Guardian (UK), June 4, 1999

What is the Matrix?

The Matrix was The Phantom Menace's surprise box-office rival in the US and could teach George Lucas a thing or two about SFX. Film Unlimited unveils the other sci-fi flick you should be watching this summer

The plot

Neo the computer nerd is recruited by a group of cyber-rebels, led by fearsome duo Morpheus and Trinity. They've discovered that the world as Neo and his fellow mortals know it, doesn't exist. It is, instead, Virtual Reality - the Matrix - specifically designed to enslave humanity in a humdrum existence. Morpheus believes Neo to be the saviour of the human race, and persuades him to lead a rebellion against the powers of oppression. Battles are fought against the evil Agents in the form of virtual tussles.

The players

Larry and Andy Wachowski: The brotherly writing/directing team first came to notice with the 1996 lesbian thriller, Bound. Their latest effort has catapulted them into the Hollywood elite and earned them comparisons with those other famous film brothers, the Coens.

Keanu Reeves: 'Cool breeze over the mountains' plays the film's hero, Neo, a Kung-Fu-ing, trenchcoat-wearing nerd-turned-superman. Johnny Mnemonic eat your heart out.

Carrie-Anne Moss: Moss puts Bond girls in their place as Neo's latex-clad tough-chick cyber-colleague, Trinity.

Laurence Fishburne: As Morpheus, moody-faced 'Fish' (as he is known to his nearest and dearest) is the voice of reason, explaining the intricacies of this hi-tech world to characters and audience alike.

Hugo Weaving: The Australian actor suppresses his chirpy tones for his role as chief baddie.

The reviews

New York Times: The most salient things any prospective viewer need know is that Keanu Reeves makes a strikingly chic Prada model of an action hero, that the martial arts dynamics are phenomenal (thanks to Peter Pan-type wires for flying and inventive slow-motion tricks), and that anyone bored with the notably pretentious plotting can keep busy toting up this film's debts to other futuristic science fiction.

San Francisco Examiner: Casting Reeves may look like the real stunt, but he's born-again as the relatively silent man of action that made Speed worthy of his wooden talent. In an interrogation scene early on between Neo and a cleverly conceived trio of space cops cum Secret Service agents (led by Hugo Weaving, who seems to be channeling Sam Neill impersonating Rod Serling), Reeves does some of his most interesting acting with a piece of latex covering his mouth.

Chicago Sun-Times: "The Matrix" is a visually dazzling cyberadventure, full of kinetic excitement, but it retreats to formula just when it's getting interesting. It's kind of a letdown when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality, and ends with a shoot-out. We want a leap of the imagination, not one of those obligatory climaxes with automatic weapons fire.

The interviews

Larry Wachowski in Time Magazine on the philosophy behind the film: "It's a story about consciousness, a child's perception of an adult's world. The Matrix is about the birth and evolution of consciousness. It starts off crazy, then things start to make sense."

And on the film's religious influences: "The Bible seeks to answer a lot of relevant questions for man. In the film we refer to the story of Nebuchadnezzar: he has a dream he can't remember but keeps searching for an answer. Then there's the whole idea of a Messiah. It's not just a Judeo-Christian myth; it also plays into the search for the reincarnation of the Buddha."

Joel Silver (Producer) in Empire on the brothers' fight for backing: "The guys would sit down with management and actually do the sound effects with their mouths as they talked them through the picture - so I think the most incredible thing about his movie is that management did say, 'Yes, go off and make it,' because it was the hardest thing to sell, harder than you'd ever imagine."

Laurence Fishburne in Empire on the film's pulling power: "It introduces you to this really amazing concept about alternate realities. It deals with a great many spiritual teachings which have run through human consciousness for centuries. And then it gives you this great sort of ride, this great visual feast, that you can get lost in if you want to."

Keanu Reeves in SFX on the wear and tear of filming: "Hugo had hip surgery. Carrie-Anne [hurt] her hip and ankle. Laurence got hit in the head. He got his eyelid sliced open... I couldn't walk a couple of times. I mean, I'm exaggerating a bit, but there were a couple of sequences where I had to carry all these guns. It was about 50lbs of weapons. And waiting for the special effects sequences, the bullet hits, etc - there was one time where we stood for, like, three hours."

Carrie-Anne Moss in the Vancouver Sun on the stunts: "There's this one scene where I run up the walls. It lasts about 30 seconds, but it took months of training. I did that scene for hours and hours, and it was hard. You have to put complete trust in the spotters (who catch you if you fall). I remember when they took the padding off the concrete walls and asked me to do the scene. I couldn't. I freaked. I went home that day and cried and cried. I was afraid and the fear got me."

Bill Pope (director of photography) in The Matrix official site, on the importance of colour in the film: "To distinguish the Matrix from 'reality', from the Nebuchadnezzar and the pods, reality was given a cooler look, a bluer, more normal, less sickly look. The future in the film is cold, the sun is blotted out, there is no real warmth unless it is artificial heat, so that is why they went for the cool side. Whereas the Matrix, created by the computers, is a decadent, decaying world, so it has a green hue. The Matrix should make you feel sick, and in 'reality' you should feel a little more at home, but never comfortable. If you make it gold and warm you know that it is home, a safe haven."

Larry Wachowski in the Vancouver Sun on Keanu's obsessive commitment: "Keanu brought complete and utter 100-per-cent dedication, the likes of which we've never seen. He made a maniacal effort. This guy trained for months and months. He put himself through insane torture. By the end of the movie he had physically lost four inches off his waist. I can't stop singing his praises."




Article Focus:

Matrix, The

Tagged:

Matrix, The , Johnny Mnemonic , Speed






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