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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blog No. 38--The Matrix [DVD] by the Wachowski Bros.


Title: The Matrix [DVD]
Directors: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
Screenwriters: Andy Wachowsi and Larry Wachowski
Production: Warner Brothers
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Bibliographic Information:
Released March, 1999
Warner Brothers
Grade Range: 12 and up, Age Range: 17 and up
Rating: R
Running Time: 136 minutes

AMPAS (4), BAFTA (2), Saturn (2), Hugo (1).

Reader’s Annotation:
If you have to ask what the Matrix is, you don't want to know.

Plot Summary:
A hotshot software designer and clandestine hacker known as Neo is contacted by a mysterious woman calling herself Trinity. She tells him that his special skills are desperately needed for some undisclosed purpose. He feels compelled to follow her, and in doing so finds himself thrown into a dark technological underworld. After evading several assailants, Trinity eventually takes Neo to meet Morpheus, the leader of her cadre. Morpheus reveals that the world they appear to inhabit is an illusion – something that Neo has long felt within himself – and invites him to learn the truth.

Neo agrees, and undergoes a radical procedure that releases him from the illusion. He discovers that, in reality, people have been dominated and enslaved by computerized sentient machines. Their minds are electronically connected through the artificial Matrix, which they perceive as reality, while their sedated bodies are kept in storage and tapped for their energy; but the freedom fighters have learned how to move at will between the Matrix and their post-apocalyptic world. Learning this, Neo joins Morpheus to help liberate humankind from their computerized oppressors.

As Neo undergoes training in the skills he will need to fight his battle, it becomes clear that he has superior powers; and it is believed that he could be the prophesized redeemer whom those in the cause have been awaiting. But when Morpheus takes him to visit a revered Oracle for confirmation, she declares that he is not the One.

Violent conflicts escalate between humans and machines in both the real world and within the Matrix, where the freedom fighters are pitted against seemingly invincible Agents, computer programs that serve the machines. Morpheus is eventually captured and tortured within the Matrix while the armies of the machines attack the real-world base of the freedom fighters. Even Neo appears to suffer fatal injuries at the hands of Agents. But just as all seems lost, Neo is restored and realizes his true destiny.

Critical Evaluation:
The Matrix enjoys a special place in the annals of SciFi action films. It offers some challenging ideas about the nature of reality, and humanity, while also introducing unprecedented special effects techniques that drive the eye-popping action. Themes of religion and mythology are artfully blended with high-tech science and martial arts. The film is ambitious in scope and succeeds on numerous levels; but many will take issue with its over-the-top depiction of violence.

Reading level/Interest Age:
The Matrix is appropriately rated R for those aged 17 and older due to very violent content. It's a bit of a shame that the film was made this way since younger viewers could otherwise have also enjoyed its challenging ideas and amazing visuals.

Information about the Author(s):
The Matrix was the third film project from the Wachowski brothers, and their best by far (there are also two inferior sequels). The Wachowskis, who grew up reading comic books and J.R.R. Tolkien, feel that serial fiction is important and integral to society, and wanted to make serials cinematic. Generally agreeing that movies are boring, they wanted to try something different. Larry Wachowski continues that difference in real life: he has changed his name to “Lana” and now dresses as a woman.

Curriculum Ties:
None. This is a film worth seeing, but not something that should be shown in class at the high school level.

Booktalking Ideas:
I generally would not “booktalk” a DVD.

Challenge Issues:
The main objection one can raise to The Matrix is the level and quantity of violence it depicts. As is often the case, the film's creators included extreme violence because they can, rather than out of need to support the story. But the particularly disturbing aspect here is that since the violence largely takes place in a simulated world, the perpetrators conduct their carnage almost as if nothing important is happening, and in slow-motion detail. This is what gives the film its appropriate R rating.

Why I Included This Book/DVD:
This is a watershed entry in the world of SciFi action films, a genre very popular among young adults.

Cover image courtesy of http://amazon.com

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