The Wachowskis’. Lana and Lilly Wachowski came onto the scene with their debut Bound in 1996 and then exploded into the stratosphere with their career-defining work—The Matrix in 1999. Reloaded is much stronger than it is given credit for. Their strength though, for the purposes of this list, is The Matrix– a singularly brilliant film. They’ve failed to keep up their momentum since the early 2000’s, but they are undeniably accomplished world-builders, making ambitious, if often flawed, works.
Best film: The Matrix
- Don’t hold the other brilliant films from 1999 against The Matrix– just because it isn’t the best film of the year doesn’t mean it isn’t a magnificent cinematic achievement
- An inarguable triumph of special effect and stunt work— but that’s not all– also narrative (the story is extremely engaging) and visual style (it is meticulously designed with color)
- It is hard to believe this is Wachowski’s second film (Bound in 1996)—so much confidence and polish—this is a big film, big set pieces, big budget, highly ambitious (in themes and aesthetics)
- the film is intelligent, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t just because there’s the occasional regrettable action film one-liner like “I’m going to give you the finger” and “My way or the highway” stuff
- a legit meditation on fate and choice, discussions on reality,
- taps into multiple strands of philosophy like Star Wars did with the force, trinity, neo, “hallelujah, you’re my savoir, man. My own personal Jesus Christ”. Judas and resurrection—
- The costume work– black hair, shades, leather, pale skin—assurance in this world-building, oozing cool and consistency
- A gorgeous split diopter shot early in the film
- A cinematic achievement in believable color design in nearly every frame. The Matrix is flooded with greens and blacks. Like a Fincher film, even the whites are light green. The phone is green, Fishburne’s tie, endless objects
- The music soundtrack is strong and pairs well with the world built by the Wachowski, Rob Zombie, The great drop from Rage Against the Machine at the end—but the actual original score by Don Davis is a miss. Have you ever heard of Don Davis? I haven’t before or after and it looks like for good reason. It’s not a big flaw or anything- just certainly not a strength of the film and it seems weird when for films this big, popular and iconic we’re used to memorable scores whether it be Titanic, John Williams’ work, Hans Zimmer, etc
- Sort of a blending of Lewis Carroll (Alice is a big part of this film), Phillip K. Dick dystopia, the hacker culture in the 1990’s
- The performances are top notch. Keanu Reeves is perfect for the role, Fishburne a daunting figure as well—a great actor built for these monologues. I think Hugo Weaving steals every scene he’s in. His diction- every line reading. It’s clear how good he is because the other two agents look ridiculous next to him. He’d probably rank third when ranking villains between the Heath Ledger Joker and Christoph Waltz Inglourious Basterds role but I think he belongs in the conversation for great semi-recent cinematic villains.
- I mentioned it above the green in the mise-en-scene and design is really something. The kitchen of the Oracle, the corporate building color of the big shootout slow-motion (Wild Bunch or end of Bonnie and Clyde slow-motion bullet ballet moment)
- The entire Oracle scene with the vase falling is just very smart- telling him what he needs to know
- know — and of Not a single 100 on metacritic. A big swing and a miss from Travers at Rolling Stone too which is rare
- During the subway showdown there’s a great western iconography Leone moment showing the hands of Weaving and Reeves
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (The Matrix)
most overrated: TSPDT has The Matrix as #285 and that’s a little high for my liking but not much- not worth a mention here. Bound is near the very back end of the TSPDT consensus top 2000
most underrated : They don’t have a single film that gets mentioned on the TSPST top 1000 of the 21st century on that list. I’d have to find room for Reloaded for sure.
gem I want to spotlight : The Matrix Reloaded
- there are two films here really broken up by about the first hour of the movie vs. the second hour– one is an uninteresting slog (the first half), the other is spectacular
- Starts with the emerald-infused Warners logo— the color scheme production design dedication even in the logo- love it!
- The schlocky “oh—upgrades” sequel language that often happens in bad comedies or action sequels
- It isn’t the rip-roaring creativity-infused narrative juggernaut the first film is—this sprawls out, more characters, building out the universe—fatty—mostly not good
- Gratuitous scenes like the orgy dance, the fighting of the 1000 Agent Smith Hugo Weavings’. It’s showing off some size and special effects but it doesn’t impress
- The opening with the 2 minute flashback of Trinity (which is a foreshadowed dream from Reeve’s Neo) is strong, as is the half-circle shot during love-making, there’s a triple ellipsis edit move here by the Wachowskis that is really nice as they move that set back farther and farther each time—but by and large the first hour is forgettable
- The artistic aspects of the film start with the Merovingian scenes 63 minutes in (I’m pretty convinced it’s unarchiveable up until now)- green flooding that restaurant—a dogmatic dedication to color in the design
- This sets the tone for the chateau action set piece (at 70 minutes) sequence. You have the green tapestry and weapons on the wall. The stair cases-brilliant.
- And then leads to the jaw-on-the-floor phenomenal freeway scene at 85 minutes—these combine to make like a green-coated Zhang Yimou film (if the 1999 original is like Star Wars in many ways, this pivots and is like Zhang Yimou’s 2002 film Hero or House of Flying Daggers in 2004) and in a short film format the freeway scene really predicts Mad Max Fury Road
- Fishburne is commanding once again—a speechmaker- “isn’t that worth dying for”
- The Wachowskis are as interested in background as they are in the foreground in this half of the movie which they weren’t in the first 60 minutes
- The green doors in the white hall sequence, the skyline with green lights when Neo looks out
- The meeting with the architect is a stunner as well. Strong world-building in the mise-en-scene. It’s 2001’s ending encounter in the bedroom meets The Man Who Fell To Earth
- Like the first film Rage Against the Machine smacks you in the face before you hit the credits- perfect
- I love Ebert- what a writer– but he has 1000 words on the 1999 film original and 1000 words on this and never uses the word green. Does he not notice the color design? Or isn’t important to him? Has to be one, right?
- World-building, mythology – acolytes of George Lucas and Star Wars
- Special effects and stunt work masters
- Color design—the most recent study of The Matrix and Reloaded impressed me—they so thoroughly infuse their world with a color aesthetic—admirable
- Cloud Atlas is Nolan-light with the parallel editing— and a paper could/should be written comparing it with Griffith’s masterpiece Intolerance
- Zhang Yimou feels like an influence as well as Luc Besson
- The Matrix
- The Matrix Reloaded
- Cloud Atlas
By year and grades
|1999- The Matrix||MS|
|2003- The Matrix Reloaded||HR|
|2012- Cloud Atlas||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
He’s off and flyin’
As he guns
The car around the track
He’s jamming down the pedal
Like he’s never coming back
Go Speed Racer (go)
Go Speed Racer (go)
Go Speed Racer, go
Mach go, go, go
Go Speed Racer (go)
@Matt Harris– haha– I’m not giving up on Speed Racer (or you)
I have praised Matrix a lot this website recently like it deserves to be. It’s absolutely essential sci-fi. It’s a bit of a coincidence to see them added to the list after I had seen Matrix so recently.
I’m not sure how the Wachowski’s went from The Matrix to Jupiter Ascending and Speed Racer. Every movie after the Matrix was a big drop off for them.
How do you determine how to add movie series as group or as multiple separate entries. Why are the Matrix series, the godfather series, Toy story series all added separately but the LOTR series and Dekalog as one entry. I mean I understand the LOTR as one entry since all 3 movies were shot in a year but Dekalog was shot as a TV series with 10 episodes from 1988-1990. If Dekalog has been added as one, shouldn’t the other movies I mentioned also be?
For some reason i always miss the Dekalog, have you seen it @Azman?
Yep- All 10 of them. That’s why I was asking the question. I’m not sure if I have seen 1 film or 10-haha.
There are many, many acclaimed movies I have missed. Everyone has. For example I haven’t seen Satan’s Tango. I hadn’t even seen The Matrix up until recently.
Are you ‘missing’ The Dekalog because you don’t know where to watch/stream it or because you haven’t found the time? (it’s 10 hours long- don’t worry though. You can watch them in multiple sittings since they are split up). If you are looking for a streaming service, Criterion offers the film(s). If you don’t have Criterion you may find Dekalog online somewhere.
It’s true it could be 10 movies haha
I miss it because it lasts 10 hours, sometimes I see a movie and I find it but I don’t want to be hooked, since one finishes and want to see the other.
Will I try to watch a chapter every day or how many do you recommend watching?
Dedicate a 4 days (a long weekend). Each episode is 1-2 hour long. Watch 4 episodes a day. Dedicate about 3-4 hours a day (imagine watching the godfather part 2 every day-haha).
Day 1: first 3 episodes.
Day 2,: episode 4,, 5 and A short film about killing
Day3: Episode 6, As short film about love and Episode 7
Day 4: episode 8-10.
This is how I watched it. What do you think?
@Aldo I don’t know if you knew about this but Episode 5 was extended into Krótki film o zabijaniu [A Short Film About Killing]
Turned into Krótki film o miłości [A Short Film About Love]
I think you should check out Killing and Love as well. Be prepared. You’ll be blown away by the 10 episodes and the 2 other extended films!
Drake, you say that the Matrix is a little too high at # 285 yet it’s not in your top 500. where do you think you would rank it. i haven’t seen it in years but i remember thinking high of it.
@D.W.Griffith- I was able to get to the trilogy earlier this year and have a page for The Matrix here http://thecinemaarchives.com/2020/04/24/the-matrix-1999-wachowski/