The Wachowskis are absolutely geniuses. While that has occasionally caused them to fly too close to the sun, it has mostly led to some of the absolute very best modern films. Here is how I rank their films.
8. Speed Racer
Before seeing this movie for the first time, I did not really know what to expect. I experienced the lukewarm initial response to the film upon its release and also took note of the reevaluation that has seemingly overtook the initial response in recent years.
Upon finally watching it myself though, I was thoroughly unimpressed. Fast forward to the present time (2022), as Omicron set in and Matrix 4 was coming out, I thought, “Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong?”
Anyway, as always, I am right. This movie is still mostly very stupid in ways that are more often tedious than fun.
Props for the cool and distinct look and ambition to spend so much money in an attempt to be purely stupid fun but this was mostly just insufferable. Honestly, I was hoping to do a rundown of things I dislike to really dive in, but that seemed tedious in it of itself given that the only things I liked were the look of the film and John Goodman. This film is not for me.
7. Cloud Atlas
There is a brief sequence of this film (pictured above) where it turns into a Guy Ritchie London crime film starring Tom Hanks, and for that, I thank the Wachowskis.
Beyond that though, this was a very big swing and a miss. I think I enjoyed it more than some do, as I found the broad experience of letting the film wash over me for three hours pleasurable.
The sincerity of the messaging being so on point at times felt somehow inappropriate for this in a way that it does not with something like Resurrections. It is hard to fully articulate why it does not work in Atlas. A great example of why it may not have worked was the obvious blindspot issues the Wachowskis sometimes have with race stuff. This project may have just been cursed from the start though as Natalie Portman was originally set to play the main Korean character.
The film remains historically crucial for understanding Kyrie Irving if nothing else.
6. Jupiter Ascending
Here is the thing about this movie. It is very dumb. The script seems like they had like four hours of material minimum. Mila Kunis is kinda flat in the lead role. Channing Tatum’s strengths are hidden by the characterization. Sean Bean has an arc that is completely rushed. Etc.. Etc. Blah. Blah. BUT this movie is VERY dumb fun, looks really good most of the time, and the rushed pacing leads to as much fun as problems it causes. I would read approximately 200 mediocre novels based in this world while riding the train to and from work every day. Let’s make that happen.
5. The Matrix Revolutions
One thing about this film I really want to know is how much got changed in the editing room based on the mixed reaction to Reloaded. Like, it’s a fun time do not get me wrong. It feels unnecessarily slight though and like it is missing a bunch of things that were originally in there. And why do we spend so much time with the fucking Kid and other characters we were never invested in? Anyway, it’s a fun non-end to the cinematic world of The Matrix that accomplishes some things it needed to do. Just in a less artistically satisfying manner than what had come before.
Brief Interruption: I have no idea how to separate the next four as in they are all basically equally great to me. So the order is semi-random.
4. The Matrix Reloaded
This film is so good and wild. Do some of the creative decisions the Wachowskis make here hold things down a bit? Of course. It’s hard to relate to the idea that those minor blights matter nearly as much as all the great things about it. The highlight of course (no breaking news here or anything) is the highway sequence which is just a masterclass in how to put together a giant action sequence to build tension (keeping Neo away from things) and to utilize variety in action sequences to keep things interesting. It is simply one of the best and most memorable sequences in the history of cinema.
Lilly Wachowski was not involved in this movie but I am counting it anyway. My list. My rules.
What a remarkable accomplishment by Lana Wachowski and everyone involved. She managed to dive back into this world, tell a beautiful love story, take something familiar to audiences and challenge everyone to think of it in a new way. While missing an otherworldly excellent action sequence like the chase in Reloaded, the film’s action felt incredibly fresh and dynamic. Keanu delivered one of the best performances of his career (and of the year if you care about awards things). I could just keep going on and on about the things that I loved about this film. With time, I hope to write something more interesting about it. In the meantime, you should read: “Body Talk: Conversations on Transgender Cinema with Caden Mark Gardner: The Matrix Resurrections (Lana Wachowski, 2021)”
Bound is an amazing crime story, a rare sincerely great modern noire, and also one of the hottest movies ever made. Beyond those very obvious excellent qualities though, this film is also just fascinating to see in the context of the careers of The Wachowskis. While not an action film, the brief sequences of of gunplay and action show how they already had a flare and confidence for the thing. The pure sexuality of the film is frankly as hot as anything I have ever seen in a film. The movie understood the incredible value of Joey Pants! If only they casting Joey Pants in their movies after The Matrix! I think he alone would have fixed the racism in their later flicks.
1. The Matrix
The Matrix is simply one of the best motion pictures that has ever been made. I am not sure what else there is to say about it that has not already been said. I will opt to merely call attention to one moment in particular that has stayed with me forever. The moment Neo “dies” and the cut to the faraway dead looks in the eyes of Morpheus and Tank’s eyes is still one of the most haunting moments I have ever seen. Belief is so powerful and so uniquely human and the death of the belief in that moment for them is just as bone-chilling more than two decades later since it came out. Its a perfect moment in one of the best movies ever.
In the years to come I wonder how I will compare it to Reloaded and Resurrections. Gun to my head, I would probably rewatch those two more often than the original for their messiness because their messiness make them all the more compelling. Hopefully these last two sentences do not invalidate my list but add to the feeling that I love those three films so very much.