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Stephen Speicher

The Matrix (1999)

Rate this movie   32 votes

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In the realm of science fiction movies, this one is tops, second only to Star Wars. Like the later, however, there is a lot you just have to take if you are going to enjoy the movie at all. I had to swallow the fact that using humans as energy was about the dumbest idea I ever heard of. "combined with a form of fussion..." alright, I'll let you have that.

It was highly stylized, the story was right to the point with no superfluous diversions, and (suprisingly) almost entirely devoid of humor. This last being something that is sadly absent today where it seems you can't even get through a damned funeral without that seeming knee-jerk need to add a gawfaw in it.

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Taken as a separate film, it may be condemned on the many bad philosophical lessons that it can be viewed as trying to preach. However, taken as part of a trilogy and seen in the context of a larger vision that its creators originally had for it, all of those complaints fall away and what's left is an outstanding sci-fi film, with a great and very welcome emphasis on larger-than-life heroism.

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Again, another trilogy based on the mystic Joseph Campbells hero philosophy as illiterated in 'the hero with a thousand faces'.

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Again, another wonderful trilogy that, if taken in context, displays not only a great benevolence and good, but a wonderful moral story.

I gave it a 9 as an overall trilogy, and this movie itself an 8.

I am curious though if anyone has seen the Animatrix, and if so-what are your thoughts on that?

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Taken as a separate film, it may be condemned on the many bad philosophical lessons that it can be viewed as trying to preach. However, taken as part of a trilogy and seen in the context of a larger vision that its creators originally had for it, all of those complaints fall away and what's left is an outstanding sci-fi film, with a great and very welcome emphasis on larger-than-life heroism.

My view is just the opposite: the original movie has quite good philosophy and is complete on its own. The second and third are unnecessary as well as being no better than average fare for war/rebellion type films, and the philosophy of the third movie, especially as revealed at the end, is abysmal.

I have no idea what the creators intended, but that's how I interpret the films. (Being the one who submitted this for review, I was originally going to ask that the first one be discussed on its own terms, but I realized what a futile request that would be B)).

I'd be interested in your take on the first film's philosophy.

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In the realm of science fiction movies, this one is tops, second only to Star Wars.

I prefer it to Star Wars (even the original trilogy).
Like the later, however, there is a lot you just have to take if you are going to enjoy the movie at all. I had to swallow the fact that using humans as energy was about the dumbest idea I ever heard of.

Perhaps in terms of a realistically feasible technology, but as a metaphor for collectivism I think it's extremely effective.

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I prefer it to Star Wars (even the original trilogy).

Perhaps in terms of a realistically feasible technology, but as a metaphor for collectivism I think it's extremely effective.

I am not going to debate which one is better. To each his own on this account! B)

As your second point. That is what I meant. You just have to say: "ok guys, I'll buy that."

Taking the first movie by itself. I would say that it was philosophically very good from the following angle (which is in the film). They were fighting to get to reality, and would not accept the delusion as a substitute. They wanted "the real world".

This is gone from the sequels, especially the third. Basically the films end by saying that there is no way out, that all exits are closed. Ultimately, they failed in the quest which the first of the series was the object.

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I gave this one an 8. I really enjoyed the Matrix, but my level of enjoyment gradually diminished as the 2nd and 3rd parts of the trilogy came out. As a long-time sci-fi/fantasy story lover, I agree emphatically with Thoyd Loki that you really have to just suspend disbelief and accept the movies premise, far-fetched though it may be. That is the first step to enjoying this movie.

I am curious though if anyone has seen the Animatrix, and if so-what are your thoughts on that?

I have seen it, but I wasn't overly impressed. I was once a very big fan of anime, so I was excited when I heard about this "collection". After seeing it, I was somewhat disappointed, though I would still recommend it. My favorite segments in the collection were "The Flight of the Osiris" (the first one) and the two which more or less chronicled the history of man and the machines. There were a few others, which I didn't care for as much due to the story and the type of animation employed.

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I enjoyed some of the different graphic styles in the animatrix, but a lot of the stories and themes contradict a lot of what is implied in the movies, specifically the 2nd and 3rd.

I noticed something: The Merovingian, the French talking guy, is named after the Merovingian Kings of France (5th-8th century AD) who are, as the rumors go, support to be direct bloodline descendants of Christ. Merv, as Trinity affectionetly refers to him, must be intended as a previous version of the one from one of the 6th previous matrices, he was a beta trial of Neo! (note also, the very similar dress, the 'I was once like you' speech, and the wife desperate for a kiss of true love)

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Warning: This post contains spoilers about this movie and others in this trilogy.

I am not going to debate which one is better. To each his own on this account! B)

Of course. :)
As your second point. That is what I meant. You just have to say: "ok guys, I'll buy that."

Taking the first movie by itself. I would say that it was philosophically very good from the following angle (which is in the film). They were fighting to get to reality, and would not accept the delusion as a substitute. They wanted "the real world".

Exactly. And the first movie is awash in symbolism illustrating the evils of collectivist dictatorship and the quest to break free of it. Also, while clearly not Objectivist, most of that symbolism is very good. One of my favorite, rather subtle themes is that the people still in the Matrix believe that they are living in late 20th century America, with its supposed individualism and capitalism (such as Americans see those things nowadays), yet they are in the real world of the film actually trapped in the ultimate collectivist nightmare. Only the few main characters know the truth. Not a bad analogy to much of real real-world America (or, maybe closer, present-day Europe), and the place of rational thinkers in it.
This is gone from the sequels, especially the third. Basically the films end by saying that there is no way out, that all exits are closed. Ultimately, they failed in the quest which the first of the series was the object.

The final scene of the third film in which we learn that the Oracle is in cahoots with the bad guy (I forget the character's name), thereby saying that good and evil are in effect forever conspiring against a helpless humanity? It doesn't get more malevolent than that. Even a more generous interpretation, that good is forever fighting on humanity's behalf against evil (and I think that's about as much credit as you can give the ending), leaves human beings as helpless pawns in some eternal clash of the gods, not to mention leaving millions still trapped in a Matrix that has not really diminished at all while the "free" humans still struggle for survival underground and having to live the nightmare all over again once the present truce comes to its inevitable end.

In contrast, the end if the first film is very positive. Neo has all the ideas and abilities to enlighten the enslaved humans and bring down the ruling machines. What's needed next is for others, one by one, individually, to grasp the truth and act accordingly. Victory is certainly possible, if not certain. While I'm sure the creators of the film had no such thing in mind, it's a relatively close parallel to the situation of a certain philosopher about 50 years ago.

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Oo. Bad grammar in that post. Even typos! Not up to my usual standards. Sorry - haven't been sleeping well lately. B)

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I don't the point was Oracle & Architect were in cahoots; they simply can't exist without each other.

Perhaps. Compare that, though, to the Objectivist view that while evil is completely dependent on good for its existence, good has no need of evil. That's one of the primary reasons why I find the philosophy of the third movie so bad.

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BTW, my vote in this poll (a 9) is solely on the first movie, not the trilogy as a whole. Has anyone voted on the whole trilogy instead? Just curious.

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Perhaps. Compare that, though, to the Objectivist view that while evil is completely dependent on good for its existence, good has no need of evil. That's one of the primary reasons why I find the philosophy of the third movie so bad.

You have assumed that the Oracle and Architect are Good and Evil; I don't think it was intended that way - its more a human/machine, pure logic/emotion dichotomy, going back to bad star wars philosophy(!), the message was - it depends on perspectives.

I grant you a lot of the philosophy is highly questionable, and given the Wachowski brothers go out of their way to never talk about its meaning to anyone anyway, not even well defined. I've already mentioned that old mystic Campbell - his idea is that all religions and mythological stories, regardless of culture, can all be broken down to a basic set of myth templates and in his book 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' gives the barebones versions of them all.

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How is Architect evil? The only evil is Smith, and the whole point of the movies is that men and machines need not fight each other.

The first movie, on it's own, is completely horrible -- reality is unknowable, senses are unreliable, Neo someone who can defie the laws of reality through mystical means -- in short, a very bad version of Plato's metaphysics/epistemology enshrined in a blockbuster movie that makes such views sympathetic and popular (it actually did make those views very popular).

It is only in the context of the other two movies, the trilogy as a whole, that these bad aspects of the first movie can be waved away as not consistent with the directors' vision. I voted on the trilogy as a whole, not just the first movie. My favorite would probably be Reloaded, of the three.

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For all of the Matrix trying to be 'deep' and 'philosophical' (or at least its fanboys claiming it is), I don't think it really is. At its heart it's a heroic journey of the Campbell variety with some Christian allegory thrown in. There is some good in it, and I think piz makes some excellent points about what that good may be.

From a strictly esthetic point of view, the first film was truly groundbreaking. The visuals were like nothing anyone had ever seen before. I remember seeing it a few weeks before Star Wars, Episode I came out and being completely blown away.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

How is Architect evil? The only evil is Smith, and the whole point of the movies is that men and machines need not fight each other.

The Architect is the "leader" of the machines, who hold mankind enslaved in the Matrix. At the end of the third film, mankind is still enslaved in the Matrix - nothing has changed. I disagree that the point of the movies is that men and machines need not fight. The machines are totalitarians, and men are the slaves - there's every reason to fight, for freedom.
The first movie, on it's own, is completely horrible -- reality is unknowable, senses are unreliable, Neo someone who can defie the laws of reality through mystical means -- in short, a very bad version of Plato's metaphysics/epistemology enshrined in a blockbuster movie that makes such views sympathetic and popular (it actually did make those views very popular).

I don't know if the movie made those views popular (they were pretty popular before the movie), but I do think that anyone who took the movie that way completely missed the point. Neo cannot defy the laws of reality, he can only manipulate the Matrix on its own terms. Once disconnected from the Matrix, he can't violate reality at all. (He does violate reality in the second film, at one point apparently using in-Matrix powers in the real world, which is one of the things that made it hugely disappointing for me.)

The manipulation of the Matrix, I think, is a great representation of this quote from AS: "If you want to defeat any kind of vicious fraud—comply with it literally, adding nothing of your own to disguise its nature." Neo is saying, in effect, "OK, if these are the rules, then I'm going to follow them - literally. If Agents can move at super speed, so can I. I'll do exactly what they do - then try to stop me." He is complying with reality, not violating it. It's just that in the Matrix, that's reality, and Neo doesn't let the Agents maintain their "we can do things you can't" double standard.

I've heard it argued that the film upholds the invalid "brain in a box" idea, too. But I think it just uses that as another metaphor, this time meaning that, in order to survive, a totalitarian state must fake reality to the point where its subjects/victims fully believe the fake.

Almost all the things in this film that, taken literally, are at best silly and at worst bad philosophy, I see instead as mostly excellent metaphors. The second and third films get away from that, and fail to the extent that they do.

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(He does violate reality in the second film, at one point apparently using in-Matrix powers in the real world, which is one of the things that made it hugely disappointing for me.)

I thought the point was that the 'real world' of Zion was just a machine creation like the matrix Neo usually broke rules in.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

Neo cannot defy the laws of reality, he can only manipulate the Matrix on its own terms. Once disconnected from the Matrix, he can't violate reality at all.

By "reality" I mean the visible world of the 20th century. The whole point of the first movie, if disconnected from the story, is that we cannot trust our eyes, that we could all be dreaming, that the rules of our visible world (the laws of nature) are malleable and those that obey them are gullible, etc. It is essentially one part-Daoism another part-Platonism, all wrapped up in a blockbuster wrapper that makes these ideas respectable and appealing. You say you don't know whether the movie made these ideas respectable, but I have seen this movie many times, with many different friends, and I cannot tell you how many times they all inevitably have said in the end, "Maybe it really is true, maybe all this isn't real after all..." It's a horrible experience, every time.
(He does violate reality in the second film, at one point apparently using in-Matrix powers in the real world, which is one of the things that made it hugely disappointing for me.)
Yes he stopped a few the drones at the end of movie 2. But then he also stopped an entire army of them in movie 3, why didn't you use that as an example? And also, if all of this is as inexplicable as you say, why was Neo so confident at the end of third, that he would be able to stop the armies of the machines, and reach the mainframe alive? I think you're missing a huge chunk of the story here. There's nothing mystical about how Neo stops the drones at the end of Reloaded, and it is explained in Revolutions: since he is designed, by the machines, to have an intimate connection with the Matrix, he is thus permanently 'hardwired' to the machines and their computers. So what he did was, he 'connected' to the mainframe in his mind, and made the machines have a malfunction (and in 3, he made them all veritably explode). How does he 'connect' to the machines? I am assuming he doesn't, but that they permanently read his brain and obey the commands he thinks about, which is how he was able to manipulate the Matrix in the first place. So nothing disappointing there, quite the opposite -- a great arc of the grand plot that explains a whole lot and makes for great storytelling.

This concerns something Charles said as well: the world of Zion is definitely not a fake world. It is the real world. From hearing many people talk about this movie afterwards (all those friends I mentioned before) I think a lot of people misunderstand the plot of these three films; I was confused too, and took some time to sort it out. It's not intentionally confusing, but instead complicated because it's so intricate. I had to watch it a few times to appreciate all the intricacies, and I really recommend this for others as well.

Incidentally, I believe a second watching will clarify other things as well. For example, the movies do not end with the prospects of slavery for humans still unchanged. The machines begin the trilogy with utmost contempt for humans, but because of Neo's heroism, they end up respecting and admiring humanity. By the way the machines carry Neo's body in the end, with such uncharacteristic care and tenderness, we are led to believe that not only will they not want to destroy Zion any longer, but try to find a way to free the rest of mankind a well.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

By "reality" I mean the visible world of the 20th century. The whole point of the first movie, if disconnected from the story, is that we cannot trust our eyes, that we could all be dreaming, that the rules of our visible world (the laws of nature) are malleable and those that obey them are gullible, etc. It is essentially one part-Daoism another part-Platonism, all wrapped up in a blockbuster wrapper that makes these ideas respectable and appealing.

I'd agree with that if the movie didn't show that the 20th century world is not the real real world. But it's stated outright that those in the Matrix are living an illusion and that it's possible to overcome that. It's using the "brain in a box" as a metaphor for the illusion that must be imposed by totalitarian rulers.

At least, that's how I interpret it. I don't think there's a "correct" interpretation, if none has ever been offered by the filmmakers themselves. Which means that you and I will probably never come to agreement. :) We'll each think our interpretation is the more accurate. Oh, well - makes for some decent brain exercise...

You say you don't know whether the movie made these ideas respectable, but I have seen this movie many times, with many different friends, and I cannot tell you how many times they all inevitably have said in the end, "Maybe it really is true, maybe all this isn't real after all..." It's a horrible experience, every time.

Still, those ideas had been known and prevalent for a long time before The Matrix. As you said, all the way back to Plato, at least.
Yes he stopped a few the drones at the end of movie 2. But then he also stopped an entire army of them in movie 3, why didn't you use that as an example?

It just didn't occur to me at the time.
And also, if all of this is as inexplicable as you say, why was Neo so confident at the end of third, that he would be able to stop the armies of the machines, and reach the mainframe alive? I think you're missing a huge chunk of the story here.

Could be. I've discounted the second and third films ever since I saw them (only twice each, whereas I've seen the first one at least ten times). The inconsistency was so glaring to me.
There's nothing mystical about how Neo stops the drones at the end of Reloaded, and it is explained in Revolutions: since he is designed, by the machines, to have an intimate connection with the Matrix, he is thus permanently 'hardwired' to the machines and their computers. So what he did was, he 'connected' to the mainframe in his mind, and made the machines have a malfunction (and in 3, he made them all veritably explode). How does he 'connect' to the machines? I am assuming he doesn't, but that they permanently read his brain and obey the commands he thinks about, which is how he was able to manipulate the Matrix in the first place.

But that's not how he was able to manipulate the Matrix in the first film - he had to "jack in," connect his brain to the computer, to enter and manipulate the Matrix. When he does that without the plug in his brain, that's the mysticism I saw. There's none of that in the first movie.
So nothing disappointing there, quite the opposite -- a great arc of the grand plot that explains a whole lot and makes for great storytelling.

I see it as mystical (no plug in the brain), which makes it disappointing for me.
This concerns something Charles said as well: the world of Zion is definitely not a fake world. It is the real world. From hearing many people talk about this movie afterwards (all those friends I mentioned before) I think a lot of people misunderstand the plot of these three films; I was confused too, and took some time to sort it out. It's not intentionally confusing, but instead complicated because it's so intricate. I had to watch it a few times to appreciate all the intricacies, and I really recommend this for others as well.

I was never confused about what was the real world and what wasn't. When Neo used what I saw as mystical powers in the second film, I hoped for a moment that it would be explained by the real world turning out to be another level of the Matrix, which would have made everything consistent, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
Incidentally, I believe a second watching will clarify other things as well. For example, the movies do not end with the prospects of slavery for humans still unchanged. The machines begin the trilogy with utmost contempt for humans, but because of Neo's heroism, they end up respecting and admiring humanity. By the way the machines carry Neo's body in the end, with such uncharacteristic care and tenderness, we are led to believe that not only will they not want to destroy Zion any longer, but try to find a way to free the rest of mankind a well.

The Architect says in the second film that the whole "savior" thing replays itself over and over again, always with the same outcome. And that's exactly what happens. In the conversation at the end between the Architect and the Oracle, they say that some small number of humans will be released from the Matrix, but clearly the vast majority will not. Also, note that the machines now know where Zion is - what's to stop them from violating the "agreement" and wiping it out? I don't see why the machines should be trusted, and more than Stalin could be trusted.

The machines end up respecting Neo perhaps because he saved them from Smith, but because they will not be releasing much of anyone from the Matrix there's no reason to think they've changed their minds about humanity in general. What will happen to the machines if they destroy their power source? I just don't see anything hopeful about the end of the third film. And I still see a tremendous disconnect between the first and second films. The last two are consistent with each other, but totally inconsistent with the first.

(I also had that sense one sometimes gets about sequels, that they weren't planned but rather hastily put together, at least in terms of storyline and overall consistency, to take advantage of the success of an original. Ocean's 12 is a prime example - clearly only made because Ocean's 11 was excellent and did so well, with not much effort put into making it as good. There are exceptions to this - the Addams Family comedies, for example - but it happens a lot.)

I'll watch the second and third again (maybe I'll make a three-movie marathon of it) and give it more thought. When I find time, which is in short supply for me right now. B)

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

I guess your primary concern focuses on the lack of the plug in Neo's brain in movies 2 and 3 (you'll have to point out the other inconsistencies between 1 and 2/3, I don't see them). To answer that, I just think that the plug is an unnecessary factor here. It provides a focus of where in the machine world to connect into (the Matrix itself, vs the mainframe or anywhere else) and it is generally designed for average humans. Neo doesn't really need it, but jacks in in the first movie because he is at first treated like everyone else. Eventually we figure out that the machines are where he gets his power, and he realizes that too, seeing that the machines constantly scan his brain for what to do next. That's why he's so supremely confident in the end of 3, he knows the loophole they left for him.

Anyhow, yes in the end of 2 we do find out that the Matrix 'reboots', that Zion is destroyed periodically, and that the One is reborn every now and then, being a pawn of the machines. What made this time different was the fact that Smith went crazy and threatened to destroy the machines as well as the humans, at which point the machines were helpless and had to depend on the heroism of one man (Neo) to save them. Once he did save them, remember, they instantly retreated from Zion which was on the brink of being taken over; to me the message is clear: the war is over.

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I enjoyed all 3 of The Matrix movies. To me they represent a human struggle between reality and unreality. The key to that struggle is Neo's honesty.

Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

The Architect says in the second film that the whole "savior" thing replays itself over and over again, always with the same outcome. And that's exactly what happens. In the conversation at the end between the Architect and the Oracle, they say that some small number of humans will be released from the Matrix, but clearly the vast majority will not. Also, note that the machines now know where Zion is - what's to stop them from violating the "agreement" and wiping it out? I don't see why the machines should be trusted, and more than Stalin could be trusted.

There is no mention of any number of humans that will be freed from the Matrix. The word used by the Oracle at the end of the movie was "the others", in particular she was referring to those who know what the Matrix really is. I think her words were: "those who want out".

The machines have known where Zion is for quite some time. This is indicated by your own comments concerning The Architect: That this situation has played out many times. Specifically this is backed up in Reloaded when Neo meets The Architect.

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