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The Matrix Reloaded
By Richard Gunther
The Matrix Reloaded is a movie of extremes. When it is boring, it is extremely boring – at least an hour of banal and tedious dialogue; when it is exciting, it is extremely exciting, and when it is offensive, it excels there too. But before we go further, a quick recap:
The first Matrix movie was stunning. Eye-popping action, amazing special effects, and some interesting twists and turns in the plot. As a piece of science fiction it set a benchmark.
Thanks to computer animation new stunts were achieved, bullets passed slowly, martial arts fights were viewed from all angles, and the hero Neo was able to perform impossible feats.
Neo himself, also called “the one” is deliberately portrayed as a kind of Messiah, come to deliver the world from the enslavement of computer-driven robots. The robots themselves, known as “the machines” are part of an enormous computerized planet, in which the humans are kept and harvested for their energy. In return for this energy, the computer has plugged them all into a ‘matrix’ which allows them to think they are alive and free in a real world, but the world is virtual reality, and nearly every human living in this fake world is unaware of it.
Neo and a few others have freed themselves from the virtual world, and live in what is left of a war-torn, dark, polluted and ruined planet. They are able to plug themselves into the matrix at will and free other people from it, but always at great peril, because the computer which controls the virtual world has sub-programs, which appear as humans, to guard it from intruders.
When one sees the real world, in which the survivors live, one wonders why they would even want to set anyone else free – the virtual world is much, much better. But the philosophy behind the story is that it is better to be free, and cold, and hungry, and impoverished in a ruined world, than happy in a virtual one.
Far beneath the surface of the planet is an underground city, where the remnants of Earth’s free population have hidden themselves. This is the city called Zion, and in the first movie only a brief mention is made of it.
In Matrix Reloaded Neo, gaining in his awareness and powers, finds he is able to defeat everything the computer throws at him. At one point, which Neo and Trinity, his woman, are in the matrix, he is even able to restore her to life, by plunging his hand into her and sending what appears to be new programming into her virtual body.
I think it is important to make something of the strengths of this movie before looking at the negatives. There is, for example, the universal battle between good and evil, and we all know good will prevail. It always does, because that is the way the whole universe is structured. (See Genesis 1-3 to confirm this one) Neo will save the world, along with his friends, and Zion will be delivered, there is no doubt about that. Just try to imagine the story without that sort of ending and then try to picture Matrix fans getting excited about his complete and utter failure.
Neo shows great courage. Morpheus repeatedly tells us he “believes” in Neo. Trinity promises undying love to him. There are also many religious, or spiritual themes running through the story, with symbolism drawn from Christianity, Buddhism and other belief systems. (Neo =new, Morpheus=changing, Trinity=Christian triune God) Other names and themes have similar links.
In some ways the movie brings into the viewer’s head many of the same themes and ideas which the Star Wars series raised. And there are many parallels between Star Wars and Matrix. (Not to mention Cocoon, ET and others). Neo draws on some inexplicable power, just as Luke Skywalker did, and prophets predicted both men, and both are able to defeat their archenemy in a final head-on clash, and both have excited followers, and both save the world. Star Wars and Matrix are shadows of the Messianic story of the Bible, except that in the Bible the Messiah ultimately becomes King of kings and rules the world with a benevolent dictatorship. Neither Neo nor Luke are capable of such authority.
As a Christian, I was saddened by the first Matrix movie because it contained blasphemy. To most people this is a trivial thing. For the vast majority of Westerners, the name of Jesus is a common swear word, and just part of a collection of filthy expletives. However, for someone who has come to the cross and looked by faith at the suffering, dying Saviour, the name of Jesus is precious. It is the name of Jesus which raises the dead. It is the name of Jesus which decides whether one goes to heaven or hell. Only a fool would take this name in vain, because it is the only name whereby a person can be saved.
In the Matrix Reloaded there is a huge increase in offensive material – offensive to Christians as well as anyone with a healthy moral conscience. The music, which blasts its way through a large part of the movie, is crude, primal, and invasive. The words are incomprehensible, but their import is clear. Still, they match the action scenes and are clearly an integral part of the story, as well as an extra moneymaking spin-off for those who want to spend more money on a CD.
There is a long stretch of the movie devoted to pornography. This is the best word to describe it, not a subjective choice. The scene is Neo and Trinity, both without clothes, in the act of intercourse. The camera shows us almost everything. Accompanying this scene, like visual interjections are sweeps of a large crowd of people, the inhabitants of Zion, jumping about in slow motion. Females are barely clothed, men bend around them, suggesting intimate relations, and many specific camera shots make the point clearly – this is a sex scene.
My impression after this long steamy sequence was over was to wonder why Neo would even want to ‘save’ this population. It was probably riddled with STDs and AIDS! It reminded me of the generation just prior to the great flood, which God sent on a sinful world in the days of Noah. It reminded me of Sodom, and Gomorrah, and the other cities given over to sexual immorality. Zion was polluted. Instead of dancing with joy at the news of deliverance from the machines, they should have been wailing in sorrow and seeking God’s forgiveness. It is far worse to face God’s Throne than to die at the hands of an enraged computer.
The action sequences in the movie were breathtaking. Neo floated about, or flew at supersonic speed, or kicked the faces of dozens of ‘agents’ in a whirling, stunning demonstration of computerized wizardry. Traffic tossed, flipped and exploded while black-coated men jumped from roof to roof, a motorbike whizzed at impossible speeds through highway traffic, bullets froze in the air, thousands of tentacled machines with metallic eyes squirmed their way through tunnels, characters dissolved like smoke and re-gathered themselves out of thin air, and motorbikes roared off the tops of high buildings, concrete bent and rippled, fireballs burst through windows. It was a special-effects tour-de-force, a mind-bender’s paradise, and a fantasyland of bizarre and wonderful visual feasts.
But having said all this, I must express a grave concern. One of the best questions I have come across, when considering a movie is “Would I recommend this movie to someone else?” In the case of Shadowlands, the story of C.S.Lewis (first version), or Little Women, I would say yes. In the case of Matrix Reloaded, I would say no. As a reflection of the moral depravity to which our culture has fallen, this movie provides a good example. It also serves as a warning. There may not be much time left before the curtains close on this age.
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