Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Short Take: The Matrix

Too many have taken The Matrix way too seriously. The philosophical mumbo-jumbo it wears on its sleeve—little more than Plato’s Cave Allegory as filtered through Philip K. Dick—is tony decoration for the pulp material. It’s not anything profound. But the film is still a masterpiece of the science-fiction adventure genre. The Wachowskis, the sibling duo who wrote and directed, have created a stylish cyberpunk mash-up of Dick’s postmodern mystery-sf fiction, superhero adventure comics, and video games. They season it with leather-heavy goth couture and fight scenes inspired by East Asian martial-arts movies. The story’s hero, nicknamed Neo (Keanu Reeves), has two challenges. The first is to solve the mystery that defines the reality around him. The second is to embrace his destiny as the messiah of the film’s dystopian world. Along the way, he joins up with a band of revolutionaries led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who are determined to help him find his way. The film’s glory is its virtual-reality action sequences, where the only limits are the characters’ imaginations. These scenes are terrifically well-staged and edited, but what makes them soar is the hyperreal manner in which they’re shot. It all makes for a thrilling roller-coaster ride, and perhaps the finest adventure film of the 1990s. The cast also includes Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. Dick Pope provided the cinematography, and the editing is by Zach Staenberg. John Gaeta designed the innovative visual effects. Two pompous, overblown sequels followed.