I first learned of the existence of The Matrix — the movie, silly — when I saw a poster for it in a movie theatre lobby. I immediately wrote it off — it starred Keanu Reeves, how good could it? And even after I saw the trailer, I was fairly uninterested. When my friends and I did eventually see it, it was on a total whim.
To say that I was blown away would be a grand understatement. My first viewing of The Matrix was probably akin to someone in the previous generation seeing Star Wars for the first time. I walked in knowing next to nothing about the film, and for the next two hours or so, was treated to something that unlike anything else I had ever seen. As I stumbled out of the theatre, high on the experience, I found myself wishing the movie had been twice as long. I wanted more, more, more.
Of course, that wish was granted, albeit in a slightly bittersweet manner. We got the much-anticipated (and much-debated) sequels. While The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions weren’t as bad as everyone says they are, but they certainly weren’t as good as the first film. Which still feels as revolutionary and groundbreaking now as it did back in 1999.
This is most apparent in the movie’s numerous action scenes, which blend together lightning fast martial arts (courtesy of Yuen Woo-Ping), lots of John Woo-esque gunplay, bleeding edge special effects, and tons of ultra-cool panache (trenchcoats and cool sunglasses are always a winning combination). The lobby shootout, in which Neo and Trinity storm an office building full of soldiers to rescue Morpheus from Agent Smith and his cronies, is a perfect example of this.
The scene is a perfect study in contrasts, between the frantic firearms pyrotechnics — which find Trinity and Neo going through about 300 guns in 3 minutes — and wonderful slow-mo acrobatics, like Trinity’s “running up the wall” move. All in all, it’s a beautiful, aesthetic scene to watch (I love the way the chunks of marble and stone explode in glorious slow motion around our two heroes as they make their way through the hail of bullets) as well as one full of signature kick-ass moments (like the way Trinity relieves that one guy of his shotgun).
Many movies have since cribbed The Matrix’s style, effects, and whatnot, but none of them have come close to the dazzling results that the Keanu Reeves and Wachowskis seemed to pull off so effortlessly.