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    The Matrix
    Stars:Ted "Theodore" Logan, Lawrence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
    Going in, this movie had a lot against it. It stars Keanu Reeves, it has heavy special effects (too many movies rely on them as a substitute for a good story), it stars Keanu Reeves, it had vague TV promos ("Nobody can know what the Matrix is..."), it stars Keanu Reeves, it had the look of another comic book adaptation movie with strong gothic and Japanese anime overtones (all negatives IMO), it has a lot of people flying around on wires, and it stars Keanu Reeves. Because of all this, my Expectation-O-Meter™ was set rather low. Sure, its gotten great reviews, but I don't put much stock in those. My review is the only one that counts, right? :) So after the lights dimmed and the trailers passed, I was ready for anything.

    What I got was a tight, well-crafted, imaginative action thriller. By "imaginative," I don't mean completely original, because The Matrix is based on the idea that everyone is living in a world that doesn't actually exist, where free will is an illusion (right, Phil?) and people have no concept of the world outside. That has been done before. Dark City comes to mind, as do others I don't have a review for. But what sets The Matrix apart from similar movies in this genre is the sheer intricacy and imagination that went into creating it. Subtle nuances abound that I would have never thought of (guess that's why I don't write screenplays, eh?) and the sets, dialogue, and props all fit with this vision.

    I am not a fan of kung-fu movies. It has been my experience that these movies have great fight scenes, but the stuff in between the fights is just filler to make the movie at least 90 minutes long (Mortal Kombat, anyone?). The Matrix does have a plethora of fight scenes, but thankfully, are enough related to the story that it doesn't become annoying. Also, the people-on-wires thing isn't as flagrant and overdone as, say, Hercules or Xena.

    Let's talk special effects, shall we? I have noticed a growing trend in TV commercials (and now movies) that use a specific technique that involves freezing (or slowing down) a scene, rotating it about the Y axis, and then resuming full speed. The process is called Time Slice Photography. I first saw it used in a Gap's Khakis commercial (I think that's what it was) and it has since been seen pushing Discover Cards, Subarus, and other things I can't remember. During the first TV commercial for The Matrix (in between Broncos touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXIII), I saw this effect used heavily there, too. I thought that maybe they were using this effect was the same reason Subaru was: it looks cool and draws attention. Fortunately, The Matrix has a good reason for this. Of course, I can't tell you what that reason is, because it may divulge too much of the plot.

    Speaking of the plot, I have heard complaints that the plot for The Matrix is too complicated and develops too slowly. I had no trouble whatsoever following the story. Perhaps that's because I knew the general concept going in, and have seen other movies in this vein. As for the slow-developing plot, I suppose that's a valid complaint. You don't realize the full story until late in the film, and before you know it, the movie's over. Pieces of the puzzle are added as we go along, which I think is preferable to laying it all on the line in the beginning. It keeps you into the movie, if for no other reason than to figure out what the hell is going on. I like that. What I don't like is once you have all the pieces, there's not much movie left. I didn't really like the way the movie ended, but it is a logical ending.

    Believe it or not, I don't think highly of Keanu Reeves as an actor. I know that may come as a shock to you, but it's true. I can't watch one of his movies without seeing Ted "Theodore" Logan of the Bill & Ted's films. One of the few spoken words we hear him say in the movie trailers is "Woah," which I half- expected to be followed with "that is totally heinous, dude." And in a promo I saw on HBO, we see that Reeves' character in the movie has some sort of data input port on the back of his head, bringing about painful flashbacks of one of his biggest box office flops, Johnny Pneumonic. The Matrix is a strong enough movie on its own merit that it can absorb someone like Reeves without becoming too much of a distraction. He actually does a decent job of fitting in, except for a few comical kung-fu moves where he looked about as in-place Arnold Swarzeneggar doing ballet ("No, you're not sending me to the cooluh!")

    Whenever we have a movie with lots of guns and computers, I go on and on about how inaccurately the computers are used or how the guns defy physics. Believe it or not, I have no major complaints about either of those aspects of this movie! The guns, though having no recoil whatsoever, are used accurately. They have a realistically finite number of bullets, the actors hold them well, and there are no obvious Anaconda-like flagrant errors. I did notice one blooper, however. Reeves' "Neo" character is fighting with an Agent, and they end up with a gun pressed to the other's temple. The Agent says, "You're out," referring to the number of bullets Neo has left, and Neo says, "So are you," even though the Agent's gun doesn't have its slide locked back. The next frame, as the Agent the agent throws his gun away, his slide is locked back. I could have sworn I saw that; somebody prove me wrong.

    The level of detail in this movie is amazing. Its creators, the Wachowski Brothers, really had every last little thing planned out, and it shows. Not since The 5th Element have I been so impressed by the extent of detail. I would welcome a sequel to The Matrix, as long as it's as well-defined as the original.

    This movie review marks my much-anticipated return to reviewing, after taking a hiatus which put me 20 or so reviews behind. Will future reviews be forthcoming on a timely basis? Perhaps. Of course, a greased wheel turns better. Donations can be sent to its.worth.a.try@aldebaran.net. But back to the subject at hand. The Matrix is a movie deserving of the cult status it's likely to attain. Its forethought in design and strong, plausible story make it stand out from the other movies I thought it was going to be like. It doesn't have the mass market appeal to make it a big hit, but with the current crop of movies in the theaters, what else are you going to see?

    Comments? E-mail movies@aldebaran.net