Whatever else it may be, Warner Bros. has made sure The Matrix is unavoidable. It’s a movie, a videogame, and a series of short animated films. It took over screens at the Angelika Film Center, New York City’s best-known art-house venue. It opened the Cannes Film Festival. And, judging from the blitzkrieg of mainstream media coverage that accompanied its record-setting opening, it might have been the only thing playing at a theater near you.
The Matrix is a special effects extravaganza with an honest-to-goodness head on its shoulders. That’s both a good and a bad thing. Too much of the film is given over to borderline-dull talking-heads style plot exposition that takes place amid some admittedly impressive visual noodling. Basically, this obscure yarn is built around a rather fundamental philosophical notion: what if the life we lead, all of the people around us, and all of the various external stimuli that we think of as “reality” were really hallucinations imposed on us by some mad genius who has our brain floating in a tank — or, in this case, artifically intelligent machines who use our “real” bodies as batteries in a distant-future world and keep us happy and oblivious with this late-20th century fantasy environment.