“The Matrix”, first released in 1999, is now one of the most highly regarded films of this generation both within the industry and at the box office. It is directed by the established Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry, whose previous film credits include such hits as “Assassins” and “Bound”. It has shattered records and picked up many awards, the most recent being the first DVD to sell 1,000,000 copies despite being released several years after the video. The film is categorised as a combination of the action, thriller and sci-fi genres.
However many people consider it worthy of its own genre, ‘cyberpunk thriller’, because of the original theme and the extensive use of new technology. To watch it you have to have an open mind and dispense with normal thought; the unbelievable becomes believable. The theme that underpins the tension of the narrative is the difference between dreaming and reality and do we know the difference? Neo lives his entire youth in a world of make believe and is only given a dose of reality during his adulthood.
The crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, the ship that provides transport and security, provide a stark contrast to Neo’s fantasy world by being anchored in experience and reality. These are old questions but the camera work reinforces the challenge for the audience with its soaring shots from above which keeps the viewer slightly uncertain whether he is watching the real unfolding of events or taking part in the dreams of the main character. An additional theme running through the Matrix is Christianity.
The main characters, Morpheus, Neo and Trinity, are an allegory of the Holy Trinity. In early cinema filmakers realized the attraction of religious ethics as a genre. It is possible that the Wachowski brothers were trying to introduce the Bible to the world in a different way. Another connecting theme to Christianity that runs through the film is that of good versus evil. There are also has numerous literary references to books such as ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’ by Harlan Ellison, ‘Alice In Wonderland’ by Lewis Caroll and ‘Metamorphoses’ by Ovid.
The film outlines the story of a computer hacker who is an employee of a respectable computer software company, making a sound living. He is a mildly rebellious and slightly bored individual living in Chicago, seemingly unaware of his true potential. In what is believed to be the year 1999 by the inhabitants of the matrix, Neo is lead to the enigmatic Morpheus. He is given the following choice by Morpheus, which is clearly a literary reference to Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’. “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. ” Neo then discovers that what he was led to believe was that the world was actually a computer simulation called the Matrix. In relation to one of the film’s main themes, the battle between the forces of good and evil, Morpheus has been searching for a ‘chosen one’ to destroy the matrix and he says to Neo: “You are the One, Neo. You see, you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you. ” The Matrix’ has several key characters, all playing important roles within the story. Thomas Anderson (often referred to by his hacker alias ‘Neo’) is the main character. He is played by a star worthy of his part, the box office star Keanu Reeves. Prior to ‘The Matrix’, Reeves had starred in numerous hits such as ‘Speed’, ‘Chain Reaction’ and ‘The Devil’s Advocate’. Neo has a central role in the battle between good and evil. Neo is born as the ‘chosen one’ but it is only when he is identified by Morpheus that his messiah like abilities are discovered.
The film begins with him looking at a computer screen and ends with him flying off into the distance. The viewer is led down a path by the directors, accompanying the main character through his travels. The film offers a slight hint on his position, when only minutes in, Choi (a character only involved in this single scene, where he purchases an illegal computer programme from Neo) tells Neo, “Hallelujah. You’re my savior, man. My own personal Jesus Christ. ” Playing second fiddle to Neo is the father like figure, Morpheus.
He is played by Laurence Fishburne who leads a group of freedom fighting rebels. He also discovers and guides Neo, enabling him to fullfil his potential to become ‘the chosen one’. To quote Tank, a valuable member of the Nebuchadnezzar: “Morpheus, you were more than a leader to us. You were a father. ” Morpheus, Neo and Trinity have powers against the Matrix that other do not. The three together ‘as one’ are vital in the battle against the evil force of machines. The other members of the group playing important parts are Trinity and Cypher.
The former is a rare female in a film dominated by the opposite sex. She trusts and respects Morpheus and shares his belief in Neo. In sharp contrast, Cypher is the Judas figure who betrays the crew on many occasions. The first sign is when he wears a red jumper in dull surroundings, indicating danger. The other clear links to Christianity are: Thomas Anderson as ‘Doubting Thomas’, Cypher as ‘Judas or Demon’ and Tank as ‘Lazarus’. One of the great strengths of ‘The Matrix’ was its filming techniques. Shot on location in Sydney, five months were spent filming the 136 minute long production. The Matrix’ introduces ‘bullet time’ photography to the industry. This consists of a room full of state of the art cameras constantly filming. It helps create many special effects, one of the most astounding being a full rotation whilst in freeze frame. This is used to its full extent when Neo wrestles Agent Smith in the subway. In their previous films, the Wachowski brothers have ofted included Kung Fu. ‘The Matrix’ is no exception. The film’s stars, Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, spent nearly five months learning the martial art in order to perform the various action scenes.
The directors also make full use of the camera effects available. This goes a long way towards the film’s flow and modern feel. One of the duo’s favourite techniques is extreme close ups. This is evident from the very start, as the first thing the film does is close in on the computer screen. Another technique frequently used throughout the film is the overhead shot, a pecfect example of this is when the cameras use it to capture the whole picture of Neo being chased by an agent. The Matrix’ is an action packed film with a challenging plot that requires frequent use of the imagination. As the story unfolds the plot thickens and the once ordinary computer hacker lives the dream and becomes ‘the one’ who leads the humans to overthrow the machines and reclaim earth. The stunning camera effects and vibrant soundtrack only add to the audiences intensive experience. With all the loose ends still to be tied and the battle against the machines only just begun, we can only await the sequel – ‘The Matrix Reloaded’.