The Matrix trilogy is famous for starting strong, then falling apart by the end. Will this happen again? We’ll see. After eleven years, the Matrix Resurrections comes out December 22, 2021. Now is the perfect time to look back at the original trilogy, starting with the first film, The Matrix (1999).
The Matrix series begins by following a computer hacker named Neo, who is led by a beautiful stranger into a forbidding underworld. There, “he discovers the shocking truth — the life he knows is the elaborate deception of an evil cyber-intelligence.” He had been searching for the mysterious Morpheus who defends a human civilization from attack by machines. Neo is horrified to discover from him that not only is the world he knows a false reality but that the AI entities have taken over the planet and are using humans as their source of energy.
Morpheus also tells him that it is his destiny to destroy the AI’s Matrix and restore humanity. He is given a choice between a red and a blue pill…
The film popularized the term “redpilled” to mean “discovery of uncomfortable facts.” A bluepill is one of the vast majority of humans who comfortably doesn’t realize the deception whereas a redpill is a rare one that has accepted the red pill (as opposed to the blue one), thus consenting to know the awful truth.
The machines believe that they are the Next Step in Evolution. In fact, Agent Smith, the main antagonist in the story, tells Morpheus during an interrogation, “Evolution, Morpheus, Evolution.” He compares humans to a virus, a virus for which he is the cure.
But the core of the story is about belief. Morpheus, believing that Neo is the one who will save them all, sacrifices himself to save him. And Neo believes the words of the Oracle who tells him that he must sacrifice himself to save Morpheus. A journey convinces Neo that he is indeed the appointed one, causing him to rise from the dead in a death-and-resurrection metaphor (“The Passion of Neo”) that is about as subtle a religious reference as an oncoming train…
But the movie is by no mean religious in a recognizable sense. There is distinct hint of hedonism: In order to be free, we must follow our impulses. As one of the crew members, Mouse, says, “To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”
Mouse’s idea is ridiculous when one thinks about it. Why do so many of these movies tell us that if we would just listen to what drives us in the physical world we’d transcend into a new reality?
Wouldn’t that merely keep us in the physical? Does it ever occur to these writers that our ability to resist our impulses is one of the things that makes us human? Who ever heard of a dog resisting its impulses without training? Man’s best friend can barely manage to keep from peeing on the rug.
And this is the trap that The Matrix series falls into in the later movies as well. The themes of faith and of a world outside our own all but vanish. By the time we reach the conclusion of the story, the hedonism morphs into outright nihilism.
In the end, The Matrix (1999) asks us to see that the false reality is authority, in general. That is a departure from Plato’s cave analogy. His idea was that our senses do not tell us the whole story. Instead, the movie conflates individual freedom with instinct, thereby telling us that our senses are all that really exist, a theme which conflicts internally with the ideas of the need for faith and of a world beyond our own.
Here’s the trailer for The Matrix: The Resurrections:
You may also wish to read: How can we be sure we are not just an ET’s simulation? A number of books and films are based on this Planetarium hypothesis. Should we believe it? We make a faith-based decision that logic and evidence together are reasonable guides to what is true. Logical possibility alone does not make an idea true.