Ever since my teen years, when someone asks me what my all-time favorite movie is, I’ve always said The Matrix. It was the first movie I ever watched on DVD. I wrote my finest college essay on it. I can practically quote the entire thing.
I recently watched it again, I think for the first time since my junior year of college. You know that sinking feeling when you’re getting ready to re-watch a movie you loved when you were younger, but it’s been a while since you’ve seen it? And you brace yourself, thinking, Oh geez. I hope this hasn’t aged super badly…
Good news, my dudes. The Matrix might be better now than it was in 1999!
I won’t belabor its merits in this review, because honestly, it’s one of the most beloved and well-watched pieces in modern cinema. It’s widely praised by action/sci-fi fans, and I’d go so far as to boldly say it’s basically a perfect movie (which, ask my husband, I never say). Odds are, you’ve probably watched it already!
But maybe you haven’t watched it in the past 10 or 15 years, and that’s really why I’m writing. ‘Cause you see, here at Narrative Muse, we champion movies made by women and nonbinary artists, many of whom never get enough funding or press to make it into the public eye. Fascinatingly, directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski (Jupier Ascending) actually had the opposite path: they made an incredible, wildly successful and money-making piece of unabashedly queer cinema but, until a few years ago, the world assumed it had been made by men.
Now that the Wachowski sisters have both come out, the world has been re-evaluating and re-celebrating The Matrix and its sequels, in a way mainstream culture just wasn’t quite ready to do in Y2K. So for movie lovers, queer kids, and the otherwise curious who maybe haven’t re-visited this gem in a while, I just want to leave this love letter here to remind you what a breathtakingly cool thing these two nerdy trans directors did for movie history (and all of us).
The Matrix set the bar in so many ways. It coagulated various techniques to pioneer camera effects in a new way (bullet time!) that would eventually become mainstream. Its iconic stunts have been referenced and homaged for the past 20 years. Its style and vibe is unmistakable, iconic. It truly revolutionized the way people make action movies!
And even more importantly, The Matrix is a trans story. Neo (Keanu Reeves, John Wick), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Jones), and the other heroes find out their identity only after years of hiding, searching, and interrogating their secret doubts about the reality they’ve been handed. They find camaraderie in a harder but more honest reality, calling each other by new but truer names that they decide for themselves. It’s a relatable story to any young person feeling at odds with the world around them, but especially so for the trans and queer community.
You just can’t deny the fist-pumping energy in the final subway platform showdown when the villainous A.I. program Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, The Dressmaker) sneers, “Goodbye, Mr. Anderson,” deadnaming Neo for something like the hundredth time.
“My name,” our hero declares, through gritted teeth, “is Neo.”
So ok, am I gushing? I might be gushing. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is, go rent The Matrix and watch it again. Or watch one of the other Wachowski movies that garnered less fame. Who knows what you might take away from it this time around? Who knows what other hidden gems lie waiting to be explored