#2- The Matrix (1999)

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Who's List Was This On
- Adam Kaplan: #3
- Bryan Hernandez: #5
- The 'Bright' One: #5
- David "MVP" Eckstien: #12
- Cubsfan4evr1: #20

Directed By: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Written By: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano

The Plot

Infamous computer hacker Neo (Reeves) is "freed" from what we call the real world but is in actuality a computer program called the Matrix generated by robots to keep humans complicit while they use our energy to survive. A group of rebels in the actual world led by by their leader Morpheus (Fishburne) to try and find "The One" (and be believes Neo is "The One") to help stop the reign by the robots.

Why This Movie Is Great

I think The Matrix is great because it is the best science fiction movie of the past 25 years (and maybe ever). After first viewing of the film you loved what you saw but you're not quite sure what really just happened. The movie is purposefully complicated and full of symbolism (besides the obvious Alice in Wonderland references in the beginning of the film).

The Matrix toys with the idea of what is real and what is not. The world that we all know turns out just to be a computer program and a creation of our minds. The themes of reality versus dreaming run throughout the film and makes you question your existence.

Plus, the movie revolutionized special effects with "bullet time."

There's so much jam packed into one two-hour film that I could spend many posts and many paragraphs talking about the nuances of it. So I'm just going to spend some time talking about the symbolism of the names and an explanation of the end which is very confusing on first viewing.

Explanation Of The Names

- Neo: "Neo" in Latin means "new" and is an anagram for "one". Thomas Anderson (Neo's real name) relates to "doubting Thomas" in the Bible when he doesn't believe he is the One. Anderson also means "son of man" which is a messianic title.

- Trinity: An obvious religious reference to the Holy Trinity and actually means "three". The themes of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost run rampant throughout the film.

- Morpheus: In classic mythology it means "fashioner" or "molder" because of the shapes he calls up before the sleeper. He is the God of Dreams which ties into the theme of sleep and dreams throughout the film as well as Morpheus being responsible for "waking people up".

- Cypher: The classical betrayer, the Judas Iscariot. The word refers to a mathematical symbol denoting an absence of quantity, a zero. Also, someone with no value, a nonentity. Cypher can also be short for "Lucipher" which explains the Satan imagery Cypher has towards the beginning of the film when he's the only one wearing red and sporting a goatee.

- The Oracle: In Greek history, The Oracle was an intermediary between God and Man (instead in the movie God is robots). People could ask The Oracle questions and would often get answers in riddle format. Also, in The Matrix The Oracle says, "Do you know what that means? It's Latin. Means 'Know Thyself'" "Know thyself" is inscribed upon the Oracle of Apollo and attributed to the Delphic Oracle.

Explanation of the Ending



On the surface, The Matrix is about Neo's journey to become The One. Morpheus frees Neo from the Matrix because he believes that Neo is the only one that can stop the computer's reign of terror. Morpheus takes Neo to see The Oracle (Gloria Foster) to make sure Neo is The One.

The problem most people have on first viewing is that after the meeting we learn that Neo is not The One. However, as Morpheus tells Neo before the meeting:
Try not to think of it in terms of right or wrong. She is a guide Neo. She can help you find your path.
So let's dissect this conversation between The Oracle and Neo because the key to understanding this conversation is the key to understanding the ending.

First, we know going into it that we can not take everything she says verbatim, and we shouldn't. The Oracle's purpose is to guide her subject, not outright tell them. As we have learned from classic literature, mainly from MacBeth, being told the future could end up shaping it. If The Witches had not told MacBeth that he would have become king, would he have become king? MacBeth doesn't become king by waiting it out. He takes steps to kill all those in his way to become king and makes the conscious effort to become king only because of what The Witches prophesied. The same holds true in The Matrix. The Oracle can't just tell you the future but she can see into the future and she can help guide the person down the correct path. In fact, towards the beginning of Neo's conversation, The Oracle says don't worry about the vase. This causes Neo to turn and immediately breaks her vase. The Oracle then says, "What's really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken the vase is I hadn't said anything?"

So now that we have established we can't take everything The Oracle says as face value, let's deconstruct this conversation (and other conversations with other members of the crew) to help explain the ending.

In fact, let's jump to the end of the movie. After Cyphus (Pantoliano) betrays the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, Agents chase Neo throughout the city and eventually catch up with him. In the end they actually kill Neo.

But then Trinity (Moss) comes over the console the body of Neo and says:
Neo I'm not afraid anymore. The Oracle told me I would fall in love and that... that man... the man that I loved would be The One. So you see, you can't be dead. You can't be... because I love you. You hear me? I love you!
This scene ties back in to two things The Oracle told Neo.

The first is that she says:
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Being The One is like being in love. No one can tell you you're in love, you just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones.
She also earlier tells Neo, "You're cuter than I thought. I can see why she likes you."

We learn for sure that "she" refers to Trinity and we see throughout the film that Neo and Trinity both like each other and flirt with each other but it isn't until the end of the film that both fall in love with each other. (Maybe more appropriately Trinity knows for sure that she loves Neo).

But this still begs the question, "Neo died, how can he still come back to life?" Good question. First, keep in mind that we are still in the Matrix. While earlier we learn that if you die in the Matrix you die in real life because the body can not live without the mind. However, also keep in mind that The One can not die in the Matrix as well. As we learn from later movies, The One is the constant and a reincarnation and Neo is just the current reincarnation. This also brings us back to Neo's conversation with The Oracle. She says to him:
Sorry kid, you got the gift it looks like you're waiting for something
as it turns out its love
Your next life maybe who knows? That's the way these things go.
I believe that last line is literal. While Neo needs to fall in love first to become The One, I also believe he needs to die. In works of Friedrich Nietzsche, he says that one must climb an impossible mountain of thorns to become immortal, but in order to become immortal you must die. The same must happen to Neo. Plus, Neo's death triggers Trinity's love for him. It isn't until Neo is dead that her true feelings come out for him. Because Neo is a reincarnation of The One and because we're in the Matrix, after Neo's death he comes back to life as The One and kills all agents in his path.
One last thing before I go. I was reading Roger Ebert's review of this film and he originally gave it three stars- mainly because it turned into a Shoot 'Em Up movie in the third act. It's weird to hear him say that because when Inception originally came out my cousin had the same critique of that film as well. There's a lot (I mean A LOT) of similarities between The Matrix and Inception (besides that critique) and I just think it's extremely difficult to create a pure science fiction movie without having a Shoot 'Em Up climax. A lot of what The Matrix is is Morpheus explaining to Neo (and the audience) the construct of the world that currently exists and that can only go so far. You can only explain the trippy-ness of the situation before the movie starts to become boring and stale. While the film is a critique on modern society it is still a movie nonetheless and it still needs to keep audiences entertained. I think the Shoot 'Em Up aspect of The Matrix worked really well because the Agents capture of Morpheus is the trigger Neo needed to help him lead down a path to become The One. Plus, it fit into the double cross of Cyphus. Lastly, it was just cool.