#18: The Matrix (1999)

When and how did I watch this?

May 8th, 2017, on Amazon.

Had I seen this film already?

Yep.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

The Matrix is a defining film of my generation. Upon its release, the bullet dodge scene, the green vertical computer code, Trinity’s haircut, Neo’s wardrobe, and Morpheus’ glasses were imitated relentlessly. It’s the penultimate cyberpunk sci-fi flick, complete with religious undercurrents, low timbre one-liners, and shocking special effects and violence. It’s a personal favorite and a nostalgic throwback.

What do I know about it now?

Films like this tend to lose their luster over time because, though they revolutionize how films of the genre are done, they’re highly dependent on effects and popular concepts of the time, and they end up appearing campy years later.  Return of the Jedi had that problem, along with Back to the Future sequels and the original Terminator. Fortunately, The Matrix bears substance beyond the visceral as it draws from timeless literary sources, and even today it holds up surprisingly well.  Yes, the effects are gaudy and ridiculous, but they’re still fun to watch. While the lines are often delivered with unnecessary heft, some of the monologues are the best in movies — see Morpheus’ revelation of how humans are now “grown” and the reality therein, and Agent Smith’s disgust with humanity while torturing Morpheus.  Bullet time still looks fantastic, and the sound remains exhiliarating. There are numerous Bible parallels in the film — it can be said that Morpheus represents “the Father”, Trinity “Christ”, and Neo “the church” (with a cameo from Cypher as Judas). Watch it again and decide for yourself.

What are some themes in the film?

Perception and reality, the value of humanity, betrayal, destiny and hope, artificial intelligence

Did this affect me personally?

Not this time, but it certainly shakes up how one sees the world around them.  Even being familiar with most of the film, I was sweating out most of the scenes and felt like I’d just finished a workout in the end.

Why is this ranked #18?

The Matrix is ranked where it belongs. Its stunning visual and audio effects resonate with a whole generation of film watchers, and set a trend in production that has been imitated several times since. As mentioned earlier, the pop culture relevance stands tall.

Did my wife watch/like it?

For having such dramatic and profound themes (especially religious in nature), she feels the profanity is unnecessary.  I’d have to agree with her here.  It’s also a dude movie, so it doesn’t rank high in her perspective, though she also recognized its modern relevance.

Would I watch it again?

I could watch this one every day.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

As one might expect, most of my peers have seen this film.  It’s worth your time if you haven’t; you might turn your nose up at the genre, but there is plenty here to admire.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The film is eighteen years old now, unbelievably; in 1999, Chariots of Fire and Raiders of the Lost Ark were considered legendary already, so you can’t argue that its proximity to the present disqualifies it from “greatness” status.  What might hinder its qualification is the acting and line delivery, but any overwrought or hyperdramatic dialogue might have been a distraction from its true value as a landmark super immersive effects-driven masterpiece. The film is great, and among the greatest ever made.

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