Even though this post is not a work of genius (although I wouldn’t mind if it was), I feel compelled to write and share some of the stuff I picked up while watching The Matrix: Reloaded last night.
A few major events
The Matrix: Reloaded is the sequel to The Matrix and the second film of the trilogy. For a summary of the plot, you can read a synopsis here.
In short, in this film, Neo finds out that the Oracle is a program and is part of the Matrix, she helps him find the Architect–an AI program that designs the Matrix. The Architect answers Neo’s questions concerning the Matrix and his purpose. Agent Smith goes viral copying himself into a lot of people with the aim of killing Neo. We also see Neo save Trinity from death in a classic Superman and Lois Lane scenario. Zion is attacked by sentinels and its inhabitants slaughtered. A few ships survive Zion.
During the course of the film I picked up on the following themes. The film is rich in literary themes and the plot is well worked out.
1. Purpose. The whole trilogy of The Matrix movies centres around purpose specifically Neo’s. What is Neo meant to do?
2. Identity. Closely linked to purpose, the question of identity is one of the main driving forces of the film. In fact, it’s this search for identity that got Neo involved with Morpheus in the first place.
3. Truth. The two preceding themes are only two truths that drive us. In the first film, the reality of the virtual world is called into question. After Neo meets the Architect of the Matrix who explains Neo’s and the Matrix’s purposes to him, he realises that the prophecy is a lie. The Matrix is in its sixth incarnation as is Neo as the Machines grapple with understanding free will. Neo reveals to Morpheus the falseness of the prophecy towards the end of the film.
4. Self-sacrifice. A superhero movie would not be one if the hero impulse was not touched one or exploited. At the end of his meeting with the Architect, Neo is faced with the classic challenge of having to choose between saving the girl and saving the masses. He makes the unconventional choice of saving the girl.
5. Love. This theme is expressed through self-sacrifice. But Neo and Trinity’s love for each other drives and complicates the film too. It serves as good entertainment.
6. Choice. The problem of free will as revealed in Neo’s conversation with the Architect is something the Machines cannot understand. It is something the we humans cannot understand too. Everything in the film is driven by choice. It’s seen that even Mr Smith was given the ability to choose. (He chose to become a rogue program and to copy himself into a human-cyborg hybrid.) That said, predestination is rears its head too since Neo, we see, was designed to be the One. Morpheus was chosen to be Neo’s guide and Trinity our hero’s love interest. Neo was designed to be the anomaly born out of the sum total of all the wrong choices the citizens of the Matrix made. Neo’s existence was inevitable.
7. Belief. The more Neo knows about himself, the stronger he becomes. Everyone in the film believes something. Purpose and truth are only two things in which belief is manifested.
8. Understanding & knowledge. Although not always the same, the desire to know why things are the way they are, why Neo exists, why the Matrix exists, why Mr Smith keeps popping up, why Zion is being destroyed, and so forth, pervades the whole film. The Matrix exists to understand why the human race acted the way they did and to understand free will.
9. Fear. The fears of death and ignorance pervades the whole film. These are the most human of all fears.
10. Struggle for supremacy and freedom. These aren’t necessarily one and the same but in this “outside world” of the film, they are. The human race are subjects of the Machines. Their fight for freedom is limited by their fight for survival although one could say that their fight for survival is a fight to maintain their freedom. But what they do not know is that the Machines are controlling them giving the humans just enough scope to live but not enough to thrive. It is portrayed as if the humans and the Machines are in a war when the reality is the Machines have already won the war. The outside world is a controlled environment. Mr Smith’s obsession with killing Neo is another way in which the theme of supremacy is illustrated in the film.
The altruism test
One thing was clear, you had to listen carefully to what was said and what was not said. You had to listen carefully to Neo’s conversation with the Architect. At the end, Neo choosing to save Trinity should come as no surprise at all since whether he chose to save the masses then and there by his death or not, he was destined to die and so was Zion. His death was inevitable as was Zion’s. At Neo’s death, his body would be carried to the Source where his data would be downloaded and used to refine the seventh incarnation of the Matrix. A few humans would be released into the world driven by the need to build Zion. And the whole thing will start again.
Ties with Christianity
The whole trilogy seen from a theological perspective becomes even more interesting. Since Neo represents a Christ-figure, Morpheus John the Baptist, and Trinity Mary Magdalene (taken from The Da Vinci Code). Neo is the sum total of the bad choices and violence of humanity just like Jesus took the sins of humanity upon Him to die a vicarious death. The names of the people, places and ships hold a lot theological significance too.
The ultimate question
But the fundamental question is: why build the Matrix? Why do the aliens go to such lengths to destroy a society only to build a model to try and understand it? (I don’t know whether these question were ever answered in the trilogy.)
Fear, love, death, faith, freedom, control, choice and truth are the fundamental these the film explored. The Matrix is rich in symbolism and philosophy and superbly combines and explores the most important literary themes and truths. This, I think, is what made it a great success in addition to the media hype about it. The media played an integral role in promoting The Matrix trilogy using a human interest story to draw attention to it. The controversy and consternation the films created in the Christian community added to the films’ popularity.
As I said before, these are just a few observations I made while watching The Matrix: Reloaded last night. They aren’t worth much and only reflect the sense I’m trying to make of the world and of the movie.
What did you think about The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix trilogy as a whole?