Cody: I was in middle school when The Matrix came to theaters, but I didn’t see the film until it came to VHS, but I can still remember being totally confused as a friend of mine tried to explain the film to me. After that first viewing, I thought it was an absolutely incredible film, but after the initial shock of the plot wore off, I decided that I only wanted to watch the last hour if I ever watched it again. I missed out on the Animatrix for some reason, but I was working at the Bolivar Cinema Four during the release of Reloaded and Revolutions. I was a staunch defender of the Matrix series for years and recently, I decided to rewatch the films to see how well they hold up. My wife was so kind to follow me along for this journey and afterward, we decided to have a conversation about the series and share it with everyone on here. So, I hope you enjoy!
C: I know that you’re as big of a fan of the Matrix as I am, but when did you first see it and why do you love the films so much?
Sam: Interestingly, The Matrix was the first movie I ever saw on DVD. I was in high school at the time and it impacted me in a really big way. I love technology and I love science fiction and The Matrix was revolutionized film making and made it cool to watch sci-fi. I loved that. So when Reloaded and Revolutions came out, I was in college and I saw them both in the theatre multiple times. I also saw the animatrix and read all of the comics and played Enter the Matrix. I kind of got caught up in the world of the matrix, but that was what was so great about the world they had created. You could get caught up in everything and really felt immersed in this world. I dug it.
C: You bring up the comics and the game which I think is an excellent place to start when thinking about how powerful the series was at the time. The Matrix wasn’t just a movie, but it was an entire experience that attacked viewers with all kinds of different media. I’ve never played Enter the Matrix, but I can remember reading the Matrix comics online and being really impressed by them. I mean, Neil Gaiman wrote a short story for it!
S: yeah, it really was an experience. Unlike Star Wars that took 30 years to create this enriched environment based on movies, games, comics, and novels, The Matrix did it in 5 years. They all tied in together in this amazing way. The characters in Enter the matrix where just barely in the movies but when you played the game and watched the movie you found yourself saying “ HEY, GHOST! I know you!” And suddenly you were a part of the movie, too. You were in on something not everyone else was. There was a hacking part of the game that made you feel you were rewarded for paying attention to the movie and remembering things.
C: The Matrix was almost the inverse of the Star Wars franchise when you think about how it exploded. With Star Wars, every character that has appeared on screen has been given an action figure and a side story to flesh out the characters, but going into the Matrix series, it was as if even minor characters had been planned from the start. This isn’t to say that every character was compelling and wonderful, but there seemed to be a plan from the start.
So, along with this media blitz, the Matrix was able to solidify a very specific look and feel that no other film had done before and many others have replicated since. Furthermore, it seemed to effect viewers as well.
S: Exactly. It was like the matrix spoke to this group of disinterested youth that normally spent all of the hours in online gaming or sitting in front of their computer screen overnight and it gave them a purpose. It made them feel like they weren’t alone. All of their lives they never fit in and they felt like they didn’t belong and The Matrix told them that there was something better for them out there. That a “hot” (if not androgynous) woman dressed in vinyl is going to take them away from all of this. Unfortunately that never happened for them.
C: Today, the most important theme seems to be the essence of man and the discovery of self. Neo is the true nature of Thomas Anderson. In fact, Thomas Anderson isn’t real at all or Neo would go by that name in the real world. Online avatars aren’t just a handle that people go by, but they are the true nature of the heroes in the Matrix universe. Thinking about this within our own world, we have to consider what our internet personalities mean for our true identities. Am I the same person in my real life that I am on the internet or am I the same no matter what?
There were other themes present in the series as well. Of course, the religious allegory is in there, but it really falls apart after the first film and it is really the least interesting of all of the themes in the series (besides the tired old theme of fate vs. choice that the film seems to harp on endlessly). Any themes that pop out to you as being particularly important?
S: Yes. Are you Cody Walker, or are you @popgunchaos. J I think this is one of those ideas that really struck an idea with these same disaffected youth. The same reason that the internet appeals to those who want to be someone they can’t be in their real life. They can create whoever they want to be and then of course then the creation will seem more real than the reality they don’t want. The Matrix just reinforced this feeling. It told you that it was alright that your online persona felt more real because maybe it WAS the reality.