The last time I posted to these pages of which I am so fond, I said that I had never and would likely never again write a movie review. As it happens, I was (sort of) incorrect on that second point.
The Matrix premiered in cinemas in 1999 (which we had been partying as if it were for almost two decades already - RIP Prince). I cannot remember exactly, but it may have been the first movie I ever owned on DVD. I would have streamed it, but that wasn’t a thing 20 years ago.
I am not a particularly big fan of the science fiction genre in any medium. I don’t hate it, but it’s lower on my list than some might have it. When Star Wars came out in 1977, I saw it a couple times. It was a thing when I was 14. Anyway, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house right across a big drainage ditch from the mall cineplex. This was how we did it back in the olden days. There’s an arcade where you hang out and spend all the quarters you can… acquire, an Orange Julius where you grab a lovely beverage, and then a few screens just down the hall. They sold popcorn and snowcaps and all the usual shit everyone still chokes down as if they think movie time suspends dietary reality as well as disbelief.
Another movie came out in the summer of 1977 that got a lot more of my attention and dollars. It premiered around the same time as Star Wars (I don’t know what the new name is - it’s the first one). I saw Smokey and the Bandit at least six times in that little olden days mall cineplex. And Sally Field really did have a very nice ass back in 1977. Cledus wasn’t wrong. The Millennium Falcon was cool, but I could see a Trans Am 6.6 every day. I liked cars. Boys used to dream about dinosaur-powered private conveyances back in the olden days too. (Disclosure: I still very much do. Check my wish list and send me a Bugatti for Christmas)
In the interest of making the point I meant to make when this piece was fermenting or metastasizing or aging in the barrels of my mind, let me now transition smoothly and without any noticeable rhetorical stitching to my point: The Matrix.
I was born in 1963. My first memory of an event being broadcast live on television as it happened was Apollo 11 landing on the surface of the moon on 20 July 1969. Maybe there are people who can top that, but I reckon they are few. I was six when that happened, so perhaps watching men in real life visit rocks in space put an early damper on my future enthusiasm for space-based science fiction. It isn’t worth paying a shrink to figure it out. I have nothing against the north African desertscape that was Tatooine, but I saw real dudes on the real moon when I was a little kid. You really gotta bring it to impress me on the science fiction front.
The Matrix really brought it.
I was skeptical about the movie. I knew who Keanu Reeves was. He was Bill S. Preston, Esq. (This just in: He still is.) He was Johnny Utah. Hell, he was married to Charlize Theron when she gashed her throat open with a piece of window glass in “The Devil’s Advocate.” OK, I admit it wasn’t Reeves: It was me. I thought he was an airhead because the first time I remember seeing him was in Bill and Ted, and I loved that ridiculous thing. But I came to think as time went by that Reeves is actually a really good actor. He seems to know his range, and his range is more impressive than I had thought early on. I’m not suggesting he is a great Shakespearean thespian, but he is most assuredly better at the craft than I initially believed. Kind of a wooden thing going on, but he knows his lane. And that works.
Also, I did not know who Carrie-Anne Moss was until I saw the film, so there were really no downsides to it in my opinion. Man, she was so hot in that catwoman suit.
This isn’t really a movie review. If you are reading this, odds are you are clever enough to have figured that out. What it is is a tribute to a film that amazed the world 20 years ago. The Matrix is iconic, and that takes some doing. I don’t need to use quote marks to let you know I’m talking about a specific work when I write ‘The Matrix’. And it holds up. SciFi tends to resonate with later generations better than other genres because it exists outside the plane of reality. Even so, the film also was innovative in ways that were new to me. When Trinity was in the phone booth and that whole garbage truck thing happened, that was a really new thing to me.
I could come up with things to criticize about The Matrix…
Maybe it isn’t the best sci-fi action movie ever made. But then, maybe it is. Who’s to say? It was innovative in its production. It introduced some concepts no one had seen before. Also, did I mention the Carrie-Anne Moss in the catsuit thing? And the classic ‘weak guy betrays his brothers’ storyline gets updated. Fragging takes on a whole new meaning with ‘if you have any words for him before I unplug his head...’ That’s just nasty fragging. Bitter. Cypher was an amazingly well-played character. And he was doing that so he WOULD get a tube in the back of his head so he could falsely believe he was happy until his transmogrification into compost. That is a thing I would write if I were trying to convince people socialism always leads to tyranny.
I could write more words and meander down other plot paths, but what would be the point? What if I told you The Matrix turns 20 on Sunday? And that it’s leaving Prime the next day? Take the time to watch it again. It’s as good as you remember. Maybe even better.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.