New York Magazine

Neo and Trinity Taught Superheroes to Fly

The Matrix laid the template for the gritty, gravity-defying, self-seriously cerebral modern blockbuster.

IF YOU WERE of moviegoing age in 1999, you may recall The Matrix’s debut, which hardly seemed to herald a movie we’d be talking about 20 years later, let alone praising as singularly important. The film opened on March 31, not traditionally a release date reserved for potential blockbusters. (Also released that day: 10 Things I Hate About You.) It starred 34-year-old Keanu Reeves, an actor of wavering fortunes whose career, at times, had served as a punch line. Having emerged in 1986, in River’s Edge, Reeves was introduced to the wider world in 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, then rechristened as an action hero in 1994’s Speed—only to run aground again with films like A Walk in the Clouds and The Devil’s Advocate. His role as Neo—which eventually earned him over $250 million, thanks to his stake in the franchise—had been turned down by Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage, and Val Kilmer, among others, and dangled briefly to Johnny Depp. As for the film’s creators, the Wachowski siblings, they were best known for 1996’s Bound, a small but well-received neo-noir, itself best known for an extended sex scene between Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. The Wachowskis, both college dropouts, had started out in the world of comic books and were avowed fans of horror films and Japanese anime. They sold a screenplay

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