“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you…”
And with that, the Wachowskis threw down a gauntlet that modern cinema is still trying to live upto. The Matrix remains, to this day, the absolute zenith of blockbuster filmmaking for me. The combination of ideas, aesthetic and technical innovation is still un-rivaled. Everything the Wachowskis set out to achieve, no matter how impossible or ambitious – re-writing the entire sci-fi/action movie playbook from the ground up for one – they accomplished. I mean, come the fuck on!
This is probably the defining movie of my childhood too. Released at a time when I was young enough to sit cross-legged, inches from the TV screen, eyes wide, mouth agape in total immersion and awe of the world and story I was being thrown into. I’d never seen a film like The Matrix before. It changed me. A film like The Matrix doesn’t just make you look at movies differently, it makes you look at the world differently. Suddenly bullet time was a staple in imaginations on playgrounds. Rage Against the Machine, Rob Zombie, P.O.D., Ministry, Propellerheads and Lunatic Calm became staples of your first CD collection (make of that what you will, but “Dragula – Hot Rod Herman Remix” is my fucking jam). After I saw this film, I wanted to wear sunglasses and trench-coats (the leather was a bit much). I wanted to be Neo. Except: I didn’t know shit about computers or hacking. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop my first online handle from being TheOne6000 for crying out loud. What a fucking great time. Most of all though, The Matrix just made me want to watch The Matrix over and over again. And I never wanted to fast forward through the talky parts, because somehow, even they too were incredibly exciting. I’ve seen this film so many times that I even know the sound design off by heart.
Beyond just being an incredibly cool, stylish and addictive moviegoing experience, The Matrix has so much intelligence that the older you get, the richer and more impressive the film becomes. The goddamn reading list that comes with this movie alone is bound to make anyone’s IQ bounce up a few points. It’s a film that truly makes you believe that the possibilities are endless. It’s a delicious experience to unpack that only gets more exciting and remarkable the more familiar you become with film as an art form. Practically every great sci-fi idea or popular medium is accounted for in this movie. It combines anime, comic books, video games, music videos – EVERYTHING IS IN THIS FUCKING MOVIE.
Sadly, I’m yet to find a blockbuster experience that matches it. Whenever I see a piece of mainstream entertainment that excites me, I always ask myself “It’s good, but is it Matrix-good?” and the answer is always “No”. The closest I got was Inception but even that somehow seems inferior once it sits in this shadow. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that nothing is going to top it. Can you imagine a film like this getting made in this day an age by practically unknown filmmakers? TV maybe. But not for the big screen. In a way The Matrix ruined movies forever because it set the bar so unnaturally high.
Regardless, The Wachowskis continue to push themselves and the medium in exciting new ways. Even though they’ve yet to connect with audience in the same way they did here, They’re among my favourite filmmakers who ever lived and I’ll forever follow them down the rabbit hole no matter how deep or dark. Why? Because they taught me the single greatest lesson in filmmaking: “There is no spoon.”