Film review of Matrix (1999)

Overview

The purpose of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to move beyond a description of film techniques by evaluating an entire film. A film review judges the quality of a film and provides enough information to support the writer’s evaluation. For this assignment, you will review Blade Runner, The Fly, or The Matrix. In doing so, you will incorporate summary and analysis of the film that culminates in an overall evaluation of the film: should your readers see this film, or should they skip it?

Specifics

Good reviews offer an overview of the film somewhere in the early part of the text, followed by a detailed description of a number of scenes, film technique, and/or details about the acting, script, or other elements involved in filmmaking. Don’t write about the whole film chronologically! Instead, shape your paper around your interpretation of the film, elaborating on the details that develop your point of view. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore details that seem to contradict your assessment, however. You should also address contrary evidence, but explain why it doesn’t negate your argument. You may also want to concede some points in a negative review; that is, you may want to recognize some of the film’s strengths, even though you are not recommending it.

In the end, you need to judge the film, but if you have done so with equanimity and by offering strong evidence to support your reading, you won’t put off your readers. You should also strive to draw on film concepts and terminology (especially those we worked on in the Close Screening assignment) to offer as precise an analysis of the film as possible. And be sure to mention striking details of the film, whether they involve editing, costumes, acting style, color design, etc. There are also certain conventions that need to be followed in review writing. Be sure to include the actors’ names after their characters’ names (in parentheses) the first time you use them. Make sure you’ve included a plot synopsis in the early portion of your review, and don’t reveal the ending of the film.

Some Suggestions

Film reviews require a lot of preparation before you begin writing. Prior to viewing the film again, you may want to get a sense of the bodies of work by the director, writer, or individual actor. For instance, you may watch other films by the same director or writer in order to get a sense of each individual style. This will enable you to contextualize the film and determine whether it works as a continuation and/or disruption within the broad trends of the director’s or writer’s work.

Writing a film review often requires multiple viewings of the film. Plan to watch the film two or even three times. During your second or third viewings, try distancing yourself from the plot and instead focus on interesting elements of the film that you can highlight in the review. You may separate these elements into two broad categories: 1) formal techniques such as cinematography, editing, mise-en-scene, lighting, diegetic and non-diegetic sound, or genre, and 2) thematic content that resonates with issues such as history, race, gender, sexuality, class, or the environment.

After watching the film a second time, take careful notes on the formal and thematic elements of the film. Then attempt to create a central idea for your review that brings together the film’s formal and thematic elements. If your second viewing does not yield a strong central claim for the review or if you need to take more notes, you may have to watch the film or parts of the film a third time.

More Specifics

You may choose to review Blade Runner, The Fly, or The Matrix.
In the opening of your review, provide some basic information about the film. You may include film’s name, year, director, screenwriter, and major actors.
Your introduction, which may be longer than one paragraph, should also begin to evaluate the film, and it should allude to the central concept of the review. A film review does not have to contain a thesis or main claim, but it should focus on a central analysis and assessment.
For this assignment, you will need to include a brief plot summary. Remember that many readers of film reviews have not yet seen the film. While you want to provide some plot summary, keep this brief and avoid specific details that would spoil the viewing for others.
Be sure to include a title other than the assignment name or film title. Give your review a distinct title that captures and/or anticipates the focus of your review.
Length: 1500-2000 words (or 3-4 double-spaced pages.). You are free to go over 2000 words.
In Class Writing Workshop: Thursday, October 27. Please bring at least three hardcopies of a complete draft to class.
Due Date: Reviews should be submitted to Canvas by the start of class on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Assessment Criteria and Rubric

Structure and Organization (20%)

Is the review logically organized?
Is the organization of the review easy to follow?
Does the review include effective and logical transitions between ideas?
Are the paragraphs logically organized? Do they each have a clear topic sentence?
Summary and Adherence to Generic Conventions (20%)

Does the review clearly and briefly summarize the main plot of the film?
Does the review follow the conventions of film reviews as discussed in class?
Does the review have a strong and engaging voice that is credible and keeps the reader’s attention?
Analysis and Assessment (50%)

Does the review establish a reasonable focus for its analysis and assessment?
Does the review accurately use film terms in its analysis of the film?
Does the review’s cited evidence support its overall assessment of the film?
Style and Mechanics (10%)

Is the review’s tone clear and consistent throughout?
Is the review reasonably free of grammatical and mechanical errors?

Film: Matrix (1999)

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