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The Matrix (1999)

When I first saw “The Matrix,” I thought it was a really great metaphor for Christianity.  I think I might have written and delivered a talk or two based on it, and I certainly used it as an example in more than one late night conversation about the nature of faith and reality.   Then I learned that it’s a pretty great metaphor for Buddhism, too.  And Daoism.   And now, fourteen years later, I don’t really think it’s all that great a metaphor for Christianity; I see the ways it presents the duality that has snuck into my religion via Plato and other Western philosophers.  Funny how things change.

Thomas Anderson (codename: Neo) lives in a world that just doesn’t feel…right.  With the help of leather-clad Carrie Ann Moss and Laurence Fishburne, he discovers that it’s not — it’s a complex virtual-reality computer program designed to keep him imprisoned by sentient machines.  Also, there’s a prophecy about One who will take down the system, and Fishburne’s convinced he’s the One.  of course he doubts it.  But he now knows kung fu, and that’s pretty cool.

It’s still a pretty great action flick, though, and a fun idea.  Honestly, I’m surprised (and disappointed) that “The Matrix” didn’t influence more of the action genre.  Well, actually, it did, but in all the wrong ways.  We got a plethora of monochromatic movies and were overrun with movies where the stars wore too-tight leather pants.  But what was really innovative about “The Matrix” was the camera-work — something called bullet time — that influenced video games, but hasn’t shown up in many movies.  It’s too bad; it gave the action scenes in “The Matrix” a thrilling fluidity and made them a joy to watch.  Too many action scenes are such a confusing jumble of quick cuts that I spend the entire time trying to figure out what the heck is going on, instead of enjoying what’s going on. (For an example of this, see the climactic, indecipherable motorcycle chase in “The Bourne Legacy,” or any of Michael Bay’s movies.)

So even though it’s not as deep as I originally thought, because of its sense of style, visual pallette, and amazing action scenes, in my book, “The Matrix” is an action classic.

Verdict: Recommended, but not as sermon fodder anymore.

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