I remember so much about going to see The Matrix for the first time. I was 15 years old, and was wholly entranced by the unbelievably cool marketing campaign: "What Is The Matrix?" all the ads asked, accompanied by the coolest WTF-did-I-just-see visuals anyone had seen (you could make a case for 1999 as the greatest year for movie marketing ever, between this and The Blair Witch Project, and I'm sure there's more). My best friend and I were pushing really hard to go, and finally our parents relented. Except that the theater wouldn't let my mom just buy the tickets for us, she had to actually go in and watch it with us.
This should have been mortifying, but my mom stuck herself in the back row and didn't bother us one bit. When the movie was over, all of us - even my mom - walked out with our mouths open, the only words coming out being, "THAT WAS SO COOL!"
The Matrix then became the unlikeliest of bonding experiences for me and my mom. We went to see both sequels in the theater together (despite the diminishing returns, although I still argue that Reloaded is one of the best action films of the past twenty years), something that previously had only been the realm of Star Wars. Which is fitting, I guess, because in many ways The Matrix was like Star Wars for my generation. The Gen-X philosophizing, the black trenchcoats, the very concept of "the matrix", "I know kung fu", and of course, the stylistic flourish that the film is probably most known for today: Bullet time.
I keep trying to remember when I knew that The Matrix was special, a film that I would love for quite a long time, and I'm pretty sure it's in that very first scene. Very few films open as strongly as The Matrix, with a mysterious phone call as we watch a trace program locate the phone number, followed by police agents moving in on a mysterious woman.
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But that's not the moment. Not for me.
For me, the moment that most excited me, that made me go "HOLY SHIT" first, was this one:
After 15 years and countless rewatches, The Matrix still excites. That the (Oscar-winning) visual effects still hold up is a huge reason why; bullet time may have been over-spoofed in the years since, but it hasn't ever been as effective as it was here. Plus, it's not the only trick The Matrix has up its sleeve. The superb construction of its action sequences, the simple yet effective world-building, and the easy yet serious performances all contribute. For me, anyway, this movie's luster hasn't faded one bit.
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This post could be retitled "An Appreciation of Carrie-Ann Moss! I didn't plan on writing almost exclusively about Trinity when I started writing this, but she's the first character we meet in The Matrix, and she makes an indelible impression in one of the film's best sequences. And it's a really great performance.