Wait, We Hate This Now? – The Matrix

February 3, 2013

Film, We Hate This Now?

The whims of pop-culture taste can be cruel and impulsive.  Fashion, music, television… nothing is guaranteed to last for any length of time.  Today’s “Gangnam Style” is tomorrow’s “Macarena” (literally – I mean, they’re basically the same song).  But sometimes the victims of culture shift seem to come out of nowhere.  In response, I present a periodic new Sunday Discussion feature: Wait, We Hate This Now?

Today: The Matrix

the matrixWhen The Matrix came out in 1999, it seemed to explode out of the very collective subconscious of sci-fi fans and the pervasive end-of-century paranoia.  Even George Lucas essentially surrendered Star Wars: Episode I to it.  It was cool, sexy, had zero-g kung-fu, and a surprisingly compelling underlying philosophical concept.

It was, of course, popular entertainment, and a lot of the philosophy was fairly Intro To Western Philosophy level stuff, but for a movie with skin-tight leather outfits and people being kicked through walls, that’s pretty impressive.  It’s pretty impressive for any Hollywood movie.

So what happened?  In the last year or so, I’ve talked to a large number of people who just hate The Matrix – not the sequels, the original.  Is it because of its imitators?  The music and hyper-stylized camera-work becoming too dated?  Is it because it’s lost its “what’s going on?” shock and surprise?

And don’t say “Keanu” – that’s too easy.  Keanu Reeves isn’t a bad actor, he’s a decent actor with a limited range, and The Matrix was a perfect fit (although, seriously, why would you hire Reeves and have him say “Whoa.”?)

Matrix seemed to capture the 1999 zeitgeist so perfectly that maybe people don’t connect to it any more.  They aren’t feeling Matrixy anymore, they’re feeling Dark Knighty and Avengery.

If you tell me you don't like Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, I know you're lying.

If you tell me you don’t like Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, I know you’re lying.

Now I furiously loved the movie when it came out.  I would have taken a bullet for the movie – or better yet, dodged a bullet in slow-motion.  So this turn against the film felt oddly, and irrationally, personal.  And it’s everywhere.  Even in my film classes, when we reach the end of the course, I usually present a few options so they can explore different areas based on their interests.  One option was to examine philosophy in The Matrix, or the psychology of Vertigo.  For an Intro To Film class?  This doesn’t even sound like a real choice.  Hmmm, action and fast and kung-fu? Or Jimmy Stewart and slowly, silently driving around San Francisco and then quietly going crazy? (And I say that as someone who loves Vertigo).  But suddenly they all groaned at The Matrix.  Wha?

I watched it again, thinking that maybe it wasn’t what I remembered. It had lost its sense of immediacy, and – certainly – the endless imitation has dulled the edges of watching what was so innovative, but on it’s own merits? – seriously – it’s a great movie.  It just is.  It just… is.

So what do you think?  Do you still like the movie?  Did you see it when it came out?  Do you hate it, and if so – why?  Did you like it before, but now don’t?  If you’ve never seen it, Oh my God, you’ve never seen The Matrix??  That’s insane!!

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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79 Comments on “Wait, We Hate This Now? – The Matrix”

  1. Simon Gilberg Says:

    I still love the original, and to be perfectly honest, the sequels (mostly Reloaded) were fun action films. Even if you don’t adore the original film, I think it’s easy to agree it is very well done. I’d be interested to hear from people who weren’t around during that time and are only discovering ‘The Matrix’ now. Does it have a similar impact?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The sequels, I think, make for an entirely different conversation (actually I wrote about them as part of my “most contentious sequels” series a while back…). They haven’t aged as well for me, and – oddly – the special effects look more dated in the sequels than in the original. But they have some great moments, to be sure.

      Reply

      • Simon Gilberg Says:

        I agree, and they definitely overused CGI in the sequels. Replacing actors with digital models as often as they did is really overstepping the mark, especially when crosscut with live-action shots. The first film was a lot more concrete in this regard.

        Reply

  2. stephrogers Says:

    I love the Matrix. I saw it on the big screen when it first came out. I mostly love the concept, oh and the kung-fu, and the outfits, really there’s not much I don’t like. I own it on blue-ray and watch it every now and again. I also love the Animatrix. That’s a really cool thing.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I saw it, I think, opening day, and had to see it again because there was this guy who would look at me, wide-eyed, for a little too long every time something cool happened (which is a lot), like I was supposed to yell, “AWESOME!” and high-five him. It was distracting.

      Reply

  3. Tez Says:

    Guilty as charged – I’m insane 😉

    Reply

  4. josefkul Says:

    I loved the Matrix and its inspiration Ghost In The Shell! It had thought provoking philosophical concepts for those who want to expand their minds and plenty of action for those who want their minds exploding right off their faces! I don’t normally enjoy Nietzsche, but give that man pleather pants and a submachine gun and consider me enthralled. Two gravity defying, philosophical thumbs up!

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It seems like there were a number of films around that period – something in the ether – dabbling in those concepts; a lot of them were quite good. The 13th Floor is another one that’s much simpler, but also pretty interesting.

      And more people would be philosophy majors if they included leather and kung fu.

      Reply

  5. pithypants Says:

    What’s not to love? Also: in case you missed it: http://xkcd.com/566/

    Reply

  6. Go Jules Go Says:

    I Never. Saw. It. I KNOW. 1999…hmm… If Titanic was still playing in theaters, well then, that’s why.

    This is a cool feature! I’m not sure if I’m supposed to comment about other things people mysteriously hate now, so I won’t, for fear of making your head explode twice.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, ideally, people would respond to other people, but as the host of the party I know it’s my job to help the conversation along. You could certainly bring up other things or, even better, send them to me for future installments. Assuming there are future installments…

      Reply

  7. renée a. schuls-jacobson Says:

    Love it. Just showed it to our 13 yo who loved it too. What’s wrong with the world? Maybe they don’t GET it. Maybe it requires having to think too hard. I don’t know. It’s an awesome film. Woah.

    Reply

  8. Life With The Top Down Says:

    I’m insane and now it has been confirmed. In 1999 I was raising a 3 & 4 year old, so unless Barney the hideous dinosaur was starring in The Matrix I wouldn’t have the pleasure of viewing such a masterpiece.

    Reply

  9. Luddy's Lens Says:

    I will always love The Matrix — although I cannot get through either of the sequels without rolling my eyes (and actually couldn’t even finish Revolutions ).

    Reply

  10. LizForADay Says:

    I think it was a great movie then and I still love it now. I don’t see how anyone would hate it. But then again, people are so fickled. 🙂

    Reply

  11. speaker7 Says:

    I still like the Matrix. I only saw the second sequel and that sucked, but the first is still good.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, the third film is actually the second-half of the second film. Most people hate the third one – and it’s pretty flawed – but it’s much better if you watch 2 & 3 as one film with an intermission. Narratively, that’s how they’re constructed.

      Reply

  12. rossmurray1 Says:

    It’s been a while but I can’t see what would age it. Joey Pants?

    Coincidentally, Matrix: Reloaded popped up on TV last night and my kids, flipping channels, watched the opening segment — falling, shooting, ass-kicking. Their comment: “This would have been really cool in 3D.” That may speak to the reason right there. Jaded?

    Reply

  13. mairedubhtx Says:

    I saw The Matrix when it first camme out. I did not understand it then and I watched it later and I still did not understand it. I liked the videography, but I got totally lost when it came to the story line. Was there a story line? There must have been, but I was just too dense to get it. I’m not good with sci-fi, fantasy type stuff so perhaps that why I had trouble with The Matrix. I just thought it was bizarre and made no sense. Sorry.

    Reply

  14. becomingcliche Says:

    I didn’t see The Matrix until it had been out for several years. I didn’t like sci-fi. Or so I thought. Not only did this one rock my socks off *whispers* I loved the sequels, too.

    Reply

  15. twindaddy Says:

    I heart the Matrix and its sequel. I’m not so crazy about the finale because I don’t like the ending, but I do like all three movies. I still watch all three occasionally. They have never grown old to me.

    Reply

  16. pegoleg Says:

    Wait…are you saying you don’t think gangnam style dancing is here to stay, right up there with the waltz? Jeez B-man, you’re usually right in there with the modern culture commentary but…

    Reply

  17. Every Record Tells A Story Says:

    I think the problem might be that the Matrix series got very boring very quickly. The sequel had its moments (the car chase etc), but once they all started flying around the CGI took over. Because the last film was a bit rubbish, people forget how great the first one was. It must be how people felt about Lost (great start, but then disappeared up its own backside).

    Reply

    • Jason Preater Says:

      Gotta agree with you there. I think your comment pretty much sums up my feelings. However, there were some very attractive scenes. I loved the one where there were hundreds of agents all going at Neo at the same time. It would make a good modern art video in a museum- just that one scene on repeat, without the sentimental denouement.

      Reply

  18. susielindau Says:

    I LOVE the Matrix and blogged about it last year as I used Trinity to represent me in Clay Morgan’s March Madness Smackdown or whatever it was called. I even did a photo look alike- https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQpXrZ4HfeabLa7Gzrvdc76JSyO3oQPwBbBhhbx1u5xsieeGpnQ

    Reply

  19. sj Says:

    I do not now, nor have I ever liked The Matrix. Probably because I have been reading so much sf my entire life that the story was already old by the time the movie came out and it did nothing for me.

    I thought it was cheesy and poorly acted, and even the special effects couldn’t save it for me.

    Reply

    • sj Says:

      Also, I feel like this post may have been directed at me, since I totally recall our conversation on this matter. <.<

      Passive aggressive much, B-Man? 😉

      Reply

      • The Byronic Man Says:

        Definitely with you in mind, but more as my ace-in-the-hole. I figured even if everyone else on the Internet just echoes my sentiments, I knew I could count on your for the opposing opinion.

        Reply

        • sj Says:

          I think part of my problem may be that sf movies (in general) don’t do much for me. I always go into them thinking “Oh, eff yes – this is going to be AWESOME!” and walk out disappointed.

          Reply

  20. throbbingsofnoontide Says:

    Maybe people’s memory of it was simply destroyed by the sequels. It was a masterpiece on its own, but I truly would have regretted choosing the red pill had I arrived in Zion and discovered it was full of tedious 20-something ravers jiggling their oh-so-cool dreads. I would have been so disappointed. It would be just as horrible as surviving judgement day and finding myself in a world populated only by beaming Jehovah Witnesses (I know, I know, they don’t have judgement day).

    Probably everyone should be forced to re-watch the first one. Just the thought of the gap in Laurence Fishburne’s teeth gives me a hot flush to this day.

    Reply

  21. trixfred30 Says:

    People who don’t like the Matrix probably prefer Confessions of a Shopaholic or watching Eastenders or something

    Reply

  22. mistyslaws Says:

    Saw it when it came out, really really enjoyed it. Tried to watch #2 when released on video, and only got halfway through. Have not seen 3, but it sounds like I didn’t miss much. I still think The Matrix is an excellent (EXCELLENT!!) movie.

    I’m wondering if the backlash is a hipster thing? You know they are not actually allowed to appreciate anything that anyone else actually likes or is considered mainstream enjoyable, right? Whatever, I’m blaming the hipsters. Seems about right.

    Reply

  23. TAE Says:

    I still love the Matrix (not the sequels, they should have left it with movie #1 imho).
    Do you perceive a generational divide in the “ewwwww the Matrix” reaction? I wonder if it’s different for people who grew up with the internet more.

    Reply

  24. rgdole Says:

    I liked the movie… and i’m not a big Keanu fan but personally i think he was good for this role… i see no reason to start hating it… i mean it kind of broke the mold… it was like there were no rules and anything was possible…

    Reply

  25. artsifrtsy Says:

    I loved the movie and bought the t-shirt when it came out. I agree it looks dated but I’m still a fan. There are other films I feel this way about too – Blade Runner for one. I still love it but the look feels so dated now too.

    Reply

  26. Jackie Cangro Says:

    That’s a great point you made about The Matrix being old hat. Maybe that’s why people have kind of turned against it. What was cutting edge then is passé now.

    A co-worker just saw The Hobbit and said it was just okay because the special effects weren’t all that “special.” He probably wouldn’t have said that when Lord of the Rings came out.

    Ps – I don’t think he’s old enough to remember Tron.

    Reply

  27. lpaigewrites Says:

    I’m actually one that saw these movies late in the game (I’m talking last year) and fell in love with them. Yeah, some of the effects were a little obviously-1999, but I found myself attracted to the deeper meaning of the story. This trilogy is like one of those classic novels we all have to study in a mandatory lit. class — it’s good if you only understand the surface action, but once you understand the complexity of the underlying message, you get sucked in. So no matter what anyone says, these movies are going down on my Top 10.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Part 3 has some terrific symbolism – in fact, some times it gets in the way of the action… but it’s true: like the best stories, it doesn’t NEED the symbolism, but it sure is better with it.

      Reply

  28. Michael Says:

    I’ve never seen The Matrix. Nor have I seen Pirates of the Caribbean. I am ashamed.

    Reply

  29. The Bumble Files Says:

    I loved The Matrix, still do! People are jaded I guess. But if you look at the copycats, obviously this movie had a lot of impact. I can still be sucked into it and watch it and enjoy it.

    Reply

  30. Barbara Backer-Gray Says:

    I liked The Matrix back then, and I recently watched it again with my son, and I still like it. My son liked it well enough, but nowadays there’s Inception…

    Reply

  31. Michelle Gillies Says:

    Enjoyed it then. Enjoy it now.

    Reply

  32. List of X Says:

    I’ve watched it with my friends, and because so many of them loved it, and I didn’t really feel strongly either way, I had to take on the job of taking it down. Since the Matrix is unpopular nowadays, I’ll probably count as a fan of it now.

    Reply

  33. Sandy Sue Says:

    The original “Matrix” is one of those seminal movies that changed my language, and my thinking. In the meditation classes I teach, I still talk about the red pill or the blue pill in terms of choosing consciousness over being an automaton. And Hugo Weaving was the creepiest thing I’d seen since “Jaws.”
    Technologies advance. With Peter Jackson doing all that amazing sh*t in Middle Earth, the CGI of “Matrix” does look dated (remember how cool Christopher Reeve looked “flying” in Superman—and what an embarrassment *that* is to watch now).
    My vote: Still love it.

    Reply

  34. She's a Maineiac Says:

    Still love it. Always have. But I feel somehow ashamed when my husband catches me watching it for the billionth time. He hates it. I am shocked we’re still married.

    Reply

  35. Sheyla Says:

    I love The Matrix. It’s a great movie. It’s still fresh (at least to me). I think it was a very innovative film at the time of its release, both in story and effects . A lot of people didn’t like The Matrix back then because it was “too fake” but these people didn’t understand that the concept of the movie is that The Matrix wasn’t the real world. People who dislike The Matrix should get checked for bugs.

    Reply

  36. mformariya Says:

    It has been my absolute favourite movie ever since my father took me to watch it when I was 9! I actually thought it was so amazing that for a really long time after that (6 years to be precise) I was skeptical when watching other films, because they could not possibly be as good as The Matrix! Now, I’ve seen so many movies that it’s really hard to pinpoint just one that I would watch for the rest of my life, but if I absolutely have to, it would be The Matrix – it made me fall in love with cinema 🙂 So whoever doesn’t like it should seriously consider if there is something wrong with them! I mean, I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but come on,it is The Matrix!!!

    Reply

  37. Audrey Says:

    I’m still a fan of the original. The sequels didn’t do it for me though. I really can stand on it’s own and almost seems like a 90’s cult-classic now with significance not unlike those sci-fi action flicks of the 80’s like Bladerunner with the philosphical content and unique filmography.

    Reply

  38. Denise Says:

    I saw it when it first came out & slept through it then – on several occasions actually. For awhile I really attempted to stay attentive and finish the film because of the popularity and acclaim of well….everyone. No go. I found it supremely boring. So I assumed, as anyone would, that there was something wrong with me. But now..maybe not..perhaps there’s just something wrong with everyone else. Perhaps I should try to sleep through it again now, as a control. If I stay awake and enjoy the film now, perhaps I am still all wrong, which is familiar and comforting.

    Reply

  39. PCGuyIV Says:

    I would have to agree that Matrix is a good movie. It always was, and always will be, in much the same way that Star Wars (1977) was a good movie, always was, and always will be. The effects may now seem dated, but for their day, they were cutting edge. The story may not suit everyone, and it has been endlessly mimicked, satirized, scrutinize, and hashed into tiny bits by analysts of every nature. If it were truly a terrible movie, no one would have given it the time of day two days past opening night, much less this far later. The biggest issue I can see is saturation. Every movie, even good ones, have their play-limit. Play them too often, and people will bore of them and start to notice their flaws.

    Reply

  40. Kristy M Lopez Says:

    I just discovered your blog through a good friend of mine…and I’m loving what I’m reading so far. As for The Matrix…it is a classic! It’s one of those movies that I force my kids to sit down and watch (whether they like it or not). I love the action, the outfits, the…everything. I didn’t get into the sequels as much, though. When it first came out I used to (embarrassingly) have dreams that I would fight off the bad guys in slow motion (you know…running up walls and upside down, dodging bullets in slow motion…stuff like that), wearing super cool outfits, and always have the upper hand in the fight. Good times…

    Reply

  41. travellingmo Says:

    I still like it! Like you, I didn’t realize there were haters. The later ones of course, those don’t even really exist, but the first one was completely ground-breaking and innovative. I was only 11 when it came out, and it scared the hell out of me, but it also made me think and blew me over with badassery. And I can’t dislike something that Hugo Weaving is in. Except the Hobbit.

    Reply

  42. guardiantree12 Says:

    The Matrix trilogy is a guilty pleasure of mine, but out of all of them the first one was the best.

    Reply

  43. Dana Says:

    Still love The Matrix. Still not in love with the sequels, though. It might seem dated through the eyes of 2013, but come on– for 1999, it was MIND BLOWING. I was even able to tolerate Keanu Reeves in that movie, which says a lot.

    Reply

  44. Angie Z. Says:

    I did love it, and now hate it. Purely from a fashion sense, the all-black minimalism look is so late 90s and so over.

    Reply

  45. elsavayatres Says:

    Of course we don’t hate The Matrix! Not now, not ever. It still blows my mind when I think of it… Dammit, now I have to watch it again.

    (Sequels? What sequels? There were none. I remember distinctly)

    Reply

  46. Lone Trail Says:

    Great piece. Loved the movie and realize now I should have taken the red pill.

    Reply

  47. The World Is My Cuttlefish Says:

    Saw Matrix 1. Liked it. I suppose I still must since I haven’t seen it again.

    Reply

  48. unsolicitedtidbits Says:

    I love this movie. I show parts of it to my Intro to Philosophy class.

    Reply

  49. Helena Hann-Basquiat Says:

    I loved the first one, thought the second set up what might just be a perfect trilogy if they followed through, but then they dropped the ball so badly with the third one (if the best humanity has to offer is Electric Boogaloo Tribal Dance Party at the earth’s core, then hook me back into the Matrix, thank you very much), that it ruined the whole franchise for me.

    Reply

  50. sjk Says:

    I still love it, and frankly just pretend there were no sequels 😉

    Reply

  51. angeliquejamail Says:

    Great post, B-Man. 🙂 I love that you point out that Keanu Reeves is a decent actor with limited range. There are some things he does very well, and playing Neo was one of them. Playing Don John in Much Ado About Nothing was a grotesque stretch — Evil Robot Ted doing Shakespeare and all — but he didn’t ruin that film at all. I don’t always love his movies — though I did love The Matrix (1st and maybe 2nd installments) — but he’s not as wretched as people blame him for. I do respect that Reeves, when informally interviewed before the 3rd Matrix movie came out, seemed to hedge a bit on his enthusiasm about how awesome a film it would be, as if he himself knew it was crap but didn’t want to say that on TV before it came out.

    Reply

  52. thegoodenoughlover Says:

    Finally sarcasm, wit and humor I can relate to.

    Reply

  53. Judah First Says:

    Hate the Matrix?? These people need to get unplugged! The first time I saw it I left the theater in tears. Last weekend I had a trilogy marathon. Granted, the sequels were boring crap for the most part, but for me, the story only makes sense in its entirety.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      People seem to be coming back around to them – I think something that taps that intensely into a certain time is going to have to have backlash before people can appreciate it on its own merits.

      And the sequels – while deeply, deeply flawed – are much better when viewed as a single movie. The lack of time spent in the matrix in 3 makes more sense when it’s building to the finale of a single 4-hour movie.

      Reply

  54. infinite8tome Says:

    I think the problem is that The Matrix was ‘the cutting edge’ circa early 2000. It influenced dance and pop culture, and was extremely pervasive. However, when you’re the cutting edge today, you’re bound to be swapped out for a sharper blade tomorrow.

    The Matrix will probably remain relevant in a cult classic sense; but, with so much advancement in terms of special effects and choreography,The Matrix has a lot to compete with.

    But, hated or not, the fact that the 16 year old blockbuster is still being talked about is really something. I can’t remember some of the movies that came out last year. : P

    Reply

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