The Matrix (1999)

There is no spoon

As I sat down to rewatch The Matrix for the first time since my college days, it was almost like I was seeing the movie for the first time. So much about this seminal action flick played differently from the first time I watched it.

Back then, I of course had no inkling that the Wachowskis were transgender or even understood the concept of a “queer reading” of a movie. This, of course, radically alters the tone and thematic underbelly of the film.

In particular, it makes the final kiss between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) feel especially lame. It would have felt much more appropriate for Neo to completely break his shackles rather than fall into a heteronormative romance as the movie closes.

One detail in that caught my attention using this perspective was the constant deadnaming of Neo by Agent Smith. It always feels so dehumanizing for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate before now.

In an unintentional coincidence, I had also recently watched Memento, also featuring Joey Pants and Carrie-Anne Moss. The two movies make a terrific double feature, with some overlapping and contrasting themes, and a similar aim for mind-bending. Speaking of Pantoliano, I couldn’t help but wish for a more prominent and drawn-out exploration of Cypher’s betrayal in The Matrix. His character and viewpoint are very intriguing, and I would have loved it to be more central to the movie.

Everyone knows The Matrix is a green movie, but I had forgotten just how green it really is. On a particularly hot day, the color scheme alone left me physically thirsty. I wanted to dive in.

The philosophical rambling the film’s script are self-evidently mumbo jumbo. And yet, I found myself drawn to the kooky script. The faux-lisophical dialogue complements the world that the film creates. The notion of a false reality is explored with a earnestness and dedication, and it makes a baby’s-first-simulated-reality-thought-exercise, to the point that “living in the matrix” is still a euphemism for coincidences that feel pre-programmed by a higher intelligence. (I’d much rather forget another turn of phrase that has entered the cultural lexicon from this movie, “red-pilled”.)

Overall, revisiting “The Matrix” was pleasant, but it left me with some mixed feelings. Back in 2009, I considered it one of my top 100 favorite films. However, if I were to compile such a list in 2021, it would not make the cut.

Nonetheless, The Matrix stands as a testament to the Wachowskis’ visionary storytelling and their ability to challenge conventional narratives. The film is a milestone for a reason, and it endures as both a questioning of the basic assumptions of reality and, more importantly, a groundbreaking action flick. Even if it’s not an all-timer for me, it’s still a must-watch. Whether viewed through a cerebral lens or a visceral one, The Matrix remains a worthy piece of cinema.

Is It Good?

Very Good (6/8)

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