The Wachowski Brothers’ “The Matrix” trilogy is one of the most famous film trilogies of all time. The films present a dystopian future in which reality is manufactured by a virtual reality in which nearly all of humanity exists. The film has a staggering number of implications regarding reality and representation of reality. This sample movie review explores some of these dystopian themes in detail.
“The Matrix” and representations of the future
The movie “The Matrix” portrays a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most people, is actually a simulated reality called the matrix. A dystopia is the opposite of Utopia. War is being waged between machines, which have taken over the world, and rebel humans. The humans cut off sunlit power to the machinery in charge, and in retaliation, the machines now harvest humans at birth and pull bioelectricity from these bodies, hooked up in a giant human energy plant.
The humans are kept in an altered reality, living a life in their minds set in 1999. The dystopia theme, with its dehumanizing, totalitarian government, raises real-world issues regarding society, environment, religion, politics and technology that may become present in the future, has been popular in film and literature. Other examples are George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four, Terminator and the recently popular “Hunger Games” books and movie series.
Philosophical elements in the futuristic movie
“The Matrix” however stands out of this group with the focus placed on a philosophical perspective. Much has been said about the implications of the film, and the obvious relationship to philosophical origins and connections. The movie touches on ideas from philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard, Socrates, and religions, especially Christian symbolism.
This American-Australian Science fiction film was hugely popular. The original film won four Academy awards, and has produced a Matrix mega-industry with loyal fans and sequels (The Matrix Awards 1999). There are philosophical tones of realism and anti-realism within the movie. The connections between “The Matrix” and philosophy and religions have continued to be made from the day the film was released, on Easter weekend in 1999.
In the film, viewers can immediately see the connection to “Simulacra and Simulation”, the 1981 philosophical treatise written by Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard writes about Simulacra, copies that depict things that either had no reality, to begin with, or no longer have an original. Simulation is an imitation of the real world. Simultaneous existence is the hallmark of “The Matrix”. Baudrillard makes the argument that our current society has replaced real meaning with symbols and signs.
Our human experience is now just a simulation of reality (Baudrillard 1994). The theme of “The Matrix”, and the fact that Jean Baudrillard’s book “Simulacra and Simulation” was required reading for the actors in “The Matrix” prior to filming (Matrix 101).demonstrates the importance of Baudrillard’s writing, to the film.
Christian elements in “The Matrix”
“The Matrix” is many things, and you can find a relationship to Socrates life in the film as well. Irwin William compiled a group of essays on the cross-referencing of philosophy and “The Matrix” in the book “The Matrix and Philosophy. Welcome to the Desert of the Real”.
Irwin stated, “The story of Socrates, “an intellectual hero who continued on his quest despite opposition and ultimately paid for his noble defiance with his life” (Irwin 2002 p5) is similar to Neo in “The Matrix.”
“Socrates too is on a mission, mission from (the) god (Apollo) delivered via the Oracle at Delphi to his friend Chaerephon.” His mission is to “wake up” the people of his hometown of Athens. (Irwin 2002 p6)
The connections between philosophies are clear, and religion goes hand in hand. Christian symbolism is sprinkled throughout the movie as well. Nero has a friend named Trinity.
She tells Nero, “It’s the question that drives us. What is the Matrix?” What is the good life? (Matrix movie) It’s a question of knowledge. Is it worth leaving paradise for the truth?”
This theme goes directly to Adam-Eve and the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis.
Morpheus tells Nemo “You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes… Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more… Follow me…” (Matrix Script)
The movie clearly touches on ideas from philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard, Socrates and religions, especially Christian symbolism. People identify with the fear of a fascist controlling society, and the popularity of this theme continues in pop culture and our media.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print.
Irwin, William. The matrix and philosophy: welcome to the desert of the real. Chicago: Open Court, 2002. Print.
“The Matrix (1999) movie script – Screenplays for You.” Screenplays for You – free movie scripts and screenplays. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013. http://sfy.ru/?script=matrix_ts.
“The Matrix (1999) – Awards.” IMDb – Movies, TV and Celebrities. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/awards.
“The MATRIX 101 – Understanding The Books – Matrix ‘Inspirations’.” The MATRIX 101 – Understanding The Matrix Trilogy. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2013. http://thematrix101.com/books/inspirations.php.