[NOTE: I wrote this review in late 1999 about the original movie. I have chosen to leave it in its original state because my brilliant insight into the Wachoski Brothers proved so true 😛 ]
The Matrix is a shining example that good things are bound to happen in filmmaking over the next few years. After seeing the tremendous amount of putrid Hollywood drivel that is released every week, I often wonder if all the good movies have been made. But The Matrix demonstrates that there is new, fresh talent in filmmaking. The Wachowski brothers (Andy and Larry) have only one previous title to their writing/directing credit (Bound). I doubt much was expected from this rather unknown pair. However, with only their second film release, they blazed onto the screen with one of the most unique sci-fi films in recent history. The two brothers share qualities with the legendary Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) such as dedication and creativity (although in a more conventional vein).
There was only one problem with the film. Keanu “I’m not Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan” Reeves. No one can really be blamed for this. This being only the Wachowski brothers’ second film, they probably did not have much clout with the Hollywood acting scene. They took the biggest names they could. Keanu Reeves probably could not find work with any filmmakers that did have great connections. Reeves’ bad acting abilities, however, do not detract greatly from this film. There are three reasons for this. First, he was not given the largest speaking part (what planning!). Second, his I-don’t-know-where-I-am-or-how-to-act-here attitude went perfectly with a character who did not know where he was or what was real most of the time anyway. The last reason is probably the most important. The two characters that knew the most, and drove the story, were played by exceptional actors. Lawrence Fishburne did an incredible job as our guide through the film, Morpheus. A most commendable acting award, though, must go to Hugo Weaving for his fantastic portrayal of Agent Smith. The ever-present Smith is often intimidating, even menacing. Yet sometimes he is understanding and at other times downright funny.
The Matrix got most of its recognition, of course, for the special effects developed for the movie. The technology and techniques invented for this film (e.g. Bullet Time) are reminiscent of George Lucas setting up ILM to make Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. But the Wachowski brothers (again, like Lucas) recognized that effects are a means to an end, and that end is a fantastic story. The Matrix would be nothing without characters like Morpheus, Smith and Neo. In turn, these characters would be nothing without the story of The Real World and The Matrix. The brothers’ writing ability is what sets them apart. Their story takes us to a world we have never seen. This is what makes The Matrix something more than every other special effects movie out there. I am excited to see what they will come up with next.
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