Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
I'm thumbing through my movie collection and notice 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' which I own in glorious high definition on defunct HD-DVD.  So I think to myself that I should watch this movie called The Matrix made back in 1999 because while there might be a good 8,000 film reviews, books, articles, graphic novels, masters thesis' and doctoral dissertations written about the Wachowski Brothers seminal Sci-Fi epic, It's just not enough.  It really isn't. 

What is The Matrix?  The Matrix is a lie.  A collection of bits and bytes stringing together the neurons of humanity into a singular energy source powering our enslavers, designed to keep our minds closed and bodies imprisoned.  Ergo, it's messed up.  Vis-a-vie… we need to do something about it.

Say hello to Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), a miserable computer programmer by day, and a miserable computer hacker by night going by the handle of Neo.  Neo knows in his heart of hearts that's something just isn't right with this world he lives in, he just doesn't know what it is.  Then one fateful day he meets the lovely woman in tight black vinyl named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who is a charge of the international terrorist known as Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and they offer Neo a chance to know the truth.  Before that cinematically historic meeting however Neo makes the acquaintance of one Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) who, along with his colleagues, urges Neo to see things his way using his own special interrogative techniques. 

You know what happens next… the blue pill or the red pill.  TAKE THE BLUE PILL NEO!!!  Damn, he takes the red pill, leaves wonderland, enters the theater of the real,
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and life for Thomas Anderson has now come to an end.  Neo learns it's not really 1999 but 2199 or something, the machines have gained consciousness, deemed humans obsolete, a war broke and the machines won.  The few humans that remain live under the scorched earth, desperate to free the billions that are trapped in the Matrix with Morpheus believing, like no one has ever believed anything, that Neo is The One, and The One will set us free. 

Is Neo The One?  He doesn't think so, but he is.  Totally The One.  It takes him a minute or two to figure this out, folks die and stuff, true love occurs and whatnot, but Neo is The One and he's going to set us free!  Or not, because the 'The Matrix: Reloaded' and the 'The Matrix: Revolutions' are also in this HD-DVD collection and ergo… five plus hours worth of movie later, nobody really knows what happened.

This next little segment goes out to Lisa Sue.  Who is Lisa Sue you might ask? A lovely young lady and colleague and self-professed nerd-girl who has never seen 'The Matrix'.  I know, right?  Apparently this woman missed the first movie back in 1999 but did to manage catch Reloaded and Revolutions and as such has no interest in watching the original.  Believe me, I understand how watching those two films without seeing the original could irreparably scar somebody… but C'mon Sister!  It's THE FREAKING MATRIX!  My heart weeps for her and she doesn't care.  Tragic.  

The Matrix… is transcendent.  It is arguably the most entertaining movie ever made.  It is the kind of movie that if you are changing channels and it happens to be on TNT or WGN or whatever and you make the mistake of not IMMEDIATELY changing the channel, no matter at what point the movie is at, you will be trapped into watching it until the end.  It is the kind of film that is great when you watch it the first time, but somehow only gets better with each subsequent viewing, and I rarely watch movies more than once.

Many people, almost all of them smarter than me, have dissected this movie to its core.  I mean Cornell West is one of the running DVD commentators on this film.  I actually know Cornell West, he and my uncle being good friends and all, and it took a good ten minutes of listening to the commentary by Dr. West to realize I do not have the mental acuity to understand what the heck he is talking about.  But this is what has made 'The Matrix' the movie that it is.  It's entertaining, it has action, it has pretty girls, it has explosions.  It also possesses parables, hidden meanings, literary references, historical allegory and all kinds of stuff that smart people find invigorating or that smart people will scoff at as failed pretentious B.S..  So be you a mental midget or a high flying intellectual or somewhere in-between, 'The Matrix' has something for you.  Very few, if any popcorn styled movies can say this.

Then there's the casting.  Throughout his career Keanu Reeves has gotten abused for his acting ability, or lack thereof, but can you imagine anybody else playing Neo?  I'll wait.  No you can't.  That vacant look of monotone wonder that was critical to the character of Neo and this new world he has been thrust into… nobody can do that like Keanu Reeves.  And if you've followed Keanu Reeves career you know they rarely let him fly solo as he usually gets paired with some amazing actor, this time Laurence Fishburne providing the penultimate of coolness, the most magical of the magical cinematic black people charged with helping white people find better lives, no one comes close to Morpheus .  Joe Pantoliano as the slimy, traitorous Cypher?  A fastball in his wheelhouse.  Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity… a little on the masculine side, short hair, broad shoulders, doesn't run like a girl which effectively sells to us that she will roundhouse kick you to the face while shooting you in the chest.  But then feminine and beautiful enough that she's certainly not getting kicked out any time soon.  Hope that wasn't inappropriate.    Then there's one of cinemas best villains, Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith.  Yes, Agent Smith is certainly a cold calculating dick with some anger management issues, but gosh-darnit he does make some valid arguments.

No, I have no idea why kung fu is the main method of combat in The Matrix world, but it does look cool.  I also would imagine downloading an entire human persona from point a to point b using regular telephone lines would take roughly four days, but this is the future and I guess they have Super DSL.  And while I'm sure there are folks out there who have a laundry list of sound explanations why the concepts behind The Matrix are complete nonsense, we're not listening to them.  Thirteen years old as of today, still looks as fresh as brand new money on HD-DVD, Or Blu-Ray even though I think HD-DVD will be making a comeback, and surviving two 'questionable' sequels, 'The Matrix' is still the standard and for my money one of the best movies ever made.  Come on Lisa Sue, get on the winning team.

Shout out to Sophia Stewart of whom the concept was stolen from.  I didn't want to believe it was true either, you Wachowski loyalist out there, but 'Reloaded', 'Revolutions' and 'Speed Racer' kind of give that lawsuit some validity don't you think? 
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I would like to thank Chris for the chance to explain my position on The Matrix. As noted in his review, I have watched Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions. I realize I am a nobody, whose credibility is built on the fact that I saw the Matrix sequels (in the theatre). As to the how and why I have seen the sequels, but not the original, I can only blame peer pressure. I guess had things been entirely up to me, I probably wouldn't have seen any of them. After Reloaded the thought did occur to me to watch the first Matrix, before seeing the trilogy conclusion. Alas, the moment passed and I didn't watch the Matrix then, so why do I need to watch 'The Matrix' now? On this point we have agreement, the 2nd and 3rd Matrix were not cinematic masterpieces. They were so horrible in fact that it has stopped me from watching the first Matrix.

We live in an amazing age, a post Matrix era. In 1999, or even 2003, we could only imagine how smartphones and DVR would transform us. We watch what we want, when we want, how we want. I choose not to watch the first Matrix because there are so many other things for me to watch, whether it is a movie or (more likely) a tv show. Now this is just my humble opinion, and you need not agree with me. If you believe that me not watching the first Matrix is blasphemous, we must agree to disagree. In the end, the only person being penalized is me, seeing as I'm missing out on what is described as a cinematic masterpiece. And that is a price I am willing to pay. 

As far as if another actor could've played Neo, (
editor's note:  Lisa and I engaged in a discussion where I said only Keanu could've played Neo where Lisa is of the mind that any warm body could've pulled it off.) time will tell who is right. When 'The Matrix' gets remade, with another actor in the iconic role, we can reevaluate the merits of Mr. Reeves. I have however learned some things from this experience- watch movies in order and be weary of sequels. While most sequels won't match the original spark of the first, they need not be so horrible that it detracts from the greatness of the original. Take note Mr. Lucas, those who watched Phantom Menace first probably aren't making it back to 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

- Lisa Sue

Special Notice: In an unprecedented event, Lisa Sue, whom we called out in this review, took umbrage and requested equal time to defend her position on why she hasn't seen 'The Matrix'.  We don't hate Freedom here at the FCU, that being said, let's not make this a habit.
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