DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Matrix Films, Speed Racer, Wanted


Title:  The Matrix; The Matrix Reloaded; The Matrix Revolutions

Release Date:  1999: 2003

Nationality and Language: USA English

Running time: Reloaded: 138 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  R

Distributor and Production Company:  Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow Pictures (an Australian company)

Director; Writer: Andy and Larry Wachowski


Cast:   Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, Gloria Foster


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Countless websites will give the details of the story. Suffice it to mention the basic setup: Countless human pods are farmed underground, living their experiences through a virtual reality game called “The Matrix,” and these create our apparent real world, at least this instantiation of our universe. But some of the humans have freed themselves and created the spectacular underground city of Zion, and the “machines” are threatening them.


The setup leads to layered and recursive storytelling, as characters jump back and forth between realities that are now sort of like the reconciled dominions in Clive Barker’s Imajica. Neo (Keanu Reeves) becomes (regardless of his Gothic trench coat) a wholesome Clark Kent style hero, who has to master battles in both worlds. And the battles in “our real world” are masterfully choreographed indeed, sometimes rather resembling ballet as much as martial arts. Of course, everyone talks about the 14-minute car crash sequence on CA Highway 101, apparently in the Bay Area.


The screenplay delivers some wonderful philosophical dialogue about the battle between determinism (by machines) or “purpose” and individual choice. It is naturally delivered, without too much venturing into rather obvious political applications (like gay rights).


There has been periodic concern about the effect of these films on unstable minds. The suicide killers at Columbine reportedly had talked about the Matrix, as has Malvo in the D.C. area sniper killings. The film is rated “R” and would normally be suitable for intact teenagers as well as adults. But what is the media’s responsibility with materials that it knows will incite unstable people (who are often adults)?


In 2003 the films Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions were released in quick succession (six months). The jumping back and forth continues in the second film, but the finale is more straightforward and focuses on the invasion of the “real” underground civilization by the machines that have taken over on the surface of earth. Indeed, the machines, such as the fecund octopoids, are some of the best monsters ever shown on film. The photography is masterful, with subtle metallic tones sometimes (as in the subway scenes that appear to be in Toronto) merging into black and white. So are the smaller characters like “the trainmaster,” as they seem to come from The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone. Neo, as the hero, fulfills his destiny of saving the world, as in a climactic scene where he says (like an Ayn Rand hero) that he keeps fighting “because I choose to.” Keanu Reeves carries this film as another embodiment of “what it means to be a man.” But what is most striking is the paradigm of moving between worlds, almost Clive Barker like: our everyday world (less used in the finale except in the final scene) is a manipulation of a grand thought experiment; the “real world” is underground, and the surface of our planet has become a wasteland taken over my intelligent machines—but it makes great spectacle. Maybe we are already in our tribulations.


There is also a DVD documentary from WB, The Matrix Revisited, describing the making of the film but not explaining the philosophy too much.


Speed Racer (2008, Warner Bros. / Village Roadshow, dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski, 135 min, PG) is a kind of “kids movie” about a young man who thwarts a corporate conspiracy to win a car race for his family, and has very much the alternate universe look. Emile Hirsch plays the driver. Blogger discussion. 


Wanted (2008, Universal, dir. Timur Bekmanbatov, 110 min) has James McAvoy as the wimp turned “The Killer” when he is recruited into a 1000 year old cabal to which his father belongs. With Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. Blogger discussion.



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