My movie bucket list: “The Matrix” (Week 3)

matrix_ver1_xlgHave you ever woken up suddenly in the middle of the night, startled from an extremely vivid dream? Your eyes snap open, but it takes a moment for your brain to fully regain consciousness and to distinguish between the dream and reality. It only lasts a few heartbeats, but it’s a disconcerting feeling, as your brain re-establishes what is real.

That’s exactly the sort of feeling the character “Neo” gets in the classic sci-fi movie “The Matrix.” He makes a discovery that leaves him wondering exactly what is real and what is not.

“The Matrix” was released in 1999, garnering attention for its mind-bending plot and groundbreaking special effects. It has certainly impacted many of the sci-fi and action films that followed it, and I wanted to watch it as part of my movie bucket list project. Having never watched it before (I know, I know, this is almost as bad as never having watched a Quentin Tarantino film) 😉 I was curious to see if the film still had the same impact 15 years after its release. (Warning: This blog contains some spoilers about the film.)

“The Matrix” is based on a thought-provoking premise: is it better to face reality than live in a dream world, even if that reality is harsh and disconcerting? The film is set in the future, in a time where artificially intelligent machines have enslaved humanity, keeping all people trapped in a dream-like state so they can be more easily controlled. Humans believe this “dream state” is real, and no one is aware they’re just living a lie.

A band of revolutionaries “wake up” a hacker called Neo (Keanu Reeves), believing him to be the man prophesied to free humanity. Neo is trained in combat but maintains doubts he can truly serve as a savior. He has to believe in himself before he can save others.

I really enjoyed this movie and found that the special effects and plot held up pretty well over time. The movie is known for its frequent use of stylized slow motion to highlight the well-choreographed stunts and fight scenes. The special effects probably don’t come across quite as groundbreaking now as they did in 1999, but that’s simply because many other films since then have used those same techniques. I found echoes of “The Matrix” in films like Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” another great sci-fi movie about dreams and altering reality.

The themes in “The Matrix” also remain relevant. One character chooses to betray the other revolutionaries and return to “the Matrix” dream world. Even though he knows nothing in the Matrix is real, he’d rather live a happier lie than face a real but grim future. As our own world becomes more uncertain – political turmoil, new diseases, financial crises – it’s tempting to retreat from these threats and problems. But denying those issues doesn’t make them go away; we’re not really escaping, we’re just falling “deeper down the rabbit hole.” The film also touches on the power of technology, and how it can be both a useful tool or a dangerous weapon, depending on how it is used.

I thought “The Matrix” was a good film that’s still worth watching. It’s a stylishly shot and entertaining piece of sci-fi that raises intriguing questions about humanity and reality.

Next up on the movie bucket list: “The Godfather.”

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13 thoughts on “My movie bucket list: “The Matrix” (Week 3)

  1. Excellent review, I’m glad to hear you really enjoyed the Matrix. As influential as the special effects became, it’s the original story and thought provoking ideas that stuck with me after watching it. The directors also deserve a lot of credit, it’s too bad they haven’t done anything on this level since. I remember that the Matrix was hyped as potentially the Star Wars of it’s era, unfortunately the sequels didn’t live up to that but we’ll always have the original movie.

  2. Pingback: Community Links & News: Most Anticipated Movies | Sidekick Reviews

  3. Sorry, but I have to disagree. This review is not good at all. It doesn’t say anything about the Matrix besides some vague face value characteristics. Particularly, the movie is not about a question whether life is worth living in the real world versus a dream world. At least, in the way you phrase is it is not about this. The real and dream world (matrix) demonstrated in the movie are just a sophisticated allegory to demonstrate the current situation we all live today. The movie is ultimately about choice but more importantly the illusion of choice, and how such choices (and the illusion thereof) are key to understanding how current power structures across the globe stay in power (specifically, democracies). Although the sequels are not all that good, there are some socio-political and philosophical details in them that cement in these ideas. One scene in particular is when Neo speaks with the Architect of the Matrix. The Architect explains to Neo that there were multiple Matrices that have come and gone. All have failed for one reason or another, but ultimately it came down to how the Matrix was initiated in the human mind. The first Matrices were like totalitarian states. They were installed and activated without solicitation. Due to human nature, the Matrix was ultimately rejected and the system failed. The current Matrix in which Neo lives/lived was more sophisticated. It is akin to democracy in that people were given the choice. The Architect explains that the Matrix could be accepted by 99.9% of the population if “as long as [the population is] given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level.” It is safe to say that many democracies around the world function on this very same principle. The population will accept or at least acquiesce as long as they feel they have had a choice, no matter how insignificant that choice is (ie. Democrat versus Republican). This is also not the only deep running theme throughout the script but is an important one. With this in mind I think you could gain a completely fantastic appreciation for the movie.

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