Film Review © 1999 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski; Screenplay by Andy and Larry Wachowski; Produced by Joel Silver; Executive Produced by Andy and Larry Wachowski, and Bruce Berman, Dan Cracchiolo, Andrew Mason, Barrie M. Osborne, and Erwin Stoff.
Starring Keanu Reeves (as the human Messiah and hero against the computer-based artificial universe of "The Matrix," Neo), Laurence Fishburne (as Neo's mentor, sage and pseudo-prophet, Morpheus), Carrie-Anne Moss (as Neo's paramour, Trinity), Hugo Weaving (as the absolute best movie bad guy since Darth Vader, Agent Smith), Gloria Foster [as the mysterious computer-based prophet, Oracle (hum, is this a subliminal "product placement" from Larry Ellision, CEO of Oracle Corporation?)], Joe Pantoliano (as Cypher), Marcus Chong (as Tank), Paul Goddard (as Agent Brown), Robert Taylor (as Agent Jones), Julian "Sonny" Arahanga (as Apoc), Matt Doran (as Mouse), Belinda McCory (as Switch), and Anthony Ray Parker (as Dozer).
"The Matrix" is an artificial universe where computers control the perceived realities all humans experience. Computers essentially farm humans, AND after cultivating the human crop of minds as a power source (batteries), when depleted of energy, humans are subsequently discarded. The human sage, warrior and pseudo-prophet, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) believes Neo is "The One," the human Messiah with the ability to destroy "The Matrix" and free humans from physical and psychological imprisonment.
Although film has great "eye candy" special effects, the script is really, really stupid. Consequently, if you apply any common sense to this mess it becomes more and more painful to watch. As represented by the title of Judge Judy Sheindlin' book, "Beauty Fades, Dumb Is Forever (©1999 by Judge Judy Sheindlin, published by HarperCollins)," the beautiful special effects do not replace or compensate for a stupid script that will endure for perpetuity in celluloid history. Didn't the film's producers watch this mess before releasing it?
It's really this simple: Neo - and all humans - are NOT limited to thinking within any perimeters, and most importantly, humans are exempt from the confines of "0's and 1's" of the computer-based artificial universe of the matrix. Humans have imagination! Get it? So, why didn't at least one imaginative human simply enter the matrix and detonate an imaginary 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion!) kiloton thermonuclear device designed to completely obliterate all existing computers and replace them with a computer network solely under the control of humans? Da. Oops, end of the first movie, and end of the film franchise before it began.
Instead, we get Neo with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men (oops!), including pseudo-Bruce Lee martial art skills. We're treated to endless fight scenes against the villainous Agent Smith, and again,"eye candy" special effects. Film is analogous to having a date with an extremely attractive man or woman, but soon discovering your date has atrocious bad breath, fake body parts, can't dance, can't hold an intellectual conversation, and is a lousy lover. Just one big disappointment after another.
The ensemble cast generally performs above the material, especially Laurence Fishburne as Neo's mentor, sage and pseudo-prophet, Morpheus. As with most of his film work, Fishburne has a dominating screen presence - which is good. Plus, Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, is the absolute best movie bad guy since Darth Vader. Without Weaving's Smith, this film would have no edge. The subplot involving sabotage by one of Morpheus' crew had great potential, but it seemed, the best aspect of this plot line were left on the cutting room floor.
For the film's pseudo-epic climax, and with the threat to human existence so dire, why didn't Neo and Trinity re-enter "The Matrix" with the uploaded knowledge and technology of an imaginary 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion!) kiloton thermonuclear device, or even a computer virus, designed to completely obliterate "The Matrix" and free all humans from computer domination? Instead, they only uploaded their minds with the knowledge of traditional handheld weapons and related armament. And this is supposed to be thought provoking entertainment?
For a better confrontation between humans and computers please revisit Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Terminator," from 1984, and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," from 1991. Or, for films that involve humans entering a "Matrix-like" computer universe take another look at the virtual realities of "Tron," from 1982, and "The Lawnmower Man," from 1992. Hopefully, Neo and crew will drop a thermonuclear device in "The Matrix 2" to defeat Agent Smith and his computer universe, and thereby require the script to become more challenging, and far more creative in imagining a post-apocalyptic human existence.
Film is directed episodically by the Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry.
Film has a fairly brisk running length of 136 minutes.
Recommendation: It's strictly a cable movie!