When Robert Gibson created the science-fiction subgenre known as “cyber-punk” in the novel NEUROMANCER most people had high hopes for this literary movement. This was because the concept of a technologically advanced corporatist dark future had a sense of realism that STAR TREK and STAR WARS missed. Yet, cinematic endeavors in cyber-punk never truly succeeded. Then, along came THE MATRIX which remains one of the most brilliant of the realistic science-fiction films ever devised.
Created by Larry and Andy Wachowski, the plot of THE MATRIX centers on a world where humans live in an internal pseudo-reality world where life is crafted to perfection. When the hero, Neo, discovers this he launches a rebellion against the machines that have placed humans into a suspended animation sleep. At the core of this rebellion is the theme of the film: if reality is not reality then does it have any value?
This can be seen as a metaphor for a number of ways in which humans numb themselves into alternative realities whether it is drugs, videogames, consumer culture et al. As such, THE MATRIX was the right movie for the right time and it has become a science-fiction masterpiece with millions of fans.
It would be difficult to discuss THE MATRIX without discussing the world in which the story takes place. (That is, THE MATRIX itself) Probably the most difficult aspect of creating science-fiction is making a believable world. Often, science-fiction crafts worlds that while entertaining simply aren’t believable.
This detracts greatly from the ability for the film to work. In THE MATRIX, we have an incredibly believable world because the “the world” exists almost exclusively in the mind. As such, the viewer becomes drawn into the story because there exist some credibility to the fact that the world of THE MATRIX could actually exist. This is the brilliance of THE MATRIX and what makes it such a classic work.
THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS is the third film in THE MATRIX TRILOGY (The less said about the second film the better) and it is a sweeping action-adventure film that seeks to bring a final conclusion to the series. The goal of the film is the same as the original film: dissolve alternative reality and bring humans to their original state.
This is what makes THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS such an excellent film. It centers on the notion of revolutionary struggle for a good cause. In a way, one could even see parallels to the American Revolution and other colonial liberation struggles and struggles against totalitarianism. As such, THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS becomes a thrilling and engaging film that taps into the natural human sentiment to be free. Yes, it takes place in a fantastic world but this does not make the film any less “real’. Well, perhaps this is not 100% accurate.
If there ever was a major flaw found in THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS it would be that the world of the story deviates from the earthen realness of the original film and delves into the “space opera” genre. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach although it does make the themes of the film less striking. However, the themes of “what makes a human” remain as the central focus of the film never deviates from the human struggle for self-actualization. That is a powerful theme no matter how it is presented.
Personally, I found the first film in the trilogy to be a brilliant exercise in science-fiction mainly because its mix of realism and surrealism made the film a unique experience. The shift to action-adventure in the third film was somewhat disappointing but the film was still a quality work. Ultimately, it is the themes that appealed to me the greatest and this is why I consider these two films seminal works in the science-fiction genre.
Hanley, Richard. (2006) “The Philosophy of THE MATRIX.” Retrieved April 15, 2008 from http://www.onwardoverland.com/matrix/philosophy.html#reflect
Takle, Brian. (2006) THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS EXPLAINED. Retrieved April 15, 2008, from http://wylfing.net/essays/matrix_revolutions.html