The summer of 1999 was a remarkable time for genre films. Everybody was waiting with bated breath for the next Star Wars film, Episode One, but it was another sci-fi epic that really made greater impact: The Matrix.
The Wachowskis had been around for a while, and had gotten favorable notices for their lesbian crime film Bound, but The Matrix broke tremendous new ground for cyber punk sci-fi, and gave Lucas a serious run for the money.
We can still see the impact of The Matrix today with the proliferation of bullet time camerawork everywhere, and when it became one of several big surprise hits in the summer of ’99 (along with The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense), it seemed the Matrix had a limitless future of follow up stories. Well, that unfortunately wasn’t the case, and like M. Night Shyamalan, the Wachowskis are still trying to regain their footing after a number of disappointing follow up films.
Still, The Matrix was very revolutionary for its time, and it just got entered into the Library of Congress National Film Registry. As the Hollywood Reporter notes, every year the Film Registry picks twenty-five films for preservation, and this year The Matrix made the cut along with Dirty Harry, A League of Their Own, Anatomy of a Murder, and more.
In order for a film to be one of the chosen few for Library of Congress preservation, it has to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically” important. The Matrix was also the only genre film that made the National Registry this year. Several years back, John Carpenter’s Halloween was selected for the Film Registry, and for a genre film to be included, it clearly has to have made its mark on cinema history.
While I haven’t seen The Matrix in some time myself, I’m willing to bet it still holds up, and it did indeed truly transcend genre, crossing over to moviegoers of practically all tastes. And unlike a lot of sci-fi films, which grow badly dated with time, The Matrix’s vision of the future was not only ahead of its time, but was also smartly designed to be timeless. (The Matrix was also made for a reported $63 million budget, chump change by today’s standards, and it looks a lot more expensive than it is).
So congrats to The Matrix for making it to the National Registry pantheon. I recall seeing Matrix first run in the theaters fondly, and I also remember the cultural impact it had in its time. All this looking back makes me want to watch it again, and I’d like to see for myself how it holds up after all these years.