So last time I was pretty hard on The Matrix Reloaded. (There are some days I would join some friends of mine in saying “There are no Matrix sequels). There were so many expectations from me loaded onto this film, and it just didn’t meet them.
(It didn’t help that around the same time I saw it, I went to see Kill Bill Vol 1 – and thought “ah, THAT’S how you do a one man against hundreds fight, helps if the character has an actual motivation for going through the foes and the fact that there’s actual peril and a COST for our hero – Kill Bill will be another post…at some time…)
I’d been so excited about “Reloaded” because The Matrix had been a pretty key film. It was in itself an amazing circus act, but one we’d never seen before – but it was also about something. And some of the ideas we stumbled over whilst being wowed by the effects (bullet time changed everything for some filmmakers and watchers) are things that actually address questions at the core of our humanity.
And this to me was what the film was essentially about – it was actually a philosophical back and forth, a conversation between the watchers and the storytellers – it was participatory, something its successor simply did not achieve.
Questions are in important part in storytelling, The Matrix very cleverly asks questions about story itself – in that questioning the bounds of reality, what makes something real, how belief affects our conception of reality (it’s actually quite an existential view that the film takes), they question the power of story, the power of dreams and communal dreams to form our reality. The power to control the story, to control reality, to bend the dream to His will is what makes Neo so dangerous to the status quo. And what if we could actually do that – could really and honestly form the story around our own will and make a reality that we want – wouldn’t that make us almost into gods? (Inception addresses similar ideas…Now that was Amazing)
And isn’t that the temptation, the “original sin” that faced Eve and Adam in that good garden long ago – that through knowledge they could become like God; knowledge of each other, of their environment, of God himself, that would give them control. It was of course their downfall – that desire to control our reality, to write the story and make it real is one we must constantly resist, and must curtail in others. For the human captives of the Matrix, the attempt to control the machines is what led to the enslavement of mankind and the reduction of the height of creation to a fuel source.
This is itself is one of the most horrifying ideas explored in the film – because it asks us to look at our own society. It at once distances us from the idea by presenting it in a fantastic setting, and then asks us – “but isn’t your world really like this deep down?” And when we look, we find to our own horror and in sudden self awareness, that we may not have been turned into batteries, but we have been, and are being turned into resources, people being used as things – the slow wiping of God’s image as all of humanity becomes no more than commodities and resources to be moved and used. The ultimate prostitution of us all. But The Matrix shows us that there is hope, through using the machines own tools against them, the revolutionaries start to take hold of the story and refuse to be resources, and assert their own “peopleness”. We can do that too, the tide can turn, we can refuse to be moved and used at others’ whims and regain the purposeful life intended for us by God. A life of rest, a life of Grace, a life of love, a life of repentance and recognition that we in our turn have misused this planet (yes Agent Smith has a point – there is an argument that we are a blight on this poor planet). We can still be the stewards and gardeners that God intended, and in spending ourselves for the sake of others (as Neo does in Christlike imagery) we can once more live our godly birthright.