Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FotM: "Stop trying to hit me and hit me!"

THE MATRIX kicked my ass hard! To this day it’s the probably the single greatest theatrical experience of my life. Ten years ago the cinematic landscape began to change in incredible, unexpected ways and in large part it’s all thanks to THE MATRIX.

Picture this if you will. It’s March of 1999, THE PHANTOM MENANCE is still a few months away and geeks everywhere are clamoring for something, anything to hold them over until then. There hadn’t been a decent sci-fi film in quite some time and we all caught wind of this little flick called THE MATRIX. Not much was known about it and the trailers were real vague. It starred Ted and it was done by the guys that wrote ASSASSINS (The only watchable Sly Stallone film in about a decade) and BOUND (A great little slice of Neo-Noir). No one figured it would be anything even remotely decent but it was sci-fi, it was the dead of winter and it might be good for a laugh.

The night the movie premiered is scorched into my memory. My friends and I decided to go check out a midnight screening of it. The theatre was at capacity because apparently every other geek in Orange County had the same idea. We all knew it was going to suck but we needed some kind of sci-fi to sate our ravenous appetite and at that point even bad sci-fi would do. The theatre was noisy and rambunctious; we were cracking jokes and expecting the worse. The Episode I trailer played and people cheered. Then people hunkered down and did their best to prepare for whatever was about to be inflicted upon them. The movie started and people were still being loud and rambunctious. What was with the scrolling code and the phone call? Then Trinity kicked ass in a way that none of us had EVER seen before. From that point on you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. The only sounds were bursts of expletive laced amazement or rapturous cheering and applause. After the lobby shootout I remember the guy in the seat next to me leaning over and exclaiming that it was worth the price of admission for that scene alone. When the film finished, the entire audience ebullient and spent rose to its feet and did something I have never seen happen in any other theatre since; they gave the film a standing ovation, a LONG, RAPTUROUS standing ovation. This little film that none of us expected us to be any good came out of nowhere and owned every single person in the theatre, it created instant, ravenous die-hard fans and it thrilled most of us in a way we didn’t even know possible. The very next day, needing to share my experience with someone I dragged my brother and sister to see the film. Later that week we dragged my parents. Up until the most recent STAR TREK film THE MATRIX held the record for the movie I saw the most times in a theatre.

Ten years later THE MATRIX still plays just as strongly as it did a decade ago. It is a staggering, ass-kicking piece of cinema that became an instant classic. In many ways it is the STAR WARS of my generation, a film that no one expected, one that came out of the blue, melted minds and completely changed the world of cinema.

Simply put THE MATRIX is probably the most influential film of the last ten years. Put aside what you think of its sequels (Which I actually really like) or the Wachowskis (As weird as they may be I still think they’re geniuses) and there’s no way you can deny the massive impact the film had. THE MATRIX changed cinema forever by introducing elements that up until that point had only existed in the worlds of kung-fu and Asian cinema or comic books. Make no mistake without THE MATRIX proving that these things could work in gigantic, mainstream movies we wouldn’t have the Jason Bourne movies or pretty much any comic book film from SPIDER-MAN to THE DARK KNIGHT.

THE MATRIX shattered my expectations and preconceived notions of what was possible in movies. As a writer that grew up watching anime, the films of John Woo and reading every comic book he could get his hands on, in my mind I always pictured the story ideas I came up with and the movies I wrote being this up until then unseen potpourri of all the different elements that inspired me. I had these grandiose ideas for what I wanted my movies to look like yet I was never sure it would ever be possible. I didn’t want the laws of physics to always apply in my movies. I wanted living comic books played out at 24 frames a second tinged with everything that’s awesome in pop culture and the world. The moment THE MATRIX invaded my eyeballs and shredded my mind I knew that everything I had always hoped, dreamed and envisioned for my stories was not only possible but now pretty much necessary. Like STAR WARS and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK before it THE MATRIX inspired me and pushed me forward, it had a creative impact on me that I am still feeling today.

The reason we chose to discuss 1999 for our “Feature of the Month” articles is because of the lasting impact and undeniable contribution the year had in the world of cinema. There are dozens of films that I could have chosen to write about, I mean 1999 is the year that gave us AMERICAN BEAUTY, THE IRON GIANT and FIGHT CLUB for crying out loud, but at the end of the day while THE MATRIX may not have been the best film that came out that year I think it is far and away the most memorable, the one that had the most lasting impact on cinema and more importantly me.


Christina said...

You're making me want to watch it again! And you're making me feel old. Ten years ago? Really?

Adam said...

Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to see any of the Matrix films in the theater. That honor came to a marathon where, over the course of 24 hours, I watched all 3with a friend. THAT was a trip. My head was spinning, I can tell you that. Like you, I also like all 3, and think that the sequels get an unfair bad rap.

I think this is one of your finest(if not THE best) articles in the whole time you've been a team member. You nailed it.

Senor Granto said...

While I didn't care for the Wachowski's last few films, this is definetly a defining moment in cinema that only gets better with age.