The Matrix

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The Matrix
The Matrix Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced byJoel Silver
Written byThe Wachowski Brothers
Starring
Music byDon Davis
CinematographyBill Pope
Editing byZach Staenberg
Studio
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Roadshow Entertainment (Australia & New Zealand)[1]
Release dates
  • March 31, 1999 (1999-03-31)
Running time136 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Australia
LanguageEnglish
Budget$63 million
Box office$463,517,383[3]
 
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The Matrix
The Matrix Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced byJoel Silver
Written byThe Wachowski Brothers
Starring
Music byDon Davis
CinematographyBill Pope
Editing byZach Staenberg
Studio
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Roadshow Entertainment (Australia & New Zealand)[1]
Release dates
  • March 31, 1999 (1999-03-31)
Running time136 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Australia
LanguageEnglish
Budget$63 million
Box office$463,517,383[3]

The Matrix is a 1999 American–Australian science fiction action film written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. It depicts a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called "the Matrix", created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Computer programmer "Neo" learns this truth and is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, which involves other people who have been freed from the "dream world".

The Matrix is known for popularizing a visual effect known as "bullet time", in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera's viewpoint appears to move through the scene at normal speed. The film is an example of the cyberpunk science fiction genre.[4] It contains numerous references to philosophical and religious ideas, and prominently pays homage to works such as Plato's Allegory of the Cave[citation needed], Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation[5] and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland[citation needed]. The Wachowskis' approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for Japanese animation[6] and martial arts films, and the film's use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema was influential upon subsequent Hollywood action film productions.

The Matrix was first released in the United States on March 31, 1999, and grossed over $460 million worldwide. It was generally well-received by critics,[7][8] and won four Academy Awards as well as other accolades including BAFTA Awards and Saturn Awards. Reviewers praised The Matrix for its innovative visual effects, cinematography and its entertainment. The film's premise was both criticized for being derivative of earlier science fiction works, and praised for being intriguing. The action also polarized critics, some describing it as impressive, but others dismissing it as a trite distraction from an interesting premise.

Despite this, the film has since appeared in lists of the greatest science fiction films,[9][10][11] and in 2012, was added to the National Film Registry for preservation.[12] The success of the film led to the release of two feature film sequels, both written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The Matrix franchise was further expanded through the production of comic books, video games, and animated short films in which the Wachowskis were heavily involved.

Plot

Thomas Anderson is a computer programmer who maintains a double life as the hacker "Neo". Another hacker named Trinity contacts Neo and informs him that a man named Morpheus can tell him the meaning of "the Matrix", a phrase that Neo has encountered repeatedly online but does not understand.

However, three dark-suited Agents, led by Agent Smith, are determined to prevent Neo from finding out what the True meaning and intention of what "The Matrix" is. Neo eventually meets Morpheus, who warns him that once he shows Neo the Matrix, he will not be able to "go back". Neo accepts his offer by choosing red pill; his reality soon disintegrates and he abruptly wakes, naked and weak, in a liquid-filled vessel, finding himself as one of billions of people connected by cables to an elaborate electrical system. He is rescued and brought aboard Morpheus's levitating ship, the Nebuchadnezzar.

Morpheus explains that in the 21st century, humans waged a war against intelligent machines they had created. When humans blocked the machines' access to solar energy, the machines instead harvest the humans' bioelectricity as a substitute power source, while keeping them trapped in "the Matrix", a shared simulation of the world as it was in 1999, in which Neo has been living since birth. Morpheus and his crew belong to a group of rebels who hack into the Matrix and "unplug" enslaved humans, recruiting them as rebels. The rebels' understanding of the true nature of the simulated reality allows them to bend its physical laws, granting them seemingly superhuman abilities. Neo is warned that fatal injuries within the Matrix will also kill one's physical body, and that the Agents he encountered are powerful sentient programs that eliminate threats to the system. Neo's skill during virtual combat training lends credence to Morpheus' belief that Neo is "the One", a man prophesized to end the war between humans and machines.

The group enters the Matrix to visit the Oracle, a prophet who predicted the emergence of the One. The Oracle implies to Neo that he is not the One, and warns that he will soon have to choose between his life and the life of Morpheus's. Before they can leave the Matrix, the group is ambushed by Agents and tactical police. Morpheus allows himself to be captured to let Neo and the rest of the crew escape; however, their getaway is hindered by Cypher, a crew member disillusioned with the harshness of the real world, who has secretly betrayed them to the Agents in exchange for a return to comfortable life within the Matrix. Cypher disconnects first and murders several of the still connected crew members as they lie defenseless, before he is killed by Tank, a crewman whom he had left for dead.

In the Matrix, the Agents interrogate Morpheus in an attempt to learn his access codes to the mainframe computer in Zion, the rebel humans' refuge in the real world. Believing that he is not the One, Neo proposes returning to the Matrix to rescue Morpheus, and Trinity insists she accompany him. They succeed in rescuing their leader, and in doing so, Neo gains confidence in his abilities, performing feats on par with those of the Agents. Morpheus and Trinity exit the Matrix, but Smith ambushes and kills Neo before he can leave. In the real world, "sentinel" machines attack the Nebuchadnezzar, while Trinity stands over Neo and whispers to him that the Oracle told her that she would fall in love with the One. She kisses Neo, and he revives with newfound power to perceive and control the Matrix. He effortlessly destroys Smith and leaves the Matrix in time for the ship's electromagnetic pulse weapon to destroy the attacking sentinels.

Some time later, Neo makes a telephone call in the Matrix, promising the Machines he will show their prisoners "a world where anything is possible". He ends the call and flies into the sky.

The Meaning of the Matrix or Underlying Theme

The Matrix is a system of social control which allows the machines to harvest the biological energy of humans so that the machines may survive. Morpheus in the movie describes the matrix as a prison for your mind, a prison that has no smell, taste or touch. How this is achieved is by various methods but Mr. Foucault’s concept of docile bodies is a key concept. Docile bodies are subjects of a system that are trained for the sole purpose of facilitation and perpetuation of that system. The people inside The Matrix are part of the system under the authority of the machines and can be manipulated by the machines.[13] This is obvious in the training scenario with “the woman in the red dress” where the character Morpheus states if you’re not one of us, then you’re one of them, and Neo looks back and the woman in the red dress has become an agent (later on in the movie this is expressed again in the chase scene where the agents essentially inhabit and assume the body of a docile body or subject, and then they begin to jump from subject to subject trying to kill Neo). This is because the people within The Matrix are not free they’re docile bodies. These people’s purpose is to aid the system in its functionality, and they are subordinate to the system as is the purpose of a docile body.

Immanuel Kant’s critique of pure reason explains the distortion and degradation of The Matrix that inevitable destabilizes the system cyclically and that is because of the factor of choice. Kant argues that since everything humans use to communicate and relate to the world is through symbols (language, math, etc.) that are synthetic. Then how is it possible to discern the difference between true truths and false truths? He says the enemy of our knowledge acquisition is ourselves, and that is because we try to deduct conclusions from laws to explain things; but these explanations are only symbolically significant. Just because an explanation arises from observations or deductive thinking does not mean that it makes the object observed function as the explanation dictates. The object is naturalistic and simply is. He continues to argue that truth is something that just is, and without external forces that can alter it. He’s a believer in destiny. He believes that if something is true that it was always true and will always be true.[14] The relevancy of Kant’s idea on choice in relation to The Matrix is that not only do the computers in the movie believe in destiny. The agents often reference inevitability (which implies destiny) and the mere fact that there is an oracle that prophesizes future events validates this claim, but it also leads one to deduce that docile bodies live out false choices. When within a system such as the matrix everything is predestined, and individual choice is irrelevant. For example a person who grows up to become a doctor. They aren’t a doctor because they wanted to be a doctor (whether they did or not), it wasn’t their choice, but a false choice so to speak. They became a doctor because the system needs doctors to keep the docile bodies functional. So it doesn’t matter what a docile body believes to be truth, it’s irrelevant, because what happens within a system is predesigned and predestined to occur. If this doctor referenced before became a teacher instead of a doctor, this would have no emergent effect on The Matrix and another docile body would fill the void without consequence. Hence, this means the only people with influence over the system would be Morpheus and his crew that operate on the fringe of the system pushing the boundaries of the artificial reality in attempts to change or destroy the system. Because we see that Morpheus and his crew which live in the real world cannot destroy the system from outside of it; they instead must plug-in and operate within it but to another degree that the docile bodies don't understand and are ignorant too.

Cast

Production

Development

In 1994, the Wachowskis presented the script for the film Assassins to Warner Brothers. After Lorenzo di Bonaventura, the president of production of the company at the time, read the script, he decided to buy rights to it and included two more pictures, Bound and The Matrix, in the contract. The first movie the Wachowskis directed, Bound, then became a critical success. Using this momentum, the brothers later asked to direct The Matrix.[30]

Producer Joel Silver soon joined the project. Although the project had key supporters like Silver and Di Bonaventura to influence the company, The Matrix was still a huge investment for Warner Bros, which had to invest $60 million to create a movie with deep philosophical ideas and difficult special effects.[30] The Wachowskis therefore hired underground comic book artists Geof Darrow and Steve Skroce to draw a 600-page, shot-by-shot storyboard for the entire film.[31] The storyboard eventually earned the studio's approval, and it was decided to film in Australia to make the most of the budget.[30] Soon, The Matrix became a co-production of Warner Bros. and the Australian company Village Roadshow Pictures.[32]

Pre-production

The actors of the film were required to be able to understand and explain The Matrix.[30] Simulacra and Simulation was required reading for most of the principal cast and crew.[33] Reeves stated that the Wachowski brothers had him read Simulacra and Simulation, Out of Control, and Evolutionary Psychology even before they opened up the script,[15] and eventually he was able to explain all the philosophical nuances involved.[30] Moss commented that she had difficulty with this process.[15]

The directors had also been admirers of Hong Kong action cinema for a long time, so they decided to hire the Chinese martial arts choreographer and film director Yuen Woo-ping to work on fight scenes. To prepare for the wire fu, the actors had to train hard for several months.[30] The Wachowskis first scheduled four months for training. Yuen was optimistic but then began to worry when he realized how unfit the actors were.[23]

Yuen let their body style develop and then worked with each actor's strength. He built on Reeves' diligence, Fishburne's resilience, Weaving's precision, and Moss's feminine grace.[23] Yuen designed Moss' moves to suit her deftness and lightness.[34] Prior to the pre-production, Reeves suffered a two-level fusion of his cervical spine which had begun to cause paralysis in his legs, requiring him to undergo neck surgery. He was still recovering by the time of pre-production, but he insisted on training, so Yuen let him practice punches and lighter moves. Reeves trained hard and even requested training on days off. However, the surgery still made him unable to kick for two out of four months of training. As a result, Reeves did not kick much in the film.[23] Weaving had to undergo a hip surgery after he sustained an injury during the training process.[30]

Production design

In the film, the code that comprises the Matrix itself is frequently represented as downward-flowing green characters. This code utilizes a custom typeface designed by Simon Whiteley,[32] which includes mirror images of half-width kana characters and Western Latin letters and numerals.[35] The color green reflects the green tint commonly used on early monochrome computer monitors.[36] Lynne Cartwright, the Visual Effects Supervisor at Animal Logic, supervised the creation of the film's opening title sequence, as well as the general look of the Matrix code throughout the film, in collaboration with Lindsey Fleay and Justen Marshall.[32] The portrayal resembles the opening credits of the 1995 Japanese cyberpunk film, Ghost in the Shell, which had a strong influence on the Matrix series (see below).[35] It was also used in the subsequent films, on the related website, and in the game The Matrix: Path of Neo, and its drop-down effect is reflected in the design of some posters for the Matrix series. The code received the Runner-up Award in the 1999 Jesse Garson Award for In-film typography or opening credit sequence.[32]

The Matrix's production designer, Owen Paterson, used methods to distinguish the "real world" and the Matrix in a pervasive way. The production design team generally placed a bias towards the Matrix code's distinctive green color in scenes set within the simulation, whereas there is an emphasis on the color blue during scenes set in the "real world". In addition, the Matrix scenes' sets were slightly more decayed, monolithic, and grid-like, to convey the cold, logical and artificial nature of that environment. For the "real world", the actors' hair was less styled, their clothing had more textile content, and the cinematographers used longer lenses to soften the backgrounds and emphasize the actors.[35]

The Nebuchadnezzar was designed to have a patched-up look, instead of clean, cold and sterile space ship interior sets as used on films like Star Trek. The wires were made visible to show the ship's working internals, and each composition was carefully designed to convey the ship as "a marriage between Man and Machine".[37] For the scene when Neo wakes up in the pod connected to the Matrix, the pod was constructed to look dirty, used, and sinister. During the testing of a breathing mechanism in the pod, the tester went into hypothermia in under eight minutes, so the pod had to be heated.[38]

Kym Barrett, costume designer, said that she defined the characters and their environment by their costume.[39] For example, Reeves' office costume was designed for Thomas Anderson to look uncomfortable, disheveled, and out of place.[40] Barrett sometimes used three types of fabric for each costume, and also had to consider acting practicality. The actors needed to perform martial art actions in their costume, hang upside-down without people seeing up their dress, or work the wires when strapped to the harnesses.[39] For Trinity, Barrett experimented with how each fabric absorbs and reflects different types of light, and was eventually able to make Trinity's costume mercury-like and oil-slick to suit the character.[34] For the Agents, their costume was designed to create a secret service, undercover look, resembling the film JFK.[28]

The sunglasses, a staple to the film's aesthetics, were commissioned for the film to designer Richard Walker from sunglass maker Blinde Design.[41]

Filming

All but a few scenes were filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia, and in the city itself, although recognizable landmarks were not included in order to maintain the impression of a generic American city. The filming helped establish New South Wales as a major film production center.[42] The principal photography took 118 days.[38]

Due to Reeves' neck injury, some of the action scenes had to be rescheduled to wait for his full recovery. As a result, the filming began with scenes that did not require much physical exertion,[40] such as the scene in Thomas Anderson's office, the interrogation room,[28] or the car ride in which Neo is taken to see the Oracle.[43] Locations for these scenes included Martin Place's fountain in Sydney, half-way between it and the adjacent Colonial Building, and the Colonial Building itself.[44] During the scene set on a government building rooftop, the team filmed extra footage of Neo dodging bullets in case the bullet time process did not work.[45]

Moss performed the shots featuring Trinity at the beginning of the film and all the wire stunts herself.[34] The rooftop set that Trinity uses to escape from Agent Brown early in the film was left over from the production of Dark City, which has prompted comments due to the thematic similarities of the films.[46] During the rehearsal of the lobby scene, in which Trinity runs on a wall, Moss injured her leg and was ultimately unable to film the shot in one take. She stated that she was under a lot of pressure at the time and was devastated when she realized that she would be unable to do it.[47]

The dojo set was built well before the actual filming. During the filming of these action sequences, there was significant physical contact between the actors, earning them bruises. Because of Reeves's injury and his insufficient training with wires prior to the filming, he was unable to perform the triple kicks satisfactorily and became frustrated with himself, causing the scene to be postponed. The scene was shot successfully a few days later, with Reeves using only three takes. Yuen altered the choreography and made the actors pull their punches in the last sequence of the scene, creating a training feel.[48]

For the subway scene, the set was first planned to be shot in a real subway station, but due to the amount of the actions and the wire works, the decision was made to shoot on set. The set was built around an existing train storage facility, which had real train tracks. Filming the scene when Neo slammed Smith into the ceiling, Chad Stahelski, Reeves' stunt double, sustained several injuries, including broken ribs, knees, and a dislocated shoulder. Another stuntman was injured by a hydraulic puller during a shot where Neo was slammed into a booth.[49] The office building in which Smith interrogated Morpheus was a large set, and the outside view of the building was a large, several-story high sheet of background. The helicopter was a full-scale light-weight mock-up, and its blades were added post-production by the visual effects team.[50]

To prepare for the scene in which Neo wakes up in a pod, Reeves lost 15 pounds and shaved his whole body to give Neo an emaciated look. The scene in which Neo fell into the sewer system concluded the principal photography.[38] According to The Art of the Matrix, at least one filmed scene and a variety of short pieces of action were omitted from the final cut of the film.[51]

Visual effects

The "bullet time" effect was created for the film. A scene would be computer modeled to decide the positioning of the physical cameras. Each was a still-picture camera that contributed just one frame to the video sequence. The actor then provided their performance in a chroma key setup, while the cameras were fired in rapid succession, with fractions of a second delay between each shot. When put together, the frames simulated the capture of a moving video camera that could capture 12,000 frames per second. The result was combined with CGI backgrounds to create the final effect at (0:33).

As for artistic inspiration for bullet time, I would credit Otomo Katsuhiro, who co-wrote and directed Akira, which definitely blew me away, along with director Michel Gondry. His music videos experimented with a different type of technique called view-morphing and it was just part of the beginning of uncovering the creative approaches toward using still cameras for special effects. Our technique was significantly different because we built it to move around objects that were themselves in motion, and we were also able to create slow-motion events that 'virtual cameras' could move around – rather than the static action in Gondry's music videos with limited camera moves.

The film is known for popularizing a visual effect[53] known as "bullet time", which allows a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera appears to move through the scene at normal speed.[54] Bullet time has been described as "a visual analogy for privileged moments of consciousness within the Matrix",[55] and throughout the film, the effect is used to illustrate characters' exertion of control over time and space.[56] The Wachowskis first imagined an action sequence that slowed time while the camera pivoted rapidly around the subjects, and proposed the effect in their screenplay for the film. When John Gaeta read the script, he pleaded with an effects producer at Manex Visual Effects to let him work on the project, and created a prototype that led to him becoming the film's visual effects supervisor.[57]

The method used for creating these effects involved a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which an array of cameras are placed around an object and triggered simultaneously. Each camera is a still-picture camera not a motion picture camera, and it contributes just one frame to the video sequence. When those pictures are shown in sequence, they create the effect of "virtual camera movement"; the illusion of a viewpoint moving around an object that appears frozen in time.[54]

The bullet time effect is similar but slightly more complicated, incorporating temporal motion so that rather than appearing totally frozen, the scene progresses in slow and variable motion.[52][57] The cameras' positions and exposures were previsualized using a 3D simulation. Instead of firing the cameras simultaneously, the visual effect team fired the cameras fractions of a second after each other, so that each camera could capture the action as it progressed, creating a super slow-motion effect.[54] When the frames were put together, the resulting slow-motion effects reached a frame frequency of 12,000 per second, as opposed to the normal 24 frames per second of film.[30] Standard movie cameras were placed at the ends of the array to pick up the normal speed action before and after. Because the cameras circle the subject almost completely in most of the sequences, computer technology was used to edit out the cameras that appeared in the background on the other side.[54] To create backgrounds, Gaeta hired George Borshukov, who created 3D models based on the geometry of buildings and used the photographs of the buildings themselves as texture.

The photo-realistic surroundings generated by this method were incorporated into the bullet time scene,[57] and linear interpolation filled in any gaps of the still images to produce a fluent dynamic motion;[58] the computer-generated "lead in" and "lead out" slides were filled in between frames in sequence to get an illusion of orbiting the scene.[59] Manex Visual Effects used a cluster farm running the Unix-like operating system FreeBSD to render many of the film's visual effects.[60][61]

Manex also handled creature effects, such as Sentinels and machines in real world scenes; Animal Logic created the code hallway and the exploding Agent at the end of the film. DFilm managed scenes that required heavy use of digital compositing, such as Neo's jump off a skyscraper and the helicopter crash into a building. The ripple effect in the latter scene was created digitally, but the shot also included practical elements, and months of extensive research were needed to find the correct kind of glass and explosives to use. The scene was shot by colliding a quarter-scale helicopter mock-up into a glass wall wired to concentric rings of explosives; the explosives were then triggered in sequence from the center outward, to create a wave of exploding glass.[62]

The photogrametric and image-based computer-generated background approaches in The Matrix's bullet time evolved into innovations unveiled in the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The method of using real photographs of buildings as texture for 3D models eventually led the visual effect team to digitize all data, such as scenes, characters' motions and expressions. It also led to the development of "Universal Capture", a process which samples and stores facial details and expressions at high resolution. With these highly detailed collected data, the team were able to create virtual cinematography in which characters, locations, and events can all be created digitally and viewed through virtual cameras, eliminating the restrictions of real cameras.[57]

Sound effects and music

Dane A. Davis was responsible for creating the sound effects for the film. The fight scenes sound effects, such as the whipping sounds of punches, came from using junk to create noises and capturing them, then editing the sounds. The sound of the pod containing a human baby closing required almost fifty sounds put together.[63]

The film's score was composed by Don Davis. He noted that mirrors appear frequently in the film: reflections of the blue and red pills are seen in Morpheus's glasses; Neo's capture by Agents is viewed through the rear-view mirror of Trinity's Triumph Speed Triple motorcycle; Neo observes a broken mirror mending itself; reflections warp as a spoon is bent; the reflection of a helicopter is visible as it approaches a skyscraper. Davis focused on this theme of reflections when creating his score, alternating between sections of the orchestra and attempting to incorporate contrapuntal ideas. Davis' score combines orchestral, choral and synthesizer elements; the balance between these elements varies depending on whether humans or machines are the dominant subject of a given scene.[64]

In addition to Davis' score, The Matrix soundtrack also features music from acts such as Rammstein, Rob Dougan, Rage Against the Machine, Propellerheads, Ministry, Deftones, Monster Magnet, The Prodigy, Rob Zombie, Meat Beat Manifesto, and Marilyn Manson.[65]

Influences

"The Matrix is arguably the ultimate cyberpunk artifact."

William Gibson[4]

The Matrix draws from and makes reference to numerous cinematic and literary works, and concepts from mythology, religion and philosophy. One can make a connection between the premise of The Matrix and Plato's Allegory of the Cave. The allegory is related to Plato's theory of Forms which holds that the true essence of an object is not what we perceive with our senses, but rather its quality, and that most people perceive only the shadow of the object and are thus confined to false perception.[30]

The Matrix, or rather the AI that runs it, recalls Descartes' First Meditation, or evil demon, a hypothesis that the perceived world might be a comprehensive illusion created to deceive us. The same premise can be found in Hilary Putnam's brain in a vat scenario proposed in the 1980s.[5]

The Matrix also makes reference to the ideas of Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Hinduism, and Judaism.[66] The Matrix's premise resembles the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.[67] Andrew Godoski from Screened.com observed Neo's "virgin birth", his doubt in himself, the prophecy of his coming, along with many Christianity references.[30] In The Matrix, a copy of Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation is visible on-screen as the book used to conceal disks,[33] and Morpheus quotes its phrase "desert of the real".[68] The book was required reading for the actors prior to filming.[33][69] Baudrillard himself said that The Matrix misunderstands and distorts his work.[68][70]

Interpretations of The Matrix often reference Baudrillard's philosophy to demonstrate that the film is an allegory for contemporary experience in a heavily commercialized, media-driven society, especially in developed countries. The influence of the matrixial theory of Bracha Ettinger articulated in a series of books and essays from the end of the 1980s onwards was brought to the public's attention through the writings of art historians such as Griselda Pollock[71][72] and film theorists such as Heinz-Peter Schwerfel.[73]

The Matrix belongs to the cyberpunk genre of science fiction,[4] and draws from earlier works in the genre such as Neuromancer by William Gibson; for example, the film's use of the term "Matrix" is adopted from Gibson's novel.[74] After watching The Matrix, Gibson commented that the way that the film's creators had drawn from existing cyberpunk works was "exactly the kind of creative cultural osmosis" he had relied upon in his own writing;[4] however, he noted that the film's Gnostic themes distinguished it from Neuromancer, and believed that The Matrix was thematically closer to the work of science fiction author Philip K. Dick.[4] Other writers have also commented on the similarities between The Matrix and Dick's work.[75][76][77]

The Wachowskis' approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for Japanese animation such as Ninja Scroll and Akira.[6] Director Mamoru Oshii's 1995 animated film Ghost in the Shell was a particularly strong influence;[6] producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowskis first described their intentions for The Matrix by showing him that anime and saying, "We wanna do that for real".[78][79] Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, which produced Ghost in the Shell, noted that the anime's high-quality visuals were a strong source of inspiration for the Wachowskis. He also commented, "... cyberpunk films are very difficult to describe to a third person. I'd imagine that The Matrix is the kind of film that was very difficult to draw up a written proposal for to take to film studios". He stated that since Ghost in the Shell had gained recognition in America, the Wachowskis used it as a "promotional tool".[80] The action scenes of The Matrix were also strongly influenced by live-action films such as those of director John Woo.[75] The martial arts sequences were inspired by Fist of Legend, a critically acclaimed 1995 martial arts film starring Jet Li. The fight scenes in Fist of Legend led to the hiring of Woo-ping as fight choreographer.[81][82]

The film makes several references to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.[83] The pods in which the machines keep humans have been compared to images in Metropolis, and the work of M. C. Escher.[84] The Wachowskis have described Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as a formative cinematic influence, and as a major inspiration on the visual style they aimed for when making The Matrix.[85][86][87]

Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show.[88][89][90] Comparisons have also been made to Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles; Morrison believes that the Wachowskis essentially plagiarized his work to create the film.[91] Comparisons have also been made between The Matrix and the books of Carlos Castaneda.[92] The similarity of the film's central concept to a device in the long-running series Doctor Who has also been noted. As in the film, the Matrix of that series (introduced in the 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin) is a massive computer system which one enters using a device connecting to the head, allowing users to see representations of the real world and change its laws of physics; but if killed there, they will die in reality.[93]

Release

The Matrix was released on March 31, 1999.[3] After its DVD release, it was the first DVD to sell more than one million copies in the US,[94] and went on to be the first to sell more than three million copies in the US.[30] By November 10, 2003, one month after The Matrix Reloaded DVD was released, the sales of The Matrix DVD had exceeded 30 million copies.[95] The Ultimate Matrix Collection was released on HD DVD on May 22, 2007[94] and on Blu-ray on October 14, 2008.[96] The film was also released standalone in a 10th anniversary edition Blu-ray in the Digibook format on March 31, 2009, 10 years to the day after the film was released theatrically.[97]

Box office

The film earned $171,479,930 (37.0%) in North America and $292,037,453 (63.0%) elsewhere for a worldwide total of $463,517,383.[3] In North America, it became the fifth highest grossing film of 1999 and the highest grossing R-rated film of 1999. Worldwide it was the fourth highest grossing film of the year.[3] As of 2012 it is placed 122nd on the list of highest grossing films of all time, and the second highest grossing film in the Matrix franchise after The Matrix Reloaded ($742.1 million).[3]

Critical reception

The Matrix received positive reviews from most critics,[8] and is widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.[9][10] Entertainment Weekly called The Matrix "the most influential action movie of the generation".[24] Rotten Tomatoes described it as an "ingenious" blend of Hong Kong action cinema, innovative visual effects and an imaginative vision. The site reported that 87% of critics gave the film positive reviews, with an average score of 7.4/10, based upon a sample of 129 reviews.[7] At Metacritic, which assigns an average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 73 upon its DVD release, based on 35 reviews.[8]

Philip Strick commented in Sight & Sound, "if the Wachowskis claim no originality of message, they are startling innovators of method," praising the film's details and its "broadside of astonishing images".[98] Roger Ebert praised the film's visuals and premise, but disliked the third act's focus on action.[88] Similarly, Time Out praised the "entertainingly ingenious" switches between different realities, Hugo Weaving's "engagingly odd" performance, and the film's cinematography and production design, but concluded, "the promising premise is steadily wasted as the film turns into a fairly routine action pic ... yet another slice of overlong, high concept hokum."[99]

Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader reviewed the film negatively, criticizing it as "simpleminded fun for roughly the first hour, until the movie becomes overwhelmed by its many sources ... There's not much humor to keep it all life-size, and by the final stretch it's become bloated, mechanical, and tiresome."[100] Film critic Nick Davis strongly disliked The Matrix, criticizing aspects such as its unoriginality and its attitudes toward race and gender, concluding that the Wachowskis had raised the bar of filmmaking and special effects, only to waste it on hackneyed, impersonal and political tripe.[101]

Ian Nathan of Empire described Carrie-Anne Moss as "a major find", praised the "surreal visual highs" enabled by the bullet time (or "flo-mo") effect, and described the film as "technically mind-blowing, style merged perfectly with content and just so damn cool". Nathan remarked that although the film's "looney plot" would not stand up to scrutiny, that was not a big flaw because "The Matrix is about pure experience".[102] Maitland McDonagh said in her review for TV Guide, "The Wachowskis' through-the-looking-glass plot... manages to work surprisingly well on a number of levels: as a dystopian sci-fi thriller, as a brilliant excuse for the film's lavish and hyperkinetic fight scenes, and as a pretty compelling call to the dead-above-the-eyeballs masses to unite and cast off their chains. ... This dazzling pop allegory is steeped in a dark, pulpy sensibility that transcends nostalgic pastiche and stands firmly on its own merits."[103]

Salon's reviewer Andrew O'Hehir acknowledged that The Matrix is a fundamentally immature and unoriginal film ("It lacks anything like adult emotion... all this pseudo-spiritual hokum, along with the overamped onslaught of special effects—some of them quite amazing—will hold 14-year-old boys in rapture, not to mention those of us of all ages and genders who still harbor a 14-year-old boy somewhere inside"), but concluded, "as in Bound, there's an appealing scope and daring to the Wachowskis' work, and their eagerness for more plot twists and more crazy images becomes increasingly infectious. In a limited and profoundly geeky sense, this might be an important and generous film. The Wachowskis have little feeling for character or human interaction, but their passion for movies—for making them, watching them, inhabiting their world—is pure and deep."[83]

Several science fiction creators commented on the film. Author William Gibson, a key figure in cyberpunk fiction, called the film "an innocent delight I hadn't felt in a long time," and stated, "Neo is my favourite-ever science fiction hero, absolutely."[104] Joss Whedon called the film "my number one" and praised its storytelling, structure and depth, concluding, "It works on whatever level you want to bring to it."[105] Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky commented, "I walked out of The Matrix ... and I was thinking, 'What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?' The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured."[106] Director M. Night Shyamalan expressed admiration for the Wachowskis, stating, "Whatever you think of The Matrix, every shot is there because of the passion they have! You can see they argued it out!".[107] Actor and screenwriter Simon Pegg said that The Matrix provided "the excitement and satisfaction that The Phantom Menace failed to inspire. The Matrix seemed fresh and cool and visually breathtaking; making wonderful, intelligent use of CGI to augment the on-screen action, striking a perfect balance of the real and the hyperreal. It was possibly the coolest film I had ever seen."[108] Director Quentin Tarantino counted The Matrix as one of his twenty favourite movies from 1992 to 2009.[109]

Awards

The Matrix received Academy Awards for film editing, sound effects editing, visual effects, and sound. The filmmakers were competing against other films with established franchises, like Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, yet they won all four of their nominations.[110][111] The Matrix also received BAFTA awards for Best Sound and Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects, in addition to nominations in the cinematography, production design and editing categories.[112] In 1999, it won Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film and Best Direction.[113]

AwardCategoryNameOutcome
72nd Academy AwardsFilm EditingZach StaenbergWon
Sound MixingJohn T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David E. Campbell, David LeeWon
Sound EditingDane A. DavisWon
Visual EffectsJohn GaetaWon
53rd British Academy Film AwardsCinematographyBill PopeNominated
EditingZach StaenbergNominated
Production DesignOwen PatersonNominated
SoundDavid Lee, John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David Campbell, Dane A. DavisWon
Special Visual EffectsJohn Gaeta, Steve Courtley, Janet Sirrs, Jon ThumWon
23rd Saturn AwardsBest DirectionThe Wachowski BrothersWon
Best Science Fiction FilmWon
Best ActorKeanu ReevesNominated
Best ActressCarrie-Anne MossNominated
Best CostumesKym BarrettNominated
Best Make-UpNikki Gooley, Bob McCarron, Wendy SainsburyNominated
Best Special EffectsJohn Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Steve Courtley, Jon ThumNominated
Best Supporting ActorLaurence FishburneNominated
Best WriterThe Wachowski BrothersNominated

Legacy

The Matrix had a strong effect on action film-making in Hollywood. The film's incorporation of wire fu techniques, including the involvement of fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping and other personnel with a background in Hong Kong action cinema, affected the approaches to fight scenes taken by subsequent Hollywood action films,[114] moving them towards more Eastern approaches.[30] The success of The Matrix created high demand for those choreographers and their techniques from other filmmakers, who wanted fights of similar sophistication: for example, wire work was employed in X-Men (2000)[114] and Charlie's Angels (2000),[115] and Yuen Woo-ping's brother Yuen Cheung-Yan was choreographer on Daredevil (2003).[116] The Matrix's Asian approach to action scenes also created an audience for Asian action films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) that they might not otherwise have had.[117]

Following The Matrix, films made abundant use of slow-motion, spinning cameras, and, often, the bullet time effect of a character freezing or slowing down and the camera dollying around them.[53] The ability to slow down time enough to distinguish the motion of bullets was used as a central gameplay mechanic of several video games, including Max Payne, in which the feature was explicitly referred to as "bullet time".[117][118] The Matrix's signature special effect, and other aspects of the film, have been parodied numerous times,[24] in comedy films such as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999),[119] Scary Movie (2000),[120] Shrek (2001),[117] Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002);[121] Marx Reloaded in which the relationship between Neo and Morpheus is represented as an imaginary encounter between Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky;[122] and in video games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day.[123] It also inspired films featuring a black-clad hero, a sexy yet deadly heroine, and bullets ripping slowly through the air;[24] these included Charlie's Angels (2000) featuring Cameron Diaz floating through the air while the cameras flo-mo around her; Equilibrium (2003), starring Christian Bale, whose character wore long black leather coats like Reeves' Neo;[117] Night Watch (2004), a Russian megahit heavily influenced by The Matrix and directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who later made Wanted (2008), which also features bullets ripping through air; and Inception (2010), which centers on a team of sharply dressed rogues who enter a wildly malleable alternate reality by "wiring in". The original Tron (1982) paved the way for The Matrix, and The Matrix, in turn, inspired Disney to make its own Matrix with a Tron sequel, Tron: Legacy (2010).[115]

Carrie-Anne Moss asserted that prior to being cast in The Matrix, she had "no career". The film also created one of the most devoted movie fan-followings since Star Wars, and was even briefly blamed for the shootings at Columbine High School.[24] The combined success of the Matrix trilogy, the Lord of the Rings films and the Star Wars prequels made Hollywood interested in creating trilogies.[30] Stephen Dowling from the BBC noted that The Matrix's success in taking complex philosophical ideas and presenting them in ways palatable for impressionable minds might be its most influential aspect.[117]

In 2001, The Matrix placed 66th in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Thrills" list. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly called The Matrix the best science-fiction piece of media for the past 25 years.[11] In 2009, the film was ranked 39th on Empire's reader-, actor- and critic-voted list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time".[124] The Matrix was voted as the fourth best sci-fi film in the 2011 list Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, based on a poll conducted by ABC and People, and in 2012, the film was added to the National Film Registry for preservation.[12]

YearAwardNomineeRankingRef.
2001AFI's 100 Years...100 ThrillsThe Matrix#66[125]
2003AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & VillainsNeo / Thomas Anderson (Hero)N/A
Agent Smith (Villain)N/A
2007AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)The MatrixN/A
2008AFI's 10 Top 10The MatrixN/A

Franchise

The film's mainstream success led to the making of two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both directed by the Wachowski Brothers. These were filmed back-to-back in one shoot and released in two parts in 2003.[126] The first film's introductory tale is succeeded by the story of the impending attack on the human enclave of Zion by a vast machine army.[127][128] The sequels also incorporate longer and more ambitious action scenes, as well as improvements in bullet time and other visual effects.[128][129]

Also released was The Animatrix, a collection of nine animated short films, many of which were created in the same Japanese animation style[130] that was a strong influence on the live action trilogy. The Animatrix was overseen and approved by the Wachowskis, who only wrote four of the segments themselves but did not direct any of them; much of the project was developed by notable figures from the world of anime.[130]

The franchise also contains three video games: Enter the Matrix (2003), which contains footage shot specifically for the game and chronicles events taking place before and during The Matrix Reloaded;[131] The Matrix Online (2004), an MMORPG which continued the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions;[132][133] and The Matrix: Path of Neo (2005), which focuses on Neo's journey through the trilogy of films.[134]

The franchise also includes The Matrix Comics, a series of comics and short stories set in the world of The Matrix, written and illustrated by figures from the comics industry. Most of the comics were originally presented for free on the official Matrix website;[135] they were later republished, along with some new material, in two printed trade paperback volumes, called The Matrix Comics, Vol 1 and Vol 2.[136][137]

See also

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