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The Matrix Reviewed
"Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"
MORAL / INTENT:
This film deals with two very real constraints on the human condition: enslavement and deception. It considers what it really means to be free, and asks whether believing you are free is enough. The intent of the film is philosophical: to make the viewer question reality.
Thomas A. Anderson (Neo) is a program writer for a respectable software company (Metacortex) by day and illegal computer hacker by night. He believes that there is something wrong with the world, but can't quite put his finger on it. Neo is contacted by a certain individual he has been searching for, who calls himself "Morpheus." Morpheus confirms Neo's intuition of discontent with reality, and explains that he has been searching for Neo his entire life. Morpheus vaguely describes what he calls "the matrix" to Neo, and offers him a choice. "You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and you believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." With little hesitation he chooses the red pill of enlightenment and embarks on a one way 'trip' out of the virtual-reality which is every day life.
In the real world, sentient AI machines have enslaved the human race in order to harness their life-energy while imprisoning their minds in a neural-interactive simulation called the Matrix. When Morpheus and his small band of freedom-fighters - Trinity, Cypher, Tank, Doser, Apoc, Mouse and Switch, those either born in the real world, or freed into it, free Neo's body he wakes up in a liquid filled "pod." He is one among billions of others forming columns in the sky as far as the eye can see. This is the much anticipated "real world." Morpheus' crew picks up Neo's carrier signal and rescue him from their hover craft, the Nebuchadnezzar. They perform delicate surgeries on his atrophied muscles and remove the machine-added "holes" that once fed his mind and body. Neo learns that he has been freed because according to prophesy he is "the one" who can lead them to victory against the machines, and eventually release of every soul it holds captive. Morpheus believes it is his purpose to facilitate this shamanic journey and that Neo will somehow 'save the world'.
Neo is slowly adjusted to the ways of the matrix, and taught by everyone he comes into contact with. He, like his fellow freed-freedom fighters, is now able to jack-in to the matrix, or any training program to learn anything almost instantly, or return virtually to the programmed world he once lived in. He learns that if you die in the matrix and your mind is not strong enough your body dies too, "the body cannot live without the mind." The Judas figure, Cypher, turns on the crew and sells out Morpheus to Agents from the machine world for access codes to the Zion Mainframe. Trinity and Neo battle their way to Morpheus and free him just before they mentally break him. By the end of the movie, Neo's character has progressed from computer geek to super hero. His final monologue leaves the film open to almost limitless possibilities for the eventual sequels, which had been planned from the beginning. "I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you."
The Matrix is a story about finding true reality; it persuades the audience to consider how you can ever know that reality really is real, then questions the importance of this knowledge. There is a green hue to the scenes which take place inside the confines of the matrix, while the real world has a blue hue to it. The real world is also given a more organic feel, while the matrix is constructed of a very ordered, grid-like perfection. The entire movie is a struggle between good and evil, humans versus machines. Though neither is all good or all bad, it is clear that we are supposed to take the side of the humans, empathetic for our own kind.
GADGETRY / ADVENTURE / SOCIAL COMMENT:
The Matrix is a fusion of all of the Wachowski brothers' greatest interests: Kung-fu, Japanime, computer games, science fiction, fantasy and Eastern Mysticism. It has strong components of all three of the main components in the Smeding Model of Science Fiction, making for a classic example of the genre.
Gadgetry: From beginning to end this movie is filled with gadgetry. Neo is "debugged" quite literally by a homemade device for just such a purpose. The Nebuchadnezzar is itself a complex machine, designed from the inside out as one large "gadget." Inside it, there are screens which display the raw matrix code, chairs which allow the crew to jack-in and run any training simulation disk or enter the matrix itself. Cell phones are made use of to contact the operator in the real world, aboard the ship, and to find hard-lines for use as exits.
Adventure: Without its sci-fi element, this film would still make a great adventure film. Trinity, Neo and Morpheus battle sentinels and agents, fight kung-fu style in bullet-time, are guided by an Oracle, all in effort to free the collective mind. They are freedom fighters whose one goal is to awaken humanity to the reality that reality itself is a counterfeit, that they are living a lie. The matrix dreamscape is eye candy for the adventure seeker.
Social Comment: The matrix is a very philosophical movie. It is much more than a straight story. It focuses on the relationships between people, separate from the environment. The movie is getting at the idea that we are not in control of our lives, and that we passively allow them to pass us by, like watching a movie. Every character has been severed from all worldly attachments and must find within themselves a reason to carry on, and the meaning of life itself. It asks the viewer to ponder whether or not a physical reality is necessary for a meaningful life. Even if one knows that all reality is an illusion, isn't it best to live that illusion, nonetheless?
My Split: Gadgetry (30%) - Adventure (30%) - Social Comment (40%)
HISTORY / TIME FRAME:
"The world as it was at the end of the 20th century." The year 1999 was one of the most technologically dynamic points in history. The Internet has just become a mass-culture event by this point, and many concept technological inventions are being created to celebrate the millennium. It is a time of change, a time of possibilities. The Y2K scare is a real possibility in many minds. The Matrix plays with this idea by creating an entire world controlled by "computers" - not far from the perceived world reality at this time. There hasn't been a world war for 54 years, and many people are simply bored with the constant day-in, day-out of ordinary life. They need an escape, and the movie The Matrix was constructed to feed that need. There is also a message of rejection of mass culture, and it gives credibility to the idea that an individual, living a very normal life, could somehow break free of normality, and transcend all restrictions placed on them. This is the dream at the core of us all, so often suppressed to the point of nearly being snuffed out. The cyberpunk theme is a rejection of this modern culture, while at the same time embracing the technology of the era and enhancing it.
The movie is set to take place somewhere near the year 2199, yet everyone who is plugged-in believes it to be 1999. There is somehow an archaic feel to the technology we see in the real world, yet it is far advanced from our time.
TRIVIA / NOTES:
The glyphs of the "matrix code" consist of reversed letters and numbers combined with Japanese katakana characters.
In the book Neo hides his computer discs in which is called "Simulation and Simulacra", he has symbolically hollowed out the section on Nihilism and inserted his own code. Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. "Welcome, to the desert of the real" is a paraphrase from this very book.
Neo's apartment number is 101, he is also the one. Trinity's room number is 303, tri=3.
Ewan McGregor turned down the role of Neo. Will Smith was approached about playing the role of Neo, but turned it down to make Wild Wild West. Val Kilmer was to play the character of Morpheus.
The rooftops that Trinity runs across at the beginning of the movie are the same sets as John Murdoch runs across in Dark City (1998.)
BEST SCENES / QUOTES:
"The Matrix is everywhere, it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out your window, or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."
"Throughout human history we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony."
"You have to understand - most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it."
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