A Critical Review of The Matrix Movie
One of the most talked about sci-fi Hollywood movies, The Matrix had definitely made its impact in 1999. It has probably been one of the movies who had garnered the most movie reviews as well as fans and followers. The Matrix is a story about a programmer who discovers that his world isn’t what it seems. Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is the lead character of the movie adjusting to the thought that all he ever knew was an illusion encoded into his head by the computers who now enslaved the world, and according to the leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), he is The One destined to deliver humanity (Tomkins, 2003). This movie with its not so ordinary and complex plot is packed with mind-bending action and thriller scenes, not to mention a powerful cast of actors. The Matrix is an allegorical film questioning the true face of reality.
In line with this, the paper seeks to argue that science fiction movies are avenues of exploring the social and cultural characterization of the world we live presenting fascinating themes not just to entertain the audience but also to impart information for the public to gain knowledge in watching the movie in digesting the issues illustrated by the plot. The movie The Matrix is used to present this argument by enumerating the educative moments in the film and discussing the scientific basis of the information that were utilized in the movie along with some discussions of the way science knowledge were presented. Moreover, the paper illustrates how fact and fantasy were collaborated in a continuous story line emphasizing the roles played by the “scientists” in the film as the characters who channeled factual information to the viewers. The essay concludes by considering the cultural impact of the film by highlighting distinct ethical and moral concerns of the story.
The Use of Color as Fascination Themes
Noticeable in this film is its use of color themes, where a single color dominates a scene in the movie. A similar visual technique had been used by movies such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and His lover and Temptation of a monk to cite a few (Observations from the Matrix). By the use of certain color themes, representations and symbolism can be depicted. Like for instance, the use of green is symbolic of the matrix code. According to the Wachowski brothers, the use of green tint was a whole motif inspired by the phosphorous green of old PCs thus, the color of the objects inside of the matrix.
The real world is symbolized by the blue color. It is also a symbol of hope and inspiration. Being the color of the sun and fire, orange emits a warm, positive feeling, suggesting energy, strength and vitality. Such color theme was used in the Oracle’s kitchen as the Oracle’s presence and demeanor reflects the qualities of the orange color. Drive, ambition and enthusiasm is also represented by this color which was exemplified in the Dojo scene with Morpheus as the confident and determined teacher and Neo as an eager student up to any challenge. Since the medieval times, the Devil has been known to have red skin or wear red clothes. Thus, the agents as well as Cypher are seen wearing red in the movie. When Trinity appears for the first time, she was all clad in black in a dark room as if masking her real intentions. This makes black the color of mystery, secrets and intrigue (The Symbolic Use of Color from the Matrix).
Psychologically speaking, the color themes in the movie were also used in order to show other symbolisms such as emotion and descriptions. For example, green is often associated with sickness, decay or impending death making it the appropriate color of the mold and Mr. Yuk. An envious Cypher also had a shade of green. Cypher in a reddish hue symbolizes a Cypher in love with Trinity (The Symbolic Use of Color from the Matrix). The Matrix is not only and purely science fiction with lots of guns and special effects. In fact, the movie is deeply symbolic right from the characters’ names, religious beliefs, history and racial diversity.
The Educative Moments in the Film
Most would say that the story is as if patterned in the life story of Jesus and Christianity in which the name Neo which is actually a Greek word for “new” and an anagram of the word “one” or Neo as The One. However, this is not so, for there are some noted elements in the movie that are not comprised within the Catholic faith. For instance, there is no idea of sin, repentance or forgiveness in The Matrix. Instead, people just need to be liberated from illusion, which seems to be more Buddhist than Christian. Another Buddhist adaptation in the film is the belief of the people that there is no God in charge and that their lives is ruled by fate (Tomkins, 2003). Then there is Trinity who effects the resurrection of Neo after professing her love and belief in him as the Chosen One. In a way, Trinity reminds us that Neo is to be seen as a Christ-savior character, one of the Holy Trinity of the Catholic faith. Cypher, the one who betrayed Morpheus, is name which precisely means “a message in code”. The name as a code is hidden within yet another code, for the message in code applies as much to the Judas symbolism (Grisso). Furthermore, the Gnostic belief was also integrated in the film. It was said that in the second century, many Gnostics embraced the story of Jesus but somehow changed its meaning. Instead of Him coming to save them from sin, they believed that He came to give them true knowledge which frees them from the material world. What is interesting is that both Buddhists and Gnostics hope to escape it into a good, peaceful, disembodied existence. However, when Neo escapes the Matrix, he was neither in Nirvana nor Heaven, and he was not supposed to escape this one, but to liberate it. Thus, bringing us back to Christianity which claims that the world is basically good as it is bad, and one should not escape from it but repair it (Tomkins, 2003).
Aside from religious symbolism and mythological relations, The Matrix is a movie depicting many realities. One is that Matrix follows very closely the model of a Western, late-capitalist society. Whites hold positions of power in the corporate sector and in law enforcement (a close viewing will reveal that only whites serve as representative of the law within the film). Non-whites even seem absent from the prosperous streets of Acme City (Cunningham). Secondly, there was the reality of racism. In fact, several scenes within the film, most of them featuring Morpheus, draw upon cinematic codes of African-American enslavement and oppression. A prime example of this subliminal coding appears during a long pair of sequences in the middle of the film. Having tested his protégé's mettle in a number of combat training programs, Morpheus decides to take Neo into the Matrix to see the Oracle. Upon returning, three Agents and an entire host of law enforcement ambush the Morpheus entourage. The desperate group attempts to escape by descending through a cavity between the building's walls, only to be discovered by the Agents. To ensure Neo's escape, Morpheus bursts through the wall of a bathroom and tackles the only person in the room, Agent Smith (Cunningham).
The Collaboration of Fact and Fantasy
The Matrix is not most Hollywood movies. The audience may have been bedazzled by its special effects, however, through deep scrutiny, the movie has many deeply embedded messages for us to decipher. The movie was able to make the viewers feel as if they were watching the past, present and the future. Its filmmakers were able to integrate visual techniques, a symbolic plot and reality all rolled into one, producing one massive hit of a movie.
Science usually connotes the study of phenomenon, creatures, people, and things as well as the laws that govern their ways and existence. Science provides explanation, clarifications and understanding on things that cannot be comprehended at face value. Such studies and interests provide rational and empirical approach of appreciating the otherwise complicated realities of things. It is a valid way of understanding the creation of life whose application can be utilized in a wide range of discipline. Science is a methodological discipline in which observations, studies and researchers are conducted and facilitated in order to develop and examine theories and principles that will act as guiding knowledge of depicting reality. It discerns records and manipulates physical data so as to reach into valid and reliable findings from which conclusions will either confirm or contradict the claims of a particular theory.
The film is a masterpiece tackling the most controversial beliefs regarding life and reality which makes the film even more compelling. It presented claims and arguments that question the grounds of man’s existence as well as the possibilities of a multi-dimensional world. It wittingly disrupted the distinction between fact and fantasy as the movie transcended the audience to cross socially and culturally defined beliefs. The movie lured the viewers to think outside the confined notions of reality and existence by illustrating possible impossibilities. Interestingly, the factual and scientific information in the film were presented as fantasy as the plot narrates that dominance of machines over humans. The unreal themes of the movie on the other hand are the common beliefs that people hold today regarding the origin and birth of life, the dreamlike present time, and the liberated connotations of the future of mankind. Actually, the philosophical aspects of the film were strategically manipulated in order to bring confusion to the audience thereby drawing their attention and heightening their interest.
Morpheus as the “Scientist”
Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream, Neo? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?
- Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)
The characterization of Morpheus is that of a “scientist” who has all the information regarding the explanation of things and events in the film. Through his role, the claims pertaining to the real reality or the act of information and knowledge channeling is made possible by the educating character of Morpheus. Morpheus could mean a lot of things that is related to its character. For one, Morpheus is the Greek god of dreams (Matrix Explained). Morpheus may also be a representation of Orpheus from the Greek mythology, a character who almost rescues his wife Eurydice from Hades. Relating it to the movie, Hades corresponds to the Matrix and one who is almost rescued is Neo (Grisso). The real world was named Zion, representing heaven in the sense of the final gathering place of true believers. It is also used, especially by the Rastafarians, for example some of Bob Marley’s songs distinguishing those of the faith from those beholden to Babylon. If the real world of the movie is Zion, then the Matrix must symbolize Babylon (Grisso).
Morpheus’ ship was named Nebuchadnezzar, a king of Babylon whose dream fell to Daniel to interpret. That this is the symbolism intended is confirmed by the choice of Nebuchadnezzar, as the name given to the space-ship in Zion. Nebuchadnezzar was a king of Babylon, spoken of in the Bible, whose dream fell to Daniel to interpret. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw an image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. The feet of iron mixed with clay was struck down by a stone made without hands, and the entire structure came down. In the interpretation of this dream, Daniel said it foretold four world empires including and starting with that of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylon of his day, represented by the head of gold, and ending with the destruction of the final Babylon represented by the feet of iron mixed with clay. Not only, therefore, does the Matrix represent "Babylon," but by making the allusion to Nebuchadnezzar, we have to conclude that the authors wish to allude also to Daniel's prophecy (Grisso). All these were symbolized in the film in the individual story that revolves around Morpheus’ character and role.
They say that the only permanent thing in this world is change. Life is a constant hello’s and goodbyes. Whether you like it or not, things do happen beyond your control. The reality speaks of endless possibility that makes the life of every man very complex. Our powerlessness to understand and thereby adapt to the changes makes it more difficult and troublesome to grasp the system and function of our being. The lack of knowledge on things, animals, events and people is supplemented by data and information that will fill the void of rationalizing why things are the way they are. Chaotic amount of available facts that explains a phenomenon are made clear through detailed analyses and interpretations guided through the use of rational explanations. Understanding is the ultimate goal of science. The elucidation that science offers to the community keeps the people on firm grounds making them logical, wiser and strategic in performing their everyday function as human beings. Animate and inanimate creatures and things that coexist with men are likewise understood through the accounts and logical reasoning that science gives.
In this sense, The Matrix movie was able to demonstrate the capability of film as not just an entertainment source but also as an educative tool. The movie was made popular not just by its highly technological film effects but the contribution of the story line and the arguments and claims of the plot. Questions regarding the cultural and social context of the audience realities were cultivated in the film almost threatening the general belief of our existence. As such, The Matrix was applauded for boldly analyzing and critically analyzing the order of our reality as we know it. The film is highly cultural and socially-relevant in this aspect as it left the audience wondering and thinking of the possibilities that were tackled in the plot. But in the process, moral and ethical issues became obvious with respect to the religious beliefs of the public. Religiously speaking, the claims made by the film makers regarding the inexistence of God were significantly opposed to the teachings and doctrines of most religious beliefs. This resulted to the impact ethical impact of the film in its alternative portrayal of a possible reality.
Cunningham, Douglas A. Stalling Zion: Hegemony through racial conflict in The Matrix. Available at [http://www.rhizomes.net/issue7/cunning.htm] Accessed 27/04/04.
Grisso. The Key to The Matrix. Available at [http://theafrican.com/Magazine/matrix.htm] Accessed 27/04/04.
Matrix Explained: Symbolism in the Matrix. Available at [http://www.matrix-explained.com/symbolism_in_the_matrix.htm] Accessed 27/04/04.
Observations from the Matrix. Available at [www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Heights/6495/] Accessed 27/04/04.
The symbolic use of Color in the Matrix. Available at [http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Theater/9175/neo/matrixcolors.html] Accessed 27/04/04.
Tomkins, Steven. (May 14, 2003). Forget sci-fi and guns - The Matrix is really about religion. Available at [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3027027.stm] Accessed 27/04/04.
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