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I watched the Matrix for the second time last night.  Actually I sped it up a bit, skipping the scenes with interminable punching, kicking, and creepy stuff (like the bug).  This movie was the constant topic of conversation for a few months when I was in high school.  Friends said they had to see it several times just to get it. 

 

Many years removed from its debut, the Matrix is not difficult for me to understand.  Maybe our concept of computers has changed, or the plot has been so absorbed into common philosophy that it is no longer shocking and new.  Either way, watching it the second time was pleasant.  I got to enjoy the exceptional writing, the whole thrust of the story being set up by small comments early in the movie. 

 

The Matrix is about fate and choice.  For example, near the beginning of the movie, Neo asks, “Why is this happening to me?  What did I do?”  The answer is nothing.  Things happen to us outside of our control or choices, and quite often whether we deserve them or not. 

 

In the story, there is an Oracle.  She predicts the future: that a special human will be found; who will find him; how the people will know.  This special human is supposed to rescue humanity from the Matrix.  There is a strong idea of fate in this.  Even if it were naturally possible to predict the future, she was predicting a supernatural event, the appearance of a human being with super-human mind power. 

 

The mind is important in the story.  Almost everything that happens is mental, through the Matrix.  And the epic conflict is the irrepressible human mind (or spirit) that is not bound by a programmed response as machines are.  Humanity can survive and once again prevail because the mind is creative and adaptive. 

 

Yet the mind is not the ultimate reality in the story.  (Spoilers of a ten year old movie coming up.)  At the very end of the movie, Neo dies in the Matrix.  Anyone else who dies in the Matrix dies in reality, too.  The body cannot live without the mind.  And the mind inside the Matrix cannot keep so much a hold on reality that the death blows cannot reach it.  Nevertheless, the physically and mentally dead Neo responds and revives as a matter of will.  There is something else in him that will not die, that will not submit to what the mind senses.  Ultimately it is that will, informing the mind, which enables him to overcome the Matrix. 

 

That’s the framework.  But inside the story, as events unfold (a beautiful word image for an idea of fate), these various perspectives on the will, the mind, the feelings, all interact.  One character would rather live based on what makes him feel good.  All of the questions represent a belief about truth.  How do you know truth if what you’ve experienced and believed your whole life is a lie?  How can you tell you’re not suffering a lie again?  What is your definition of truth, and does it matter to you? 

 

The Oracle tells Neo not to worry about a vase, which he curiously turns to see, and knocks it off.  Is this pure prophecy, or manipulation based on possible futures?  The Oracle also gives Neo the impression that he is not the One (special human able to defeat the Matrix), but tells him that he will have to make a choice between his life and the life of his mentor, Morpheus.  The mentor is trying to give his life for Neo.  Whose will wins? Why?  While Neo believes he isn’t the One, he’s actually proving that he is.  His motivation, his will, is stronger than what he believes in his mind. 

 

Neo makes decisions based on what is right.  He goes to save Morpheus because it is the loving thing to do.  We can never let a sense of destiny interfere with what we know is right.  He lets Trinity escape the Matrix first out of love as well.  And these are the decisions that define his fate, that empower his will. 

 

Machines may be the epic enemy in this movie, but they aren’t the bad guy.  However much they try to convince you that they care about something, that they feel emotion and make choices, it’s all a façade, an intimidation tactic.  No, the real bad guy in the story is the man who wants to live by his feelings instead of by truth and justice.  It is he who is willing to betray his companions, even to kill them and sacrifice the human race. 

 

What defeats him is the justice and sacrificial love and determination of two brothers.  The bad guy shoots at one, whose brother jumps between him and the next shot.  The second brother dies.  Greater love has no man than this…  Brother number one survives to defend the lives of his friends by necessary force.  Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man… 

 

The story isn’t all that new.  A pure heart sacrifices itself for love.  The will is superior to the feelings.  Love conquers all.  Truth and love are inseparably connected.  It’s this very fact, that the story isn’t new, that it is filled with eternal truths, which make The Matrix such a good movie. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I just watched The Matrix for the first time last night. When I was in high school, I remember, a couple friends were crazy about The Matrix and would sit apart from the group talking about it. And my friends said that everyone had to see it at least a couple times to “get it.” The concept just blew their minds. Well now I’m twenty-three, which is a lot older than the friends I had in high school, but I can’t figure out what is so hard to get. Are there any questions I should be asking, but didn’t think of?

Over all, I guess I liked it. The story was well-thought. There were warring philosophies, which the movie choreographed into one cooperative plot. This philosophical war fit well with what God’s been teaching me of late: something about our plans and His plans. Also in reading The Immortal Game, I’ve been contemplating the ideas presented by chess: does fate govern your life, or are your choices supreme? Can you win by intellect, or is there something to be said for brute force? Is it every man for himself, or every man for the collective goal? Should life be lived tactically (moment to moment, choice by choice) or strategically (long term)? How well can any one person’s decisions manipulate another’s? These were the various positions and questions dealt with in The Matrix as well.

Of course trench coats, leather, and machine guns were rather glamorized. There was violence, and I didn’t watch some parts (not because anyone warned me or they were getting too gruesome, but I had been multi-tasking, and felt the long violence/chase series were missable). In fact, I asked my brother what the point of the long fight scenes was, as everyone knew what would be the outcome (of some parts). He told me that the movie makers got their awards and notoriety for the filmography of the sequences and the special effects. I still protest that they did not add to the movie.

Anyway, at one point I was also curious whether anyone spoke regular English, or if all the humans used bad language to express themselves. So I’m not really endorsing The Matrix, but it didn’t bother me enough to make me dislike the movie.

If I were to identify the central theme of the movie, after this first viewing, I would eschew the philosophical questions and say it was about the power of the mind over the body (and delving back deeply into philosophy, over destiny).

One thing I noticed: it didn’t end. The sequel is probably at the library right now waiting for me to watch it, and I might have to get the last one on hold. Do the next two get better or worse?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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