This December I’m Celebrating The Matrix
Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, the fridge is stocked with cold turkey, and it’s time to turn our attention to the next big holiday. The Matrix: Resurrections premieres on December 22; let us rejoice and be glad in it. For seventeen years, we have lived in a world without Matrix films but in the film world the movie created.
When The Matrix premiered in 1999, it was a cinematic revolution as big as any that had come before it. Film studios scrambled to mimic the “bullet time” effect, fuddy duddy scolds blamed the movie for the Columbine school shooting, and Keanu Reeves finally arrived as a respected actor. Three years later, the two sequels premiered and, in my opinion, a bunch of people decided it was cool to pretend to hate them. That’s a different article, though. Additionally, the idea of untrained actors being sculpted into action stars was born with these films. There’s no MCU without Keanu’s kung-fu. Keanu wore leather so Chris and Chris and Chris could wear spandex. Carrie-Anne Moss ran so Brie Larson could fly.
The long national nightmare is over, though. The Matrix is back, and I’m excited beyond reason. It’s not a stretch to say the movie changed my life as profoundly as it changed filmmaking.
Sneaking Into The Matrix
I was ten years old when the first movie came out, so I didn’t get to see it in theaters. My dad rented the movie from Blockbuster (remember those?). In fact, he rented it on this new format called DVD (remember those?). I gazed at the Blockbuster case sitting open on the desk in his office, hoping to absorb some of the Keanu through osmosis. I had seen the previews on TV and desperately needed to see the entire thing.
Then, one day, I caught my dad slipping. He got called into work. It was a Saturday. My brother was off somewhere. Maybe he was with my mom because I have no idea where either of them were. What’s important is that it was just me and The Matrix alone in the house. The disc was already in the DVD player. This was going terrifically. I pressed play. It restarted where my dad had stopped it. It was the scene in which Neo wakes up for the first time aboard the Nebuchadnezzar.
By the time he fights Morpheus in The Construct, I was sold. I didn’t understand most of it; I had the volume turned down so I could hear my dad come home and therefore missed important pieces of dialogue. Nevertheless, I watched the entire movie with the volume at a whisper. When Neo flies away and Rage Against The Machine starts playing, I stood up. All by myself in a quiet room, I jumped out of the chair. I don’t know what compelled me to stand up, but I just had to get to my feet. Maybe that’s why people clap in theaters, a practice I absolutely loathe.
Learning to Write
I knew even before then I wanted to be a writer. After watching The Matrix, I knew I wanted to be a writer like the Wachowskis. I went to that early 2000s internet when it was a wild west. I read everything I could read about The Matrix. I read about how they had filmed, about actors who had gotten hurt during filming, about the Wachowskis’ earlier films, absolutely everything. At some point, I googled (well, not really, but asked Jeeves) the screenplay. I found Drew’s Script-O-Rama, which had two different drafts of the screenplay.
I read them both. Then I read them again. And again. And again. I’ve honestly probably read the screenplay for the first movie over a hundred times. I learned how to format screenplays, how to write the scene headings, how to pace a film, how to craft dialogue, and how to build worlds. I read the script the way people read good books. Somewhere in the preserved mausoleum that is my old room at my parents’ house, I have a clunky 512mb hard drive full of bad Matrix ripoffs.
I’ll never recapture the high of watching it for the first time, but this December, I get to go back to the Matrix. All you Reloaded and Revolutions haters can just stay asleep and ignorant in the world The Matrix created.
Matrix: Resurrections opens in theaters on December 22, 2021.