Overrated and Unfortunately Dated: The Matrix Doesn’t Hold Up

After years of having friends tell me that I should see The Matrix, I finally watched it. And you know what? I didn’t like it. Before you accuse me of not being a science fiction devotee, let me state for the record that I am a big fan of “Doctor Who,” “Lost” and numerous sci-fi or sci-fi-horror movies including both versions of Little Shop of Horrors, Night of the Lepus, Back to the Future, Cocoon, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, the three Men in Black movies, Galaxy Quest and Inception. (Do the Ghostbusters movies count? Sleeper? Groundhog Day? Those are all movies I love.) I’ve also seen The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Them!, It Came from Beneath the Sea, The Blob, The Wasp Woman, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version), Starman, Mars Attacks! and Prometheus, none of which I really love, but they’re still enjoyable. The Matrix, however, suffers from problems that can’t possibly all be the fault of me as its viewer.

My biggest issue with The Matrix is its threadbare plot. The concept of a society where rebels try to fight the establishment is nothing new. The whole movie revolves around finding reasons to use super-fancy special effects, fitting the meager story in around the effects. Of course, what’s even worse is that what looked like cool visual effects in 1999 are old hat in 2012. Having seen (and loved) Inception, I’m not that amazed by The Matrix. With most movies it’s easy for me to transport myself to that time and place, e.g. when watching Taxi Driver. There’s a difference between something being a product of its time and something trying so hard to be new and revolutionary that it can’t stand up to viewings just over a decade after its release.

Let’s look at the acting. It’s difficult to judge Keanu Reeves as a serious thespian. He’s likeable enough and since I’m a fan – Point Break is all the answer you need – his performance doesn’t bother me. He’s quite good in the beginning of the movie when he’s still Thomas Anderson, working in a boring little cubicle for a software company. On the other hand, Reeves does provide the film with a lot of unintentionally funny moments (most of the fighting scenes, including the Kung Fu with Morpheus), so I have to wonder how moviegoers reacted to his performance in 1999.

Carrie-Anne Moss barely registers, even though she’s one of the main three protagonists. Laurence Fishburne is supposed to be super-cool but instead a lot of his lines and actions are silly. Hugo Weaving, who tries very hard to be the epitome of evil as Agent Smith, has a ridiculous American accent. The whole time I couldn’t stop thinking of him as either Elrond from Lord of the Rings or as Tick/Mitzi from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It’s possible that Weaving might be able to do a good American accent elsewhere, but his Agent Smith says everything in a odd drawl, slurring every other word.

Now let’s talk about how dated some of The Matrix‘s other elements are. Carrie-Anne Moss’s haircut, the clothes that the characters wear (especially all that leather), the goofy-looking sunglasses and – worst of all – both the score and the soundtrack. It’s so late 90s that it hurts.

At the 17-minute mark I knew I was bored and that the movie would not improve. “Oh well,” I thought with a sigh. “Only two more hours to go.”

Am I alone in my opinions? Is The Matrix really one of the great masterpieces of the late 90s or is it as overrated as I think it is?

4 thoughts on “Overrated and Unfortunately Dated: The Matrix Doesn’t Hold Up

  1. I liked the matrix the first few times i saw it (other then the stupid line about being defenceless other then a emp) . By the 5 or 6 times though the plot holes and stupidity showed through. Add that to the fact that the next two movies did not even seem to make an attempt at the same intellectual standard of the first one was supposed to have.

    • I don’t feel like I really need to see the other two films; the note that the first film ends on doesn’t feel like some cliffhanger that I need resolved. That being said, I do love the fact that the film references Night of the Lepus (showing on the TV in the Oracle’s waiting room). The moment is so random, yet so great.

  2. I think the Matrix works on a visual level and nothing else. I think the characters and script are the biggest problem since the special effects are still pretty impressive IMO. Shiny visuals are all well and good but if I don’t care about the characters then a movie just doesn’t work for me which is why I’ve only seen Avatar a grand total of two times.

    • Agreed, the characters don’t mean much to me. I feel zero chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, so the supposed love story that develops between their characters makes no sense to me except as a plot device that they’re forced into by the screenplay.

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