In 1999, The Matrix made its way to theaters. The sci-fi action movie was unlike anything Hollywood had given audiences before. The Wachowski's legendary film was both brimming with thrilling set-pieces, but also ideas that made the audiences think and contemplate. The sequels polarized audiences, but the original is a universally beloved classic.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the cerebral spectacle, bringing it once again into the public eye. To look back at this fine piece of film, the following list will discuss five things about it that hold up, and five things that haven't aged as well. While some elements aren't as good as they once were, the whole package is still a magnificent experience.
10 Doesn't Hold Up: Robots
The movie is split between two main settings - the real world and the Matrix. The Matrix resembles the world in 1999, while the real world is a post-apocalyptic hellscape overrun by robots that harvest humans for energy.
The filmmakers did a standout job of making the end of the world look convincing, but the robots haven't aged in the best way. They are clearly CGI and have that '90s computer graphics sheen to them. It helps that they rarely show on screen with humans, but it still is notable.
9 Holds Up: Choreography
A big part of The Matrix's action is hand-to-hand combat. The actors engage in intense fisticuffs, sometimes aided by strings and other movie magic to showcase the characters' superhuman abilities.
The actors clearly put a lot of work into their training, because they all move with grace and precision. While they may not be quite as visceral as foreign films like The Raid or The Night Comes for Us, the fighting is way above most of Hollywood's output.
8 Doesn't Hold Up: Technology
Given that the film came out in 1999, it stands to reason technology would be from that time period. Cell phones are large and without screens, computers are bulky, and payphones are abundant. It doesn't make the film worse, but it does date the movie.
From the get-go, it is apparent to audiences that the film was produced in the late '90s. Kids are known to decry older looking films, and the young ones of this generation would take issue with this aspect.
7 Holds Up: Story
The Matrix is so much more than good versus evil or even a ragtag band of rebels fighting the establishment. At its core, it is a fight against a seemingly unstoppable foe, but it dives deep into its world in its two-hour run time. It makes the audience wonder - if they were living in a simulation, how would they know?
If the truth meant life would get harder, would they want to find out? On top of that, the way the movie introduces the world and unravels its narrative through visuals is especially commendable.
6 Doesn't Hold Up: Licensed Music
Licensed music is a surefire way to hype up an audience. It also dates a movie if the selection doesn't age well. Just like Miami Vice's music screams '80, so do the several songs in The Matrix immediately remind audiences that the movie is set in 1999.
Rob Zombie, Rage Against the Machine, and Marilyn Manson populate the soundtrack, as they were the decade's edgiest rock music while also being just accessible enough to achieve mainstream popularity. It's not a slight against the film, as the songs are still catchy, but some like movies to feel timeless, and this will definitely let viewers know the film's decade of origin.
5 Holds Up: Performances
Action and effects aren't all that made this movie memorable. Keanu Reeves reached a new level of stardom after his performance as Neo, making him a full-fledged action hero. The audience discovers the truth along with the protagonist.
The standout performances come from Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne. Cast as Agent Smith, Hugo manages to truly make a human seem like a computer program. As Morpheus, Fishburne makes the characters believe their fight isn't in vain.
4 Doesn't Hold Up: Fashion
The characters in The Matrix dress in a unique style. Most of the rebels fighting against the computer simulation wear black and sometimes don leather jackets. Neo's trench coat is an iconic look on par with John Rambo's bandana.
The only problem with iconic looks is their penchant for becoming cliches. While it shouldn't hurt the original design, new audiences can't help but be reminded of all the parodies that came afterward.
3 Holds Up: Art Direction
Yes, the movie is chock full of special effects and CGI, but that's not the only thing that made The Matrix look off-kilter. The design of Neo's office environment and the way people dress on the street reeks of uniformity and control. The rundown buildings they find themselves in are also beautiful in their own way.
When they get to the real world it is dirty, grimy, and the ship looks like they put it together with duck tape. Film is a visual medium, and The Matrix communicates so much with its aesthetic.
2 Doesn't Hold Up: Some Of The CGI
This one is a mixed bag. Some of the effects are absolutely gorgeous, and would still fool modern eyes. Others, however, haven't aged as well. The bug planted in Neo near the beginning is clearly a computer-generated creature, and the elevator doors bouncing around after they blow up the lobby of the office building near the end also look less than stellar.
Fortunately, these moments are few and far between, as CGI was used sparingly only when practical effects couldn't cut it.
1 Holds Up: Set Pieces
This was certainly a perfect action movie to close out the millennium. In addition to its hand-to-hand fights, several impressive make audiences wonder how the crew even filmed it. Watching the helicopter crash into the building while Trinity latches onto a rope and escapes at the last second is just as thrilling today as it was twenty years ago.
Nothing about it looks cheap, and the camera is so close, the audience feels like they are right in the middle of it.