Maybe it's because of Speed Racer - which I like a lot - that I decided to slip The Matrix into the DVD player again. It's a film that has grown on me tremendously over time. Believe it or not, I used to hate it because I thought it was all style and little else.
When I first saw it in the cinema, I didn't think much of it. OK, so the visuals were nice, but the ideas, I thought, were hardly original. In fact, if you'd consider it, the style too, is hardly original. I felt the Wachowskis were doing a Tarantino - mash up everything that's ever come before, and blend it all into one seemingly "new" thing.
The biggest beef I had with it was that all the slo-mo doesn't serve the story but is there for some eye-candy. In John Woo's case, from whom they had borrowed, the slowed-down action sequences had the effect of creating tension very much like a suspenseful scene where the protagonist is being closed in from behind by the bad guy. It made you grip your seat in anticipation.
Then, of course, there's all the borrowing. The opening sequence is straight out of Ghost In The Shell, and the whole idea of "the real world" has been done to death, as has the "war against the machines" angle.
But on the whole, the movie does work because the Wachowskis imbue it with so many allegories, even though some seem to stretch it a bit. For me personally, the wonder of it is how they managed to make a coherent story when the story actually takes off in the middle of things. What is the Matrix and how did Neo come to know of it? Who is Trinity? Who is Morpheus? What the fuck is going on?
But somehow, right from the beginning, we're never confused. And that, for me, is the beauty of it. And there's the same energy of the imagination that is in Speed Racer.
And when I watched it again just now, it struck me just how similar it is to the Terminator series. The war against the machines, the saviour, the end of the world. Even the score has moments of T2, the metallic clanging. The shootout at the building too, is reminiscent of the one in T2.
There's no doubt The Matrix has been incredibly influential in Hollywood. It has also had its influences on Russian cinema, particularly on Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch series. So much so that Bekmambetov has now gone and made a Matrix copycat film. I call it The Matrix Recycled. Its real title is, of course, Wanted.
The James McAvoy character is Neo, Angelina Jolie is Trinity, and there's also a black mentor, like Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus, in Morgan Freeman's character.
The whole concept is pretty telling too. Freeman tells McAvoy:
"It is a choice that each of us must face ... to remain ordinary, pathetic, beaten down, coasting through a miserable existence, black sheep herded by fate ... or you can take control of your own destiny and join us ..."
Ya, take the blue pill, or take the red one. The choice is yours. What a complete rip-off.