The Matrix is a combination of science fiction and martial arts. The action scenes are mostly composed of the latter, with the addition of guns, while the premise is almost solely based on the former: Science fiction. These two styles manage to go hand-in-hand, without one overtaking the other. The result is an action packed movie that leaves you with a lot to think about after it is finished playing.
The basic set-up involves a man codenamed “Neo” (Keanu Reeves), who has been looking for an answer to the question “What is the Matrix?” for some time now. He finally gets his answer when Morpheus (Laurence Fishbourne) gets in contact with him. Morpheus offers him a choice: Learn what the Matrix is, or forget everything he’s worked years learning. Since the latter choice would make for a really boring movie, Neo must pick the former.
He learns that the world is not how he once believed it to be. The actual world ended years before, and that what he thought it was is actually a computer simulation created by machines in order to keep humans unaware of what is actually going on. There was some sort of war, Morpheus explains, that turned Earth into an uninhabitable environment, where humans are now farmed to get energy for machines. Think of humans like batteries for them.
He gets freed from this potential consumption by the machines though, and learns that there are still people outside of the Matrix that want to fight back against the machines. So begins a continuation of the war that happened before the film takes place, except that this time, it will take place in the fictional world of the Matrix, and will look just like humans fighting other humans.
See, the machines have ‘people’ inside the Matrix as well. They are portrayed as ‘Agents’, led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Their powers include being able to appear from any real person, not being able to die, and having incredible strength and speed, something that no human can match. The twist is that Morpheus believes Neo to be “The One”, who, with the proper training, should be able to overcome the Agents. At least, Morpheus thinks he will.
Yes, this is just the set-up to the film. The actual movie has a bunch of action scenes, training montages, and other things that you’d expect from an action film. What it doesn’t feature is any character development or reason to care about anyone, except for the “fate of free world” resting on their shoulders. But that can’t make you care about the people; it can only make you want them to succeed.
Thankfully, that is enough to keep you interested. Well, that, and the fantastic action sequences. Blending martial arts scenes seamlessly with bullet-time shootouts ends up working incredibly well. The stunts are creative, and the action scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Even when plot is the focus, there is still usually something visually engaging occurring on the screen.
The film lacks in two areas, and both of these relate to the overall plot, which isn’t actually as good as the premise would like you to believe. It drags, and it doesn’t actually have that much going on. It’s very simple, and it lacks character development. There just isn’t much there, meaning the film relies far too heavily on its visuals, which I’d like to reiterate are great.
What allows The Matrix to have a lasting impact is how inspirational it was to Western films. Bringing in martial arts fight choreography from Hong Kong is something that wasn’t widely attempted before The Matrix, but it certainly was afterwards. Doing this, and doing this as well as the Wachowski brothers (as they were known as at the time) did allowed the film to become an inspiration for many films after its creation. This, more than anything, is something to be acknowledged.
The Matrix is a film that you can watch over and over without getting tired of it. It was innovative at the time of its creation, and the visual effects still hold up to this day. The story isn’t terribly impressive, as it doesn’t live up to the premise the film begins with, but it does a good enough job in delivering thrills. The action scenes are both the focus and the highlight of the film though, with the mixture of martial arts and gun fights working extremely well. You’ll want to watch this movie again, as it stays with you after seeing it.