whelk (100 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fight scenes used to bore me - why did people like them? Then The Matrix happened, and it was like a revelation.

"You think that's air you're breathing?"

"Stop trying to hit me and HIT ME."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


before this movie people didn't talk about "fight choreographers" in American movies now they're objects of discussion and debate.
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fight scenes used to bore me - why did people like them? Then The Matrix happened, and it was like a revelation.

It brought a lot of Hong Kong into action scenes, which is mostly a good thing. That said there's enough dodgy CG-assisted wire work choking up bad movies with leaden pointless fights out there now to maybe prove me wrong.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Biggest things action movies get wring these days is the pacing - it's just action, action, action without buildup or relief. The Matrix is pretty perfect in that regard.
posted by Artw at 9:36 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I had exactly the same reaction as joseph conrad is fully awesome, in that it was the first nominally American movie to rivet me to the fight scenes. That's on top of the movie being part of an important first step in a university friendship that turned into my marriage. :D

Maybe we'll watch it again this weekend.
posted by wintersweet at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's a great article from The Dissolve on the fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Deagon here, and I'd say it's main failing is it applies things uniquely to that movie that are pretty universal: All fight scenes, especially in martial arts films but not just there, are part dance and part dialogue. They should always communicate something to earn their place in the movie.

"This character is really cool" and "character you previously thought was cool is now hopelessly outmatched" both counting as somethings, of course.
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Matrix and Bound are both very fun and well-made, and a big part of what keeps them charming is how easy the Wachowskis make it look. Of course, all movies are difficult to make, especially good ones, but "genius makes it look easy".

The Matrix is not a difficult movie to enjoy, nor is it a difficult movie to follow. It feels light and buoyant. The pacing is excellent, and it does a very good job of marrying the new to the familiar. Hong Kong action wasn't entirely new to Hollywood movies, but they employed it in a distinctive way. Bullet-time was not a brand-new technology, but they made novel use of it, and in a way which seemed entirely sensible: both as an in-universe way to communicate Matrix-ness, and also as part of a visual language to create coherent, exciting action scenes.

It's interesting to see the ways in which the Wachowskis later didn't keep this habit up. Their movies became busy and self-consciously clever. Some of those movies were still good, even very good. (I'm a big defender of Speed Racer.)

But, they never really regained the simple pleasures of Keanu Reeves saying, "I know kung fu."

Also, can we take a moment to reflect on how awesome Keanu Reeves is?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:37 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


He hasn't aged! It's spooky.

Also I checked! He says "whoa" in the exact same way in this movie as he does in Bill And Ted.

( His Johnny Mnemonic performance is kind of great cause you get to see an actor completely not give anything to Anyone or even bother to care, it feels so awful ion purpose.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 AM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Only in Bill and Ted is he more perfect. He is The One for this.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on September 30, 2014


The trailers for this movie had me convinced that we were getting a film adaptation of Neuromancer. I was disappointed when I learned differently, but given Johnny Mnemonic I am entirely happy with what we ended up with.

It took me a while to see the many similarities that this movie has with Dark City. Not only did they use some of the same sets (hotel scenes, mainly), the themes of being a human with the power to manipulate the false reality created by the non-humans were present in both.

Keanu Reeves is great when used appropriately. When you need nothing more from him than line readings like: I know kung fu. Woah. Excellent! he rarely disappoints.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


In fact, how perfectly cast is the entirety of this movie? Mostly it's stick roles, but they got the exact right person for each of them.
posted by Artw at 10:47 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


On god, do you remember the marketing hype for this? "What is The Matrix?" brilliant, and omnipresent.

I feel like you can always tell which directors use a lot of storyboarding, the shots and framing are very ...comic book panel, as is the use of silhouettes and big white rooms.
posted by The Whelk at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


(also how it manages to be entertaining and easy to sit through despite being the most naked teenage boy power fantasy ever.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:57 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I will tell you at length about how any story with a Chosen One is lazy cop out garbage and I still love this movie.

Talking of which: The Lego Movie remake of or refutation of The Matrix?
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Man that Everything is a Remix link is so cool, I used to watch Ghost in the Shell when it was on cartoon network late at nights and never saw the movie, but of course it would have a lot in common with the matrix. Going to go find that as soon as I get home from work.
posted by DynamiteToast at 11:08 AM on September 30, 2014


The Lego Movie isn't just a remake of The Matrix: it also does a very good job of handling the idea that the Chosen One must consider "real" and "fantasy" as two parts of a greater dialectic.

Also, The Lego Movie is to the Matrix Trilogy what The Incredibles is to Watchmen.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:08 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


OH YEAH and all of tie-in material, the Animatrix shorts, the collection of short stories* set in the world, the comic books (all available online! for free!). The marketing for this movie was ON POINT in giving a lot of work to a lot of worthy people. It was so nice to have something clearly made by fans of the genre(s).

*There was a Gaiman short story I really liked about a guy who is given a perfect life inside the matrix if he agrees to occasionally but his life and mind on the line to fight as a kind of drone pilot vs. the asteroids aliens where hurtling toward Earth.

Also the story of the first robot who killed a living thing stuck with me for a while.
posted by The Whelk at 11:20 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Gaiman thing might be the only time Gaiman has made something more Hard SF, with the swap out of the battery concept for something that makes *a little* more sense.
posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on September 30, 2014


Oh yeah, The Animatrix! ROBOTS AT THE UN, WEARING TOP HATS. Seriously, for all the chaff in the franchise, The Animatrix is awfully boss.

Also, The Matrix itself has such a perfect je ne sais quoi for letting the Matrix world appear not-quite-real. I can't put my finger on it, and it's not just the green tint. They did a great job of making the Matrix's reality noticeably different from our own real world, but not in a way which rammed itself down your throat. The universe of the Matrix seems like...well, like something a computer made, not in a phony "BEEP BOOP I'M A COMPUTER" way, but in a way in which it seemed like passersby and office cruft had been spawned by a sophisticated AI. Weirdly enough, the only point of comparison I can make is in some of Cronenberg's work, especially Spider, but also of course Existenz.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:29 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


We have to talk about Hugo Weaving's performance as Agent Smith: so right. And he apparently modeled it on 1950s newscasters (I believe Walter Cronkite but I may be mis-remembering.)

Plus it's just so joyful to imitate.

From imdb triva page:

"Nicolas Cage turned down the part of Neo because of family commitments. Other actors considered for the role included Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio."

(Thank God.)

"Hugo Weaving's voice for Agent Smith was partly inspired by the deep voices of his directors, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski."

Huh.

And finally:

"When Carrie-Anne Moss saw the first cut, it was also the first time she'd ever seen herself in a movie before."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's the lighting! Nine times out ten the lighting in the Mateix universe is oddly flat and uniform or very conspicuously "dramatic". It looks like a car commercial. The lighting in the "real world" has deep shadows, bright spots, color, multiple sources, etc.

Like its an incredibly neat way of communicating a machine's value system visually.
posted by The Whelk at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


Also I feel like the dialogue is getting overlooked here: there are some tightly written scenes:

- the opening monologue (and the closing of course)
- the scene with the Oracle in the kitchen
- ALL of Morpheus' lines
- Carrie-Anne Moss telling Neo, "Let me tell you what I believe..." that whole speech.

Actors kill for these lines.

Nice post, The Whelk. You are handy.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Let's see how adaptable that great dialogue is, re: the MetaFilter Modern unveiling:
"Goddamn, I got to tell you, I'm fairly excited to see what MetaFilter is capable of. I mean, if mathowie is right and all. We're not supposed to talk about any of that but if Modern is what I think it is, well then this is an exciting time. We got a lot to do so let's get to it."
*pumps fist*
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:58 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Like with Bound, there's this *tightness* that really raises it a few steps above a standard king fu action film. The word building details are juuuust enough, the dialogue is fast and lean, and the pacing as mentioned, is just bam bam bam bam, every scene has a pay off.

Which is why I mostly agree with Ebert, the only thing that doesn't work is the final act, which is also the only part I have trouble remember. It gets a bit generic and flabby and feels like its speeding toward the end. There's not much there except the bullet time shit ( so instantly dated it's not even funny) and Smith's humanity is a cancer speech.

I know Kung fu comic booky sic-fi films kinda half to end On a big fight sequence, I just kinda wish it didn't.
posted by The Whelk at 11:58 AM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also I think making Neo have ...literally almost no personality was the right way to go. Imagine if he cracked wise all Early 90s action movie style? You're not here for the main character, he's a cypher ( heh), he's the excuse that lets us the other characters.
posted by The Whelk at 12:02 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


My business partner doesn't see a lot of movies, but she saw The Matrix. (Put it this way, her previous favorite movie was The Last Starfighter.) This movie really stuck with her.

She does most of the travelling in our firm, and I'm frequently on the other end of the phone giving her travel guidance. Down to identifying via zoomed in Google satellite maps which lane she should be in or which entrance she should take into the airport. One time she was stuck in Vail Pass during a blizzard with her nephew and I was doing satellite reconnaissance trying to find some place she could break into to take shelter if the car ran out of gas. Point being, she invariably describes this to people as her being in the Matrix and me back on the mothership making the phone ring.

I'm going to see if I can find the movie to watch because I haven't seen it in years and I'd like to give some fresh impressions. The one thing that's always amused me most was right before the climatic fight scene. The look exchanged between the guard and Neo when he opens his coat after setting off the metal detector is one of the best such shots in all of movie history.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:11 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe it's because I've since moved to America, where guns are real, but them murdering quite so many cops is a little more wince inducing now.
posted by Artw at 12:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


In fact, how perfectly cast is the entirety of this movie?

Right, right -- NOBODY feels out of place. Casting Keanu was genius; the movie makes a huge strength out of his weaknesses. I do feel for Hugo Weaving a bit; he so totally owned the Agent Smith character that I suspect it made it hard to cast him in anything else. (Elrond has more than a hint of Smith about him, no? All-knowing and really kinda smug about it.)

I disagree with The Whelk about the bullet time. It's still effective today, partly because it's actually used very sparingly. (Presumably because it was horribly expensive?) This makes it more surprising when it does happen. The opening scene, where Trinity fighting the cop runs horizontally along the wall: a very brief moment, but a very strong "we are NOT in the real world" signifier.

But I utterly agree about the lighting -- and the coloring -- as being vital. The sickly green tinge to the Matrix world; the brighter colors of the real world.

It's very fetishistic about guns (lots of guns); a number of loving lingering shots of falling casings. Also some really nice sound design in those scenes: clinking and tinkling. And the costuming: the business suits of the Matrix, the drab rags aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, the "residual self image" outfits of Morpheus, Neo & co when they re-enter the Matrix.

I remember seeing this shortly after The Phantom Menace. Holy crap, what a difference: TPM all bright colors and meandering bloat, this all dark and tight.

It has aged incredibly well; I almost always get sucked into it when it comes around on TV. And still worth seeing at the cinema; still spectacular on a big screen.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm beginning to wonder if 1999 was the peak of my culture.
posted by Artw at 12:35 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


"She does most of the travelling in our firm, and I'm frequently on the other end of the phone giving her travel guidance. Down to identifying via zoomed in Google satellite maps which lane she should be in or which entrance she should take into the airport."

Do you say, "Turn LEFT." / "No, your other left!"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:38 PM on September 30, 2014


"I disagree with The Whelk about the bullet time. It's still effective today..."

I know exactly how you feel.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:39 PM on September 30, 2014


One of my mom's friends looked so much like Switch that literally every time I saw her I imagined her saying "not like this" in my head. That friend probably thought I was weird because I think I got a little sad every time I saw her.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:44 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's interesting how the look and feel of this movie is all taken from stuff that was juuuuust under the surface of mainstream popularity and mashed them together - Vertigo comics, Gibson-esque cyperpunk (which was retro at that point), Kung-fu movies, animation for adults, and that like Bay Area Techy Goth-and-Leather look.
posted by The Whelk at 12:44 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh god. Is it actually the moment nerd shit went mainstream and was therefore ruined?
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


the scene with the Oracle in the kitchen

"You're cuter than I thought." "Not too bright though."

The Oracle's dialogue is very cleverly written: she tells him that she can't tell him. "Being The One is just like being in love. No one can tell you you're in love, you just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones." But Neo's still in the self-doubt phase and hears only what he wants to hear--"I'm not the one"--not what she is actually saying: "You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something."

"You'll remember you don't believe in any of this fate crap."

We have to mention the sequels, no? The Matrix very carefully pulls off the trick of appearing to be about as clever as it thinks it is: an action movie with just enough handwavey philosophy underpinning it to make its audience feel smart. The sequels both totally fail at that trick: they build their tower of bullshit just a bit too high to sustain the illusion. And thus: The Oracle in The Matrix is wonderful; The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded is just annoyingly pretentious.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I saw the Matrix a month or so after I got back from a year of living in Japan I'd lived in a really small town, no TV, and little access to American pop culture beyond what showed up in the Daily Yomiuri. I saw it in a newly-built stadium theater in Amarillo.

The sound and spectacle left me stunned. Speechless. It wasn't so much the ideas (whoa...life's just a simulation) as the execution: bullet-time, monstrous sound, incredible fight scenes (finally, classic kung-fu with a real budget!). I left the theater with my ears ringing and the date I was on ended sort of flat because I couldn't actually talk about what I'd seen. It was just too much to process.

The only movie that's come close to having that effect on was Pacific Rim in Imax which left me feeling like I'd been beaten up in an alley but in a good way.

Anyway, this seems like a good time watch the Matrix again. Thanks for the reminder. Woo!
posted by malthusan at 1:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


OH YEAH and all of tie-in material, the Animatrix shorts

YES! Those were excellent. I'm not what you'd call a big fan of the Matrix. I liked it alright, not so much the sequels, saw it once in the theatre and once on video, got the point, and I haven't really felt much desire to watch it a 3rd time.

But the "Animatrix" compilation really surprised me; I loved it. Would watch again.
posted by Hoopo at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


(also how it manages to be entertaining and easy to sit through despite being the most naked teenage boy power fantasy ever.)

Complicated by how easy it is to read transgender themes into the movie.
posted by maxsparber at 1:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also I think making Neo have ...literally almost no personality was the right way to go.

Said it before--like, a couple days ago in the Alien3 thread: Neo is as much a piece of software as the Oracle and the Architect. It's relatively clear through the whole movie that they never leave the Matrix (let's consider for a moment the ethical implications of how many people they outright murder; just because anyone still plugged in can be an Agent doesn't mean everyone is. Taking that a step further, under the Greater Good theory they should have just unplugged Morpheus and set the second movie up as a revenge film); which is made explicitly crystal clear at the end of the second movie. Up until that point, everything's been presented as somewhat handwavey SF; apart from the dumb 'battery' thing, it's believable people could be plugged into a virtual network and never know otherwise. But somehow at the end of the second movie, they're out of the Matrix and suddenly Neo can affect things with his mind? No.

Agent Smith even lampshades this in his virus speech: humans won't accept a perfect world. They won't accept an imperfect one either; we see here and now people who won't accept that what we see is going on really is. The whole Zion subroutine was basically created to keep hacker conspiracy theorists from discovering the truth--a truth that could be way more interesting, if you follow the premises of the movie: the battery thing makes no sense, nor does it make much sense that human brains could possibly hack into something that machines--already having conquered humanity--completely control. The machines know humans are getting in, yet somehow they don't take basic security precautions? Human ships can fly around the farms just picking up bodies willy-nilly?

So what would make sense? The Matrix exists, but nobody ever leaves it. Ever. We already know the Architect and the Oracle are software, there to keep everything moving along. Neo is logically also a piece of software--stated by the Architect as being the balance to some sort of equation apropos vis a vis etc. He couldn't possibly be a balance if left to his own random ends--the entire thing would fall apart if he got hit by a car or something. Therefore he's part of the system.

Which means the actual control of the system is something else. Maybe it is machines, for some nefarious purpose of their own. Batteries certainly ain't it. And again, Smith tells us exactly what the Matrix actually is: it's a zoo.

Someone is studying humans, and using the Matrix to do it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:36 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


O and meant to include: Neo being a collection of ones and zeroes makes the emotionless and wooden Keanu Reeves ideal to play him.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:38 PM on September 30, 2014


SEQUEL DISCUSSION VIOLATION

Agents have been dispatched.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


fffm, that was my headcanon interpretation at the end of the second one as well, but I seem to recall that revolutions didn't run with it. Shame.
posted by figurant at 2:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Where are they now? RATM edition
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on September 30, 2014


Actually we should discuss the soundtrack in general - again it's pretty much perfect - goes far enough to be almost cliche, probably goes beyond that, but fits together so well.
posted by Artw at 2:17 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I didn't like this movie when it came out. My feeling then might be described as how someone more recently might feel having just seen a mashup of Sucker Punch and Tron: Legacy. And all your friends are saying how it's the best movie ever and talking about how kewl and bad-ass it is and you want to scream, "No! You have been fooled by slickness and kewlness into liking stupid garbage."*

I've mellowed since then. The Matrix was part of this rise of slickness-over-substance and dumbed down nerdery that came with the Rise of Computer Graphics and Nerd Culture, but things hadn't got as bad as Zack Snyder yet.

Every time I see it I like it just a little bit more. As just a movie and a story it is solid enough, and I agree that it has aged well. (Except yeah the third act is still bad. The lobby pillar-oriented music video shootemup is to me a representation of everything that's bad about the whole movie.) Okay I admit it I like The Matrix jeez.

*In other words, pretty much my current feelings towards Pacific Rim.
posted by fleacircus at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2014


The lobby pillar-oriented music video shootemup is to me a representation of everything that's bad about the whole movie.

yeah but it looks awesome as hell. Not really disagreeing that it was a mistaken way to do the ending, but as an action movie set piece it's probably in the top 10 of the past twenty years at least.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Taken in isolation, it's still pretty good, but it suffers cause it influenced every bad version of that scene for the next ten years.

It's also the point where the movie stops being tightly constructed and goes a bit racing to the end indulgent. It marks the point where the story stops dead so we can gape at the guns and technical tricks and gaaaaah.
posted by The Whelk at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd say it's the point where the reality of the movie starts breaking down because we are nearing the end.

Which seems fully appropriate, TBH.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well I guess that's the thing. I don't think it looks awesome.

And top 10 action scene in the last 20 years? Oh wow I hope not. Hell, Jack Reacher has a better fight scene than that.

It marks the point where the story stops dead so we can gape at the guns and technical tricks and gaaaaah.

It's also just got nothing interesting about it. "Morpheus is fighting Neo!!" is the same kind of gratuitous "here's your kewl action scene, nerds!!" stuff, but it's a little better motivated by the story and at least has something interesting about it. The cartwheels and pillars getting shot up scene is by that point in the movie nothing new and doesn't matter. It's just John Woo with no value added from the premise, no cleverness or humor or anything.
posted by fleacircus at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's the weakest part cause all the other action sequences added something , and ended before we got tired of them. I get that we needed to see the team triumphant and not holding back but it feels really rote compared the rest of the movie.
posted by The Whelk at 5:22 PM on September 30, 2014


Wow. And here I was thinking the lobby-pillar shoot-em-up was the finale to the whole thing. Love that scene. OTT now and always.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:36 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hi everyone, unaware that The Whelk was posting this as part of his 90s club, I had an idea to start a Constructed Reality Movie Club. Constructed Reality / Simulated Reality is a genre that's typified by The Matrix, so I thought I would throw in a plug for it here. The first planning there is here . I've decided to go with Cronenberg's eXistenz as the first film since it's available for streaming. There's already a pretty packed schedule for clubs, but bi-weekly on Monday is seemingly open. eXistenz will be posted on the 13th, and we can decide on the next film after to be aired on the 27th.

Regarding The Matrix itself, I think that as a stand-alone movie it holds up pretty well, even with the increasingly dated CGI. If nothing else it's a cool border piece between the 90s and the 2000s in terms of action movie sensibility. I was curious what Zizek wrote about it, and presciently he does say, "In the sequels to The Matrix, we shall probably learn that the very 'desert of the real' is generated by (another) matrix." Although it doesn't take a lot of fancy critical theory to arrive at that conclusion anyway.

I remember watching this for the second time, when I was perhaps 14, at a friend's birthday party as the first part in a double feature with softcore pornography stolen from somebody's dad's collection. How pumped we all were when Keanu goofily supermans off in bad CGI form. The ultimate teenaged boy power fantasy indeed. The Zizek piece touches on this, but A) the world is bad because it's not real, B) actually it's a video game and you're good at video games, C) but that doesn't matter because you have a game genie. Let's go shopping for infinite guns, turn on no-clip and instantly level up to kung-fu master.
posted by codacorolla at 6:30 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I kinda thought the real finale wasn't stopping bullets in the hallway, it was fighting Smith. Neo does that "I won't believe it" - "Now I believ it" Chosen One arc, thinks he can stand and fight... and realizes that Cypher was right: run.

Frankly I'd have been happy to see the movie fade out to white as he ran up the stairs.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:34 PM on September 30, 2014


Frankly I'd have been happy to see the movie fade out to white as he ran up the stairs.

Reminds me of David Mamet's bit about how most movies would improve if you chopped off the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes.

...

The sequels are the Sylvie and Bruno to The Matrix's Alice in Wonderland. They're not successful, but they do have some interesting bits and bobs in them. I feel like they were ultimately hamstrung not only by a toxic "bigger is better" mentality, but also by the fact that their plots and ruminations undermined the simple power of the original movie's teenage power fantasy. In effect, the sequels "rewrite" the first movie to be about something else: now it's a murky story about a hero who lacks agency, who doesn't actually accomplish as much as he thinks he's accomplished. That's the kind of thing which not only turns an audience off, but also turns an audience against you.

Instead of doing sequels, they should have just kept churning out Animatrix-esque shorts. Some of the ideas and scenes in the sequels would have been just fine, had they not been presented as the feature-length continuation of the story.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:04 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


To be fair, at the time (late high school) it BLEW MY MIND when they revealed that The One was just a statistical outlier rather than a prophecied messiah, and I thought it was really cool that they so suddenly and so significantly undermined the first movie in that way.

then it went all messiah-y anyway and well you all know how that worked out
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:15 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can see that. It's a gutsy move, and IMHO one of the few of the Philosophy Wank bits in the sequels which actually has interesting implications. And for all the goofiness of the Architect scene, at least it's memorably weird.

But, yeah, I don't think they took that concept to the right places, not in the story, and not in the realm of ideas, either.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:22 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: It's the lighting! Nine times out ten the lighting in the Mateix universe is oddly flat and uniform or very conspicuously "dramatic". It looks like a car commercial. The lighting in the "real world" has deep shadows, bright spots, color, multiple sources, etc.

Like its an incredibly neat way of communicating a machine's value system visually.


Interesting! I'd love to see a blog post or such about this that did a visual compare/contrast thing - has anyone seen any?
posted by pseudonymph at 9:47 PM on September 30, 2014


I think the thing about the Matrix is that its a relatively tight story, and most of the action scenes flow reasonably from the story and tell us something about the characters. I love that introduction scene, which sets up lots of mysteries and also implies that maybe Trinity is a villain? Its exciting, clever, and felt fresh at the time.

Love a lot of this film. The way the world gets established: that delightful window washing scene. The fact that we still have enigmas: who is the Oracle exactly? The emotional arcs are straight forward, but effective, there's nothing wrong with a hero's journey.

I do really like the lobby scene, I think its fun. I appreciate that nothing is really at stake here, but I think thats ok, as the agents soon turn up to add drama.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:19 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always wished that they had gone farther in visually differentiating the matrix from the real world. Hollywood's version of unglamorous squalor is already so removed from reality that it's meaningless, like with everyone's artfully unfinished, palette-matched sweaters. They DO look great though.

When I look back on the whole thing, one of the only things that still seems surprising is that somebody put Meat Beat Manifesto in a feature film.
posted by heatvision at 4:52 AM on October 1, 2014


Did somebody say Animatrix?

(Lots of broken links there; here are some fresh ones -- "HD" links are 1080p MP4, but with subtitles:)

The Second Renaissance (Part I) (HD)
The Second Renaissance (Part II) (HD)
Kid's Story (HD)
Program (HD)
World Record (HD)
Beyond (HD)
A Detective Story (HD)
Matriculated (HD)
Final Flight of the Osiris (HD)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:17 AM on October 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


The Matrix was part of this rise of slickness-over-substance and dumbed down nerdery that came with the Rise of Computer Graphics and Nerd Culture,

That's the idea I've been trying to pin down with this discussion - I have lots of love for the Matrix, but what it did was give rise to the idea that all you needed was a movie with some handwavey philosophy and cool action sequences and the nerds would eat it up. The Matrix somehow, magically, got the balance pretty much right, but to me, this is the legacy of the Matrix - dumbed down nerdery that, at it's best, is merely pretending to be smart. At it's worst, it's putting up such a thin piece of paper that it knows the audience will see through it (going mining for some Unobtanium). The number of truly smart, inventive science fiction films since the Matrix can probably be counted on one hand - they are mostly just large, noisy, FX driven pieces of crap.

As for the sequels, they are such a load of overheated -

[TRACE PROGRAM: RUNNING]

I better go. I'm not sure this line is clean.
posted by nubs at 8:17 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


REMINDER: The Spirit of 99 coming up

OCTOBER 2nd THE IRON GIANT
OCTOBER 8th: A CROSSOVER with MEFI HORROR CLUB for RAVENOUS.
posted by The Whelk at 1:19 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I worked on two of the Matrix video games (Enter the Matrix and Path of Neo). High level of direct coordination with the Wachowskis, all of the actors and all of the crew. The Matrix was my entire profession for nearly four years. I could talk about it for hours.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:45 PM on October 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


Do so, by all means

Please

I am literally begging you
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:07 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Bah. Looks like the gigantic WIRED article on the MMO has been lost to archive rot, or possibly eaten by a cyber-ghost.
posted by Artw at 6:18 PM on October 1, 2014


I'm way too lazy to actually look this up, but whatever happened to those rumors about vampires and werewolves being in the sequels? Does anyone else remember this?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:37 PM on October 1, 2014


The "we are getting annoyed" "yes we are" twins are maybe a residue of that?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:17 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing about vampires and werewolves -- it was simply an aspect of the mythos that wasn't paid off in a meaningful way.

In Reloaded, the Oracle says that human stories about aliens, ghosts, vampires and werewolves are all misinterpretations of the actions of rogue programs in the Matrix. These rogue programs obviously have weird and strange powers, so humans see them and misinterpret them as creatures from mythology.

In both Reloaded and Revolutions, we see many rogue programs with non-human powers (e.g. the albino ghost twins). In Reloaded, we see two programs watching a vampire movie, and other stylishly dressed programs that, in theory, could be construed as Lestat-style vampires, if you kinda tilted your head and imagined it in just the right way.

In Enter the Matrix and Path of Neo, these were supposed to be major enemies, and things were made a *little* more overt. But similarly, because of art styles and writing, it was never really played up to be obviously recognizable.

Early designs in Path of Neo were really way more overt -- grey aliens and evil leprechauns, and the Seraph character as an avenging Christian archangel. Literally. But they were cut because of budget and time.

Giant missed opportunity, IMO, and really, an example of the Wachowskis perhaps being too subtle with what they were trying to portray, if you can believe that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:28 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, please commence talking about it for hours.

On preview, thanks!
posted by Cyrie at 7:39 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll take requests, how about that? I don't know where to begin.

I once took a phone call from Andy Wachowski to answer a question about a sequence from the original Matrix because he couldn't remember how it had played out, second-for-second, and he was cutting an interstitial for Path of Neo.

I was standing in a pet store at the time, buying kibble, and going, "OK, Neo sees the world in code, Smith grimaces and charges, and we want to go into gameplay right there..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:23 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


This quora post about the color coding of the Matrix is specifically about Revolutions, but I feel that much of what's said there applies to the first film too.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:21 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Artw, not sure there was a "massive" article on the game. Slate contemporaneously refers to two articles of moderate length (which may have seemed longer in print due to presentation), but the latter, and longer, is much more about Reloaded. It may be that's what you're remembering.
In general Wired has done a good job keeping its archives online.
posted by dhartung at 12:44 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks for Enter the Matrix, Cool Papa Bell. I played the hell out of that when it came out and really liked it a lot. Great job.
posted by DynamiteToast at 6:40 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank you. Still surprised when anyone tells me they liked ETM. That project was so, so rushed. We bit off way more than we could chew. Every time I played it, I was thinking, "Please don't crash, please don't crash, please don't crash..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:23 AM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


OH YEAH and all of tie-in material...

So not too long after the sequels came out, I was in a Starbucks when a trio of high school kids came in, you know, as they do, because they're cool and that's where cool teens want to hang out and drink coffee and be cool.

And I swear, one of them was wearing one of those long, black, nehru-collared cassock style coats that Neo wears in the sequels. (And I thought to myself, oh thank god I'm not that age anymore.) So apparently someone actually tried to make those a thing.
posted by Naberius at 7:36 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well I was 14 at the time, but in any case I have good memories of it.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:48 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "we are getting annoyed" "yes we are" twins are maybe a residue of that?

I am now imagining Matrix: Reloaded with those twins played by the Goofy Gophers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:57 AM on October 2, 2014


CPB, thanks so much for the insight into the video games! I heard they were excellent.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 AM on October 2, 2014


They were. Entering "cowboycurtis" at a certain point unlocked audio clips from Morpheus.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:00 PM on October 2, 2014


I just got very drunk and watched this movie for the first time in at least 5 years. Wow.
posted by azarbayejani at 11:32 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I envy the optimism of The Matrix. It's 1999 and a mysterious figure tells you that your biggest problem, ennui, is a result of malevolent, omnipotent beings. Furthermore, you're the one who can take them down!

I can't even imagine a movie in 2009 where a mysterious figure tells you that you're the one who can take down the omnipotent forces behind massive income disparity, a financial sector with a death wish, and an overgrown police state.

/s
posted by Monochrome at 8:44 AM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can't even imagine a movie in 2009 where a mysterious figure tells you that you're the one who can take down the omnipotent forces behind massive income disparity, a financial sector with a death wish, and an overgrown police state.

I was thinking about this today while I was shopping. One of the most popular genres of YA, and correspondingly, movies for teens is the constructed reality genre. However, instead of taking place inside of a computer simulation, the constructed reality aspect is inside of some sort of arena (like The Hunger Games), competitive testing (Divergent), or labyrinth (Maze Runner). The protagonists then work in a revolutionary force, typically, to destroy the controlling (inevitably false) order, and return to a 'normal' life that's free of artifice. So these narratives are still strong, and maybe even stronger than ever.

It's not hard to connect all of these to the experience of formal schooling, which is a constructed reality that nearly 100% of society enters into at the start of their life, and nearly 100% of people has difficulty with. Talk to almost any high schooler, and they'll probably speak of a desire to enter the 'real' world and leave behind the constructed and arbitrary world of school.
posted by codacorolla at 9:58 AM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


they should have just kept churning out Animatrix-esque shorts.

With Neo, Cleo, and Dot (the cute one)?

It's time for Animatrix-esque
What's in our shorts is quite grotesque
Our infinite's in jesque
Our quipidalia is sesque
We're An- i- may- trix- esque!

Bullet time

For some reason I think of it as Gap Khakis time.
 
posted by Herodios at 12:10 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's not hard to connect all of these to the experience of formal schooling

Wow, I was *just* saying this exact thing the other day, too -- so many YA novels are about the American high school experience, a rigid order imposed upon teenagers, with castes and cliques and secrets and betrayals.

But what really weirds me out about it is that there's multiple levels to this Matrix. You're reading a story about characters trapped inside a rigid order, but because you, the reader, are also trapped in one (i.e. you're in high school), you don't notice the complete dream logic going on in the story. No one's questioning why things are in the story.

"So, the leaders of Panem hold the Hunger Games to continually remind the Districts who is in charge."
"Yep, that's what they do."
"Why do they feel they need to do this?"
"Because otherwise the Districts would rise up."
"Wouldn't the Districts rise up because they're watching their kids get killed?"
"Yes, but there are soldiers that enforce the will of President Snow."
"If the soldiers are enforcing order, then why does Snow need the Hunger Games at all?"
"Whatever, let's talk about the Maze Runner."
"Yes, let's. Tell me again why the kids are in the maze?"
"Because that's where the Creators put them."
"Why?"
"It's not explained."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"No."
"Dude, say what you will about Sauron, but at least the guy had a plan."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:50 PM on October 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


(ha. I was just thinking that the Maze in Maze Runner is basically the worst boarding school ever. Single sex, designed to test people, full of arbitrary rules that make no sense, done to make you better.)
posted by The Whelk at 1:41 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


"If the soldiers are enforcing order, then why does Snow need the Hunger Games at all?"

Well, the historical precedent is the Colosseum. It's also an historical precedent that it didn't always work.

I can't even imagine a movie in 2009 where a mysterious figure tells you that you're the one who can take down the omnipotent forces behind massive income disparity, a financial sector with a death wish, and an overgrown police state.

Yeah, I'll be having the steak dinner, please. It really doesn't work so well from the other side. But then this was 1999, which the Onion famously summed up as "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity." If you pursue the economic critique, though, it's interesting how the film seems to suggest a reality behind certain trends like flat wages for cog-like office workers, a revolutionary underground pursued relentlessly by agents of the state, with an elite freed from constraints atop it all. Not to go all Jacobin, but the critique offered by the film is flawed as a revolutionary template, primarily concerned with obtaining specialized power in order to knock down the state, rather than any broader message about freeing the populace (who then rise up themselves). It's empowering, but only in a way that flatters middle-class white males. I would be interested in how viewers who don't fit the Neo demo react, in retrospect.
posted by dhartung at 1:22 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


tweeted this while drunk last night: "Can’t balance the amount of strong black characters vs the amount of magic negros in The Matrix"
posted by azarbayejani at 1:25 AM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I remember thinking at the time that there sure was a lot of media out asserting that all our peace and prosperity was a veil hiding the "real world" and soon everybody would wake up from this "end of history" trance. I distinctily remembering thinking all this Internet boom stuff and Enron-y boosterism sounded really hollow and fake and it was all just fairy money that was going to vanish one day.
posted by The Whelk at 7:38 AM on October 4, 2014


I was sort of down on including this when it came up in the initial Class of 99 thread. I mean, what could there possibly be to say about this movie given how much it's been written about and discussed both when it was new and since? But this turned out to be a great thread to read on and off while the movie played. Yay, Metafilter.

I hadn't watched this in years, and was unsurprised at how well it holds up even now. I'm an apologist for the second movie, but completely agree the third stinks, though even in the 3rd there are little nuggets of good ideas... My personal feeling on how they went so wrong has always been that they tried to do too much too quickly. They had the script and stuff for this first movie for years before they got to make it. LOTS of time to hone and refine it into a perfect little jewel. In fact, my recollection is they had to make Bound (which I think is pretty good) first to prove they could be trusted to direct this movie. I think if they'd taken more time with both the second and third movies they could've been much better. Instead they wrote and shot both at once and ... Welp. Now we've got what we've got.

I've got the DVD box set they put out that has all the movies and Animatrix. A lot of the extras are pretty entertaining if you're super into these movies (or at least the setting). As has always been the case, The Wachowskis don't do commentary tracks for their movies. So instead what they did was do two commentaries for each one. The funniest is a group of three film critics. They're effusive in their praise of the first movie, find the second pretty problematic, and hate the third so much there's long stretches of silence between bitter snark (lol).

The one thing I'd like to point out that no one's mentioned, and it's a little touch, is how much Chicago there is in this movie. It's not set there obviously, but there's a lot of references. All the street names are from here, there's a couple 312 area code references. In fact among other meanings, it's not a stretch to say that Neo's name is partly inspired by the northside club of the same name (I know I've read somewhere or other that the Wachowskis used to go there a lot). It makes sense, as they're from here and their production company is from here, but it's still a neat touch. It's not germane to this thread, but it looks like their movie that's coming out next year is going even further as the trailer shows people fighting/flying around what is blatantly Chicago.
posted by sparkletone at 4:10 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you ignore certain bits of the second film and treat it as "The Further Adventures of Neo and the Gang!", then it's a really fun movie.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:07 PM on October 4, 2014


I originally didn't bother to see Matrix: Reloaded, but my friends said they wanted to see on the big screen "how bad" the third one would be, so I caught up with Reloaded after the fact. I mostly didn't mind it. My expectations were so low, and it had been so anti-hyped for me, that I was pretty comfy for most of it.

Ditto the third movie. They both have their moments.

That said, the "million billion Agents" fight was fucking stupid.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:20 PM on October 4, 2014


I have never been able to understand the love for Agent Smith. I remember sitting in the movie theatre with my hand over my mouth to stifle my laughter when I heard Hugo Weaving pull out that bizarre accent, which at the time I interpreted as his bad attempt to do an American accent. I'm still not sure it wasn't.

I also remember watching it again before the second one was released - back to back - and realising just how many things had been influenced by it. It really did leave an indelible mark on the genre.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:36 AM on October 5, 2014


If Agent Smith wasn't slightly ridiculous I'm not sure we'd love him so. He's the Dale Cooper of The Matrix.
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on October 5, 2014


it's interesting how the film seems to suggest a reality behind certain trends

Between what you said, and what The Whelk said, I now realize a perfect double-billing would be Office Space & The Matrix. For those too young to remember the dot-com years, I think those two would sum it up nicely.

For me, it's hard to think of anything truly bad about the movie. Beyond what everyone else has said (and I agree with), I think one of the things which solidifies the place this movie holds is the impeccable timing of its release. Of course, this isn't something the Wachowskis or anyone could get credit for, but this dark movie comes out at the peak of what might be the last truly optimistic time in the United States, and then is very quickly followed by the dot-crash of 2000, the botched presidential election, and then 9/11. From peace & prosperity & a perceived certainty about the world, to the dark uncertainty, instability, and destruction of the 2000s. A complete 180 (from an American perspective) in less than two years.

To me, it adds something almost mythological to what otherwise might be remembered as just a very good action flick, and adds a bit of pathos when a character identifies 1999 as the best of all possible years.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:42 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Artw, I had to look up who Dale Cooper was. One day I will get around to Twin Peaks and it will be a bit like watching Hamlet when you keep recognising quote after quote and finally see them in context in their proper order.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:38 PM on October 5, 2014


/dead of old.
posted by Artw at 11:44 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


No, no. I'm the right age to have seen it live to air, and all my friends quote it, which is why I recognise a lot of stuff. But for some reason I missed it. Please don't die of old because then I will have to as well!
posted by Athanassiel at 12:58 AM on October 6, 2014


In fact I will have to die of EVEN OLDER because I am. Than you. I mean.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:00 AM on October 6, 2014


/reconstitutes from Dracula dust.
posted by Artw at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2014


How did I miss this thread? Bummer!

We had a deal, Kyle: I remember seeing this shortly after The Phantom Menace. Holy crap, what a difference: TPM all bright colors and meandering bloat, this all dark and tight.

Yes, this was my exact take. TPM was just an unrelenting disappointment - for this I waited so long with so much hope? And then I went into the Matrix knowing that it had a lot of buzz but without any spoilers, and wow.

Too bad about the sequels, but this really set a high bar, and it stands on its own.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:22 AM on October 14, 2014


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