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Tag: the matrix

Editorials

The Matrix: Twenty Years On

September 10, 2019

It has been twenty years since the release of the hugely influentially film The Matrix. It’s hard to overstate the impact it had on its release, it was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year and its effect was felt not just in films but fashion, speech and even mobile phones. But what was once the height of cool over time can appear dated and lacklustre, how does this film hold up?

The Plot

(pinterest.com)

For those who don’t know I shall briefly explain the plot – Thomas Anderson lived in late 90s America, working as a computer programmer but is secretly the hacker “Neo”. He was approached by sinister government agents asked him to work as a spy. Neo refused and is quickly picked up by the people he was asked to spy against. Their leader Morpheus explained to Neo that what he thought was reality was actually only a computer programme, in reality AI robots were draining his energy to survive. What follows is a spectacular two hours of gunfights, fistfights and metaphysical pondering on the nature of reality and destiny.

Great Expectations

Dodging bullets ( source: vulture.com)

There was a huge amount of hype surrounding the film especially with the talk of unprecedented special effects – what became known as “bullet time”. The famous “bullet time”. The Matrix was not the first film to use this technique but undoubtedly popularised it. Bullet time is a form of slow-motion photography that will often have the camera moving around the target. In The Matrix, this was used as characters dodged bullets using what would be super-human reflexes. While the technology has moved on a lot since the effects still look great to this day.

The film wasn’t stunning just because of bullet time. The hand to hand fight scenes, such as Neo and Morpheus fighting or the climactic fight between Agent Smith and Neo were amongst the first of the extremely choreographed fights that are the mainstay amongst recent action-films (with perhaps the most relevant example of this being in the John Wick films – starring Keanu Reeves).

The Internet, Computers & Technology

Understanding computers (source: pinterest.com)

The Matrix capitalised on computers and the Internet in a way few films had before. Neo was a computer programmer by day and hacker by night and you got the feeling that not only Neo understood computers but so did the Wachowskis. The fact that Neo goes by that name, his hacker alias, seemed to reflect an understanding of the Internet, a place where you could be whatever you wanted to be.

Storytelling

Keanu Reeves as Neo (source: maxim.com)

In many ways, the storytelling aspects of The Matrix were rooted in old ideas. Robot tyranny, virtual reality, sinister but vague government agencies had all been done before. The idea of Neo being The Chosen One again is nothing new but perhaps they made it their own, in an episode of South Park there is a search for a chosen one they refer to as “The Keanu Reeves child”. By the Wachowskis’ own admission the film is heavily indebted to Japanese anime and Hong Kong action films. But I think the Wachowskis deserve huge plaudits for pulling all of these aspects into one film whilst at the same time combining an over-the-top action-sci-fi blockbuster with an intelligent hard sci-fi drama. Apparently the Wachowskis had the main actors read relevant books on philosophy and science so they could comfortably explain the ideas thrown around in the film.

Culture

Neo & Agent Smith (source: variety.com)

The cultural impact was huge. Like A New Hope or The Dark Knight The Matrix launched a thousand copycats and its influence can be felt in many more. The Simpsons and Spaced both parodied it while The Onion could write about something being “Matrix-y” and people knew what you meant. Anyone who wore a long black leather coat was imitating Neo. The term “matrix” has been used a lot in sci-fi (in Doctor Who it’s the repository of Time Lord knowledge, it’s the name of a DC superhero and is the name of a 90s fantasy tv show) but if used today would only refer to the film. The choice of red pill or blue pill has become synonymous with choosing fantasy over – an often painful – reality and people can talk about odd events and coincidences as “glitches” in the Matrix, a moment where a person can see something is not right in reality. One such glitch is that the aforementioned Matrix tv show starred Carrie-Ann Moss, one of the stars of the film The Matrix. Weird.

The Matrix 4

The world recently learned that there will be a fourth film in The Matrix franchise. After the huge success of the first film, the two sequels were not well-received but there is already a lot of interest in this new film. Crucially Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss and Lana Wachowski are all part of the film. I think the years have been kind to The Matrix, with the sequels being forgotten about and the delight of the original still has a hold over people. I recently rewatched the film and despite knowing every twist, betrayal and cliffhanger still thoroughly enjoyed it, immersed in an interesting world that was glorious to watch.

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Editorials

(Some Of) The Best Fights in Film Franchises

June 5, 2019

As an avid fan of film fights here are a selection of some of the best fights from film franchises – everything from gun battles to slugfests to martial arts extravaganzas.

The Matrix – Subway Fight

  • Combatants – Neo Vs Agent Smith
  • Setting: Subway Station
  • Weapons – Briefly guns, then fists

Watching The Matrix again now and you see just how influential it was. So many action films since have similar balletic fight scenes, highly choreographed and done with precision and care but I don’t know if The Matrix has ever been topped. As good as Keanu Reeves is in The Matrix Hugo Weaving is better and in many ways a far more interesting character. Everything about Agent Smith from the way he talks to the way he moves seems like it has been very carefully chosen. Youtube has videos that consist entirely of Agent Smith saying “Mr Anderson”.

Depending on how much you buy into into Neo being The One at this point really effects how likely it is that you think he’ll win. It is specifically said that every person who has tried to fight an agent has died. The fight starts with the infamous bullet-time but quickly becomes a martial arts master class. Agent Smith has a curious conservation of movement and energy and rarely looks like he’s actually trying whereas Neo is battered and bloody and clearly putting his all into it.

The climatic moment of the fight when we think Agent Smith is dead but then steps off the train is genius and also means that in one of the best fights in the history of cinema no one is actually killed.

Body Count – 0

John Wick – Club Fight

  • Combatants: John Wick Vs A Lot Of Russian Gangsters
  • Setting: A Night Club
  • Weapons: Guns and fists

Yes, Keanu Reeves gets two. Obviously, the fight scenes in John Wick are the most important parts of the film and they don’t disappoint – arguably setting the bar for all future action films. There are number I could pick but I often come back to the fight in the night club. This is genuinely a blood bath and I had the body count at around 29 over the space of seven minutes and it showcases all of Wick’s skills – hand-to-hand fighting, shooting, weird kung-fu, all of it. Wick’s prowess at killing people almost seems supernatural but never quite strays over that line. Interestingly despite cutting through so many people Wick doesn’t even win the fight, his target escapes and he ends up being thrown over over a barrier to the floor below. But really with John Wick if he’s not dead you haven’t really won.

Body Count – I counted 29 but I’m not confident in that number.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Elevator Fight

  • Combatants : Captain America Vs Various S.H.I.E.L.D Agents
  • Setting – A lift (AKA an elevator)
  • Weapons – Electric shock weapons, fists.

A brief fight to be sure but perhaps my favourite in all of the Marvel films. I like a fight scene that happens in a place that rather restricts the fighting and makes directors think outside the box and this definitely qualifies. Captain America is set upon by eleven (I think, it’s a little hard to count) men and then for most of the fight has one hand stuck to the wall. So often with fight scenes you feel like you’ve seen it before but I can’t think of another scene quite like this.

Body Count – Nobody dies but I count 11 people on the floor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Church Fight

Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Combatants – Superspy Harry Hart and various fundamentalist Christians.
  • Setting – Church in America.
  • Weapons- Guns, knives, grenades, an axe, whatever you can put your hands on

I would go so far as to say this isn’t a good film. This one scene, however, makes it worth watching. Colin Firth is not your typical action hero but he really pulls this off. As all inside the church are essentially brainwashed into an orgy of violence a massive fight breaks out which leaves only one person standing – Harry Hart. Everyone in the church is fighting everyone else with nearly five minutes of utter mayhem in what becomes the Where’s Wally of fight scenes as you search the screen picking out individual confrontations.

Body Count – I have no idea and didn’t even try to count.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – Plane Fight

Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Combatants – Indiana Jones Vs A Big Nazi (with assistance from Marion and assorted Nazis respectively)
  • Setting Air Strip in Egypt
  • Weapons: Fists, machine gun, propeller

Indiana Jones does not like a fair fight. Not when he’s fighting someone bigger, tougher and stronger than he is. And is a Nazi. In this fight Indy tries every underhand trick he can think of and in the end he doesn’t really win as much the other guy loses. While certainly not played for laughs there are a couple of moments of real humour, the first time Indy is punched by the Nazi soldier he doesn’t just get knocked over but his legs just give way leaving him dazed and on the ground.

Much of the fight in Indy actually trying to avoid his opponent quickly realising there was no way he was going to win and the legendary moment when his opponent does meet his end is surely one of the best conclusions to a film fight.

Body Count – One of the main combatants and a number of other German soldiers who showed up and got on the wrong side of a machine gun.

The Dark Knight Returns – Batman Fights Superman

Batman Vs Superman Part 1 (Part 2 at end of article)
  • Combatants – Batman Vs Superman (each with a few helpful assistants)
  • Setting – A deserted section of Gotham.
  • Weapons – Superman’s superpowers & Batman’s gadgets

In writing this article I did some reading around “great” fights and I was surprised to see Batman Vs Superman from Batman Vs Superman, in my view a terrible fight. So instead I have included the Batman Vs Superman fight from The Dark Knight Returns, animation but certainly one of my all time favourite fights and a vastly superior movie. This film handles the idea of why the two are fighting so much better than Zack Synder’s film and you also think that Superman might actually kill Batman, something we all knew wasn’t going to happen in Synder’s film.

Weakened from the detonation of a nuclear missile – just go with it – Superman is not at his best already and Wayne brings everything from sonic weapons to a super-strong batsuit to try and defeat him and in the end, well, he wins. A victory of ingenuity and admittedly billions of dollars over the the near-invincibility of Superman.

Body Count – 0

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