Nearly 25 years ago, the Wachowski Sisters released one of the most groundbreaking sci-fi films of all time, The Matrix. The film went on to become one of the most famous action and sci-fi films of all time. In turn, many other sci-fi works such as Inception, Code Lyoko, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and many others. However, after its many sequels failed to garner the same praise, many wonder what made the first film so special. Ever since The Matrix‘s beloved parent company Warner Bros. announced the sequel, the film received renewed interest. So to find out why the film was such a classic, it’s time to go down the rabbit hole and take the Red Pill.

Mind-Bending Action

What most viewers remember the most about the first Matrix film is its action. Of course, most casual viewers remember the wire-work choreography, the slow motion, and the crazy camera tricks. All of these together created a distinct visual style. By taking advantage of the digital setting, the Wachowskis were able to bend the laws of physics to their whim. In the end, they created action that went beyond human limitations and gave us gravity-defying battles. In the following years, many would try to emulate the film’s style, such as with director Zack Snyder and his obsession with slow-motion. Furthermore, the sequels would take the original’s ideas and turn them on their head, such as with Smith’s clones.

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Visual Effects And Aesthetic

The next influential element of The Matrix was its visual style. Everything from the green filter, to the raining code, to the leather-clad fashion sense has become a staple of pop-culture. All of these elements combined to give the film a distinctly gothic, neo-noir vibe. As for the world itself, it provides a brilliant contrast. The world of the Matrix itself is sterile, clean, and static; a tranquil unreality. The real world, however, is lived-in, grungy, and creates the feeling of digging through the rubble of a collapsed empire.

This was also one of the first live-action films to take heavy influence from anime. According to legend, during the pitch meeting the Wachowskis showed footage of Ghost In The Shell, a classic cyberpunk anime that heavily influenced the film. Nowadays, with anime being virtually omnipresent within pop-culture, it’s nice to see an early example in cinema.

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Philosophical Themes

Of course, at the heart of The Matrix trilogy is it’s reality-defying philosophy. Taking pages out of philosophies such as Buddhism and Gnosticism, it crafts a story of false realities and inner discoveries. The film bombards viewers with questions about the nature of reality itself. Who are we? Is our world real? Is knowledge worth it? Who’s really in control? All of these questions add up to create easily one of the most philosophical films of all time. Nowadays, The Matrix is so popular that many high school philosophy students remember being taught it.

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At the core of the film is Neo’s quest for self-actualization. He himself starts as an average computer worker. However, after being exposed to the flaws in the false reality, Morpheus gives him the chance to escape using the Red Pill. After taking it and experiencing the harshness of reality, he gains self-actualization and easily overpowers the agents representing the system. Adding to his journey of self-discovery is his own take on the “hero’s journey” to reaching messianic status in the sequels.

There have been many other think pieces and reads of the film as well, showing its depth. Some theorize the real world was itself a matrix, and others believe the film to be an allegory for capitalist exploitation. Lastly, many years later, the Wachowskis themselves confirmed the film and “the red pill” to be a transgender allegory.

The Matrix saga will be found on MAX.

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