Thursday, June 26, 2003

What is the Matrix?

I asked the question after the first movie and was able to get a lot of answers just by thinking hard. Maybe not too hard. Because all the answers seemed to be answered within the movie and the Wachowskis wanted to judge the response of audiences world-wide before embarking on the second and the third stages of their journey to wow the intellectual audiences all round the world.

I remember having read a review of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report somewhere online. Cannot remember where though. The reviewer compared his thoughts after coming out of the movie with those that he/she had after having watched Ridley Scott's Blade Runner almost two decades ago. He said that Ridley Scott had completely changed the face of the Sci-Fi genre and invented a new genre by itself - The dark socially conscious Sci-Fi Noir and termed Minority Report, the Blade Runner of the 21st century. Maybe the reviewer failed to read between the lines in the Matrix. It is certain, at least to me that this reviewer should have waited for a year and seen The Matrix Reloaded first before commenting about the significance of the Minority Report.

The Matrix was perhaps the brightest child of the Sci-fi Noir genre. But the significance of most of the movie's lines was perhaps lost in the shock and awe of 24 different cameras documenting Keanu Reeve's jumps and kicks, not to mention the now universally termed "Bullet Time" sequences. Some of these lines are better illustrated when we think of computers and their capabilities. More when we relate those lines to those from The Matrix Reloaded. Even more when we do the same in November when Revolution comes out. Till then we have to look into these lines introspectively. Introspectively, because that is all what the Matrix stands for – looking into yourself and finding out eventually whether you exist for a reason. For some this thought is a pointer to what the Wachowski’s have borrowed heavily from – ancient religious scripts, everywhere from the Bible to the Zend Avesta and to the Vedas. I happened to read a number of pieces around cyberspace, which have sought to throw some light into what the Wachowski’s, have intended to convey with the trilogy. One of these is universally accepted – that the trilogy is nothing but a good, old-fashioned fight between good and evil. Only that this time it is virtual, that is, it happens only the people of the Zion choose to accept that it is happening, which is again congruent to what the Matrix main funda states – Reality is just what you choose to accept as “happening”.

There are two lines of thought even in religion. Maybe this is the same argument that is behind the “half-full vs. half-empty” argument that divides the human psychology into two. One stream believes that God exists and that God created the world to discharge some pent up energy. Now this would be true to the “law of conservation of energy”, wouldn’t it be?. The other stream believes that God does not exist and it was Satan who created the world as we know it, to terrorize and imprison the humans. I am not clever enough to really say which group is right but there are some of people who believe that the Wachowskis belong to the latter. This link is a interesting read that brings out a lot of the Wachowskis ostensible thoughts into the limelight.

Most people who saw both the movies rubbished the second as being nowhere as good as the first. According to me, these people fall cleanly into two categories.
1. People who saw the first purely as a source of entertainment and were wowed by the “Bullet Time” sequences and the 360-degree swirls. I have just one advice for these people - lay of sci-fi noir and go back to Jackie Chan! You are stupid. And I bet that these people saw the movie just once and fast-forwarded the movie to the action sequences when watching on tape or DVD.

2. People who haven’t really grasped the message from the second movie. For you guys, my advice is watch the movie again or read a transcript of the exchange between the Architect and the One and think about the lines before deciding. Even better, wait for Revolutions and watch both movies again successively.

The problem with Reloaded is that this movie was not intended to be a separate ship by itself. My guess is that the Wachowskis bifurcated the sequel so that all loose ends can be tied up and the story could be conveyed in its entirety, at least by the end of Revolution. That has perhaps not won them admirers. Instead it has alienated some the most faithful admirers of the first movie. But then, as I said earlier, some people did not really understand the subtle messages in the first movie and were concentrating on the Kung fu. Duh….So Larry and Andy should not be disheartened and my guess is that they are not.

Some other interesting reads for a fellow Matrix freak:

* Newsweek's curtain raiser to Matrix Reloaded
* Real World Magazine's coverage of Matrix Reloaded
* Matrix Reloaded: The Architect's Speech Analyzed - a Google Group thread analyzing the exchange between Neo and the Architect.
* Matrix Reloaded - The Corporate Mofo Guide

I somehow missed the Matrix when it released in India. My guess is that this happened mainly because I was then in Thanjavur. This becomes even more apparent if I tell you that some examples of the movies I watched in Trichy and Thanjavur were pulp entertainers like “The Mummy”, “Anaconda”, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, “Wild Wild West” and “Jingle all the Way”. Mindless at best. In addition to the Matrix, I missed other movies like “American Beauty”, “Pulp Fiction” and that is sacrilege. However, I think I was lucky to have watched the Matrix on tape and that too at Bala’s continually re-watching those scenes where I missed lines and stuff. That way, I was truly able to identify the Matrix as the best seller it was after it had become the first movie to have notched up a million copies in DVD sales. Now that is interesting trivia!

QOTD: “Humph. Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness” – The Architect, responding to Neo’s apparent decision to save Trinity at the cost of Zion. (Matrix: Reloaded, 2003)

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