Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Matrix

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I gaze upon one of the many movies I own and rant about it.  I think it's time I delve into the Matrix franchise, and crack open my ol' Matrix boxed set.  Let's take a look at The Matrix.  This is in my notes at April 27, 2014.

This past week, I celebrated my 8th anniversary of being gainfully employed in radio.  So I decided to celebrate by watching The Matrix.

Some explanation is probably necessary.  The holiday season of 2004 was when they unleashed The Ultimate Matrix Collection, the massive 10-DVD set of the entire franchise.  As I started my practicum, I swore that I would use my first paycheque to treat myself to The Ultimate Matrix Collection.  Of course, at the time, I naively thought that landing my first paying radio gig would be just a couple of weeks after my practicum.  I had no idea it would take a full year.  But, I stayed true to my word, and it was in the summer of 2006 that I made a trip to Edmonton and snagged The Ultimate Matrix Collection

The first Matrix came along in the spring of 1999, and minds were collectively blown at the new sci-fi universe that the Wachowskis had created.  I know my mind was blown because, in this era of movie news and where I check a half-a-dozen movie news websites every morning, The Matrix was the last movie I walked into with zero knowledge about it.  In fact, when it first came out, I had no desire to see it.  I don't know if you remember the ad campaign for The Matrix, but it showcased almost no footage of "the real world" and the machines.  It focused on all the action going on in the Matrix.  And if that was your only impression of The Matrix, as it was for me, you quickly dismissed it as just another generic action-thriller.  But after it had been out for a couple of weeks, some of my friends had seen it, and they were strongly urging me to go check it out.  It was on the final day of classes of our final semester at Augustana that we all went out to The Matrix at the Duggan Cinemas in Camrose. 

And my mind was blown. 

I remember reading an online article celebrating this as "the age of fanfic," as everyone who grew up with the stuff they loved can now get the rights to that and do their own film/TV series/creative product.  But before that era, we'd get people like George Lucas.  He couldn't get the rights to Flash Gordon, so what did Lucas do?  He cobbled together his favourite bits of Flash Gordon, his favourite bits from samurai films, and Joseph Conrad's texts on the history of myths, and made Star Wars, creating something new in the process.

And that's what the Wachoswkis did with The Matrix.  A lot of the machine stuff comes from anime, the fights come from kung-fu movies, there's elements of superhero films, and they threw in some of the favourite philosophy texts on the nature of reality and BOOM!  The Matrix.

That's the lesson for today, kids.  Don't set out to remake your favourite thing.  Take your favourite parts from all your favourite things, and use them as the Lego blocks to create something new. 

Watching it again tonight, I had to chuckle a little bit at how it's kind of dated now.  The music, the computers, the flip phones...it very much is a product of 1999.  And it's look.  It probably had a lot to do with watching a standard-def DVD on a hi-def TV, but that "gritty, low-budget, made-in-the-1980s" is all over the place.  But you know?  It works. 

If you read my blog, then I know you've seen the film.  Keanu Reeves is Neo, disenfranchised office drone by day, notorious computer hacker by night.  He's become obsessed with some computer system known as "The Matrix," and is trying to track down an infamous cyber-terrorist named Morpheus to figure it out.  Before long, mysterious government agents are after him, and it turns our Morpheus is looking for Neo as well.  Before long, Neo is brought to Morpheus, and one red pill later, Neo learns the truth.

It turns out machines have enslaved humanity long ago, and now use humans as a power source.  The Matrix is the virtual reality simulation that all humans are plugged into to keep them docile.  Morpheus and his crew make up the Resistance, freed humans who are fighting against the machines.  And Morpheus believes Neo to be "The One"...that chosen one with the ability to hack the Matrix with his very thoughts and reshape it according to his will, being able to free all the humans and defeat the machines once and for all.  Is Neo the One?

I remember when Inception came out a few years ago, and people were drawing comparisons between Inception and The Matrix.  The one big similarity that I caught tonight is, in both films, pretty much the entire first half is dedicated to exposition, and explaining how this universe works.  And darn it, they make it entertaining. 

And the voices.  The voice that Laurence Fishburne adopts for Morpheus is haunting...in a good way.  And Hugo Weaving's voice as Agent Smith.  A friend once pointed out the the voice's unusual cadence probably has to do with the fact that Weaving is a New Zealander and he's doing an American accent.  But watching it again tonight, he also adds some robotic intonations, no doubt because of his status as a sentient computer program.  It's become one of the truly iconic villain voices. 

I'm out of things to say.  It's still a good movie. 

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