The Matrix

Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 16 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+

What is the Matrix?

Quite simply: one of the best science fiction films I have ever seen.

There are two kinds of science fiction movies, when you get right down to it. There are the ones that entertain, that have all sorts of laser-shootouts and rocket battles. Then there are the ones that aim to enlighten, the ones who use the template of science fiction as a way of examining more universal themes of human existence. Movies like "Star Wars" represent the former. Movies like "2001: A Space Odyssey" represent the latter.

The great thing about "The Matrix" is that you are actually getting both kinds of science fiction films in one audacious, exciting and brilliant package. Now that is something truly great.
"The Matrix" is the story of a man named Thomas Anderson. He has the feeling that there is something not quite right with his life. That things are not what they seem. He feels that something about the world around him. During the course of the movie, he will be proven right. There are nasty underpinnings and horrible secrets to the world that Thomas inhabits. The nature of the world around us will be explored. Questions will be raised, both practical and existential.

Unlike most action films, you may actually find yourself talking about the themes and plot of this movie afterward. I will not get any further into the plot, mostly because most of you already know what this movie is about but also because I do not want to give it away to those out there that don't know the inner workings of the storyline. I did not know what the hell to expect going into "The Matrix" and I was floored by it. I hope that everyone else has the same awesome experience.

If the movie only provided some thrills and some neat ideas to talk about, I would probably award it with an "A", but "The Matrix" not only gets you talking, it provides some of the most amazing visual spectacles that I have ever seen. There are moments in this film that might haunt you for the rest of your life. There are action sequences contained in this film that are truly innovative. The special effects in this film push the envelope in a way that "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" could only dream of doing. This movie gets you on the edge of your seat, then blows you through the back wall of the theater. Very cool stuff.

The plot is extremely compelling. The effects are spectacular and stunning. But there is even MORE to recommend this film. The performances are not the best on earth, but they are noteworthy. Laurence Fishburne takes a role that might have been little more than that of a flamboyant cult leader or an impassioned revolutionary and gives it shades of both and more. This is not a homily-spouting, Confucious meets Obi Wan Kenobi type of leader. He is a real guy. He screws up. He makes mistakes. He is not perfect. He is maybe a little too passionate about what he believes in. He is refreshingly interesting. Hugo Weaving takes the role of Agent Smith and makes him one of the best villains any science fiction film has ever had. He is a non-human who despises everything human, yet starts finding little layers of humanity rubbing off on him. His very dedication to his cause is an ironically human characteristic, as is his sudden hatrid. It is a nuanced, layered and delicate performance. This guy is a man to keep one's eye on. And as for Keanu Reeves? Well, Keanu is always at his best playing guys who are not the sharpest of men. In "Speed", I always believed that the reason his character took so many outrageous risks was because he was too stupid to realize the danger of what he was doing. I can't think of any other actor who could have conveyed the proper sense of confusion, bewilderment and awe that Keanu does here. He hits the notes of this performance remarkably.

In short, this is the best action film and the best science fiction film of the decade. It covers some of the same ground as movies like "Total Recall" or "Dark City", not to mention anime and Hong Kong action movies, but it makes it all fresh and thrilling. Every frame of this film is put to good use, the best possible use really. It is like an intelligent comic book come to life. In an era of tired, wheezy action movies that are all the same, "The Matrix" dares to be different. It is polished, delirious eye candy with a brain. A rare movie that wants to excite AND stimulate the brain.

Between "The Matrix" and most other action films, I choose "The Matrix".

Reviewer: Erik
Grade: B-

"The Matrix" is an inventive sci-fi movie that takes a good idea and never really follows through in the way I expected. It's a creative story with some good special effects, yet I couldn't help but think they could have done more.

Keanu Reeves is Neo, a software programmer by day, computer hacker by night. He spends his nights logged on, hoping to hear from the infamous hacker Morpheus, who has become a celebrity in techie circles. One night, Neo gets a message and ends up in a club where he meets a girl who tells him he's in danger. Sure enough he is. A band of "agents" track him down at work, find him and take him into custody. Once out, Neo meets Morpheus, who tells him about the Matrix, a computer program that is what we perceive as real life. Turns out our reality is NOT our reality.

Neo follows Morpheus and his crew into our true reality, which is a gloomy world run by robots. Humans are being bred by the robots to serve as an energy source for the 'bots, and the Matrix is what makes us think we're really living day-to-day when we're not.

Phew. It took a lot for me to make it even this far. The storyline overwhelms the viewer. If my description of the plot has you shaking your head, don't rent this because there's a lot I'm leaving out. Eventually, after being trained to fight and use weapons, Neo follows Morpheus and his crew into the Matrix, where something goes terribly wrong.

Admittedly, hype probably killed this movie for me. I kept hearing the special effects would knock your socks off, but I kept waiting for something spectacular which never happened. People who enter the Matrix with the right kind of training can break the laws of physics and gravity, and they do, but only at the very end does anything really start to get fun.

Also, the explanation behind the agents just never sat well with me. They seemed too human to me.

Overall, I'd give this movie a marginal recommendation because it's smart and it's complex. Just don't expect anything to knock your socks off.