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The Matrix - March 31, 1999 (1 Viewer)

Chuck Mayer

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Well, tomorrow is the "big" day. An interesting and auspicious anniversary to be sure. 1999 was a banner year for film, somewhat transformative, and I'd argue that this film probably led the charge. As a nostalgic sort, I figured I'd throw this thread out and share some thoughts. Primarily about the first film, but also about the trilogy as a whole.

However, let's share some of the existing threads with a stroll down memory lane:

The Matrix (thread started in 2002)

The Matrix Reloaded Discussion

The Matrix Revolutions Discussion

The Matrix Reloaded Reviews

The Matrix Revolutions Reviews

There are other threads, but those are the biggies. One of the best was a "post-Reloaded" Revolutions thread that ran until Revolutions was released. Lots of rampant speculation and fun, but it seems to be long gone. C'est la vie.

I recall that The Matrix was released this early to avoid TPM's monstrous hold on the summer. I saw it after opening weekend, and found it to be inventive and fun, if not brilliant. However, it stayed in my consciousness for some time, and I rushed out to get the DVD (as did many others, often with new DVD players to show the film off) and watched it a few times.

I didn't fall in love with the universe and storyline (truly) until the e-release of The Second Renaissance parts I and II. Those really clicked, setting up Reloaded, which REALLY worked for me. I played the heck out of Enter The Matrix and watched the first film again, drawing a lot more to appreciate from it.

I've cooled a bit on the third film, though I still admire the ambition very much. It doesn't quite gel, but the parts that are good are VERY good. I still love the first two, and it's still my favorite fictional nerd universe.

So here we are 10 years later. I think it is safe to say that the sequels tarnished (unfairly in my opinion) the first film a bit, but that most still consider it a "great flick". Most would probably also agree it is one of the more influential films of the last decade, even as the film itself was a potpourri of older influences. The magic is in the synthesis and the storytelling.

Take care,
Chuck
 

Brian Borst

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I first thought it was highly overrated. Everyone was raving about it. People said things like 'it's a hard movie to understand' and my personal favorite: 'what if it's real?'. I watched it, and thought 'That's it?' So I continued to bash it. Then it played on tv, and I suddenly liked it. Not as the philosophical film a lot of people made it out to be, but as an intelligent science-fiction/action film. So eventually I bought the dvd, and I still think it's a great film. The second film I rented once, and catched once on television. I haven't seen the third one. I wanted to buy the trilogy box set on dvd, but my attention went elsewhere, and now I might as well buy it on Blu-Ray. Still have to do that, but it will get in my collection eventually. A tv station here will broadcast the entire trilogy, so I'll have the chance to catch the other two films then. Probably watch Part I on dvd while I'm at it.
 

mattCR

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I love the original. I despise both of the sequels like Highlander sequels, and the third movie I have to completely wipe from my memory for the betrayal of the concept of the first film.
 

Andy Sheets

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I remember going to see it opening night more because I got out of work late and didn't have anything better to do than because I was eager to see it, and when it was over I felt like I'd seen the new Star Wars.

I still think the first movie is cool (I don't believe sequels can "ruin" an original film) but I think the sequels went astray by overemphasizing the weakest parts of the first film - especially the creaky non-matrix scenes and the tendency toward talkiness - instead of playing them down in favor of what worked best.
 

Lou Sytsma

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I am with you Matt but neither of the sequels exist for me. Much like the SW prequels don't exist.

The Matrix is a cool amalgamation of many genre elements and contains the appropriate mix of action vs substance delivered in an organic manner.
 

Pete-D

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The thing I remember most about "The Matrix" was Joe Pantoliano saying prior to its release that it was going "blow away Star Wars" or something to that effect and I thought man that was a crazy statement.

Then I actually saw the film and I have to say after about the first two or three minutes ... you could "feel" a buzz in the audience like you get when they're seeing something that had just blown them away. Even though 1999 was supposed to be Star Wars' triumphant return, it became the year of "The Matrix" and "The Sixth Sense" instead.

To be honest I think the first Matrix film is probably the best Hollywood "action/adventure blockbuster" of the last 10 years. The LOTR trilogy taken as a whole may surpass it, but I don't think any one singular LOTR entry tops the first Matrix by itself. The Dark Knight would be the other one I put on that level, but those are the three big ones of the last 10 years IMO.

Reloaded/Revolutions were disappointing, but I still think the first Matrix hit all the right notes. It was a winding cyberpunk fairy tale with inventive visuals and action and damn it was pretty smart too (as far as movies of this type go). I was impressed leaving the theater on that spring '99 night, and I wasn't expecting that at all.
 

DavidJ

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Add me to the list that agrees with comments. I can stomach the second film and it has some very entertaining sequences, but the third film---betrayal is a nice choice of words---doesn't respect the integrity and conceit of the world they created in the original.
 

Chuck Mayer

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I consider the third film rigorously faithful to the universe established in the first two films. Clearly the Brothers are intimately familiar with Wagner. And the Bible. Revolutions ended the only way the story, as begun in the first film, could. I rewatched The Matrix this evening. In many ways it seems tame to the decade of action/sci-film films that followed. Although it is still full of ideas. And Reloaded is still my favorite.
 

angelad

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The last 2 editions left a very bad taste in my mouth, but loved the original.
 

Pete-D

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Honestly and I remember telling a friend this way back in '99 ... the story that had to be told was already told in the first Matrix, I didn't think there was anywhere to go with Matrix 2 and 3.

Neo is the One. We get it. We got it.

After that, it was what Robert Zemeckis said about the Back to the Future sequels ... it just became "sitcomized". Meaning it's the characters you love just in new and wackier situations rather than being driven by any real story purpose.

The moment the Wachowskis became more interested in things like computer program characters and 1000 Smiths vs. 1 Neo fight scenes is the moment they lost the simple premise and appeal of the first Matrix -- what if the world around you isn't real? What if you could break away from the world?

The further the Matrix story got away from that core idea, the weaker it became. The Animatrix shorts that detailed the back story of the Matrix were honestly far more interesting than Reloaded/Revolutions to me.

Of course if you're a filmmaker and you've got a hot action/adventure property and some one asks "is it a trilogy?" you say "yes". Without question you scribbled all this stuff together in 7th grade and have it all figured out. If you're George Lucas you even say you have two trilogies or even three, lol.
 

Patrick Sun

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I initially didn't like the "humans as batteries" angle of the first one, but it's grown on me over time. I saw Reloaded 6 times on IMAX, so suffice it to say, I enjoyed the hell out of that installment. Revolutions was just too ambitious, with too many characters and ended up a shotgun mess, but even so, still watchable for me.
 

Kirk Tsai

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I really, really liked the first film. When the second one was about to come out, some of my other friends were far more excited than I was. Then I saw Reloaded, and it knocked me out flat. I'm with Chuck and Patrick. I couldn't stop thinking about that picture. Even if it looked silly to many people, I ended up putting Reloaded as my favorite movie of the year in the HTF year end thread that year.
 

John Wielgosz

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My first exposure to 'The Matrix' was a small sidebar in 'Cinescape' magazine in late '98 or so. My initial reaction was a decisive 'meh' as visions of Johnny Mnemonic danced in my head. I was sure it would be an incoherent, choppy mess, trying to ride on style alone.

Then I saw the trailer in February of 1999.

Man, I thought, I have no idea what this is about, but I have to see this.

Love at first sight doesn't begin to cover it. 'The Matrix' (all three films of the trilogy) connected with myself on nearly every aesthetic level I had. Were they perfect? No. But I'll take bold and slightly flawed over safe and by the numbers any day.

Now for the nasty part...

I've pretty much swept aside most of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (even 'Sith' is starting to tear at the edges for myself)...and...at the risk of being pursued with torches and pitchforks, I've lost interest in 'Lord of the Rings'.

But my beloved 'Matrix' trilogy holds firm. Love it to death. I understand some of the critiques leveled against 'Reloaded' and 'Revolutions' (and share in some of them), but I don't care. I'm holding my anniversary trilogy festival this Saturday, and I'm gleefully anticipating it already.
 

Todd H

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I agree with the others as well. Loved the first one, hated the two sequels.
 

Chuck Mayer

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Pete, I have to completely disagree with you on your post (which I am certain will shock and amaze you). Especially after my rewatch of the first film last evening.

The Matrix is the most Hollywood of the three films, the only one that stands on it's own. It is compact and lean, and it tells *a* complete story. But the trilogy also tells a complete and (most importantly) homogenous story. I will not try to claim the sequels don't have bloat, and don't suffer from overload, as it is obvious they do.

I will absolutely claim that the sequels were in the mind of the writers during the first film. One of the narrative themes is Neo and his relationship with fate...it runs counter to the result of the first film. Neo rejects the very idea of fate, to both the Oracle and Morpheus. But that theme is very much imbedded in the final denouement of Reloaded and into Revolutions. Literally NOTHING in The Matrix is retconned to make the sequels work. So either the Brothers are brilliantly adept writers with respect to limitations, meshing seamlessly with the first film while subverting it quite extensively, or there was some sort of plan in place during the filming of The Matrix.

At the very least (and I think the truth is more significant), they certainly allowed themselves plenty of leeway for follow-ups.

Furthermore, the first film is only complete in the Conrad sense. Taken deeper into philosophy, through (again) Wagner and the Bible (and plenty of mythology as well), Neo's journey isn't about power, but understanding. At the end of his first film, he understands his power, but not much else. The whole point of the sequels was to get him to a place where he understands his purpose.

Jesus wasn't just the savior of his people, but all people. It was not through his power that the world was saved. It was through his choice. Most mythology deals with a hero that sacrifices himself to remake the world. None of that mythology is in the first film. Only the first step of a journey is shown in the first film. That is usually where Hollywood stops, so maybe it feels complete.

So I reject the notion the sequels were an afterthought, or a business decision. Making two films instead of one might have been a business decision. But Neo choosing to be the yin to Smith's yang, choosing to sacrifice for both worlds to make a new one, was always part of the equation. I'd bet cash on that. The films certainly support that direction.

Deleted elements from the first film do as well (as my somewhat celebratory anniversary Signature line attests).
 

Michael:M

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As always, Chuck has beat me to the punch and put it much better than I could have.

The story is far from complete at the end of The Matrix; it is only a beginning, and it's not at all evident how the humans could "win" a war with the machines.

Put me down as someone who LOVES Reloaded; in fact, I like it better than the first film. Reloaded deepens and widens the Matrix universe without a single bit of contradiction (more on that in a moment) or retconning. It introduces deeper mysteries, more layers, and a more nuanced view of that created world. Plus, you know, Monica Bellucci. ;)

While what the characters learn contradicts what they knew in the first film, nothing that is "true" for that universe is contradicted. Absolutely key to the entire trilogy is Morpheus' recounting of the previous One. There have been more than one, which is the dialogue hint/key that not all is as it seems upon first introduction.

I also agree that Revolutions ended the only way it really could, other than the machines annihilating humanity.

It is hard to believe it's been 10 years; the original film has influenced action and genre films to a degree we wouldn't have believed back then.

Great thread, Chuck.
 

Don Solosan

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"Literally NOTHING in The Matrix is retconned to make the sequels work."

Except maybe that "SYSTEM FAILURE" bit at the end of the first movie...

Whoops!
 

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