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1999s Science fiction film The Matrix was directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski. The film shows a future where the reality humans believe in is not actually real but is a simulated reality called the matrix, things are not as they seem. This simulated reality is created by sentient machines that are using the humans as an energy source. When the main character Neo (a computer programmer) comes to knowledge of the reality and “wakes up” he is guided by other people who have been freed from the “dream world” to rebel against the machines.
Watching the Matrix for first time I did not notice much association with postmodernism or the philosophy behind as I was taken back by the visual effects and action in the film. After taking a another looking at the film in more depth and with further analysis of the film, I could see the philosophical part and it was clearer that the film Matrix contains a lot references to the cyberpunk, philosophical and religious ideas and imagery that attempt to express the ideology of Bandrillard’s postmodern theory. In this analysis of the film I will discuss and focus on how postmodernism is shown threw out the film and I will all so focus on postmodern the reality just being a simulation. I will look at many of the philosophical ideas and problems raised by the film. For this I will be looking at the first film The Matrix not the squeals.
Postmodernism and the effects of it on the film
Postmodern and can be summed up as saying it is something that is no longer modern, “Postmodernism identifies itself by something it isn’t. It isn’t modern anymore”. The British artist John Watkins Chapman was the first to use the term Postmodernism. 1914-22 were the beginning of the posties which now and then showed up in the early 1960 in economics, literature, social thought and religion. So if Postmodernism isn’t modern no more then what is modern? What can you call modern? It was in the time of 1890s and 1900s where new technology came out a time which experienced innovation, a time of change. Modernism was grounded in the beliefs of the enlightenment. The film can be seen as postmodern not the entire film but the simulation part. Neo is fighting against a postmodern condition which is the simulation.
Plot Summary of the film The Matrix
The Matrix is about a character named Thomas A. Anderson who is also known in the film as Neo. He is a man who has been living two lives. First of all as a normal commuter programmer who pays his taxes on time just like society wants but by night time he becomes known as Neo the computer hacker. Neo later wakens in the film by Morpheus from the virtual simulation of the world in to the real world. Morpheus is also a computer hacker branded as a terrorist by the government. The real world which Neo is shown is nothing like the simulation he has just come from. In the real world humanity well most of the human race has been captured by a race of machines. The machines are controlling humans by imprisoning their minds with simulated reality which is called the Matrix. They are using the humans for there body heat, this body heat is what the machines live off.
Now as a rebel against the machines he has to fight them. Neo goes back to the Matrix and comes face to face with the agents. The agents are very advanced and powerful computer programs. The agent’s job is to find and stop Neo and any human that fights and rebels against the machines. Before Neo fights the agents he was given training to learn to use his new skill that he has just come to no to defeat the machines and become the saviour of humanity.
The matrix scene by scene on key points
Through out the movie there are many clues and hits given that this movie can be seen as a postmodern text. Not only does the film refer to postmodernism but it also makes a lot of references to religion, such as Christianity and Buddhism. The film also reveals the truth about the real world as it plays along giving you clues about it.
The film begins off with a conversation. At first all you see is a black screen with a square dot flashing like on a computer and of a call is being made. Next on the screen ‘call trans opt: received….’ appears and a conversation begins between to people. While on the screen you see numbers in green rolling down wards. At this point it seems that the colour green is of same importance and meaning. Later we come to understand that conversation is between Trinity and Cypher talking on the phone about Neo who they have been keeping and eye on and been watching what he has been doing. Their conversation quickly ends when they Trinity suspects something, what was happening was they were being traced by someone.
We are then taken into scene 1- Trinity in a jam and scene 2- impossible pursuit: In this scene Trinity is sitting alone in hotel room when police officers come crashing in to get her. She fights each of them unnatural strength and speed. When two agents joins the police in trying to capture her, she leads them on a chase on roof tops where she manages to jump unbelievable distance from one roof top to another and only the agents can follow, the police officers are left in shock and one of them even says “that’s impossible”. This clearly lets the audience know at this point that there is something not right with the world, there’s something going on. Near the end of the seen Trinity gets to a phone booth which starts ringing and has to get to it before the agent does with the truck he is in and planning to ram the phone booth with. She manages to get to the phone booth and as she answers it she disappears.
Scene 3- follow instructions: In this scene we meet Neo who is resting his head on the desk with the computer screen in front of him when suddenly he receives a message by an unknown person. Telling him ‘wake up…Neo…. The Matrix has you…’ Neo looks confused as he looks at the computer screen the messaging continues by telling him ‘follow the white rabbit’. Then a knock on the door , Neo opens the door and after a conversation Neo walks to his shelf picks up a book which is none other then Jean Baudrillards simulacra and simulation. This is the first hit the viewer is given that the film is about postmodernism. It shows the idea that postmodern reality as being just a simulation. It’s not the fact that he has the book that it shows postmodernism but the fact that the book has been hallowed out shows it is related to postmodernism.
The chapter that he opens the book to is chapter On Nihilism. The title of that chapter can be seen as a tip off of what’s to come. Nihilism- a denial of all real existence which the matrix can be seen as, humanity is in denial of the real existence which is the real world they haven’t woken up to. Nihilism- also as being a total rejection of established laws and institution. Neo later on in the film goes against the machines the simulation and there rules. In the chapter of Baudrillard book he talks about the existence of god. How if his presence is not felt then he does not exist. It’s about the awareness of simulation and what reality is. He even questions whether god exists or not. He describes the destruction of appearance and meaning. “… before the simulacrum of the materialist or idealist realization of the word in hyperreality (God is not dead, he has become hyperreal), there is no longer a theoretical or critical god to recognise his own”
Scene 4-The question: Neo is lead to a club after following the white bunny. In the club he meets Trinity and is told by her that his is in danger, “they are watching you Neo” during this part we no she talking about the agents she goes on to tell him that “your looking for him I know because I was once looking for the same thing and when he found me he told me I wasn’t really looking for him I was looking for an answer its the question that drives us Neo…. you know the question just as I did.” Neo replies “what is the Matrix” the al important question.
Scene 5- They’re coming for you: in this scene Neo receive a parcel at his work place, given to him in his cubical. He receives a cell phone which rings immediately once he opens the envelope. He answers the call it’s Morpheus who warns him. “They’re coming for you Neo…. unfortunately you and I have run out of time….and I don’t now what they are going to do” Neo sees the agents with the police and tries to escape from them guided by Morpheus who is still talking to him on the cell phone. Unable to escape Neo is captured by the agents.
Scene 6 – Unable to speak: In this scene we really get the sense of how powerful the agents are and what there are cable of doing. And how they want to control what goes on. They don’t want anyone coming in their way. In custody of the agents they offer Neo a clean slate by dismissing all the crimes he has committed as a hacker if he helps the agent catch Morpheus. Neo doesn’t corporate with the agents resulting in them sealing his mouth and insert a tracking device in to his belly button. He then suddenly wakes up in his own bed, making you question whether that was a dream or not. Morpheus calls Neo; this is where Neo is told by Morpheus that “you are the one Neo” and gives him a location to go to.
Scene7- Getting the bug out: In this scene we find out that it was not a dream but happened in reality. Neo gets into a car with Trinity where they remove the tracking bug. “We think your bugged” once removed Neo is shocked “Jesus Christ that thing is real”
Scene 8- Morpheus’ proposal- Scene 9- Down the rabbit hole: Neo meets Morpheus for the first time. Morpheus ; “I can see it in your eyes a you have a look of the man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up ironically this is not far from the truth” …… “………you are here because you now something… you feel it…that there’s something wrong with the world…” and then Morpheus answers the question we all want to know the question Neo has wanted to now which lead him here in this place. The reason for him being here in front of Morpheus gets answered. ” the Matrix is everywhere even now in this very room you can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television you can feel it when you go to work …..It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth”. Neo asks him what truth, Morpheus replies telling him that he is a slave born into a prison for your mind. Morpheus then presents Neo with the all important choice, he give a choice between two pills a red pill and blue pill. The blue pill “the story ends and you wake up in your bed like nothing happened.” The red pill “.you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes” Neo chooses to take the red pill.
Scene 10- Slimy rebirth: after taking the pill Neo wakes up in the real world. He wakes up in a pod surrounded by other humans in pods with IVs plugged in to his body and his head. He is then unplugged and taken down the pod into water where a machine arm picks him out of the water and to Morpheus, “welcome to the real world” In the religious theme this seen can be seen as Neo rebirth and him being batiste when he falls in the water so then Morpheus can be seen as John the Baptist as Morpheus was the one who prepares the way for one who will come after him.
Scene 11- Nebuchadnezzar’s crew: In this scene Neo is recovering. Morpheus tells to rest “.the answers are coming”
Scene 12- The real world: Neo wakes up in the real world, which doesn’t seem very pleasing to the eye. He finds out that he is not in the year 1999 but in 2199. Morpheus, “you believe it’s the year 1999 but in fact its closer to 2199 I can’t tell you exactly what year it is because we honestly don’t now” he then show Neo the ship, a Huber craft and introduces him to the crew. This is the first time we get to see a bit of the real world and where from they have been hacking into the Matrix. He meets Apar, Switch, Cypher, Tank, Dozer rand mouse and is then loaded into a computer program and shown what can be generated. In a religious theme this can be seen a brothers among dispels.
He is told by Morpheus that the world he new is just a simulation and is shown the real world. How Chicago now looks like which is all destroyed. Morpheus , “this is the world you world as it was known at the end of the twentieth century it exists only now as part of a neural interactive simulation that we call the matrix you have been living in a dream world Neo” he is then taken what Morpheus calls “the desert of the real”. We then enter in to Baudrilards vision. Neo is shown the real world which seems to no longer exist because the real world is covered up by a simulation. You can’t see it no more. “Simulation is no longer that of territory, a referential being, or substance. It is the generation by modes of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory precession of simulacra that engenders the territory…” And then we learn that there was a war between the humans and the machines that “scorched and burnt the sky …they were dependant on solar power they believed they would be able to survive with out a energy source …”the machines realized that they could use humans as a battery as long as humans didn’t now about. “And so they built a prison out of our past, wired it to our brains and turned us into slaves”.
Scene 13- the search is over: Neo is lying in his banker when he asks Morpheus “I can’t go back can I” Morpheus tells him he can’t go back and apologise for unplugging him at his age and then goes on to about a man. “when the matrix was first built there was a man born inside who had the ability to change what ever he wanted o remake the matrix as he thought fit it was he who freed the first of us told us the truth as long as the matrix exists human race will never be free after he died the oracle prophesied his return …..he coming would end the war….. I did what I did because I believe that search is over” Another religion which is referred to in this film and can been seen in this scene is Judaism. To be more pacific the brunch with Judaism called Gnosticism which believed in a saviour that would come and save mankind from illusory world which they were trapped in. This is what Morpheus is talking to Neo about; he believes Neo is that one.
Scene 14- Training begins: Neo meets with Tank for his training and is tod about Zeon the last human city. Neo starts his training by getting upload with fighting skills.
Scene 15- Morpheus and Neo matchup: Neo shows Morpheus his skill that he has just learnt by having a fighting match with Morpheus.
Scene 16 – First jump: “free your mind” Morpheus shows Neo how to make impossible jumps he is trying to get him to free his mind, once he can free his mind then he can do anything in the matrix. Neo doesn’t make his first jump as no one else has made the jump. This creates a doubt whether he is the one. “everybody falls the first time”.
Scene 17- the gatekeeper: In this scene Morpheus and Neo are walking threw training program which is made to look like they are in the matrix. “the matrix a system Neo that system is our enemy….what do you business men …the very mind of people we are trying to save but until we do these people are still part of the system and that makes them our enemy….” Morpheus is still talking when a women in a red dress walks by and Neo gets distracted. This is an example of simulacra, the lady in the red dress. She is a copy of someone who never existed originally.
Scene18- Running silent and deep: In this scene the ship comes in to trouble. There is another ship after them, it only has one purpose to search and destroy. So they the silent game until they leave which they do.
Scene19 – Dealing for bliss: scene where Cypher and Neo have a conversation about the matrix which he can see on the computer screen as codes. “I now what you’re thinking …actually I have been thinking it ever since I got here …. Why didn’t I take the blue pill” this reveals that Cypher doesn’t really want to be in the real world and regrets his choice ever since he made it and it made me think that this person could change sides just to be out of the real world and back to all the comforts in the simulation. It’s like what Jean Baudrillard said in his simulacra and simulation book on chapter on nihilism “from a Weltanschauung of decadence” Cypher is like those people who like to self indulge and cart handle the reality. Later in that seen after the conversation we see Cypher talking to an agent making a deal because he wants to be back in the simulation and enjoy the pleasures of it, he knows it’s not real but he rather have that then be on what is the harsh truth. “Ignorance is bliss” he makes the deal with the agents and tells them that he doesn’t want to remember anything.
Scene 20- off to the oracle: everyone gets together and are eating there food and Mouse is reminiscing about how food use to taste like in the simulation. “to deny our own impulse is to deny the very thing that makes us human” Neo is then taken to see the oracle. One the way to see her in the lifts Neo asks questions about the oracle where Morpheus tells him about her. “she is very old she has been with us since the beginning” “of the resistance she would say she knows enough” the conversation continues “that I would find the one”. he is then left waiting in a room with children to see the oracle.
Scene 21 – there is no spoon: Neo meets a chid who is bending the spoon. “do not try and bend the spoon that’s imposable instead only try to realise the truth there is no spoon.” The oracle then sees him they are having a conversation when she says “and don’t worry about the vase” Neo replies back saying what vase and has he turns drops the vase. Which makes us think that she can see ahead in time but then makes us rethink when she says “what’s really going to bake your noodle later on is would you still have broken it if I didn’t say anything” they continue talking where she goes on to say “being the one is just like being in love no one can tell you are in love you just now through and through…”she then goes on to check him “… you now what I am already going to say..”
Neo goes on to “I am not the one” and the oracle replies I am sorry kid.
Scene 22- choices….and a cookie: she then goes on to tell him that he will have to make a choice its either going to be his life or Morpheus, one of them will die and Neo will decide who. “are you sure you want to hear this Morpheus believes in you Neo ….he believes in so blindingly that his going to sacrifice his life to save yours” she gives him a cookie as he leaves.
Scene 23- 26 Glitch in the matrix, One left behind, Heroes unplugged and Cypher’s burnout:: Neo and Morpheus are on there way back to the telephone with the crew when they notice something is wrong, there is a glitch something has been changed. They have walked into a trap and the police and agent storm in. We now that this a betrayal set up by Cypher who made the deal with the agents. They all try escaping but the positions is given away and they come under attack and to save Neo Morpheus stay behind to fight while allowing Neo to escape. Morpheus gets captured. Cypher gets back to the real world and attacks the crew on the ship. Cypher talks to Trinity and they soon clean what he has been up to. He unplugs the rest of the crew killing them one by one, he then comes to Neo and has he is about to pull the plug he is attacked from behind and stopped. Neo and Trinity return to the ship.
Scene 27 – Matters of belief: Neo goes back to save Morpheus who is being tortured by the agents who are trying to break him. There are trying to break threw his mind to get the codes which will get them into Zeon and allow them to destroy the rest of humanity that is left.
Scene 28 – Virus to be cured: In this scene the agent lets as now how much he hates the human race and lets us not what he thinks of us. He see us like a virus.”….you humans do not you move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every recourse is consumed the only way you can survive is you spread to another area there is another organism that follows the same pattern you no what it is its a virus human beings are dieses a cancer of the plant and we are the cure”
Scene 29- Lobby shooting spree: Neo and Trinity burst into the building where Morpheus is being held and start the there rescue. In this scene we start to see what Neo is cable of. Neo and Trinity mange to take out grades standing in there way of getting to Morpheus. The lobby is cleared so then head straight to the roof top.
Scene 30 – Dodge this: When Neo comes face to face with an agent we realise how powerful Neo is and that is the one as he can move fast as the agents which no one has been able to do. Neo is on the roof top when he is met by an agent that he takes on and manages to doge the bullets but not completely as they graze me. Trinity finish the job off by shooting and blowing the agents head off.
Scene 31- gotcha: They then take the helicopter that’s on the roof top and head towards Morpheus. There a big shoot out between Neo and the agents, Neo manages to get Morpheus but they both are hanging on to the helicopters wire.
Scene 32- Rooftop rescue: They are dropped off on to a roof top as the helicopter has been hit. The helicopter is going down when Neo grabs on to the rope in the attempt to save Trinity who is still in the helicopter. She grabs the rope and detaches it from the helicopter; Neo manages to hold on to here. We the hear Tank acknowledge that Neo is the one and at this point any doubt that he isn’t the one is lifted. “I new it he’s the one” and then a conversation between Neo and Morpheus about the oracle at this point we now that the oracle was wrong, what she said did not happen. But what Morpheus says clears up the confusion and answers why what she said didn’t happen. “…she told you exactly what she wanted you to hear that’s all Neo soon or later your going to relies as I did there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path” but there’s two way you can take this that the oracle was purposely wrong to make Neo to do what he did just like she did with the vase. Which makes more scene why she did that with the vase and made him think about was it .the other that she was wrong.
Scene 33- 35 Subway showdown, “my name is Neo”, Sentinels attack: In this scene they are heading back to the exist point which is located at the subway. Morpheus and Trinity exist but the phone is destroyed by the agent, forcing Neo to face him. Neo chooses to fight rather then run. Neo fight the agent and get the upper hand and as he is about to leave the agent back so Neo runs to find the ringing phone. The chase leads Neo run through buildings where he runs through this one apartment and on the TV the prisoner is playing which is a series about paranoia and unreality. The chase continues. While Neo is being chased in the simulation in the real world sentinels are attacking the ship, making it a race against time for Neo. He has to be back on the ship before the sentinels get to them. “hurry Neo”
Scene 36- “He is the one”: Neo opens the door to where hear the phone ring and as he does an agent is there waiting with a gun pointing right at him. The agent shoots him more then several time and Neo goes down, we see in the real worlds his heart flat line. The agent confirms that he is dead. “check him” “he’s gone” Trinity is clearly upset and start talking to him. “Neo I am not a afraid anymore the oracle told me I will fall in love with that man the man that can be the one so you see you cant be dead…because I love you…” Neo then comes back to life it’s like his rebirth. When he gets up and stops all the bullets he see the matrix for what it really is, he sees it as codes as a computer. At the point Neo is fully a wake.
Scene 37- final connection: In this scene Neo shows that he is more powerful then the agents and defeats one of them by entering his body and destroying it from with in him making him explode. Neo returns back just in time. The film ends the way it began with a computer screen but this time its Neo talking “….I can fee you now I now that your faired… your afraid of change..I came here to tell you how its going to begin…I am going to show these people what you don’t want them to see I am going to show them a world with out you….a world where anything is possible.” The tables have turned Neo is letting the machines no that he is here to fight for what is real. Neo put the phone down and fly’s off into the sky.
Religion in Matrix
The matrix makes a lot of references to the religion Christianity and Buddhism and the Gnosticism and uses metaphors to this. The main metaphors used in the film are the cyberpunk, Neo as a messiah and of sleeping and humans as batteries. Before I go into detail with these three metaphors, I will discuss the names of the characters which hold meaning. The first character we meet trinity, her name just as name sake means the father, son, and Holy Spirit in the belief of Christianity and in the film is a reminder of religious significance. The name Morpheus is from ancient Greek, meaning shape referring to the shapes seen in dream and in the Greek mythology Morpheus was the god of dreams and it is Morpheus who wakes Neo up from the dream world in scene 8. Chyper whose name means Zero and Neo as one and the matrix is made up of zeros and ones.
Neo the chosen one
Neo has been referred to as being “the one” many times in the film. His name Neo means ‘new’ but his first name also has some meaning because in the New Testament of the bible Thomas was who doubted that Jesus had been raised and Anderson means son of man so Neo goes from a doubting dispel to the new son of man, this is one way to see Neo name another is that it can be seen as reborn as the name means new. And you can say Neo has been reborn when he comes out the pod, when he wakes up which is in scene 10 and even the scene title is suggesting this as it is called slimy rebirth. Neo is being seen as a messiah, there have been many comparison made between him and Christ and he has been referred to as Christ for example in scene 3 one of his buyers says “you’re my savour man, man. My own personal Jesus Christ.” Another example is when Neo gets shot, he is resurrected.
In the matrix cyber punks are computer hackers who are against the machines and hack in to the matrix. The film shows hacker Nostalgia which is done by the colour green, back in the days the computers use to display a back screen with green letters.
I have talked about all the key point in the film by going through the film seen by seen, I have discussed the religious reference made in the film and the metaphors used in the film. This film is one of my favourite films not just because of the action and special effects but because it made me think. This film makes you think about what is real, what do you call real, it makes you question your existence.
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