April 2nd, 1999
Director/Writer: Andy & Larry Wachowski
Producer: Joel Silver & Barrie M. Osborne
Music: Don Davis
What is considered to be a great movie? I think all movies are, in there own way, great. Practically all movies are created y following certain elements. These basic elements are as follows: story, writing, drama, acting, sound, editing, movement, and cinematography. For the most part, all these elements go hand in hand, almost every movie, usually, has a certain balance between the elements. Different movies may focus on different elements in which make that particular movie more appealing than others.
The Matrix is one of my favorite movies and I would like to evaluate its elements and style in relation to its subject matter. I give credit to the creators and directors of movies because I know that what they do isnt easy.
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Like all movies, its script is done over and over again. The Matrix wasnt brought out in theatres until 1999, but yet one of the first screenplays was written in1996 and later revised in 1997.
The story is told from a few different points of view because the story and the plot seem to go hand in hand, as the plot changes, so does the narration, but doesnt seem to have any specific narration from any one person. The story is first seen from the point of view of Thomas Neo Anderson (Keanu Reeves). Then as the movie progresses, we see a small twist when two of the character roles are reversed. Then near the end of the movie, we see another small twist when the same two characters switch roles once again. This role switch that Im referring to will be explained in more detail a little later.
The first character that we are introduced to is Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who is watching a man, Neo, from inside the matrix, hoping that he will be the One. Trinitys reason for watching him isnt clear until we realize that it was prophesized that she would fall in love with the One.
From here, we run into three men who are sentient programs whose job is to track down and eliminate anyone who infiltrates the matrix system that isnt allowed. These men are Agent Brown (Paul Goddard), Agent Jones (Robert Taylor), and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving).
Then we meet Neo, a computer software writer and part-time hacker who discovers that his entire life has been nothing more than a virtual dream. This virtual dream was created by a race of artificial intelligent computers in the distant future. While in the midst of a reality check, Neo is awakened from his dream by a resistance movement in the real world lead by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in a hope to free humanity from lives of computerized brainwashing. The resistance group resides in the real world deep near the center of the earth, where it is still warm. A small part of that group live on a hovercraft called the Nebuchadnezzar.
The real world is portrayed as a computer simulation created by artificial intelligent machines that enslaved the human race after we scorched the sky in hopes of cutting the machines off of the solar power they needed to survive. Morpheus explains,
The machines discovered a new form of fusion. All they needed was a small electrical charge to initiate the reaction. The human body generates more bioelectricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 B.T.U.s of body heat. i
The other crewmembers of the Nebuchadnezzar are Tank (Marcus Chong), Dozer (Ray Anthony Parker), Mouse (Matt Doran), Switch (Belinda McClory), Apoc (Julian ‘Sonny’ Arahanga), and Cypher (Joe Pantoliano). They are all working with Morpheus and Trinity to help save Neo because they believe he is the One. The One is the person believed to be the savior of the human race and can also have control over the matrix and change it to how he/she sees fit.
Tank and Dozer are brothers that were born free outside of the matrix and work as technicians on their ship. Mouse, Switch, and Apoc are just three other members of the crew. Mouse created an imaginary figure of a woman in a red dress within their training program, which they use to train without having to go into the matrix. The figure of the woman in the red dress, who turns into an agent in a simulation, was used to show that agents could become anyone who is still part of the matrix.
Cypher is the only one that doesnt agree with what they are trying to do and attempts to bargain with the agents to try to get himself reinserted into the matrix. In the process of doing so, he attempts to sabotage their efforts of convincing Neo that he is the One.
Neo is essentially searching for Morpheus because he believes that Morpheus will be able to answer the question that is driving Neo through his life what is the matrix? But what Neo doesnt realize is that their roles are reversed and that Morpheus has been looking for him his whole life. A hidden story behind Morpheus search is that hes been searching forever and that he has freed others thinking they were the One. This aspect can show the relationship between Morpheus and Neo isnt what you expected it to be in the beginning. You think that Morpheus is the leader and that Neo is just another person that will be woken up from the dream world, but then it is clearly shown that Neo will become the real leader and that Morpheus is just another crewmember trying to find Neo.
Drama builds between Neo and Trinity as he becomes more confident in his belief that he is the One. The Oracle who tells Neo later that he is not the One destroys this but eventually learns that the Oracle told him exactly what he needed to hear. This is what convinces Neo that he really is the One and the drama between Trinity and himself is reestablished.
During a training sequence, after Neo has learned Kung fu, there is some drama with Morpheus as he tries to lead Neo through his newly discovered life. In this scene, Neo is proving to Morpheus that he can fight using Kung fu. The point of the training is to teach Neo that, if he is the One, he can learn to move faster than any one else in every way. At the end of the sequence, Neo essentially proves to Morpheus, not that he is the One, that he is faster then him.
One of the largest instances of drama that occurs is when Cypher betrays the crew by turning them over to the sentient agents without there knowledge. There is build up to this throughout the movie though. Cypher becomes increasingly more negative towards the rest of the crew from the point where they bring Neo into the real world, if not from the beginning of the movie. One example in particular is when Cypher and Neo have a brief conversation about why Neo is there, in the real world. This is where Neo really finally figures out that he is there to save the world. The whole aspect of Cypher betraying the crew is more of a subtle aspect, since you dont see very many example of his attitude until he actually acts on it.
The two brothers, Tank and Dozer add some drama to the crew when they are introduced for the first time and by explaining that they were born free outside the matrix system, in the real world and are fighting for the resistance.
Another major dramatic influence on the story involves Cypher when he kills off Dozer, Switch, and Apoc, who are plugged into the matrix through their own hacking system on the ship. This creates a lot of tension for the rest of the crew. It almost gives them the feeling that all is lost until Tank is able to gain control of the ship back.
Movement is portrayed almost in co-existence with the reality of the matrix and the real world. One example of this is during the training exercise where Morpheus tries to teach Neo that he has to let it all go by jumping between two skyscrapers. When Neo and Trinity are going to save Morpheus from the government building and the fight scene in the lobby where Neo is walking across walls, this shows his abilities, which he is not otherwise able to do when he was hooked to the matrix. Also during this scene, slow motion was used to portray the growing abilities of Neo and how those abilities far exceed those still linked to the matrix. All the fighting scenes involving martial arts is a great example of movement because they portray the choreography and training that the actors/actresses had to endure in preparation for the making of the film. A lot of other examples of movement that were seen in the film could also be linked with the special effects aspect because the majority of the special effect of the film included movement. An example of this would be with the bullet-time effects used in many parts of the film. All the shots involving the slow motion/circular rotation of the camera around objects, mostly used with the actors/actresses themselves. The directors of the film created this effect specifically for use in the film. Many films following the Matrix have used this technique such as Swordfish, starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and Don Cheadle. This effect became so popular so quickly that it even appeared in video games like Max Payne, the effect was more related to slow motion than a round about of film shots.
Bullet Time is that funky effect in movies like The Matrix when action stops and the camera does a quick arc around the subject, giving you a cool 3D effect. Max Payne does have this when you do a particularly cool kill but it takes it one step further. ii
This effect is related to cinematography for the fact that it involves moving cameras.
Sound effects are a key part of every movie, whether the dead silence of space in 2001: A space Odyssey, or the sounds of the guns in the gunfight scene of the Matrix. Some specific sound effects that I picked up on that were not to noticeable were: sounds made by the Nebuchadnezzar when traveling through the old sewer systems, the sounds made by the sentient sentinels searching for the ship, the sound of the chopper blades/mini-gun fire when Neo and Trinity are saving Morpheus, and the sound of the bullets slowed down by Neo at the end of the movie.
Sound effects, special effects, and all other aspect of the film go hand and hand when it comes down to editing a movie. Everything is looked over many times and is brought together into the final product. Many times, there are many scenes that dont make it into the movie because they are either irrelevant or they just dont have room for them. Editing also involves piecing the movie together since all movies are never shot all in the correct order. Each shot is taken and place in the intended order.
Mainstream narratives follow a certain 1-2-3-4 trend to make them straightforward and east to follow. This does not have to be the case. Other orders can induce jump cuts, feelings of mystery (where the viewer has to work to achieve comprehension), alienation, and so on. Consider the following four shots:
Person A opens front door of house
Walks through corridor into kitchen
Switches kettle one.
If shot 4 is first, followed by shot 1, you may think that someone is already inside the house, switching on the kettle. Thus, the order should be kept as structurally defined as possible one shot out of place can bring down the entire piece. iii
In conclusion, a film wouldnt be a film if all these elements were not put together properly. Films today are becoming more and more elaborate thanks to the increasing field of computer technology and technology itself.