The most salient things any prospective viewer need know is that Keanu Reeves makes a strikingly chic Prada model of an action hero, that the martial arts dynamics are phenomenal (thanks to Peter Pan-type wires for flying and inventive slow-motion tricks), and that anyone bored with the notably pretentious plotting can keep busy toting up this film’s debts to other futuristic science fiction. Neat tricks here echo ”Terminator” and ”Alien” films, ”The X-Files,” ”Men in Black” and ”Strange Days,” with a strong whiff of ”2001: A Space Odyssey” in the battle royale being waged between man and computer. Nonetheless whatever recycling the brothers do here is canny enough to give ”The Matrix” a strong identity of its own.
With enough visual bravado to sustain a steady element of surprise (even when the film’s most important Oracle turns out to be a grandmotherly type who bakes cookies and has magnets on her refrigerator), ”The Matrix” makes particular virtues out of eerily inhuman lighting effects, lightning-fast virtual scene changes (as when Neo wishes for guns and thousands of them suddenly appear) and the martial arts stunts that are its single strongest selling point. As supervised by Yuen Wo Ping, these airborne sequences bring Hong Kong action style home to audiences in a mainstream American adventure with big prospects as a cult classic and with the future very much in mind.