Zeros and The One
Revisiting THE MATRIX TRILOGY
Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s The Matrix was released in 1999 when I was a high school senior and just beginning my descent into the depths of film history. Like few others, it changed mainstream cinema forever. The mind-bending (and bullet-dodging) special effects were otherworldly. Digital spaces were still mostly uncharted at this point, making the blisteringly critical narrative about a grand simulation of everyday life ahead of its time.
Somehow both punk rock and mainstream, deathly expository and rivetingly kinetic, The Matrix balanced commercial and experimental elements with ease. I liked it, a lot. But all of my friends LOVED it. Hell, most everyone LOVED it. My slightly less feverish pitch somehow felt like contrarian griping to those who thought this was the second coming of movie Jesus. This was the year of Being John Malkovich, Bringing Out the Dead, Three Kings, The Straight Story, Magnolia, The Insider, Election, and so many other memorable American films. But it was The Matrix that would later go on to become one of the first best selling DVDs, ushering in the dawn of a brand new home video format.
Twin sequels followed, together as one, The Matrix Reloaded in May and The Matrix Revolutions in October of 2003. Hollywood franchises were everywhere at this time. The Lord of the Rings. Pirates of the Caribbean. Spider-Man and X-Men pre-Marvel mania. The Matrix Trilogy was the dangerous and revolutionary entry in the bunch, a brazenly stylized mishmash of Noir and Sci Fi tropes that elevated action cinema into a visually and sonically surreal realm. The Wachowski’s would prove this level of nerve and ambition again and again with their neon masterpiece Speed Racer (2008) and later Cloud Atlas (2012).
Revisiting them now after nearly two decades, I’m struck by how much I love the sequels, especially The Matrix Reloaded. Untethered to the narrative world building that’s so necessary in the original, they can focus more intensely on the relationships, tensions, and battles that add depth and nuance to this brilliant genre world. Neo (the ageless Keanu Reeves), Trinity (the ageless Carrie Anne-Moss) are set to return in Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections (aka Matrix 4.0) on Dec. 22. In honor of this great event, here are some of my favorite images from my latest viewing of The Matrix Trilogy with fleeting commentary.
The Matrix (1999)
Close-ups of an intimate origin story.
Rain for days. Flooding with color and depth.
Reflections of our reflections.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Zion lets loose, and these two are entangled, conjoined by prophecy and love.
The ultimate treatise on Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). He should have won an Oscar.
Maybe the great action scene of the last two decades. It keeps evolving and escalating in the most beautiful ways.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
Dance parties as expressions of identity and sexual freedom.
There is no spoon.
A Renaissance painting in motion.
Zeros and the One.
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