November 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Essay: Summing Up: The Matrix Oeuvre
Review:
The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix is many things to many people. The word comes from the Latin for womb, and refers to giving birth, and is the source from which words like mother, matrilineal, and, of course, dominatrix, are derived. The Matrix was birthed as a core concept of science fiction by William Gibson, who contemporaneously coined the now almost ancient term “cyberspace” way back in 1983. Gibson was poorly served by Hollywood producers with the rights to Neuromancer, like Peter Hoffman, who never got the legendary novel on film, leaving the door open for the Wachowski brothers (writers and directors) to take the concept of a “consensual hallucination” experienced by millions of humans of virtual reality as the core of the future society to new heights. Gibson’s original concept of lines of light receding infinitely are worth recalling because The Matrix Revolution’s primary innovation

More SFRevu Matrix Coverage:    

Films:
The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Revolutions

Essays:
Summing Up: The Matrix Oeuvre
The Matrix - Greek for Geeks

Books: Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix by Glenn Yeffeth (ed}

In the movie The Matrix, the question “What is the Matrix?” was the point – so much that it was the name of the original website (www.whatisthematrix.com). As the smartest hundred million people on earth (probably including you) are aware from seeing the first film, the Matrix was a swirling pool in which VR (virtual reality) embodiments of humans interacted with humanoid and animaloid programs and physics that reacted like the real world, unless one was able to Focus and change the rules. Focusing enabled a select few to dodge bullets, fly, even resurrect the dead and copy one’s self.

In the four years between the first and second Matrix movies the Wachowski brothers were able to make not only two sequels shot in one mammoth work, but the video game, a number of explanatory animated works available on the Animatrix DVD, toys, music, and the 160 page Matrix comic book. The Animatrix includes (free, on the web) The Second Industrial Revolution, Part I and II. Part II is required viewing and gives the key back story necessary to understand why and how the machines won the war even after the humans blackened the sky.  The video game also offers greater insights into the Matrix world, and gives the player a sense of how Focus power grows with use.

The Matrix Reloaded could be called overhyped, but still delivered plenty to its audience, albeit to a cocky, even jaded audience of critics, including: a tour of Zion, the city buried deep in the earth, adventures with self-aware programs with powers and personality beyond those of Agents, a super-powered Agent Smith, a few love stories and love scenes, the ascendance of Neo as spiritual figure and heroic inspiration to much of the remaining humans, bigger martial arts fight scenes (including the burly brawl with dozens of Agent Smiths) and raising the stakes with drilling toward Zion, while ending with a cliffhanger.

The Matrix Revolutions is the best of the three, in part because of the astonishing special effects related to the machines and the information networks they live on, and in part because those who experienced the other aspects of the Matrix universe have grow to identify with and even care about the people of Zion, especially Neo, Morpheus and Trinity (and, if you played the game, Niobe and Ghost). Even Tank and the other secondary characters are more sympathetic this time around.

One more time: What is the Matrix? The Matrix is the best exploration and visualization that humans have made about the choices we can and will make to create seductive and addictive virtual realities, as well as machines that may start by serving us but may come to compete with us, and even make us serve them. As the school of writers relating to the emerging field of accelerating change all tell us, within twenty to forty years, computers and robots will have mental capabilities that vastly exceed those of humans, and thus will potentially be beyond our control.

The Matrix is a meeting ground for philosophers, religious scholars, engineers, video game junkies, futurists, escapists, architects, historians, to compare and contrast what is real and what is false (a discussion going back at least to Plato’s Parable of the Cave 2,500 years ago), what is within our choice and what is unchangeable destiny, and even whether one should believe in miracles. Yes, miracles do happen. The Matrix is proof of that – a miracle in celluloid and bits.

The Matrix body of work both cautions us about technology, and invites us to expand and grow our capabilities. While we don’t know how dangerous VR and AI will be, we also don’t know how wonderful the greatest among us will be either. In the face of extreme challenges, the Wachowskis show us that as long as one of us can rise to the challenge that we will survive anything. In there post-9/11 times, that’s the most important message, and gift, that any artist could give to the world. Neo lives!

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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