Essays about The Matrix
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Contains Reloaded spoilers. This is an edited version of material contributed by Andre.
Why is Neo the sixth One and not the seventh? In numerology seven is the number that represents the end of a cycle, such as the 7 days of Genesis or the 7 days of the week. Also in numerology, the letters of "Neo" mean 5-5-6 which when all added come to 16 or 7 (1+6).
But on the seventh day God rested as he saw that his work was completed, which also points to the fact that the seventh Matrix might be the final product, ready to be shipped out for sale. And it was on the sixth day that man was created. Either way, the possibility of Merovingian being a former One would tie neatly into the seven Ones theory, but there are other possibilities. There was a mention of him on the comments as being Hades, the Greek god of the underworld who was Persephone's husband. However, another more likely choice would be associating him with Lucifer, the leader of the fallen angels who were cast away from heaven by God because of their actions. This would tie together the fact that the Merovingian keeps werewolves and vampires around him and they are described as "older programs."
The scene of the cake also points to that aspect since his action is worthy of a demon, and the descendents of the Merovingians, the sect of the Cathars, were considered as heretics by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and accused of witchcraft. The Agent on the highway calls the Keymaker an "exile." Another indication that points towards the angelic nature is the Oracle's bodyguard, Seraph, whose name is that of a class of angels.
In that case the Merovingian could be either be a One that never completed its mission or a fallen angel, a program designed to look over the Matrix that rebelled against the keepers of the Matrix. But if he is a former One, which one then? I suspect that the Architect has left out something very important in his conversation with Neo about the past of the Matrix.
For example, he says that the first Matrix (the one where humans lived in pleasure) was a monumental failure, but how did it end? Would it make any sense to send a One to bring it down? The Architect mentions that this is the sixth Matrix but that the concept of Zion was only created after the failure of the first so it would make sense if Neo is the fifth One, and in biblical symbology 5 is the number of man (5 senses, 5 fingers, 5 members including the head). The restaurant is at floor 101, or 5 in binary. The first Matrix also has some interesting points in common with the Bible. It was a Paradise for humans but they ended being cast away from it, like Adam and Eve who were also expelled from Eden for disobeying God's command.
p.s. Remember the 314 seconds mentioned by the Keymaker as the time they have for entering the building? Also, do you remember what the Architect says right afterwards? Now, how is this for a coincidence? “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion” – Jeremiah 3:14.
Brazilian reader Tiago Duarte (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes:
I noticed that Link tells Neo that Morpheus and Trinity are "in the middle of the city, 500 miles due south". So if Neo is really in Rennes-le-Chateau, that would put the city at about Algeria, more likely Algiers (the capitol city). Of course, we all know that the movie was shot in Sidney, but this is a good clue to the true location of "The City".
And Zoe (email@example.com) wrote an essay titled What is Neo? Excerpt:
Many times during The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded (to be called henceforth M1 and M2) other characters comment on Neo's humanity. On the rooftop fight in M1 when an agent is about to shoot him the agent says, "Only human." In M2 Councilor Hamann upon hearing that Neo hadn't been sleeping tells him that it is a good sign. When Neo asks him what it is a sign of, the councilor says something like, "That you are still human." The Architect even says that Neo is human. While I know that this doesn't necessarily mean Neo is human, I think the rest of the evidence in accordance with this definitely points to that conclusion.
In response to the "where is the City?" comment above, reader "Coffee" says:
The world of the Matrix is obviously smaller. I can imagine that in some areas you could walk through the rain forest and end up in China. The machines might be trying to save space. By just knowing where the city is, then you save space. They probably cut corners everywhere. They cut out a few mountains, Antarctica doesn't exist, the rain forest is only a mile wide; whose going to notice? No one.
Friday, May 30, 2003
The following contains Reloaded spoilers
(If "The Matrix: Reloaded" had been written by Dr. Seuss)
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Michelle's blog has a post on The Matrix as the Garden of Eden.
George's blog interprets the Matrix as an allegory for corporations and the media:
The movie works for me because I read it as a straightforward condemnation of two powerful forces, corporations and media. Corporations are the machines, the media the simulation.
The Masked Reviewer makes some predictions about what may be coming in Matrix: Revolutions.
Finally, I updated the submission guidelines again.
Warning: Reloaded spoilers
Some mysterious things in Reloaded that might be good topics for discussion or essays:
Most people say Bane/Smith cuts his hand to feel what it is like to be human and experience pain. Many people think Neo didn't fly to the Oracle just because he didn't know where she was.
And many people say Bane aborts his attack because the kid yells to Neo and Neo turns around. But since Neo's kung fu enhancements are only for the Matrix, he would have only the fighting skills of an average person in Zion. A knife against no weapons would be pretty good odds in Bane's favor, so if I were Bane I would have still attacked :-)
See also this post on Michelle's blog.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Contains Reloaded spoilers. Essay by The Old Oligarch (http://old-oligarch.blogspot.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Having seen others trash "boring, academic treatises" on the Matrix, I hope the first four words of the title and two Latin phrases don't turn off every reader.
Teleology is the key
The pivotal question to the whole movie, I think, is revealed in the Merovingian's speech to Neo at Le Vrai (which means "The Truth" for non-Francophones). The Merovingian berates Neo for coming to him just because other people (Morpheus, the Oracle) have told him to do so. Like other pitiful human beings (the girl who eats the cake), Neo has failed to escape the ubiquitous dynamic of cause and effect. He does not act with his own innate sense of purpose, according to goals of his own design, like the free programmers do (such as the Architect, Merovingian, Agent Smith). If the third movie is going to solve anything important, it is this question, and with relation to Zion.
Heretofore, Neo has acted simply out of reaction to the amazing events of being drawn out of the Matrix, unplugged, and launched into a battle whose scope and purpose he has yet to fully comprehend. What will Neo's telos be? What positive goal will he end up adopting as his mission, rather than simply staving off evil? Moreover, until Neo makes sense of the purpose of life outside of the illusory world of the Matrix, it is hard to give a complete answer to Cypher's Dilemma at the end of the first movie, which is the major question of that film. (Cypher is willing to take the red pill, forget he was ever unplugged, and live happily ever after in the illusion of the Matrix -- a privilege he gets in exchange for betraying Neo.)
On the metaphysical level, I think there's a classic question of philosophy going on here. The Merovingian is a determinist. Nothing is free. At the same time, Counselor Hamann's speech about the machines and the whole movie-long struggle to escape conditions forced on the protagonists make the opposite point just as clearly: Despite anyone's wishes -- even the Architect's -- no one is completely and utterly free. Even the Architect has to deal with conditions which he did not desire, and which ultimately thwart his designs. Is there a philosophy that can explain the interdependencies of existence in a way that avoids both the extremes of determinism and the impossible fantasy of utterly unconditioned freedom? How is choice reconcilable with, or related to, a world of entities whose nature does not make sense without reference to their ultimate goals?
Aristotelian teleology is just such a philosophy, and I think it's no accident that Neo's discovery of his purpose (telos) is bound up, hand-in-hand, with his quest to answer the determinist assertions of the Merovingian and to answer his own question to the Architect: "The problem is choice."
At this point, I have a choice to make. I'd either have to explain myself in great detail, or let it suffice with this: One German physicist has already had similar thoughts: Read Werner Heisenberg's essay on teleology vs. Leibnizian determinism in his Physics and Philosophy, specifically, chapter 5 "Development of Philosophical Ideas Since Descartes in Comparison with the New Situation in Quantum Theory" and chapter 9. "Quantum Theory and the Structure of Matter." I guess I chose the latter option.
Candy, anyone? Why The Oracle is Not a Determinist.
That's the other cool theme in the movie: the relationship between foreknowledge and determinism. Anyone who has studied classical theology of God in the Christian tradition will know that foreknowing does not imply forecausing -- i.e. in se they are different things. Yet the question is stickier with man, who usually only foreknows because he has established relationships of causality between things which allow him to predict the future based on the present. The Oracle's speech to Neo in the park raises this question, when she asks Neo whether he wants the piece of candy. She raised the same question for Neo in the first movie when she told him not to feel bad for breaking her lamp before he accidentally knocked it over, and then told him it would really "bend his noodle" later, when he asked himself whether he would have knocked it over had she not said anything. Neo grapples with whether he's really free to take the candy, and finally asks her why she has asked him if she already knows whether he will take it.
Against Neo's worry that all his choices are illusory, the Oracle explains that, on the contrary, the outcome of the present situation is merely a product of decisions Neo has already made. She says that his present perplexity results from the fact that he has not understood why he has made those choices which have led him to the present moment. Understanding, more than choice, is crux of the issue, she seems to say.
Some people really grimace at this, since the Oracle, ostensibly the good figure in the movie, seems to be endorsing determinism here, like the Merovingian. This is a mistake. It isn't necessary to come to this conclusion. The Oracle does not say Neo's present choice to take the candy is determined by something or someone else, but rather by what Neo himself has already chosen, unconsciously, in moments up to now. So what does this mean? I suggest the following: In contrast to a thin, 19th-century concept of will as the immediate deliberative power which exists only in the present moment, I think the Oracle presents a richer view of the will that one sees in early Christian and Middle Platonic writings. For example, cp. St. Augustine's De Libero Arbitrio Voluntatis (often titled in English "On the Free Choice of the Will"). For Augustine, liberum arbitrium (free choice) is different from, but related to voluntas (the will). If you know this distinction, great. If not, sorry for losing you.
Voluntas is what enacts our actions, but voluntas, for the classical mind, includes habits, the motivations of nature, personal history and free choice. Rather than a completely plastic, ephemeral, moment-to-moment choosing faculty that creates itself anew at every moment, and does whatever it wants in untrammeled freedom with each new decision, voluntas and liberum arbitrium have a more complicated relationship. I like to compare the classical conception of voluntas and liberum arbitrium to a boulder-sized stone that is rolling on a playing field and a man who has sole charge of where it rolls. The stone has momentum. So, likewise, our will has its disposition. The environment can draw the stone in one direction more than the other, i.e. external circumstances partially determine appetites. The liberum arbitrium in this example, is the man, who can slow or accelerate the movement of the stone, and alter its course. But the stone is more massive than the man. Individual acts of exertion cannot completely alter the direction of voluntas and send it instantly careening in another direction regardless of past acts. If the stone is rolling in the wrong direction, a forceful push can avert it from its "inevitable" course, but the man cannot instantly stop it, pick it up, bring it back to its rightful place and trajectory, and send it on its correct path as if nothing had happened. He simply doesn't have the strength. Likewise our will when it gets accustomed to, or "disposed" to a certain way of behaving. Liberum arbitrium can prevent the necessity of running headlong into old behaviors, but it takes a long, concerted effort to undo the cumulative effects of the many half-witted, unconscious decisions we've made which created in us bad dispositions. End tangent.
I think the Oracle makes a similar observation about the will. What the will does -- especially in unconscious, unreflective people -- is 90% the product of decisions already made. This, too, is a common observation from psychoanalysis. People whose behavior has unwittingly worked up a neurosis within them need therapy to bring to light how past decisions have made present ones seem ineluctable, but really, they aren't. Psychological integrity, like philosophical self-awareness, restores the proper relationship between the runaway boulder and the man, simply because the man is paying attention now to what he is doing at every step along the way. Between total self-awareness and the life of unconscious drudgery comes the difficult task of recounting what one has been doing up to the point one when one realizes one needs self-awareness. Neo's at the stage of figuring out what he has been doing up to now, and more importantly, why, and then after that, what he should want instead, why he wants that, and how to get it.
In case there are people out there who think I'm off my nut or have used a bad metaphor (common problem with me), I'll give a simpler example. When I play Quake or Wolfenstein and enter my own Matrix, as it were, most newbies (new players) are fragbait (easy to kill). Although they are undoubtedly free beings, they are utterly predictable, for two reasons: 1) The conditions which limit them are known to me. These are the rules and workings and quirks of the game. 2) People learn in similar ways. Thus, when I jump down from an overhang and target the newbie with a sufficiently threatening weapon, he's dead because: a) He will turn to run out of surprise, in which case I shoot him in the back at my leisure, or b) He'll return fire like a spaz because he is nervous, and has been surprised, and is unsure about how quickly I can kill him. So he over-reacts and fires like a nutcase, without really thinking. I can move back and forth slowly, avoiding his wild shots (most miss anyway) and, shooting less frequently, kill him with a few, well-placed headshots. I seem omnipotent, and emerge unscathed. Until the newbie stops and reflects about why he behaved like that, he won't become a good player.
Likewise, the mediocre player, foresees his visceral unformed responses at work (He thinks: "If I get ambushed or surprised, I'll freak out, lose my focus, and be killed") and takes appropriate countermeasures ("so I must concentrate before entering this large room with many enemies, and stay low at all costs"), but still struggles to do well. His liberum arbitrium knows what to do, but hasn't managed to get the voluntas fully attuned to this way of playing. A veteran player has mastered all his skills. He's achieved complete integration between his strategizing liberum arbitrium and his voluntas which actually affects his actions in the game. Thus whatever he chooses is immediately willed and whatever he wills brings about an appropriate course of action. Just like Neo when he is kicking ass in the Matrix.
When the master player has mastered the game, we say that his responses come as second nature. In saying his combat skills are "second nature," one might think this implies determinism about the master player: his actions are not "free," i.e. matters of deliberate artifice, but rather they are "natural," i.e., "automatic." But this is not so, for this "second nature," while often pre-reflective, is a nature one has created for oneself. It is nothing but the product of previous choices, and therefore, nothing other than a manifestation of one's freedom when properly understood. There. Did that help? Can I add a philological twist of lemon? If one has remade oneself with a "second nature," one is, by definition, reborn. (Natural --> Natus --> "Born")
So I don't want anyone griping that the Oracle is a determinist too. Like the other allusions in the film, early Christian writing or Middle Platonism may better explain her philosophical position.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Clive's blog has an article criticizing the endless hype about The Matrix.
The directors put in easily 45 minutes of explanatory dialogue outlining this "world is an illusion" stuff -- most notably that distended, bloated speech by Morpheus, which was delivered with less grace than a Powerpoint presentation. Yet in reality, the idea is so painfully simple that it could have been compressed easily into, say, two or three lines of dialogue:
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Material contributed by Andre
Taking into account how the Wachowski Brothers stated that all names that appear on the Matrix have a meaning, I was curious about the story behind Councilman's Hamann due to its pivotal role on the Matrix Reloaded. Although the number of scenes where he appears is short he is responsible for authorizing Morpheus' decision to leave a ship behind in case the Oracle decides to contact Zion (which she does). Furthermore when Commander Lock (I'll get to his name later) presents to the Council his plans to counterattack the Machines at the pipes he does not speak but it's clear that the Council fully supports the decision to send two additional ships to find the Neb. Hamann seems to believe in Morpheus and his ideas about the One, even allowing Morpheus to conclude the prayer and to reveal that the Machines are digging towards Zion (in opposition to Lock, who thinks that the news will bring panic).
A quick search of the name Hamann brought this match: Johann Georg Hamann, a German philosopher of the 18th century. (An article on him can be found on this page.) The more I read about Johann Hamann the more I've been convinced that the Councilman character is based upon its ideas, especially when we look at the scene where he approaches Neo and gives him a guide through the engineering level of Zion.
I can't recall all of his speech but a couple of ideas are clearly stated. First the interdependence of things. The philosopher stated that humans are not self-sufficient because they are interdependent. He says it also regarding senses and understanding: the senses are like the stomach, the understanding like blood vessels. Not only do the blood vessels need the stomach to receive the nourishment that they distribute; the stomach also needs the blood vessels to function. The councilman's point to Neo: that both humans and machines have become interdependent, both in Zion and at the surface. Machines and men have evolved to a point where one can’t live without the other.
Reading the summary provided on the link there are also a number of other aspects of its philosophy that apply to the discussions that take place on the movie dialogues. Another aspect that might relate the Councilman to the philosopher is the discussions between him and Commander Lock. The councilman goes against Lock's reasoning and logic that there is no point in listening to Morpheus mystical claims and that all ships are necessary to Zion's defense. Lock's attitude brings him closer to John Locke, the English philosopher of the 17th century that defended reason as a way to find the truth and that defended anti-authoritarianism. Although half a century separated both men, Hamann and Locke diverged on a number of matters, something that happens through the movie.
But going back to the movie, the Hamann character is also a very peculiar one. Neo replies that in Zion it is the humans who control the machines but Hamann's answer is more cryptic: "What is control?" He continues then by pointing to the machinery that is responsible for the water recycling and saying: "I don't understand the reason for it to work but I know its purpose". The message here is again found on the Merovingian's statement: it does not matter how things happen, all that matters is the why.
Now I may be way off course here but this is something that might be worth looking at, considering the religious dimension of the Matrix. One of the texts of Johannes Hamann refers the Knight of the Rose Cross. That is a reference to a secret mystic order also known as the Rosicrucians, which started on the 17th century in Germany. Hamann himself was seen as a reference by the German “Sturm and Drang” movement, a predecessor the Romantic period where artists and thinkers went back to the Middle Ages for inspiration.
After giving back the code to the Origin, the One is to choose 16 females and 7 males to repopulate Zion and restart the whole process again. However, the current population of Zion has no idea about its past. Morpheus clearly states that they don't have any idea of what year is it or how the war started, only that the machines are now under control and that the humans scorched the sky. In other words they have no knowledge of the past and the previous Ones, either because the machines erased it from their memories or because it is a secret inside Zion.
Neo says about this to the Architect: “Then there are only two possible explanations, either no one told me, or no one knows”. And this is the real jaw opener: what if someone knows inside Zion?
Another part of the dialogue between Neo and the Architect that also caught my attention:
Architect: “(…)Which, coupled with the extermination of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race”.
Neo: “You won't let it happen, you can't. You need human beings to survive”.
Architect: “There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept”.
That last phrase ties the Architect's statements with the comment made by the Councilman Hamann regarding the water recycling facility: humans can live without electricity or machines. Like the machines it's a matter of levels of survival and which is acceptable.
Now, taking all into consideration one might consider what Hamann's motivations truly are. If Zion is nothing more than a part of the scheme then there must be control mechanisms built inside it to make ensure that there will be a next One thus the cycle restarts again. The question there remains of why the Council completely followed (or allowed) Morpheus and Neo's quest even with Commander Lock's strong objections. It might be surprising that Hamann did not speak at all, but another of his phrases to Neo might explain it. “No point. I’m not good at making points”.
Which is surprising, considering how he saved Morpheus from being thrown into the brig and how the rest of the Council accepted his ideas. Also interesting is the reply from Neo, saying that it is why the Council is all made of old people. In other words, the Council's membership hardly changes giving the impression of a tight group in command of Zion (again pointing to a secret society, made of the descendents of the original settlers that knows the hidden, secret knowledge about the Matrix and achieves its goals through the use of others such as Morpheus). Looking how Merovingians, Knight Templars and others are related to the legacy of Christ (The One) in the "real" world it could be possible that the Wachowski Brothers have also replicated those references into the Matrix. However is this is true then what is the Merovingian: a failed One? Another element of control placed by the system?
Hamann is also much like the human counterpart of the Architect and has a striking similar appearance, which makes me wonder if they are not simply two sides of the same coin. Looking at Johann Hamann's ideas he was opposed to the Enlightenment movement that sprung in Europe on the 17th and 18th centuries and that hailed Reason above everything else. In contrast, the very name of the Architect recalls geometry, mathematics and science.
But until Matrix: Revolutions is released all of the discussion going on at the Net is nothing more than theories. Johann Hamann said: “Few authors understand themselves, and a proper reader must not only understand his author but also be able to see beyond him.” The same happens on the plot behind The Matrix and here one should ask if coincidences are really that or something else. Such as the title of the 17th century pamphlet that was behind the Rosacrucian Movement: “The Universal and General Reformation of the Whole Wide World: together with the Fama Fraternitatis of the Laudable Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, Written to All the Learned and the Rulers of Europe”. Probably it’s simply a coincidence with World Wide Web (WWW).
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Material contributed by "email@example.com"
In the opening scene of the movie we see Trinity falling and then what we think is her falling into the car, and then Neo wakes up. I first thought this was a discrepancy -- because the Oracle and Neo both assert that Neo doesn't know her fate -- but then I realized that when the scene actually takes place, it is the agent falling into the car, we never see what happens to Trinity until the end.
One of captains says to Morpheus, "I hope you're right." Morpheus replies, "I do not believe it to be a matter of hope." Later the last thing the Architect says to Neo is "Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion." I'll come back to this one, but Morpheus is right, it is not about hope.
Some people believe that the Oracle is the mother of the Matrix. The Architect never affirms this. He simply says "please" sarcastically and continues.
The Architect says this is the sixth anomaly. I believe that the Counselor (who took Neo to the Industrial floor of Zion) is the previous 'One' or anomaly. He rebuilt Zion with the 23 individuals - 7 male, 16 female - the remainder of whom are the Council. Neo asks if the counselor's point is that the machines and the humans have a symbiotic relationship; I believe he is "counseling" Neo for when Neo will have to make the same choice he did: to return to the source. I think the Counselor is planting seeds that will enable Neo to see that he must choose the right door (right-hand door, that is), return to the source, and allow Zion to continue.
However, what neither the Architect nor the Counselor understood was something the Architect himself said: that Neo and his five predecessors "were by design based on a similar predication, a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the One." Neo and all his predecessors felt an attachment, or a loyalty, to the human race because they believed themselves to be the One(s). But only Neo experiences this specifically. Architect: "While the others experienced this in a very general way, your experience is far more specific, vis-a-vis, love." Neo's experience, because it was specific, enabled him to choose the left door. So the architect was wrong, it was not a matter of hope, but rather of choice (as Neo said); Neo chose to do everything possible to save Trinity (his specific experience) instead of the human race (the general experience). By choosing the left door, this prompted the Architect to call hope the "source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness." Here the Architect thought this choice to be the greatest weakness, when actually it will turn out to be the greatest strength.
It was raised by someone else (sorry, can't remember who) that Neo was able to stop the machines in the end because the part of Agent Smith that controlled those machines was copied onto him -- their "connection", as Agent Smith puts it. We see Neo and Agent Smith's human counterpart together because they wanted to show a connection. I think this is because they both entered the coma the same way: Smith's counterpart stopped the machines before they killed him, in the same way Neo did, thus placing them both in the same coma. Note the name of Smith's human counterpart: Bane.
In conclusion: How can Neo or Bane control the machines outside the Matrix? I have no "logical" explanation, though I doubt it is realistic to expect one; I think the third movie will explain this away with something that "makes sense", but that we cannot understand.
Killing the Buddha has a new Matrix essay, One Baaad Messiah.
Hollywood messiahs are far more fulfilling. They rarely choose suffering over ass-kicking. In this regard, Neo is the antithesis of Christ. Neo struggles with his messianic identity but acts according to messianic expectations (that is, ass-kicking). Christ, on the other hand, does not struggle with his messianic identity but acts contrary to messianic expectations (that is, ass-kicking). Indeed, Christ was rejected and despised because he was not more Neo-like.
Jess also has a new article about the movie here
Monday, May 26, 2003
Check out this article on Judaism and The Matrix. It is called "Zion," after all.
Updated A Slice of Chocolate Causality. Updated submission guidelines.
Long, somewhat rambling, but yet interesting speculations on Reloaded here.
Warning: Reloaded spoilers
I just saw Reloaded again, and this time something really jumped out at me, so to speak. Why does Trinity jump out the window? Jumping out a skyscraper window to certain death is crazy, especially for a rational character like Trinity. Even if she thought of her situation as hopeless, why commit suicide? Why not stay in the building, keep shooting, and take a chance that maybe things will work out? A sane person would prefer a tiny chance of success over certain death.
Stranger still, why does the Agent follow her? If your enemy jumps out a skyscraper window, you have already won. The logical thing to do next is celebrate victory, not suicidally jump out the window yourself just so you can fire off a few more shots! What is the point?
Trinity's act makes sense if she knows (or at least is willing to bet) that Neo will fly up and save her. Her jump shows that she believes this will happen.
The Agent's act makes sense if he also knows (or is willing to bet) that Neo will rescue Trinity. He figures that she will not die in the fall, so his only chance to kill her is to follow her and shoot her again. It almost works. His jump shows he believes Neo is on his way.
This scene may add to the movie's theme of fate and determinism by implying that both characters know ahead of time what will happen. Neo also knows what will happen; he saw it in his dreams. The Architect also knows; the scene of Trinity falling played on the monitor in the Architect's room, and he offered Neo the choice. The Oracle must know. Is there anyone who doesn't know what will happen?
Several sources on the internet offer information and insight about the naming convention for the characters of The Matrix and its sequel. There isn’t a true Matrix fan who hasn’t been bombarded with the fact that “Neo” is an anagram for “one,” that Anderson can mean “son of man,” yadda, yadda, yadda. Don’t get me wrong, I commend the people who notice these things, I just feel the web has been bombarded with redundant information. (Then again, what else is new?) I have noticed, however, that the names of human ships haven’t really been addressed, except for the occasional nod to Nebuchadnezzar.
Heraclitus was a pretentious Greek philosopher who enjoyed being obscure. So much so that he was nicknamed “Riddler.” Though he didn’t get to write any corny riddles for Batman, he did come up with the philosophical theory of order and reason to the changes in the universe, and then named it “Logos.” This was particularly clever, because Logos means “thought,” or “reason” in Greek. It also means “word,” but I‘ll get to that later. Most of Heraclitus’ writings are lost, but he is quoted by later Greek philosophers. Concerning Logos, he said “The rest of mankind are just as unconscious of what they do while awake as they are of what they do while they sleep.” It’s quite easily a Matrix reference, or, more accurately, the Matrix is a reference to Logos. He also said “…one thing arises from all things, and all things arise from one thing.” In The Matrix, “one thing,” unsurprisingly, is Neo. All humanity in the Matrix eventually create the anomaly, the one, and the anomaly then restarts the Matrix/Zion cycle.
Logos, as mentioned earlier, also means “word.” John 1:1 reads “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:14a “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,” Taking all that into account, it is no surprise that at the end of Reloaded (and presumably at the beginning of Revolutions) Neo, “the One,” is working in close connection with the crew of the Logos.
As a ship, the Osiris debuted (and was destroyed) in the AniMatrix, but was mentioned in The Matrix: Reloaded a few times. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was the god of the afterlife. He came to this position after being murdered by his brother, Seth (or Set). After his death, Osiris’s wife had a son, Horus, who, after he grew to manhood, battled and castrated Seth. The other gods then decided that Horus sit on the throne, rather than Seth (who had taken it when he killed Osiris). Osiris the ship was destroyed by Sentinels, a machine destroyed by other machines. In this context, the machines are “brothers” and Neo is equivalent to Horus; he is the avenger, and the ultimate hero.
The Neb is closely related to the character of Morpheus. Aside from Morpheus and King Nebuchadnezzar’s connections to dreams, there is another parallel. Around 600 BC Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, and there is an account of his reign in the book of Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar became convinced he had absolute power, he went mad and started trying to eat grass. When Morpheus was convinced that the war was almost over, he found out that he was wrong, and shortly thereafter, the Neb was destroyed. They are both shattered at the pinnacle of belief.
[Other ship names we hear in Reloaded are Gnosis, Icarus, and Vigilant (I think). Want to follow up with those? -- Tom]
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Material contributed by David Ash (firstname.lastname@example.org)
During the second movie, Neo ends up in a Castle in the Mountains - apparently a "base of operations" for the Merovingian and his colleagues. Although I haven't done any research on where the shots were actually filmed (or if it was just CG), it can be said with a good deal of certainty that the place was intended to be none other than Rennes-le-Chateau of France. This is certainly the case because there are far too many things pointing at it.
First, the shots at the steps of the castle look very much like the actual place. Nicolas Poussin, in his works The Holy Family on the steps and Et in Arcadia Ego, paints a picture very much like the scenery in the Matrix sequel. It is almost as if the artists were using the paintings to inspire them for the scene.
Second, the title of the soundtrack song "Chateau" makes an obvious reference.
And finally, the castle-cathedral is in France. The French Merovingians, sometimes called the Shepherd Kings, have had a long past with this site. A weird side fact, the Merovingians are also involved with Holy Grail legendry, and there are even documents on the Internet suggesting that the Nazis dug up around Rennes-le-Chateau looking for the Holy Grail. (Perhaps the holy grail has strange programming to it as well). The Prieure du Notre Dame du Sion, or Priory of Zion, are rather mixed up in the history as well. It appears that the Priory of Zion is a remaining thread of the Merovingian's movement. For more information on The Priory of Zion (including a link to information about Rennes-le-Chateau) go here.
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Material contributed by Neal and Karen M.
My wife and I left the theater thinking that Matrix: Reloaded was good, but nothing quite as special as the first groundbreaking movie. The fight scenes were incredible, but the story line seemed to be just continuing along with no added depth. Neo is the human savior whose special abilities, which he randomly possesses, will enable him to save humans from enslavement to the machines they created. Statistically after billions and billions of humans had been born within the energy harvesting fields of the machines, one was sooner or later bound to have the unique gifts to do this job within the Matrix. It wasn’t until my wife uttered six simple words that the house of cards of what I thought the movie was about began to tumble in my mind, and we both realized that the rabbit hole may very well go deeper.
"I think Neo is a program."
She went on to explain how Neo could actually effect the sentinels outside of the Matrix. He shouldn’t be able to do that, we both realized. Unless he is still in the Matrix, which leads to our second shocking conclusion: the ships, the transfer process into the Matrix, Zion are all part of the elaborate house of mirrors that is the Matrix.
In Hollywood movies, we know that there is always one last pocket of human resistance fighters left to battle the aliens with their rag tag equipment that they salvaged. We root for Zion because they are us, our last hope. Even the critics mocked Zion in their reviews (left over sets from Mad Max Thunderdome, cliché characters etc.). This ironically works well if Zion is indeed a divergent reality for those who do not accept the Matrix. Wouldn’t this be what our human minds expect Zion to be like? The human dance/orgy ceremony that was so tribal and seemingly primitive would also be exactly how the machines would view human behavior: lives spent in a continuous rave party of debauchery, humans gratifying their every carnal lust.
As the council member said to Neo, the people of Zion do not even know how the equipment that they need for survival works, and most never ventured down to see those machines. How would this even be possible when their very existence depended on them? How did they get set up to begin with? It is all part of the series of programs, allowing people to spend their time sweatily dancing and partying while thinking they have rejected the Matrix. They think they are separate and superior to the zombie horde that accepts the Matrix, when in fact they are just as much playing their "part" as the others are. They are the cliché rebels.
The Oracle is a program whose purpose is to give hope to those who opt out of the traditional Matrix and choose Zion, and to steer the program Neo toward his sole mission: rebooting Zion. The Oracle and the Keymaker programs get Neo to where he needs to go. The Oracle makes corrections to Neo's code if he becomes errant. Her "most programs run smoothly and you don’t even know they are there until they mess up" speech seems to be aimed directly at Neo. "You are messing up, quit being distracted and do what you are programmed to do," seems to be her message. The Keymaker allows access the mainframe. Both programs do their job.
There are several references to previous Neos doing this task. The appearance of a One cannot be something that the Architect leaves to chance, but instead it is designed into the system. When the system is ready the One program is activated. Neo is not a random anomaly, as the Architect later confirms he was "designed" to do this job. He was written with the abilities to defeat the security programs (Agents) and gain access to the mainframe to deposit the code that will reboot Zion.
"The function of the One is now to return to the source allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry reinserting the prime program after which you will be required to select from the matrix 23 individuals, 16 female 7 male, to rebuild Zion. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the matrix. Which, coupled with the extermination of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race."
Neo is not the least bit amazed by being told that he carries the needed code that must go into the mainframe. This is where he begins to understand his true nature, which allows him to do what he does to the sentinels at the end of the movie. (Another irony is the critics trashing Keanu’s acting as wooden or robotic. Wait until they find out there is a reason for such a performance, just as there was a reason for Zion being so formulaic.) Neo falls into a coma at the end of the movie. The program, now working far outside its normal parameters, has become very unstable. It is also becoming aware of itself and its true nature.
Warning: Reloaded spoiler. Reader "the sherlock" writes:
Don't you find it somewhat coincidental (maybe it's fate as Morpheus might say) that most of the names in the Matrix are either positive or neutral? Like Morpheus, Trinity, Neo, Tank . . . but the one bad guy who exists outside of the Matrix is named Bane (Cypher was just selfish)? Didn't anyone see that one coming?
Sunday, May 25, 2003
In the chat transcript, the Wachowskis answer almost all the questions very directly and specifically. They say exactly what certain things mean and where they got ideas. They answer a few questions with jokes. But they answer 3 questions in a very evasive and suspicious way. Here are the 3 evasive answers:
Maybe they only give evasive answers to conceal a major surprise. They know Cypher comes back but they don't want to give a clear "yes" or "no" because they want it to be a surprise. They don't want to say exactly what the Matrix is, for the same reason. Finally, if the series didn't have to do with Gnosticism, they could have answered that question, "People may think that, but it isn't supposed to have any Gnostic overtones." If it did, but this wasn't very important, they could have answered, "Sure it has some, but that's just a minor tangent." The evasive answer, replying with another question, may imply that Gnosticism plays a major part in the series, but they didn't want to give it away and also didn't want to lie.
(Note: "Joey Pants" is the nickname of Joe Pantoliano, who plays Cypher.)
warning: Reloaded spoilers
hackthematrix has a new list of observations about Reloaded.
The coat Neo is wering inside of the matrix, aside from being completely awesome, is the same coat a Catholic priest would wear.
Yes, this seems to be a cassock. "For Neo, costume designer Kym Barrett devised a tight-fitting wool cassock with an almost clerical feel to it." (link)
The good luck necklace thing that Z gives to Link is silver, the necklace the Keymaker rips of his neck and gives to Neo is silver, the operator of Soran's ship(the first one to get blown up by a Squiddy bomb) looks to be wearing some sort of silver jewelry wrapped around his hand, and finally Persephone kills the "werewolf" with a silver bullet.
Another occurrence of "silver" is in the first movie, when Neo takes the pill to find out the truth, and he becomes enveloped in silver.
It would probably be fairly easy to convince people that they had left the Matrix when they actually were still in it. Just play a realistic simulation of "waking up," unplugging from the Matrix, and seeing a familiar "real world" environment such as Zion. Would the victims of this trick be able to tell they were not in the real world after all? Other people who are awake in the real world would notice that the person remains jacked in, but this might not seem suspicious if the victim had not exceeded the usual amount of time for staying in the Matrix. Or a whole group of cybernauts could be tricked at once, preventing one from noticing that the other's "exit" was not genuine.
A fairly well-known video game contains a false "game over" sequence, which tricks the player into thinking the game has ended even though it continues, and the controls are still active. (I will not identify this game in case you have not played it yet.) The film Waking Life also deals with the theme of believing one has awakened from a dream when actually the wake-up sequence is still part of the dream. Could something like this be happening in the Matrix series?
Every time a character exits from the Matrix, we could ask, "was that really an exit or just another part of the simulation?" Can we tell the difference? Can the characters tell the difference? What if nobody has ever left the Matrix, and the "desert of the real" is just a different scene in the simulation? One argument against this, from a storytelling perspective, is that it could make the story weaker if the contrast between the Matrix and the real turns out to be an illusion.
Some schools of Buddhism emphasize the non-differentiation of samsara (illusion) and nirvana (freedom/realization). The Heart Sutra says, "Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form." Is the Matrix Zion, and Zion also the Matrix?
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Craig Goodman sent in this material, which I edited. This is the final section of this piece.
"The Merovingian" refers to some folks who thought they were decendants of Jesus. But even "God's" right-hand men can fall, fail in their duties, and be banished to rule the world of men, in exile (Lucifer). The Underworld has parallels to the Christian Hell, therefore Persephone (traditionally the abducted wife of Hades, ruler of the Underworld; she is also called Proserpine) is the wife of a "fallen" program that failed/rejected his mission and now rules the world of men. Notice that he learned the secret of Causality -- of Will. He detests people like Neo who just do what they are told. He loves information. He also detests the Oracle. Why?. He also shows them the secret of eating food ("a program I wrote myself") altering the behavior of another program/person. He gives away the candy/cookie/kiss/pill thing. Also recall that Trinity gave Neo a kiss to save his life at a crucial moment. When Persephone kissed Neo, did she pass along the ability to see Sentinals as part of the Matrix? Traditionally, Persephone has helped people in odd ways before.
A second possibility exists to explain Neo's ability to sense and stop the Sentinals. The second door the Architect offered was into a duplicate Reality that was within the Matrix. In this case, Neo isn't a program at all, but is just being played with by the Architect.
This site accepts and publishes essays and ideas submitted by readers. Not every submission will be published, though. I'm looking for well-written, interesting, and original thoughts about the Matrix movies. Quality of writing matters; whether I agree with the ideas does not matter. To make things easier, when submitting a piece via email please do the following: 1)State explicitly that you give permission for the content to be published on this site. 2)State explicitly that you give permission for the content to be edited, if necessary. 3)State how you want to be identified as the author (name, email, "anonymous" etc.).
The best format for submissions is HTML. The second best format is plain text.
Brevity counts. If you have a really long essay on another site I can publish an excerpt and hyperlink to the original. Also, please look at what's already on the site. A minor variation on something that has already been discussed probably belongs in the Comments for the original post. I get a lot of submitted essays that are very similar to each other, not because of plagiarism but because "great minds think alike" -- if enough people see the same movie it will tend to trigger similar ideas. I will usually publish the one that requires the least editing.
Expect that it may take a few days for me to post an essay or respond to email. I typically have a few days worth of posts in the queue.
Finally, thanks for contributing. This site started as a personal project but has turned into a group effort through the magic of the Web, and I think that's great.
Friday, May 23, 2003
F.R.A.G. (Frequent Rants And Gibberish)
Q. Lighten up! It's just a Hollywood movie, a movie about bullets and explosions and vicious beatings and hot babes in tight clothes! Why do you have to put all this ridiculous "meaning" and "symbolism" into it that isn't there?
A. Arguing over whether or not the Matrix series contains allegory, symbolism, metaphor, and hidden meanings is like arguing about whether there are prime numbers greater than 23. The only question is where they are, not whether they exist.
The Wachowskis have said "There are more [hidden messages in the film] than you'll ever know." They said "most" of the religious symbolism "was intentional." They said "there is a lot of word play, a lot of hidden other meanings, a lot of multiple meanings." They said "Many of the themes [of Alice In Wonderland] we tried to echo in The Matrix." And finally, there was this dialogue:
Ronin says: Your movie has many and varied connections to myths and philosophies, Judeo-Christian, Egyptian, Arthurian, and Platonic, just to name those I've noticed. How much of that was intentional?
Q. But aren't you going overboard analyzing the names of the characters?
A. You may be on to something. It could be coincidence, since they are such common names. Why, just the other night at dinner, our waitress was named "Persephone" and the fry cook was named "Merovingian." Seriously, the Wachowskis said the names of the characters "were all chosen carefully, and all of them have multiple meanings."
Q. OK, the names maybe, but numerology? That's just crazy. They didn't intend that!
A. The Wachowskis said, "Like the wordplay, there's a lot of numbers play in the movie as well."
Q. You have too much time on your hands!
A. Funny you should mention it. I was just saying to myself, I wish I had just a little more time on my hands, because then I would finally have time to insult people whose blogs don't interest me.
(All Wachowski quotes are from the chat transcript.)
Warning: Reloaded spoilers
"If [. . .] Neo can fly, why does he bother fighting 100 Agent Smiths?" --Entertainment Weekly, May 30, 2003
This same question has been asked in dozens of other places, and I can't believe people are so mystified by this. Let's see, why does a cop stop to fight a dangerous criminal, when he could just drive away? Why does Superman fight any non-flying villian, when he could just fly away, or hide out as Clark Kent the whole time?
Neo had an opportunity to defeat Smith, so he took it. Only when he realized the fight was hopeless did he flee. What, did you want Neo to be a chicken and run right away? He gave it his best shot, and then retreated to regroup. What makes that so hard to understand?
See also the Matrix Theories article.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Craig Goodman sent in this material, which I edited.
The pattern of the One has happened many times. Whenever "reality/Zion" gets too full it causes systemic problems. It messes up the balance. The governing system has its immune system (Agents, etc.) which works very nice for day to day operations, but must be manually defeated for the reboot of Zion. (In mammals, the same battle happens between immune system vs. spermatozoa in fallopian tubes for conception to occur).
Morpheus, Trinity and Neo were created to break through all the security systems manually and reboot Zion (similar to Case and Molly in Neuromancer). Zion must be rebooted instead of just destroyed so that people who reject the Matrix have someplace to go, and someone to get them there. Neo would certainly be motivated to populate it quickly. But in the pattern of The One, sometimes they do what they are supposed to, and sometimes they do what they want.
Neo and Trinity = Merovingian and Persephone. Persephone alludes to this, telling Neo "he used to be like you." She wants a kiss from the new One to remember the old times. But such things are "not meant to last." Perhaps the Trinity/Persephone character has the role of changing One's with kisses. The Merovingian has also been around for several other Ones, and sees Neo as no different, until he stops bullets in mid-air. (When the Merovingian and Neo finally fight, it should be cool.)
So even though Neo is a program, and Reality and Zion are both part of the Matrix, something different is happening this time. Balance -- or the ability for humans and machines to live together in peace -- seems to be a key point. Maybe this is what the Oracle and her bodyguard (Seraph) are trying to facilitate. Maybe the Councilman is also a program and wants the same.
[to be continued in part 3]
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Reader JGoolia329@aol.com points out: "There are a couple of lines in the first Matrix that don't make sense until you see the second one. For example, Morpheus constantly refers to keys and doors when speaking to Neo about his future."
Warning: Reloaded spoilers. Craig Goodman sent in this material, which I edited. It was too long to publish as a single post, so it will be a multi-part series.
Neo is a program. When he voluntarily puts something into or against his mouth, his program gets altered. Morpheus gives Neo a pill to swallow. The Oracle keeps giving him food, first a cookie and then candy. ("The Oracle has a way of changing people". Neo: "yeah, she does.") And Persephone wants a loving 'voluntary' kiss from Neo.
Ever notice that Morpheus talks exactly like Agent Smith? He was given an obsession. He's following his 'programming', if you will. Morpheus is probably a program, too. I'm also guessing that Trinity is a program. Her obsession is love for Neo. She can also reprogram him a bit at a crucial moment with a kiss (at the end of the first movie). Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity have all visited the Oracle, and all three probably received code updates in the form of food. Morpheus with "religion" (religion is the opiate of the masses; morphine is an opiate), and Trinity with love.
Why? As per the Architect, humanity sometimes rejects the Matrix. When that happens they go to the secondary Matrix 'shell' which they think of as Reality or Zion. (~"most of us are here because of our affinity for disobedience"~) In this shell, they appear to have greater choice, They keep living, and are therefore still part of the Matrix instead of just being dead. Which pill again? You have to choose to leave the Matrix. Not a real choice, as you never move an inch, but "on some subconscious level" you have made the decision, and so still accept the program.
The second shell (reality/Zion) also cleans up another Matrix mess: humans generate electricity through body heat. We all think this is nuts, and maybe it is. Neo, and even Morpheus didn't believe it "until I saw it with my own eyes" So the matrix may not even exist to keep human minds busy. Maybe the Matrix and the Matrix's second shell exist for an entirely different purpose that we can't even guess at.
[to be continued in part 2]
Site update: This site is getting a lot of hits, so I'm trimming things down to make the main page load faster. I removed the blogroll, and reduced the number of articles that appear on the main page. Look through the archives for older articles. Discussions will still be active in archived articles.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Killing The Buddha, an online religion magazine, has an article about Gnosticism in Reloaded,as well as in The Matrix. Have we now met the demiurge?
Also, daedae's blog posts some thoughts about the Oracle's prophecy. And Justin's Matrix blog is full of theories.
Warning: Reloaded spoilers ahead
In the scene where Neo meets the Architect of the matrix, we see Neo in front of a wall full of TV monitors. Each monitor displays an image of Neo himself, and each image shows a bank of monitors behind Neo, forming an infinite regress. At first each image of Neo looks identical, but later when the architect makes statements, we see the Neo images reacting in a variety of different ways.
This scene evokes the work of artists like M. C. Escher (link). (Escher, like the Matrix movies, featured many mirrors in his work -- compare Escher's reflecting sphere with Neo's reflection in the spoon in The Matrix.) Rene Magritte's work also comes to mind. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the image resembles the Buddhist/Hindu image known as the Net of Indra, which some consider an apt metaphor for cyberspace and the web:
"The Net of Indra is a profound and subtle metaphor for the structure of reality. Imagine a vast net; at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum. The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness, or a cell or an atom. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight, in every other jewel." -- Stephen Mitchell, quoted here
Where do the images of the "other" Neos come from? Are they simulations, projections by the Matrix of how Neo might react? Are they recordings of things that happened in other versions or copies of the Matrix? Or are they views into alternate realities -- like the "many-worlds" theory of quantum physics -- superimposed on the current situation?
Consider the camera work in this scene. The camera moves from Neo to an image of Neo in the Bank of monitors, then zooms in on a single monitor until its picture fills the screen, and the scene continues with the viewer now observing that picture rather than the original room. This same camera movement occurs several times in the scene, so by the end of the scene we are several levels removed from the original room, watching an image of an image of an image. This serves as an important clue, hinting that we must consider multiple nested levels of representation/simulation -- the Zion world may be just as much of an illusion as the Matrix.
If we use the "many worlds" metaphor, then we first see possible futures for Neo, but don't know which one will "occur." When the camera picks a monitor and zooms in on it, we experience the "collapse of the wave function" subjectively, and so in our reality only one of those futures happens (though they all happen in some universe). But does this result from "choice" or "fate?" It seems that question is one of the central meditations of Reloaded.
wrygrass says: Did ideas from Buddhism influence you in making the film?
minor Reloaded spoiler ahead
The Matrix Theories blog has some interesting observations about the movie. I particularly like this one:
"[in the first movie] When Smith is interrogating Morpheus, he explains how humanity is a virus, replicating, copying, spreading across the planet consuming resources until there are none left. Ironically, or perhaps as self fulfilling prophecy, this is exactly what Smith does when he "breaks free of the control" of his agent programming in the Matrix."
It is sort of funny. I'd say Smith's speech about humans goes beyond an explanation and seems like an angry, bitter complaint. This makes it all the more striking that he later becomes like a virus himself.
Monday, May 19, 2003
If you want to read about The Matrix, like Neo you will have to make a choice. Choose The Matrix and Philosophy, and you'll get a book that is very academic in tone. And when I say academic, I mean "exquisitely boring." You'll find more entertainment value in a day of pulling weeds in the blazing hot sun while the neighbor kids attack you mercilessly with rubber band guns than you will find in most of the chapters of this book. I liked a few sections, but in general I would not recommend it.
On the other hand, Exploring the Matrix has a much higher fun factor, and it should because of its unfair advantage: its authors are science fiction writers, whose careers are based on writing to entertain. Both books cover a lot of the same intellectual territory, but Exploring the Matrix gets you there in style. Sample quote:
H. G. Wells declared there should be only one weird element in every scientific romance. Wells was an author in a solemn Edwardian world that would allow itself only one or two really weird elements. Any more than that, and you weren't entertaining anymore; instead, you were raving and blaspheming.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
In an interview, Monica Bellucci explains the character of Persephone:
Persephone, in Greek mythology, is the daughter of Zeus, the king of the gods, and the goddess of fertility, Demeter. [Persephone] was kidnapped by Hades, the king of the underworld to be his queen. She was allowed to come back into the living world for part of the year. This tells us a lot about Persephone [in The Matrix: Reloaded]. She's living between two worlds. She's just another program from an old matrix, so she's not human, but she wants to feel human emotions. She's like a vampire of emotions. She doesn't feel anything herself, she can only feel things through others. There's something really sad and tragic about her. She's sensual, she's dangerous, but she's also desperate.
The interview also contains this interesting exchange:
Q: You talk about the old Matrix programs having created myths like vampires and werewolves and things in previous versions of the Matrix. Your character kills with a silver bullet in one scene. Does that mean that the character you kill is a werewolf?
Nick Bostrom's site argues that we really are living in The Matrix, right now.
This blog imagines a pretty funny possible ending to the series:
Hell, what if it's all just a video game and at the end we get to see two teens on a couch, one playing as Neo and the other as Trinity, removing their virtual reality helmets. Then one guy says to the other "Hey...I uhm, thought you were a chick."
That would mean these movies were secretly the sequels to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure all along.
You can support this blog by ordering a coffee mug that I designed. The mug says:
I will make a whopping $2 for each sale, so if just 4 readers buy one, you can finance my trip to see the movie a second time. Buy 3 more mugs, and I can afford a large popcorn. ;-)
In Reloaded, the door of the room where Trinity and Neo were staying in Zion had a metal plate on it. The plate had circles cut out in a particular pattern. When I saw this I wondered if maybe this pattern is Braille (or reverse-Braille, since the dots are cut out instead of raised). Did anyone recognize it? Does it mean something?
Warning: Matrix Reloaded spoilers.
In the restaurant the Merovingian explains causality. He says Neo and his friends do not really understand why they are there, but are simply pawns of cause and effect. They say they know the reason: to search for the key maker; he tells them they are only following orders from the Oracle, orders they do not understand .
As an example of cause and effect, he sends a slice of chocolate cake over to a woman in the restaurant. The cake is actually a program, which he claims to have coded himself, and it has an effect on the woman's feelings and behavior after she eats it. In the green and black Matrix view, the camera drops down to show us her digital "legs", then reveals the effect of the cake as a bright "fireworks" type of graphic in the region of her crotch. She gets up and goes to the restroom. The sexual metaphor here suggests that we do not freely choose our sexual urges (or food cravings), but instead they follow from brain chemistry, and thus humans are not as free as they may believe. We see this same theme of freedom versus fate in many places throughout the movie, such as when the Oracle tell Neo that he already made his choice but must learn to understand it.
Next, the Merovingian excuses himself to go to the restroom. But instead he goes into the ladies' room where he meets cake-woman for a "quickie." Persephone knows what is going on, and to get revenge she betrays him. After shooting the first "werewolf" program, she says to the second, "run and tell your master what happened, or stay here and die. He's in the ladies room." So the Merovingian actually created two chains of cause-and-effect with the cake. The first one, which he was aware of, was the rendezvous with the cake-woman. The second, which he did not anticipate, was Persephone's betrayal.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Warning: Matrix Reloaded spoilers.
Agent Smith in Reloaded sends Neo an envelope containing the agent's white earpiece (which we saw in the first movie) with the message that Neo "set him free." The fact that he no longer wears the earpiece implies that he no longer listens to orders. Agent Smith explains that he was altered somehow in his previous battle with Neo (perhaps code was overwritten, he says). He speaks of now having a "connection" with Neo. Smith has the new ability to turn other Matrix avatars into copies of himself, like a computer virus or worm. He also now has freedom of choice -- the freedom, as he puts it, "to disobey." Rather than being happy about being set free, he hates Neo for destroying his sense of purpose. Agent Smith wants revenge. Smith first tries to turn Neo into an Agent Smith. This fails, so then hundreds of Smiths attack Neo. Unable to defeat them all, Neo flies away after a lengthy battle.
Ironically, though Smith now theoretically has the freedom to do anything he wants, in fact he carries out exactly the same course of action that he would have as a mere tool of the Matrix. That is, he tries to find and destroy Neo. So does Smith really have the freedom he claims? He does the same things for what he says are different reasons.
Immediately before this scene, the Oracle told Neo that his choice had already been made, but he must try to understand the "why" of it. And now for Smith it seems that the "what" has not changed, only the "why." The theme of choice and freedom vs. fate and causality runs throughout Reloaded.
Warning: Matrix Reloaded spoilers.
In The Matrix: Reloaded, Neo receives a gift wrapped in a cloth from some "orphans." He unwraps it, and finds that they have given him a battered-looking silver spoon. This seems to refer back to the "there is no spoon" scene in the first film, where the boy told Neo, ". . . it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself." Neo does not comment on the gift spoon, nor does it ever get mentioned again in Reloaded.
This spoon looks quite different from the first spoon, though. The original spoon was shiny and new-looking, and we could see Neo reflected in it The battered and dented gift spoon does not seem capable of producing much of a reflection. Of course, the first spoon was in the Matrix, and the second in the "real world" of Zion, so this may just be following the general theme that things (like the main characters' clothes, for example) look more perfect in the Matrix and more shabby in the Zion world.
The gift of the spoon brings up several questions. Did the orphans know about the first spoon, and if so, how would they know? Was one of them the "spoon boy" from the first movie? Or did they hear about Neo's visit to the Oracle? A spoon would be a very strange gift if they did not know about the first spoon. Did they give him a battered spoon (rather than a new one) because that was all they had, or does its appearance signify something?
A bogus "Matrix: Reloaded script" has been circulating on the net. I'm not going to link it because it is poorly written and nothing like the movie. This spoof is somewhat amusing, though.
Reader Mike Atherton wrote a piece about The Matrix for his Masters Degree. He compares The Matrix with other science fiction and cyberpunk stories, and with Internet culture.
Friday, May 16, 2003
Reader Evan points out that "in The Matrix: Reloaded, we have an entire race living underground [in Zion], in a sort of reverse of Plato's cave in which the real world turns out to be false and the true world is the cave."
Evan also referred me to an article at The Register that discusses the real-life computer commands Trinity uses to hack into a system. This illustrates how difficult it is in the future to maintain security, when people won't install patches for vulnerabilities that have been around for hundreds of years.
Warning: very minor Reloaded plot spoiler at the end of this post (if you've seen previews, you already know it).
Reader Gregory Sholette (email@example.com) wrote an essay, Counting On Your Collective Silence: Notes on Activist Art as Collaborative Practice. In this essay, he looks at The Matrix as an example of the positive and negative aspects of human collectivization. Some excerpts are below:
[The Matrix] represents two versions of human collectivization. One is involuntary. It consists of massified bodies digitally dreaming in a cavernous computerized nursery. This is like the bodily awe I sometimes experience attempting to cross Broadway at rush hour or when I try to grasp the magnitude of Others competing with me for an airline ticket over the circuitry of the telephone system. Opposed to this reflexive collectively are the militarized cells of men and women, white, brown and black who struggle to release their fellow humans from an invisible bondage. No, this is not the experience I have had as an activist art collaborator, but the way resistance itself is portrayed here is useful.
In a later section, Sholette writes:
The founding or "minting" of any group identity, either corporate or cultural, is always dependent on the material that exceeds this imprint or group signature. However the capitalist, corporate identity aims at purification -- a precise profile stamped-out of seemingly raw materials that fall away as waste. The new identity allows the corporation to indefinitely replicate its name-brand to consumers.
This reminds me of the ongoing replication of Agent Smith in The Matrix: Reloaded.
Winning the award for Most Hilarious Completely Incorrect Reporting About The Matrix: Reloaded, the Times Online has a story featuring this interesting "fact" about the movie:
Neo gets a love scene in the first sequel with Monica Bellucci, a virtual person played by Carrie-Anne Moss.
I'm sure the lovely Monica Bellucci would be stunned to learn that she is a "virtual person." Let's not tell her, OK? We've all seen in Blade Runner how badly it can turn out when a replicant finds out she's not human. I was suspicious right away, though -- nobody could be that gorgeous.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
The word Merovingian is taken from the name of a blood line of kings who ruled what is present-day France in the 5th to 8th century. In The Matrix: Reloaded the Merovingian says that French is his favorite language (especially for cursing) and the character speaks with what sounds like a French accent.
According to the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (which is something of a conspiracy-theory classic), the Merovingians are the descendants of Jesus -- who did not die on the cross, but lived to have children. The book claims that Merovingians are still alive today, with secret societies working to restore them to political power. The book connects them with other conspiracy theories involving Rennes-Le-Chateau, which are much too complicated to present here. Clearly, this is highly speculative stuff and I pass it on as a point of interest, not as fact.
One other interesting coincidence of names connects well with the Matrix movies. According to conspiracy theorists, the mysterious secret society that is supposedly working behind the scenes on behalf of the Merovingians is known as the Priory of Zion.
In The Matrix: Reloaded, Captain Niobe is Morpheus' ex-girlfriend. The name Niobe comes from Greek mythology. Niobe was the queen of Thebes, and in her arrogance she attempted to put herself on the same level as the gods, and she told the people that she was more worthy of admiration than the goddess Latona. As punishment for this transgression, Latona's children Apollo and Diana hunted Niobe's children down and killed them. From grief, she was turned to stone. "Yet tears continued to flow; and borne on a whirlwind to her native mountain, she still remains, a mass of rock, from which a trickling stream flows, the tribute of her never-ending grief."(link)
The mythological meaning of this name does not seem to have much relevance to the plot of the movie. then again, the part of Niobe is a small one. Things may change in the next movie.
"Everybody is excited about the movie coming out this weekend, I believe the name of it is . . . Tron." -- Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Roger Ebert reviews Matrix: Reloaded.
From The New Yorker
The basic conceit of “The Matrix”—the notion that the material world is a malevolent delusion, designed by the forces of evil with the purpose of keeping people in a state of slavery, has a history. It is most famous as the belief for which the medieval Christian sect known as the Cathars fought and died, and in great numbers, too. The Cathars were sure that the material world was a phantasm created by Satan, and that Jesus of Nazareth—their Neo—had shown mankind a way beyond that matrix by standing outside it and seeing through it. The Cathars were fighting a losing battle, but the interesting thing was that they were fighting at all. It is not unusual to take up a sword and die for a belief. It is unusual to take up a sword to die for the belief that swords do not exist.
The Cathars were Medieval France's original hippies says one site, and more information about them is available here and here. As a side note, the Crusade against the Cathars may have been the origin of the phrase kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out:
Arnold Aimery, the Papal Legate at the siege of Beziers, ordered his men: "Show mercy neither to order, nor to age, nor to sex....Cathar or Catholic, Kill them all... God will know his own...." (link)
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
The images near the beginning and end of The Animatrix: Second Renaissance - Part I resemble Buddhist mandalas. Compare the image at 00:00:34 - 00:00:40 of Part I with the mandala images here. The second time the image occurs, at around 00:03:42 - 00:03:46, the main figure now has a skull-like head instead of the peaceful face seen before. At the end of the movie, we see the "happy" version again.
Monday, May 12, 2003
Umberto Eco's book Travels in Hyperreality, well summarized here, discusses the typically American quest to create the "Absolute Fake," an imitation that is better than reality.
It is in the two Disneys, where he finds the ultimate expression of hyperreality, in which everything is brighter, larger and more entertaining than in everyday life. In comparison to Disney, he implies, reality can be disappointing. When he travels the artificial river in Disneyland, for example, he sees animatronic imitations of animals. But, on a trip down the real Mississippi, the river fails to reveal its alligators. "...You risk feeling homesick for Disneyland," he concludes, "where the wild animals don't have to be coaxed. Disneyland tells us that technology can give us more reality than nature can."(link)
A friend of mine told me about his trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which happened to be showing some models and props from the Star Trek TV shows. My friend was chagrined to discover that he was "more impressed" by the fake TV props than by the actual space vehicles on display nearby. As he put it, "real space ships are boring, they don't look very cool," whereas the Star Trek models were specifically created to engage the imagination. In this case, had my friend made the same kind of choice as Cypher, preferring the appealing lies of the Matrix to the "desert of the real?" (By the way, I agree with my friend that science-fiction spaceships look much cooler than the real thing.)
". . . genre texts such as The Matrix are fundamentally centrifugal -- their organizing principle depends on our ability to make connections to things outside the text at hand." -- The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real, p.200.
First Person, Plural is a radio show in Victoria, B.C., on CFUV 101.9 FM, Thursdays at noon Pacific time (there is also a RealAudio feed). The show covers culture and sociology issues, and the first episode discussed The Matrix as "the ultimate sociology movie." There is a transcript of that episode here.
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Wake up! Gnosticism and Buddhism in The Matrix, from the Journal of Religion and Film.
The Oracle in The Matrix -- like the Oracle at Delphi -- is a priestess who foretells the future. The Oracle at Delphi received her visions sitting on a tripod placed over a fissure in a cave from which emanated a gas believed to be the breath of Apollo. When we first see The Oracle in The Matrix she is sitting on a three-legged stool placed next to an oven from which is emanating the aroma of freshly baked cookies. (When the fissure at Delphi stopped producing gas, the Greek priests started burning belladonna and jimson weed in the cave and found that they could get some pretty good oracular declamations from the smoke that produced as well. Perhaps the Oracle's smoking a cigarette is a reference to that episode in the history of the Delphic Oracle.) Both oracles have the phrase "Know Thyself" inscribed over the entrance to their shrine, although in The Matrix it is in Latin while at Delphi it is in Greek.
This is from chapter 8 of the book, and so far it is the only chapter I have found interesting. Is the Oracle the only character in the movie who smokes? I can't remember, but I have a feeling that may be true.
'Matrix' is love story, according to Reeves (via Keanuette). This adds to my theory of The Matrix as Love Story.
"The subtleties of reality manipulation are all around, and they're becoming denser and more sophisticated and more intimidating every day. I've often said that the visual effects technicians of today will be the social engineers of the future."
John Gaeta, visual effects supervisor for Matrix: Reloaded quoted in The New York Times
Saturday, May 10, 2003
My friend Lisa brought up the idea that the Oracle might be a renegade AI, and not really a person. Two factors support this: first, they have to go to the Matrix to see her, instead of visiting her in the real world. Also, Morpheus says something like "she's been with us since the beginning, since the start of the resistance." But they don't know exactly what year it is, and it sounds like the war with the machines may have been going on for 100 years or more. If that's true, the Oracle could only have been around that long if she is an AI.
Reader "teasmoke" (firstname.lastname@example.org) has this to add:
All three of the Agents speak with clipped diction-- they enunciate clearly, and their words start and stop on a dime. The Oracle speaks just the same way-- not too bright, though--, indicating that she's thinking in terahertz too. (Incidentally, some of the Oracle's motions are pretty measured too. When Neo's just walked in to the kitchen, she remains poised at the oven, raising her arm to gesture at him without moving any of the rest of herself. With the "not too bright, though" comment, she shakes her head carefully and then takes a drag, all so perfect as to have been choreographed. You don't have to add this comment, though, it was just a thought.)
Tom: It's interesting how in movies computers and robots often talk in too-perfect English, like Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
teasmoke: I think this is an outgrowth of their roboticism: robots stereotypically move jerkily, each motion separate and planned, because robots plan out everything-- unlike humans, who just move all together and all at once. The perfect speech is this same idea: robots speak jerkily, each sound separate and planned, because robots plan out everything-- unlike humans, who just slur it all together and say everything at once.
(originally published here)
This theory arose years ago, and now in Reloaded we may finally find out one way or the other. Then again, we may have to wait until the 3rd movie.
This song, "Kung Fu Girl" by Tamar Berk and Starball, is supposedly about Trinity. (Free MP3 download, site requires free registration.) You can also stream a song from the Matrix: Reloaded here.
And OK, halo by Collide is not really related to the movie, but it is awfully cool and has a Matrix-style feel to it.
Friday, May 09, 2003
The Christian Science Monitor has an article about The Matrix and religion.
An online gambling site offers bets on the box office performance of Matrix: Reloaded. The movie is currently a 4-1 underdog to break the opening-weekend record held by Spiderman.
In the training program fight scene in The Matrix, Morpheus does two obvious moves from T'ai Ch'i Ch'uan: "single whip" and "white crane spreads wings" (see also the upper-left photo here).