I somehow got the marquee time for this wrong and we ended up a half-hour late for this 20th anniversary showing—which, with all the trailers and folderol meant we only missed the opening scene with Trinity fighting the agents. The Boy and I kind of liked that better, honestly, as it made the film more mysterious and horrifying (even when knowing what was to come) but I think it made it harder for The Flower to get into it.
We had split reactions to this one, agreeing on some of it and not on the rest. The Flower liked it the least: We saw it in “Dolby” which is like the old Sensurround system but with more kidney punches. The Boy liked that part, but The Flower ended up giving her ear plugs to The Barbarienne, which definitely reduced her enjoyment. The Boy and The Barbarienne liked the look of it whereas The Flower thought it looked like old cutscenes from video games The Boy would play. I was sort of taken aback by how dated they were: I had sort of expected them to be in the more loop-around-to-charming but they really looked awful cheesy to me.
The Boy and I liked the characters. The Barbarienne thought Neo had more chemistry with Morpheus than he did with Trinity. The kids all thought it looked very ’90s, but to me it looked like that late ’90s interpretation of the ’80s, a la Fight Club and Three Kings.. The fight choreography still worked, by-and-large. I thought the big lobby fight scene was too slow and silly but The Boy (somewhat surprisingly) was able to embrace it.
The warning signs are all there of course. Sure you have the vinyl fetish and the androgyny, but most telling of all are the lengthy pseudo-philosophic speeches that would take up 60% of the second movie and 95% of the third one. And probably all their subsequent films, too, but who watches those?
It’s still pretty fun and watchable, though. Keanu’s performance has aged well, probably because he has 20 years of extra distance from the time where his defining role was Ted “Theodore” Logan. (A performance, I maintain, which is still sorely under-rated.)
In fact, we all decided that The Matrix is the alternate timeline where Ted gets shipped off to military school and “Wild Stallions” music never does save the day.
Also, The Flower had moment of shock followed by a bout of the giggles when I told her that Hugo Weaving ended up being cast as the king of the elves and, well, more or less played it exactly the same way. Heh. So, we were glad we saw it, to varying degrees, but it’s a mixed bag. It was rather over-rated at the time: You can get a sense of how large it loomed by the vast number of rip-offs, homages, parodies and spiritual successors it had.
But since it was cutting edge of a constantly evolving technology, it stands as a victim of that success. As The Flower said, “I’ve seen everything it does, only better.” Yowch.