Sam Strange Remembers: THE MATRIX

Hollywood legend Sam Strange looks back at the time when he invented slow motion circles.

High School sucks. Not only is it too hard to learn things, but you’ve got to deal with cool guys like me stealing all the virgins. On top of that, you’re no longer cute, so your parents are getting a divorce.

With stress like that, it’s no wonder so many teenagers become nerds, desperately seeking some impenetrable masculine skin for their vulnerable nerd brains. It used to be, when the world sucked you just left it. But now there are all these steps in between where people can hide like cowards in support groups of like minded pals suffering the world by pretending it is beneath them.

If any movie was made for these guys, it’s The Matrix. I put everything I know about nerds into this one. We’ve all got a little bit of nerd in us, you know, and I shrewdly appealed to that, too. The film was an across the board success, allowing me to shift the new cultural nexus for nerd tolerance far left of center. Jocks responded by hiring George W. Bush, but that’s not my problem.

The Matrix begins with our hero, Neo, working a boring 9-to-5 job as a tech support guy for Gateway computers. He spends his days getting calls from Jocks who think their computers are broken when all that’s wrong is their monitors are turned off. Or calls from Cheerleaders too stupid to restart their computer after an automatic install.

This is an especially hard line for Neo because he’s something of a superhero hacker by night. He’s so awesome, drug dealers come over to his house for hacked programs and stand around sheepishly while he gets their shit. Their girlfriends try to impress him with memorized computer speak, but it all rolls off his back, man.

His hacker skills are so impressive, in fact, that he gains the attention of an international union of hackers led by the legendary Morpheus, whose right hand lady, Trinity, tracks Neo down to a nightclub and asks if he wants to meet the main man. Neo is pretty taken with Trinity because she carries guns around yet totally acts like a nun. She’s obviously never Cheerled in her life. Of course, he agrees to the meet.

But before he can get there, a trio of anti-hacking agents arrest him. Two of them just seem like Jocks turned insurance salesmen, but the main one really is formidable because he looks and talks like Spock if Spock were a robot (despite what Hank McCoy says, even a Jock like James Kirk knows S’chn T’gai Spock was never a robot but in fact the most human human ever despite his Vulcan blood, kind of like how Hank McCoy was always the least Beastly X-Man).

Before they let Neo go, they confuse his reality by making skin grow over his mouth, plopping a metal scorpion into his belly-button, and making him wake up suddenly in his own bed as though it had all been a dream. He’s not sure when the dream began, so he can no longer be certain if he’s meeting Morpheus or not. Luckily, Trinity shows up and uses an electric penis enlarger to suck the robot bug out of his gut. So now Neo knows it’s a dream… his, totally come true.

Neo is a little surprised when he finally meets Morpheus because Morpheus is black and Neo’s never met a black guy before. He doesn’t know how to act at all, so he wisely keeps quiet. Morpheus tells Neo that he’s living in the Matrix and it’s time to wake up. Neo’s kind of bummed about that because this has been the best dream ever. “What’s the Matrix?” he asks. Instead of answering, Morpheus offers Neo two women: one, Marsha Brady, the other, Jan. “Pick one, Neo, and find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.” Neo didn’t think the dream could get any better, but holy shit.

Neo rushes toward Jan instead of Marsha, but when he gets there, he suddenly wakes up in a pool of Pepsi Clear with a bunch of USB ports all over his body. A spaceship picks him up in what’s revealed to be a huge field of humans being grown in pods, but not like peas or edamame or green beans. More like M&M trees, really.


A long time ago, in the real real real world, a nerd began an RPG game with a robot. The robot got really into it and made all its robot pals into it. But most humans thought RPG games were stupid, so the robots mostly-killed them but put in all their brains into a world where the imagined events of the on-going game would seem real, and they’d basically play unknowingly just by “walking around” and “doing things” while their bodies atrophied in Pepsi-sponsered GamerPods.

But the robot’s nerd opponent “The One” lead a rebellious new game within the game, totally trashing the first Matrix in the process. The robots quickly responding by making human trees of all THESE characters too and making another Matrix inside the Matrix so any remaining or woken warriors would think their reality was really reality when it really wasn’t. This new Matrix had flimsier reality rules, which made the whole thing more fun for everybody. To even that playing field, the robots invented 3 insurance salesmen who could hack better than the humans.

So Morpheus and Trinity scour Matrix 2 for computer hackers because only computer hackers have the skills to be true badasses at Matrix 1. Their losing the war badly in Matrix 1 because it’s being played in the real real real world and “The One” has apparently lost his character sheet. Morpheus believes “The One” will eventually write a new character who can once again manipulate the game in the real real real world, thereby giving everyone in Matrix 1 the champion is so desperately needs.

As for actual humans in the real real real world, they’re all dead except for “The One” so don’t worry about them. The stakes in this film are for the fictional Matrix 1, and all the characters within only. I admit that dampens the excitement, somewhat. In an effort to make the Matrix 1 people more likable, I made them all very good, very erotic dancers.

Back to the story…

Neo is told all this while his body gets used to moving for the first time ever. This new world is totally not as spiffy as the old one. For instance, Neo’s name is actually Neil (and after a while, Fat Neil). Trinity’s name is Skylar, and she smells like BO mixed with patchouli. Morpheus is still black, but now his name is simply Lawrence, and he eats ALL his food with chopsticks, even pudding.
Instead of wearing badass sunglasses and trenchcoats, they’re all dressed in ragged jean shorts and Hawaiian t-shirts. Their toenails have some serious fungus issues. And yet, sandals.

Most people would run off screaming, but not Neo. He chose Jan Brady, after all. He is finally home.

Before long, Morpheus is shoving new computer programs into Neo’s brain via his USB port. Instead of actually learning how to fight, Neo just needs an instruction manual and a couple practice stages before he’s doing Fatalities and Babealities and Friendalities like a pro.

So they go back into the Matrix 2, and insurance agents abduct Morpheus. This means that while Morpheus is tied to a chair flexing his muscles in Matrix 2, Lawrence is just sitting at the table, banned from moving in Matrix 1. Neil and Skylar decide to go in to save him, though no one has ever been able to kill an insurance salesman before.

The thing is, if you kill an insurance agent, another random person in Matrix 2 becomes an insurance agent, so to kill them for real, you actually have to kill everyone in the Matrix 2. Neil tells Skylar that he’s probably “The One” when in fact, his plan is to just kill everyone in the Matrix 2. They call up a room filled with gun programs and get to work.

So in Matrix 2, Neo and Trinity get started killing people right away. Pretty much everyone they see gets shot on their way to free Morpheus. But they don’t kill enough, and they soon have an insurance agent on their ass. Instead of dying like normal, Neo pulls off this neat trick where he stops time but can move at normal speed. It looks pretty cool because the camera goes around him in a circle. I believe this is the first film to ever utilizes slow motion circles before.

They kill the insurance agent and take his helicopter, which they use to free Morpheus. The insurance agents did some nefarious stuff to Morpheus’ character because now he’s far fatter than he used to be and his mystic speeches sound more like retarded ramblings.

As they try to escape, the main insurance agent shoots down the helicopter. They are all going to die. Suddenly, in the real world, “The One” brings forth his completed new character sheet. This allows Neo to kill robots in Matrix 1. Not only that, but his Matrix 2 character can really do some superhero shit. We see this as Neo flies out of the helicopter and lifts it to safety. Then he farts a nuclear bomb that kills everyone in the Matrix 2.

Back in the Matrix 1, a bunch of dreadlocked squid robots are trying to hunt Neil and he uses his “The One” powers to kill them all too. Back in the real world, “The One” cheers triumphantly because he finally won the game. All the robots are pretty pissed, but they set up the board and play again. This time they make things interesting by adding, like, uh, vampires and werewolves and dry, old prophets and fucking Bruce fucking Spence. Now THAT’s a recipe for some suck-free sequels!

(three stars)