So, The Matrix? What dense, urban American city will this remind me of, you wonder. What bustling metropolis? What mass of gleaming steel and glass spires? Well, the answer should be obvious. Exeter University.
I think you’ll agree the connection is obvious, right?
No? OK then.
Exeter University is where I was when I first saw The Matrix. I hadn’t heard anything about the film before seeing it. I came into it entirely naieve. I hadn’t even heard the title before. A friend of mine introduced me to the film and I sat, increasingly slack-jawed, as a film I was utterly unprepared for happened in front of me. Remember, if you will, that 1999 was the year that saw the release of the first Star Wars prequel, Notting Hill, The Mummy… I wasn’t expecting great things from the year. As it happens it also saw the release of American Beauty but I hadn’t seen that yet. I had just seen The Matrix. I had just seen the most remarkable film I had seen in a good long time.
You see, I’m a huge fan of the Cyber Punk genre and in 1999 the good Cyber Punk films (Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys) felt a little bit in the past. The books had stopped flowing as once they were. William Gibson and Neal Stephenson had moved on. Then Keanu Reeves, Carrie Ann Moss and Larry Fishburne put on some trenchcoats. To me, at the time, it had everything. Not just stunning effects and exceptional Hong Kong style wire work but a strong and healthy dose of philosophical references. Especially Baudrillard.
Somewhere, though I don’t know where, there are still photographs of my teenage self and my friends at the time in our own trenchcoats, armed with Airsoft weapons, recreating scenes from this film. It had a profound effect.
Whilst I can’t find those images, one of my friends at the time DID happen to dig out a photo of us in our Trenchcoats.
You’ll have to excuse the quality. It was taken with the webcam of an SG Oxy II if I remember rightly. My how far we’ve come.