A Study in Sci-Fi: How “The Matrix” changed the genre forever

In this series, Molly explores the many complexities within Sci-Fi movies


M. Balmes

By Molly Balmes

When you ask a person to give an example of a Sci-Fi movie, chances are “The Matrix” comes to mind first for many people. 

Released in 1999, “The Matrix” features big names like Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Ann Moss in its leading roles. But the movie made a name for itself in the Sci-Fi genre by utilizing effects that were futuristic and dazzling. It told a high-concept story that made viewers question reality and paved a path in visual storytelling that was inventive and would last for years to come.  

“The Matrix” follows the life of a coder, Neo, who discovers through mysterious people that the life he has been living is a simulation created by machines. These people, Trinity and Morpheus, help Neo escape the Matrix, wake up in the real world, and fight against the machines for the freedom of humans. 

Throughout the course of the movie, the viewer is taken on a visual rollercoaster ride. The opening sequence depicts Trinity fighting agents in a style similar to what you might see in a video game. 

The slo-mo jumps and swooshy fight sequences that populate many action movies today were a bizarre concept in 1999, and “The Matrix” was the first to ever feature characters fighting in a way that did not follow the laws of gravity or logic. 

“The Matrix” heavily relied on the fact that it was set in a computer-generated world to explain these insane and stunning feats of special effects. The effects that were once so groundbreaking still hold up today, despite the movie being 22 years old. 

These effects were achieved using a combination of cutting-edge computer-generated animation technology and practical effects. The movie’s effects actually hold up incredibly well because of its minimal reliance on computer animation, only using it for what was deemed a necessity. Practical effects were favored by the directors because of the high price tag on CGI, which was still in its infancy when the film was created. 

A fascinating effect that is iconic to “The Matrix” is the green tint of the film. When watching events play out in the Matrix, the screen is tinted an eerie green, but scenes outside of the computer program are normally colored. This is a clever use of subconscious visual effects to create a message that is only noticed after it is pointed out. 

The movie also stands out for its philosophical and mind-bending plot, which was unheard of in action movies at the time. Most were tacky and straightforward, but “The Matrix” features clever writing paired with incredible action sequences that keeps the viewer engaged. 

“The Matrix” has and will continue to impact the Sci-Fi genre for years to come. The film is nothing short of revolutionary and has aged beautifully in a world now populated by unoriginal and unimpressive action movies. “The Matrix” truly was ahead of its time and paved the way for the development of CGI and other iconic Sci-Fi films.