There is no spoon: The Matrix Discussed

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by DarthMatter, Jul 4, 2007.

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  1. DarthMatter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2004
    star 3
    This is my first post in SFF, as I hoped others would want to talk about how deep the rabbit hole goes. The old threads on The Matrix series, in the Amphitheatre and here in SFF were great, but I hoped we could take another look at the Matrix feed, if you will. Just to get things rolling, let me quote what I'd proposed over in the Amphitheatre thread:

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    Each Matrix film is just as philosophical as another, it's just that they cover different areas and themes. Generally, they are about:
    M1 - Birth/Awareness (self)
    M2 - Life/Love (world)
    M3 - Death/Sacrifice (universe)

    ...and philosophically:
    M1 - Epistemology/Mind (self)
    M2 - Ethics/Morality (world)
    M3 - Ontology/Metaphysics (universe)

    There is a relatively complete and consistent, even Neo-Kantian, system of Philosophy described through the simulations within the movies, and the layers of metaphorical signposts from our cultures are prolific. The sequels are harder to get into, but just as rewarding. After all, the sequels couldn't just repeat the same Platonic-Cartesian mental reality puzzles from M1.

    ...Some fans seem to have wanted the first film to be remade two times, because that's what most sequels are, right? These films were written together as a true trilogy, and operate as a trilogy on many levels, beyond just the Lucas approach to trilogies as "acts" with repeated themes...there is actually much more going on philosophically in M2 and M3, but most people fail to notice it, because they seem to want more of the "brain in a vat" theory, as if that were the only thing about the Matrix or Philosophy in general, and as if the first film didn't drive the point home clearly enough.

    Beyond the entertainment layers, M2 and M3 are actually hard - hard to figure out, and perhaps, hard to appreciate by the mass culture. The first film is easy for anyone to understand and like, at least on the first few levels. I always remember what Cornell West said while filming Reloaded and Revolutions, something like: "There are 40 layers going on in these films. Some people only come away appreciating 1 or 5, others can appreciate all 40."

    ------

    So for SFF, I wanted to toss these ideas up for discussion, see what you think, and ask how you feel about The Matrix, now that almost 4 years has passed since the completion, over 8 since the first appeared. The hype is long gone, but Philosophy-types like me were all pretty excited by this series back in the day. Yet, there were connections for just about anybody, all kinds of views on what the story meant, and it's as relevant now as ever. What did you enjoy then, and what do you think now?
  2. jangoisadrunk Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2005
    star 4
    The war this thread is liable to start will rival the battle between humans and machines depicted in the Matrix films.

    I love the Matrix Trilogy and Revolutions is my favorite. I don't have much to say on the philosophy, however, as it's never been my central course of study at any level of learning. It sure did sound awesome when actors like Hugo Weaving read that stuff, however.

    Overall, I think it had a great story (that the first barely touched on - leading many to not expect, and therefore, not like where the other two movies went), good acting, and great special effects.

    And I liked the cave-rave. o_O

    Your move.
  3. DarthMatter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2004
    star 3
    Well, it's been a few days - I'm still waiting on the "war"... [face_batting]

    Yes, picking up on one of your points, one of the most common feelings is that the second and third films didn't repeat the first. People have said that to me literally - that the sequels should have repeated the first. I guess it's a curse arising from most film sequels these days, which do just that, not really advancing the overall story. Also, some filmgoers don't seem to like story endings, also due to the commercial film/book world, where popcorn sequels and spinoffs just seem to keep coming. The Matrix films followed classic story-telling, with a beginning, middle, and end, and due to the subject matter, I guess that's why some were uncomfortable with looking more deeply into it. Ironic, but people will be sheep...or in this case, blue pills.
  4. jangoisadrunk Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2005
    star 4
    Yeah, sorry. When I wrote that about a "war," I wrongly assumed more than 5 people per day posted on this board.

    This place is a ghost town. [face_plain]
  5. Angel_Blue Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 4, 2006
    star 2
    Oh, I love the Matrix Trilogy. I actually rewatched them just recently.

    I'm into philosophy (can't wait to take some classes in college) and one of the reasons I keep rewatching the movies is because I feel like I understand things better, or differently, each time.

    Have any of you seen a documentary called Return to Source about the philosophy of the Matrix?
  6. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    (Open Fire!!!)

    I never saw what all the fuss was about.
    given all the hype, I did eventually rent it to see if I'd just been in a bad mood or something the first time. Nope.

    Sub-par cyberpunk story with lots of wire-fu. Top that off with Keanu (Can't act worth a hill of beans) Reeves as the star and... It is indeed a sad day when your star actor makes Kevin Costner look like a virtuoso.
    Blech.

    As for all the philosophy and discovery of self, well...
    If you're in high-school, and someone hands you a 5th-grade homework assignment, does it seem deep? Is it chalk-a-block full of philisophical insights and guiding zen mysticism?

    No.

    Likewise, Matrix was a bunch of hype arround a mediocre movie with a heavy percussion bass beat.

    Likewise, people were blown away by CrouchingTiger/Hidden Dragon were people who hadn't seen much in the way of Hong-Kong cinema. Thus the massive discrepancy between the US reception (Wow) and the HK reception (ho-hum)

    I can't help but think that Matrix is the Blair Witch Project of scifi: All hype for no substance.

    No, I never saw the sequels. After the first one, I had no interest.

    The first shots have been fired across the bow... Where will it end?
    Will anyone actually read my obnoxious pontification? Who knows...
  7. jangoisadrunk Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2005
    star 4
    Finally!!

    Shields Up!

    Since I'm not a practicing philosopher or martial artist, that stuff sorta blew me away, but it was the story that made me love the trilogy. I'm a sucker for sci-fi. What can I say?
  8. AcklayComeHome Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2002
    star 7
    Good enough for me, I guess I'll continue never seeing the movies. :p
  9. Kwenn Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2001
    star 5
    The first film is a classic, and rightfully so. Massively pretentious and po-faced, yes, but still a great achievement, and a film that does encapsulate sheer "cool". I think "acting out the lobby sequence" is on many a geek's wishlist along with "invent the lightsaber". And even if Keanu's more than a little wooden, Hugo Weaving more than makes up for it by out-Men-In-Blacking Men in Black. Plus the philosophy side, which I won't embarass myself by delving into, but it's always cool to see the Hero's Journey resonating beyond Star Wars.

    The sequels, though, are awful. Well, maybe not awful -- the weapons fight in Reloaded is great, and I did enjoy most of the film first time round (back then the burly brawl looked less like an old-generation videogame) though the Architect as the end point of the film is just lame. By the time we reach the third, the kung-fu cool of the first film has become boring: personally, the best fight in the film is the one between Neo and Smith in the real world, because it's just that: real, not some pseudo-Dragonball Z nonsense. It gets far too "epic" and gorges itself on its own bloated legend. The ending's fairly neat, though (beyond the ridiculous one-up-manship of the final duel).

    It's a shame the last two were so poorly-executed, because it could have been the next generation-defining trilogy.
  10. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    It's not just that Keanu Reeves can't act... But he makes Kevin Costner, who couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag, who's first on-screen appearance was a corpse in an undertaker's display and who has been just as wooden ever since, look good in comparison.
    Keanu Reeves has an acting career because of his "personal relationships" with Mr Geffin of Geffin records. That's it.
    Most college undergrads are better actors. Heck, most RPG players are probablly better actors.

    If Reeves can be an actor, so can almost anyone who has graduated high-school, and many who haven't yet. Heck, look at the spikey-haired kid from American Pie. No movie experience, but within about 2 years he's in 4 or 5 movies, showing more acting and talent than Keanu has in 10-15 years.

    And as for the woman being the hot sexy babe... Not really. Maybe to internet nerds who have no experience with women at all, in which case anything is hot, but... Nope. Not seeing it.
  11. Darth_Maul_Sith_Lord Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2004
    star 4
    I love the Matrix, but I wouldn't call it a "true trilogy". The sequels, yes, were written together, as one film cut in two, but they messed it up by putting too much time between the first and second films. IMHO, the only "true trilogies" out there are LOTR series and Back to the Future, as each picks up right where the other left off, in true trilogy form.

    And I feel I must, once again defend Keanu... Look, the dude can act, he just has to be in his element. Look at Constantine, the Matrix, of course Bill and Ted's, and last but certainly not least, Point Break. All good movies, all starring Keanu. The man just has to avoid period pieces and characters with accents. I think he's finally come to realize that if he just plays himself, he'll be ok. After all, it seems to work out for Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino.

    Just my 2 cents...

    D_M_S_L
  12. AcklayComeHome Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2002
    star 7
    One has nothing to do with the other. ;)
  13. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    One: the only reason BttF is a trilogy is because the first movie was so successful. It seems to me that it is the foundation of the modern trilogy formula: make one good movie, write a horrible sequel and then a slightly better capstone to link it all together. Movies 2&3 written and where possible filmed at the same time. Indianna Jones was similar, but didn't have a bad 2nd part--just a poorly received one.

    Two: of the actors mentioned, Jack Nicholson is the only one I think actually can act (when he chooses too, which isn't very often). Keanu can play a surfer dude. That's about it.

    Some people say Tom Cruise can act. No. Tom Cruise can play an idiot or a narcicist, or both. Tom Cruise cannot make me believe for one moment that he's in love with anyone except himself. Tom Cruise has not improved as an actor since Risky Business (where he played an idiot). Even in Rainman (where he played an idiot), he made Dustin Hoffman look like a prize actor. Hoffman, like Pacino & De Niro, has a name with very little justification behind it.
  14. DarthMatter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2004
    star 3
    Like I said, the sequels are harder to figure out and appreciate by the mass culture. Still, I don't think you have to be a philosopher to get past the superficial complaints and see why the acting is wooden, why the fighting is redundant, why the legend consumes itself, and yes, why the trilogy is a true one. In short, "there is no spoon". Clues abound in all three films, especially M3, to the extent of there being no reality to things. Do you think Morpheus' speech about reality in M1 was only related to one little layer in one of the films??
  15. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    No, it was meant to be deep.
    It just wasn't very.

    Can't say about the sequels, as again, I never bothered.


    I don't think that the acting can be dismissed a superficial complaint. The actors are one of the primary mediums of telling the story. Otherwise it would be a book. Or a comic. If the lack of talent in your actors impedes suspension of disbelief, your movie is crippled from the get-go, and any message you might be trying to convey will suffer for it.
  16. Kwenn Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2001
    star 5
    I think that's kinda what I dislike about the whole philosophy of the films. Yes, Neo sacrificed himself to save Zion, but the final scene implies the whole sorry process is going to start over again, no matter how beautiful that new dawn is. Add in the whole "is anything real?" stuff, and it's not exactly the most inspiring of series. I much prefer the happy-go-lucky adventure of Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean over the "gritty cyberpunk" bleakness.
  17. Darth_Maul_Sith_Lord Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2004
    star 4
    Jeeze... I didn't realize that defending Keanu would start such an uproar. As I said it's just my opinion, that lately, the man has stepped it up, I don't cringe when I watch his movies now, I still cringe when I watch Hayden's godawful performances in both his PT flicks. When I watch the Matrix, I don't find myself wishing they had just cast somebody else as Neo, I do when I watch AOTC and ROTS.

    That being said, I still avoid Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Devil's Advocate Due to Keanu's Crappy performances in both. The guy needs to stick to his element, which is not limited to surfer flicks, although he's certainly good at that...


    D_M_S_L
  18. AcklayComeHome Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 27, 2002
    star 7
    Oldman's greatness > Reeves' crappiness :p

    Ooooon topic, I feel I should give the Matrix movies a chance. The first one at least. Just have to find a place to get it cheap.
  19. Darth_Maul_Sith_Lord Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2004
    star 4
    "Ooooon topic, I feel I should give the Matrix movies a chance. The first one at least. Just have to find a place to get it cheap."

    You've never seen the Matrix??? Wow, it's one of the greatest Sci-fi flicks ever. I put it right up there with SW and LOTR. You must check it out.

    D_M_S_L
  20. DarthMatter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2004
    star 3
    What uproar? What have the mods been doing to you people? ;)

    Kwenn, thanks, I see what you mean. But, the fact that Neo negotiated for peace means that the cycle was broken, and it really was a new dawn (incidentally, one never seen before, as Satie found her purpose). Sorry, but that much should be obvious. What I was getting at was that Neo figured out that he was always in a programmed reality, a matrix within a matrix within a matrix. Due to the establishment of AI in the story, we are led to think that the entire trilogy is an expansion of the kind of theme suggested in Bladerunner. To use that film's metaphor, only Neo figures out that he's a "replicant", and all the other characters do not. All of this this the point of the trilogy. It should make us question what we think is obvious, but further, question what we think is behind the obvious, and question what we think is behind that, too, because it might very well be another layer of simulation, too. To be blunt, even in 1999, it was clear that the "real world" wasn't real. How are those squiddies flying around like that so easily, so fluidly, when the ships rely on clunky hovercraft technology? Why, it's as if they weren't flying at all, but really following a programmed algorithm, don't you think??
  21. Kwenn Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2001
    star 5
    The Oracle is expecting to see Neo again -- I presume that to be a reference back to the "Ones" before Neo. And doesn't that sunset smack of the "perfect Matrix" that was a complete failure and required a restart? And as for the "real world" possibly not being "real"...where does it stop? I just don't care for this "questioning the meaning of reality" guff. If everything is a simulation, another level of control, doesn't that undermine, well, everything in the trilogy?
  22. DarthMatter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2004
    star 3
    The Oracle can't see past the choice she did not understand, and as a program, would have no reason to suspect anything beyond it. That goes for all the characters besides Neo, even Trinity and Morpheus, who all seem to be programs. It was a sunrise, and Satie, a new program, made it. These things are in the script directly. Where does it stop? That's the point - the programmed reality we live in (in the cities and developed world of jobs, SUVs, and phony people) never stops. There is always another lie (simulation) controlling us behind the lie we think we've uncovered. We are not free in a capitalist democracy, but only free to find Job A or Job B, in order to buy product A or product B. Even when we are, we are stuck within our own matrix of lies, or what Hume called the "Subjective Effect". Whatever may be beyond all these illusions is not the point of the story - the viewer is supposed to make that leap herself, from being a blue pill to understanding how to make her own reality. Layers of illusion undermines nothing in the story, because the story is an allegory of our own "reality". What it undermines is your sense of comfort with the normal, which is exactly what all great Art is meant to do.

    The fact that you don't like the message is exactly why the trilogy is so great. The next step is that you question your reality and learn how to become free, and no one can help you with that because as far as you are concerned within yourself, we're all programs. I'm surprised you didn't get all that. Sounds like you'd rather be a blue pill and stay enslaved, as Thomas Anderson? Or is it, that you're "so hoplessly enured", you'd rather fight to protect the simulation, rather than see beyond it? These are just examples, but illustrate the true morality play of the trilogy (which is what makes Reloaded so philosophical, based in Ethics), because it becomes an ethical question - is it right for someone to lie?, or to help protect a lie? Revolutions hinges on the idea that our purpose is bound up with our truth (Teleology). All of us must learn to sacrifice ourselves (stop liying about what's not real) in order to save everyone (drop the illusion handed to us and make our own reality). The Oracle and Neo make the sacrifice, but only Neo understands it fully: He's not coming back.
  23. jangoisadrunk Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 7, 2005
    star 4
    No, I think the real world was, in fact, real. The "one" was simply a program that could move between worlds and was created by the machines to facilitate a controlled destruction and rebirth of Zion which was required for the Matrix's continued existence. What we see in the Matrix Trilogy is the ultimate expression of both the facilitator (the One - Neo) and the program used to keep the facilitator from getting too powerful and unbalancing the delicate equation that keeps the current Matrix up and running (agent Smith). Unfortunately with each successive generation, both became more powerful with the final generation's versions actually possessing their own free will. This was both an unknown and unforeseen development from the Machine perspective who, in turn, faced total annihilation at the hands of a Smith with free will who wouldn't willingly submit to erasure. However, Neo, who retained most of his false human identity, was willing to do just that for the sake of his human brethren - but only in return for humanity's freedom to leave the Matrix if they wanted to. To the very pragmatic machine AI, this lower level of survivability was better than total annihilation. The Architect stated as much in the movie's final scene.

    As far as why Sentinels could glide fluidly along while Humans relied on clunky hover technology, the answer is simple: machine technology was not constrained by the lack of resources, both in material and in mind, that humanity faced.

    Now I'm not saying my interpretation is correct and yours isn't. As far as I'm concerned the reality of the Matrix Trilogy is whatever the viewer makes of it, and therein lies it's brilliance. The viewer is forced to make decisions about reality and free will similar those made by the principle characters in the movie.
  24. DarthMatter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2004
    star 3
    Well, as Morpheus said, you can believe whatever you want to believe. There is too much evidence right in the films, plain as it can be, to support the idea of the "real" world being real. Nowhere in the films is it shown how objects with no propulsion system can fly freely as sentinels and other machines do (especially the swarm from the Deux ex Machina). Why don't the characters themselves question this kind of impossible flight? Because they accept what they see (but Neo doesn't). After all, the sentinels (and other objects in M3) are machines, right? Machines can't float and glide around like that without propulsion and anti-gravity - that is why the Zion ships are shown the way they are, to provide a direct visual disconnect between they and the sentinels, and it was right there in the first film.

    But beyond that obvious clue, how about more. How is it that the Smith program can leave the matrix and inhabit Bane's mind, unless Bane's mind is just another program? How is it that Neo can possibly have matrix powers outside The Matrix, unless he's just inside another matrix? On what basis in Science is it that someone can send out a mega-joule EMP by thinking it? And, let's go back to the 1999 film again: On what basis is it that Mouse bleeds and dies physically because it happened in a simulation? How many video games can do this? Because Morpheus says so? We can think ourselves sick, of course, and many people do, but no mind we know of can possibly create gunshot wounds like that, and so it has to be depicting another layer of unreality.

    There's more. What Science in our physical world has proven that Orange/Red lights come from beneath visible things, and what about the little white-light spots within each strand of light, which move around in linear paths (not to mention the sound effect, too)? Physics has not shown this to be how our physical Universe works (no, infrared doesn't do that, either), meaning, those scenes certainly are not depicting the physical Universe we live in, shown through Science - not even magnetic, electrical, or quantum fields produce that specific effect, and even if they did (which they don't), what bodily reason allows Neo to able to feel it so distinctly?

    It is patently clear that the "real world" in the films is not "real", not in any way, or on any level. That's the whole point. You could argue that Science as we know it is an illusion, and to some extent, it's true. However, the films do not depict the most basic of observations we have about the world around us. The films depict a different "science" altogether, where the laws of Physics do not apply, even in the "real world". All of this leads back to the overall theme, in that what we choose to believe, is our own matrix telling us who we are. Anyone can question reality, but what if what you find is another layer of presentation? This is how the Cartesian Skepticism set up in the films gets so interesting, both within the film and in our own lives (and that's a whole big problem even Descartes had trouble solving).

    So, no, I don't think there's any reason at all to believe that the "real" is "real" in the films. It's all simulacra upon simulacra - the story demands it, and the story shows it. It's obvious. It's genius.
  25. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    When you refer to Blade Runner, do you mean the movie, or do you mean "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" by Philip K. Dick?
    Almost every movie based on his novels has absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with the source material. I think Paycheck is probablly the closest, and Total Recall the farthest removed.

    I only mention this, because most people have no idea what PKD's writing was actually like--they just assume that the movies are "spot-on accurate".
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