The Matrix Trilogy: a classic in its twenties

It's the 20th anniversary of the release of the first film in the Matrix trilogy.


August 2019

Twenty years later, a great deal of scientists, philosophers and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk begin to discuss the possibility that the universe is a simulation. These are theories, of course, yet not absurd, but based on very advanced physics. For example, it is said that there is no real continuity of energy and matter, but that both work in a granular way: much like the pixilation of a screen when viewed up close. There are also those who argue that the whole universe works in a mathematical way that it seems more like the program of a gigantic computer. On the other hand, the theory of the holographic universe tells us that all the information contained in a certain space can be partitioned and contained in its walls. This means that the information could have a dimensional structure and that, of course, the world and the universe would be no more than partitioned zones of information. Another theory highlights the virtual reality space and arrives via video games; for which it raises that at the pace we are going with digital simulations, there could come a time when future or advanced civilization could create a perfect virtual reality much like the current one we have. This means this theory somehow assumes that the future was or is already, and that we are a simulation of this ultra advanced human civilization.

The topic is complex, but the truth is that today, The Matrix still strongly resonates with this idea, even twenty years later. But of course, these theories that seem very new, already have seeds from the past. There is the illusory image of the world that is born of Hinduism and whose principle is known as maya. There is even Plato, who came to speak of the world of things (that of human beings) as an illusion of a higher heaven or universe, which would be that of forms or ideas.

The trilogy created by the brothers, now sisters, Wachowski, was inspired by these ancient ideas, and also in the idea of the simulacrum of the French thinker Jean Baudrillard, who talks about the proliferation of signs in the modern era, where everything revolves and represents itself; advertising simulates reality, politics simulates the circus, virtual chats simulate relationships and sex, or more: virtual reality simulates life itself. The simulation of the signs is a vortex where everything fits, where everything is mixed, where everything goes. Hence, The Matrix has been understood as a masterpiece of postmodernism in which precisely the word pastiche validates a way of making art and understanding the world. The film is a Japanese anime; a tribute to the old martial arts films, integrating philosophical and religious themes. Adding more to it, it’s technology and fashion are linked to the sadomasochism of leather and latex, plus cyberpunk and the narrative structure of a hero's journey. The Matrix is a complex universe, which also delves into transmedia storytelling, as the trilogy ran parallel to the video games, short films and comics that extended and completed the central story. In relation to visual effects, the trilogy famously re-introduced Bullet Time, a visual technique that consists of almost freezing every action (but not completely) and thus allowing the viewer to notice fast movements, such as the famous bullet sequence in The Matrix, as the camera rotates and provides different perspectives. The Wachowskis were not the first to use this technology, however they did make it popular by finding, in their trilogy, the perfect reason to utilize it.

It is estimated that the Matrix trilogy has grossed $1,633 billion worldwide, not bad for a film that in March 1999 did not create much attention before the upcoming premiere of another long-awaited science fiction film, Star Wars : Episode I - The Phantom Menace. The first installment, The Matrix, has earned $463,517,383 worldwide.

Other numbers to keep in mind: The Matrix Reloaded reached $742 million worldwide, and The Matrix Revolutions, the last and least successful of the trilogy, managed to make $427 million.

Some stories float in space and are repeated every so often, almost like a truth that needs to validate itself. Originally, Keanu Reeves had not been considered for the role of Neo. Instead, it was Will Smith, who rejected the role (he must have regretted it a lot). It is even said that the role of Neo –this is from Neo himself - had been offered to Sandra Bullock, and that if she accepted, the script would be edited so that the protagonist would be a female one. Keanu Reeves, never considered to be the first option to play him, undoubtedly ended up being the perfect Neo. His face, which can fit an Asian, Latin, Caucasian, exotic Benetton person, was uniquely suitable for this postmodern hero who seizes both apocalyptic and virtual worlds. Moreover, we will never forget Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity. Undoubtedly, these three characters are the trinity of that world. Do not miss, this month, three classic films that came and left their mark in the history of cinema. The Matrix trilogy, this month, on Cinemax and ready to stream at anytime, on Cinemax GO.