This week we decided to revisit a classic. Since its debut in 1999, The Matrix has been heralded as groundbreaking, famously combing elements of wuxia and kung fu movies with a cyberpunk setting to make a dystopian masterpiece. I gave it a 13 out of 15 for our Essential Wuxia, a silver!
Is Neo a Wuxia Hero? I gave this section an 8 out of 8, full points! Like many dystopian movies, its setting relies heavily on the audience cluing into Neo’s sense that “something is wrong,” and spring boarding itself through the plot with that same innate sense of justice and courageous do-goodery that defies the logic the world is trying to force on our reluctant hero. Before leaving the Matrix, Neo’s generous nature is shown as he goes out of his way to help others, and once outside it he go so far as to repeatedly risk his life for those around him. The characters around him serve as foils for his dignity and discipline, and make his individual choices stand out all the more.
Is the movie Essential Wuxia? I gave this section a 5 out of 7. We watch as Neo and the crew discover many things about themselves and their human nature as he struggles to adjust to life in the hidden world outside the Matrix. These human elements compliment the surreal nature of the training montages perfectly, as Neo learns he can literally download any program he wants in order to improve his knowledge, training, and reflexes; they showcase a variety of martial arts to great effect. And as disgusting and distressing as it is, the world does literally run on the life energy of the human race.
Essential Wuxia Score: 13/15!
Missed points: While the movies’ directors have been very open in acknowledging the influence of wuxia, kung fu, and other East Asian films, we cannot avoid the fact that much of the plot revolves around Neo’s Chosen One status. Morpheus says early on that only people below a certain age can adjust, which keeps the viewers in suspense while also leaving the door open a crack to other possibilities later in the movie, but the crux of the movie hinges on “Only Neo can beat the Matrix.” Additionally, there is no element of cultivation or sorcery.