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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame: The Matrix Trilogy

Submitted by on April 14, 2015 – 11:45 AM19 Comments
Photo: Warner Bros.

Photo: Warner Bros.

I know poppy-fu.

Today's submission comes from Crabcakes:

I own it on DVD (full trilogy and Animatrix) but the original will always stop me in my tracks on TV. I remember when it came out, and how it represented a major shift in timing (action sequences particularly) and style. The second of the trilogy, to a point, but not as reliably as the original. Two to three stopping points; if it's near the end, it never fails to amuse to hear the portentous "I am the Architect."

Terrific music choices throughout; Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson were the well-knowns on the album but the others are great too. The slowing of time to show the movement of bullets is now commonplace but at the time was revolutionary. Likewise the use of wires in the action scenes; I remember it being mentioned at the time and shown in making-of docs as a Major Thing that they imported from Eastern movies. Chicago Easter eggs in location references and the beginning at the Heart O' the City motel.

  • lengthy? 136 minutes, so just over two hours — usually pads out to three with commercials.
  • familiar/frequent? On TNT/TBS very very frequently.
  • classic/award-winner? Oscars for sound/editing. Acting…well, MTV award for Keanu is on the fringe of actual. Some sci-fi awards for directing/writing although I think there's some controversy about how original to the Wachowskis it is.
  • "Greetings, Professor Falken" (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)? Neo's eventual realization that he is The One and kicking agent ass, after rescuing Morpheus in an awesome action sequence that includes the suiting/gearing up ("What do you need?" "Guns. Lots of guns."), the shooting up of the elevator lobby ("I need back-up!") and a helicopter smashing into a building.
  • "Wanna have a catch?" (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)? Well, if you count Neo restarting Trinity's heart? Yeah, not really.
  • quote-fest?
    • red pill/blue pill
    • white rabbit
    • "Wow, that's sounds like a really good deal. How about…I give you the finger [pause] and you give me my phone call."
    • "There is no spoon."
    • "I can see why she likes you… Not too bright."
    • "…I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes"
    • "good for degreasing engines or killing brain cells"
    • "Only human"
    • "Dodge this"
    • coppertop as metaphor for humans in the Matrix
  • caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie? To a point, I guess, between Trinity/Morpheus/Neo but only in small parts.
  • "forget you, melon farmer" (you own it, but will still watch bowdlerized TV verzh) They always cut the showing of the finger in the interrogation scene or blur it; major boring "stuff" etc. Not that much swearing in this movie, actually.

I'm interested to see what the readers think here; I never watched the other two, because I found the original Matrix stultifying and self-satisfied, and have never watched it again. I wanted to like it, because of the fantastic cast (with the exception of Carrie-Anne Moss, whom I always hate, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking Trinity is a snippy pill); I probably should have seen it in the theater; it's on a list with Fight Club and Raging Bull for me of films I acknowledge the power of for other people while finding them seriously overrated myself.

But I suspect that's a minority opinion, and I don't wish to influence the readership. I do wonder how well this one has held up; just looking at the art again, on the poster, it feels so 1999. The COF is roomy, so let's see how we do. Crabcakes, thanks for a thought-provoking submish. Readers: discuss!

[Updated 4/24/15: Looks like the original film squeaks in if we leave the lesser-regarded sequels at the door. Congrats, Keanu! You may just be the poster child for the PFM experience.]

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame is here. To nominate your own PFM, email bunting at tomatonation dot com with a rundown of the criteria and your argument for why it deserves a cushion. If I use your entry, free loot shall be thine.

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19 Comments »

  • cayenne says:

    *joins Sars' minority*

    I don't really think it fits many of the criteria for COF (as clearly demonstrated in the checklist), but caveat that statement with the fact that I've never gotten the appeal of this movie. Stultifying and self-satisfied is the perfect description, IMO. It's the textbook example of "if you believe yourself to be cool, then…", and it's clear it believes itself to be the ne plus ultra of cool, without the slightest hint of satire to redeem it, so…

    Meh. Better movies, better options for COF, wouldn't get my vote, FWIW.

  • Megan in Seattle says:

    I guess I'm in the minority, too. I wanted to like it, couldn't really stay awake through the first one, and never watched the full trilogy. But I'm clearly missing something, so hopefully the Matrix lovers will jump in with their support.

  • Margaret says:

    I have only seen the first one, but I love it. The concept fascinates me, and I want to see the other two. And, I'm a Keanu fan. Yes, I said it, and I own it. :)

  • I liked it a lot when I first saw it in the theater, even though it did seem to be an amped-up version of the previous year's DARK CITY, which I thought was much better and smarter. However, the sequels definitely dulled the impact of the first one for me, and while it is of course not fair to blame a movie for all the rip-offs that came in its wake, I have to admit seeing all the slo-mo action scenes (particularly of people freezing in the air while the camera pans 180 degrees) has also lessened the impact. Also, the Wachowski clan seems to have crossed the line to self-indulgence in all of their subsequent movies (though I will admit CLOUD ATLAS has its moments).

  • Stanley says:

    I could get on board with the first one being a contender – I will certainly watch at least parts if I see it on, even though I have it on DVD. And I did really like it when it came out and was cutting-edge. But for the rest of the trilogy, my interest quickly waned and I never even saw the last one.

    But really I just wanted to say…I never put together the Heart O'the City hotel with the Heart O'Chicago motel, which is a cheap sixties-era motel near my house. But that makes double-sense because the male Wachowski lives a couple blocks from me and their studio is also right here – it must be a direct reference since the Wachowskis know this neighborhood (in addition to the explicit Chicago street names and stuff, of course). Can't believe I never realized that.

  • Dukebdc says:

    I always thought I had missed how cool The Matrix was because the first time I saw it I was drunk. But I watched it a second time, stone cold sober, and it still made no damn sense to me. So, not COF-worthy in my opinion.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    All I can add is that I thought the first one was brilliant. I never got around to seeing the other two.

  • tadpoledrain says:

    Yes yes yes to the original recipe, no no no to the sequels.
    Post Bill and Ted, The Matrix is the only movie that I felt really played to Keanu's strengths. "Strengths." (Just checked IMDb and realized I totally forgot about Speed! Has anyone nominated Speed yet? Someone should. Although sadly, it no longer makes the basic-cable rounds as frequently as it should. Oh yeah, and he was pretty good in Parenthood? Because he played a dumb stoner?)

    ANYWAY. I saw it in the theater with my dad, and we were just blown away by how stupidly, nonsensically freaking cool it was. The slow-mo, the black leather, the guns… We watch a lot of sci-fi and action and action sci-fi, and The Matrix was just so new and shiny and pretty… Yeah it seems dated now, but only because everyone else copied it. Sadly, it it seems to be the sequels rather than the original that shows up on the tube, but I will absolutely stop what I'm doing and tune in if I'm lucky enough to catch number one. And I own the DVD.

  • Josh says:

    I'll get on the couch for this one.

    Sure, the sequels have dragged it down and it certainly prioritizes the visual awesomeness and it's technoligical advances over the plot at times…but it's still got a snap that can't be denied.

    A few thoughts on the acting: ITA, this plays to keanu's strengths (looking cool, being confused, etc) but it's cast really well overall. Fishburne does a killer Yoda/Kenobi vibe that's hard to look away from. He radiates so much charisma you don't have to ask why his crew follows him on crazy-ass quests, they'll follow him into hell. Pantoliano hits it out as well; he's less weaselly and more world-weary and it works. He's the guy who just lost faith and can't take it any more. Carrie-Anne Moss is pretty snippy, but it makes sense character-wise, I think and otherwise she's well-matched to Keanu in a slower-burn cool badassery.

    The effects aren't revolutionary any longer, but they really do hold up pretty well, especially in comparison to other films in a similar era (look at Die Another Day, which was made three years later and its set-pieces are laughable now) which is impressive.

  • kellyu says:

    I tend to watch this for the background. It was one of the earlier big time Hollywood "filmed in Sydney" movies, and it still makes me laugh when I see all this action on screen, and a Dymocks bookshop sign in the background.

  • Kate says:

    @Sean Gallagher – yes, Dark City, what the hell? That one sank without a splash for some reason.

    I liked The Matrix well enough when I saw it, in the same way I like Avengers movies and Harry Dresden books. Entertaining action with just enough cleverness to the concept that I don't have to shut my brain down completely to keep from rolling my eyes the whole time.

    It didn't change my life the way it did for some. Although I did like Trinity's character, and I wish she'd had more to do.

  • Beanie says:

    @Margaret – Yes. I, too, am a Keanu fan. I don't normally go for the Meathead types, but the man is hotter than the sun.

    @tadpoledrain – Don't forget Constantine, one of my all time favorite Keanu films.

    I liked The Matrix, the concept fascinated me; but I can walk away from it, so no couch for me I guess.

  • Georgia says:

    Only saw the first one, could not stand it. As a good friend of mine said when the film was released, "It's like philosophy for frat guys." The whole concept seemed deeply ironic to me — My run-down of Morpheus convincing Neo to go with him is essentially: THIS world? It's not real, and you're just a sheep to accept it. Therefore, accept this alternate reality, because I say so.

  • scurry says:

    I would absolutely put the first Matrix movie on the couch. Keanu is a pretty decent tool when used correctly in films. It definitely ushered in a new school of action movie in the states.

  • Kristin says:

    I'm in for the first – the effects seem pedestrian now but sorta bent my brain at the time. The second two were pitiable wastes of film (except for Smith's "Me me me – Me too" gag, which at least amused).

    Carrie Ann Moss haters might be cured by a viewing of 'Fido', where she is adorable.

  • Lisa says:

    Definitely on the couch! I still find myself mesmerized by Matrix every time I see it. As for Keanu — well, he is SO pretty. Worth watching just for him. ;)

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I like the trilogy for no other reason that it brought Lawrence Fishburne and Gina Torres together to form one blazingly glorious entity.

  • MizShrew says:

    I liked the Matrix well enough when it came out, as long as I didn't analyze the plot too much. And I'm always happy to admire the Keanu for a couple hours. He's not a great actor, but damn, he's pleasant to look at.

    So I guess it works as a couch film. Not my first choice, maybe, but I wouldn't rush to find the remote to turn it off, either.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    It looks like the original MATRIX is COF-worthy and the others not s'much.

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