Free your mind: ‘The Matrix’ 20 years later

“The Matrix” set a precedent for post Y2K cinema with its stealthy 1999 release alerting us that the mundanity of life might be a little more than just what meets the eye. (Gerd Altmann/Pixabay)

Ending the 90s with a surprising hit that would go on to shape and influence Hollywood for the decade to follow, the Wachowskis struck gold with “The Matrix.” Soaked in a green tint and wrapped between lines of entangling code, the world presented by the film mirrored just how boring reality was and upped the ante presented to us in every day life by giving the audience more to search for in the mundane.

“The Matrix” and many other films of the era were highly critical of office centric jobs becoming mainstream at the time. White-collar workers were in and cyclical work days were setting in, guaranteeing steady income but stagnating ambitions. 

While known for a lot more these days, Keanu Reeves rose to stardom through the late 80s hits of  “River’s Edge” and “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” yet really solidified his legacy through his efforts in “The Matrix Trilogy.”

Reeves portrayed Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, in the trilogy who learns of his prophecy as “the One,” tasked with delivering humanity from enslavement under intelligent, yet tyrannical AI towards a brighter future where humans are once again liberated and capable of their own will. 

At the beginning of the film, Neo is seen working in an office cubicle, dragging on through his monotonous day of programming right before following the advice of future love interest and cohort Trinity to escape the men sent there to stop him in his tracks to becoming the One.

The most poignant aspect of setting the film primarily in the artificial world of the Matrix itself is to expose exactly how boring our day to day lives really are. Without even thinking about it, we mindlessly slog through the daily grind in the hopes of living a freer life as time goes on. Through Neo’s realization then actualization, the movie calls out this banal existence we live in hopes of paving the way for the lives we could be, and should be already living.

The martial arts training Neo receives along with powers of willing potential into existence, such as when he flies out from the phone booth at the very end of the film, are to encourage us to pursue feats we never once knew we were capable of. Dullness urges action and the Wachowskis made sure to detail precisely what humans are capable of when we zero in on it. 

This is not to say that we must uproot robotical enslavement and cast the wool from our eyes in the same manner Neo and co. did in the film. Instead, it is better to analyze “The Matrix’s” themes on a personal level and adapt them to fit changes you are seeking to make in life.

20 years after the film’s release, we stand in a world uncertain at times of our future, whether it be personally or globally, and I feel “The Matrix” teaches valuable lessons on how to be yourself while chasing the best version of yourself you can possibly be. 

Sure the sequels may not have measured up to the awe the first film graced audiences with, but the trilogy’s legacy was still revered enough to this day to warrant a 4th film after all this time. What’s even more impressive is how this next film is not confirmed to be a reboot and instead focuses on being a sequel to the trilogy before it.

Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss return once again despite their characters’ deaths by the end of the third film, so we’ll have to see how the returning half of the Wachowskis, Lana, sorts out that mess.

Enduring footprints in modern cinema have never made the world rumble quite like “The Matrix” did a whole two decades ago now. With encouraging tones and the success of Neo’s journey in both character and strength, maybe it’s time we see the world for what it is, take the Red Pill and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

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