Film Follies, How Have You Not Seen That?

How Have You Not Seen That? The Matrix

There are films that come along that are great films. There are films that come along that are important films. And then there are films that come along that are cultural happenings. Films that refuse to be held by the constraints of your local cinema and bust out to dominate the cultural landscape to such a degree that their impact can still be felt decades later. These are the kinds of films I try to cover in How Have You Not Seen That? and today’s selection certainly fits the bill. So let’s take a trip down the existential rabbit hole and visit one of the most influential movies of the last twenty years: The Matrix.
The film’s plot is no more than a new take on an old story. A chosen one is destined to fight the great oppressor and free his people from slavery. But what the Wachowskis do with that age-old tale is give it a mind-blowing twist that updates it for the modern age. This is the movie that made the internet cool and hackers sexy. This is the film that made you question your reality, that made you have to think about whether or not what you knew was real was really there at all. It is not often a film is made that can give everyone who sees it an existential crisis.
What cannot be overstated is the cultural impact of this film. Whether it is the undying red pill-blue pill meme, the ridiculous leather wardrobe, overuse of “the one”, or just the lasting cinematic parodies of “bullet time” this film has more cultural staying power than just about any film not made by Steven Spielberg. Even if you are one of those rare persons out there who has never sat down to watch this sci-fi classic you are sure to have absorbed most of these through cultural osmosis. I mean this film ended up popularizing its own scientific theory of existence. That we are all just a computer simulation. And this is not some off the wall theory, it comes with mathematical proofs and everything (don’t believe me go check it out in the Mind Blown section of this very blog).
With a pop-culture foot-mark that large The Matrix was always destined to be viewed as a classic, but its real legacy lies in its technical achievements. The Wachowskis brought the action techniques of 90’s Hong Kong cinema to a western audience and in the process made sure that wire-fu and gun-fu would forevermore become staples of Hollywood action scene. I mentioned “bullet time” already for its cultural impact but more than that this never tried before style of cinematography using slow-motion and spinning cameras influenced an entire generation of filmmakers to take risks and lean into more stylistic forms of action. Abandoning the tropes of 80’s and 90’s era blockbusters and pushing the boundaries of what film-making could be in the 21st century.
The movie has a good amount of violence that’s true, and you don’t really want young kids leaping from building to building trying to prove that they are in fact “The One”. But The Matrix is both a great film and an important one. That’s why it’s in the National Film Registry and that’s why, if I ever meet anyone over the age of fifteen who hasn’t seen it, I’m going to ask the question How Have You Not Seen That?

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