::: tommy viola
Metaphilm's theologian in virtual residence takes another crack at interpreting Reloaded. Can you free your mind if the Matrix is really your own desire for salvation? ::: Click here to read the full text.
No no no, on a number of points.
First, you misunderstand me completely if you think I'm reading the film in a way that complies with a "world view" of my own. You should read the piece I've written for the two films myself, if you have the time:
There's a link from that short review to a full length scholarly article I've written as well. I try to be descriptive of the issues raised by the films without remaking them in my own image. I see both very influenced by Baudrillard, and while I respect his writing I'm hardly a follower of his.
But this is beside the point. It's a very big mistake to think the meaning of any work is primarily determined by authorial intent. The films don't mean, in other words, "what the WB's intend it to mean," only that, or even mainly that. Once they put a story out there it takes on a life of its own. They don't own the language or imagery they use to construct meaning -- they borrow it, in fact, from a number of religions, fictional sources, and philosophical sources that are very easily identified, in most cases. So the film's meaning didn't originate with them and it certainly doesn't end with them.
This statement from you, though, pre-supposes that your reading of the film is the same as the WB's. Do you have a specific reason to believe that, or are you just convinced you're right, so you assume that it must be the case? I think the latter, in which case you need to at least be open to the possibility that you may be mistaken. In previous discussions I've conceded what you said as a possibility, saying we'd just have to wait for the third film to know for sure. You sound very sure about it, though, so I think you're overstating your case. I'm not saying you don't have a point, or that what you say isn't a possibility, just that there's no way to be sure about it yet, and that there are problems with what you suggest as well.
(continued from above)
"Zion is as much a part of the Matrix as the Heart O' the City hotel, how else would the Architect have the power to recreate it after it was destroyed?"
This is a factual error. The Architect did not say -he- recreated Zion. He offered to allow Neo to leave with, I think, 24 women and 7 men and -they- could start another Zion.
Now, about Christ -- orthodox Christian belief is that Christ was simultaneously fully God and fully human. It's not like his physical body was a shell of some kind and his spirit/mind was from God. That's actually a very old heresy -- I don't recall the name. Christ had a fully human mind, fully human body, fully human spirit/soul, but wedded to that human spirit/soul was the second person of the trinity, the Logos. Calvin, in his _Institutes_, called this a "hypostatic union," asserting that Christ had a dual nature, both human and Divine. So this doesn't really work with your thesis about Neo.
I don't know, of course, how well versed the WBs are in traditional Christian theology. I don't think the film really gives us enough about Neo's nature for them to need to know much, though. Neo is human with special capabilities and is expected to function in some kind of savior role. If they really follow through with the Christ imagery, he'll die (well, he already did and already resurrected...but that wasn't the end of the story). So I'm really not sure where the WBs are going with their soteriology -- or even if they're going to continue to have one, as this latest Matrix article asked. By having Neo die and resurrect in the first film, the WBs are already going beyond the standard Christ story in the second and third by having him remain and active, present agent.
Of course there are real humans, somewhere. I'm just doubting that Neo is one of them. And think about it logically: if you have a 1% of humanity that doesn't accept the Matrix (a staggering number of people, if you think about it), wouldn't you give them an alternative, in order to keep them in the powerplant? Zion is as much a part of the Matrix as the Heart O' the City hotel, how else would the Architect have the power to recreate it after it was destroyed? Also, this fits into the Savior debate. Jesus had the body of a man and was susceptible to the same needs, desires, etc. of a man. However, he was still the direct descendant of God, he had the genetics of Mary, but the mind of God. Hence, he was not entirely human. This is the same with Neo, he has the same body as Trinity, Morpheus, or Zee (the sister of Tank and Dozer), but he is not a power plant, like they are. He is an anomaly, created by the system, that is why it is he who sees the Architect, not Morpheus or Trinity. The Oracle may have 'made up' the prophesy, but that doesn't mean that there is no 'One'. The Architect makes reference to the 'One', though not in those terms.
One thing you must always keep in mind while taking in fiction is that it takes place in a world completely separate to your own. Thus, the person who made up the story is the God of that world and the laws of physics, human thought, and existance conform to that person's desires for them. We tend to value fiction that closely resembles our own world, however, it remains completely unreasonable to expect a piece of fiction (especially Science-Fiction) to be in compliance at all, much less completely, with your own world view. The Wachowski Brothers are trying to communicate a series of ideas to us, if there are some holes in the complete picture as far as certain logistics which may or may not have anything to do with the idea exist, sua culpa, let it slide. Nobody rags on Homer for having Achilles' death blow come to his ankle when it would be extremely diffacult for someone to die from a blow to the ankle. All I'm saying is: try to see this movie from the perspective of the Wachowski Brothers. Only through the eyes of its creator can a creation be fully understood.
I am sorry if that seems disrespectful, but this a very personnal subject for me.
Red pill --
I think you're not allowing for limitations in perspective. Of course _all_ human beings are just "part of the program" from the point of view of the Architect -- does that mean we have to buy it? And consequently, does that mean Neo isn't human too, then?
Remember the primary reality set up in the first film was the machines needed to use humans as a power source because sunlight was blocked from the fact of the earth. So there would have to be "real humans" somewhere -- if that story is fiction and Zion is in the Matrix, why have a Matrix at all? Why not just kill all the humans and quit bothering? I think the thesis you keep insisting upon creates more problems than it solves, unless the WBs do some serious dancing around difficulties in the third film.
So I think you're missing a few things when you say this:
"The Architect said, in a round-about way,that the people in Zion were the 1% of humanity that didn't accept the programming of the Matrix because that is simply the way they are. Neo is comprised of left-over elements from the rest of the program, he isn't actually human, he's a
program, an anomaly within the system."
Yes, Neo is an anomaly in relationship to the system, and the voice of the system understands him in that way. Does that mean he can't have any other existence?
RE salvation and Christianity:
There's a passage in one of Paul's epistles that says "Christ is the savior of all men, especially those who believe." Many interpret that to mean the forgiveness for every single human being who has ever lived or ever will live was secured by Christ on the cross. We only participate, or receive the benefits of, that forgiveness when we've united ourselves to Christ by faith. So Christ is everyone's savior, even for those who reject him as savior. Those who reject him, though, won't have an unwanted salvation forced upon them.
Here's a question for the savior discussion: is someone a savior because they choose to save you or because you choose to be saved by them? Think about it, Jesus is the savior of Christians and Jews, without question, but is he the savior of those who would go to Hell? According the Christian theology, salvation from eternity in Hell is acquired by belief in and acceptance of Jesus (that's really abstract, I know, but I think it's an idea that is fairly clear to the general populace), so is Jesus the Savior of the world if the world rejects him? In turn, can Neo be the savior of humanity (those in the Matrix, because the freed-minds have already been saved) simply by his own choice or does he have to convince them to join him. If Neo destroys the Matrix, forcing humanity into the real-world (set aside the ' is Zion in the real world?' debate for a minute) is he any better than the Matrix?
On a completely differant, inconsequencial angle that keeps coming back to me as I read these posts about the link between 'The Matrix' and 'The Chronicles of Narnia': Wouldn't Monica Bellucci be really good as the White Witch?
The thesis of the film was obvious, to me, as I left the theater. Fate versus free-will. Maybe Neo wouldn't have broken the vase if the Oracle hadn't said anything, but did the Oracle have the option to say anything else? Causality brings a new idea into it: my actions will invariably cause a chain reaction that you can't fight. The Architect said, in a round-about way, that the people in Zion were the 1% of humanity that didn't accept the programming of the Matrix because that is simply the way they are. Neo is comprised of left-over elements from the rest of the program, he isn't actually human, he's a program, an anomaly within the system. Much like Smith and French-curses guy. His purpose is to destroy the Matrix, the inherant purpose of all renegade elements, the Oracle and the Architect did what they did in order to make him deny his purpose, as they had with the previous anomalies. This doesn't make them evil, just trying to survive. By choosing to save Trinity, Neo was actually giving into his purpose, his destiny, his fate, instead of denying it. Smith wanted to prevent Neo from entering the Architect's domain in order to rob him of his purpose, by denying him the choice. It was Trinity's fate to fall and die, that's the only way Neo could've had the dreams, and that's how the Oracle could've known. Perhaps, in the first, it was Neo's fate to break the vase and she said "Don't worry about the vase." in order to establish a level of percieved power.
Now, recall the discussion in the bowels of Zion between Neo and Anthony Zerbe. The difference between a useful machine and a dangerous machine was the humans' ability to turn it off. When we have the choice to turn it on and off, it is good, but when we reliquish that control (metaphorically relinquish control of our own destinies, relinquish choice) they become dangerous.
This idea is all over 'Reloaded': the scene in Zion when Neo and Trinity get out of the elevator and there are people offering Neo sacrifices; the scene with Persephone in the bathroom; and, of course, the infamous last scene with the sentinels. Am I the only one who sees this?
I appreciate the job this essay did in expanding upon and explaining the ideas in the previou one. I have to agree with Dan, though -- if this is what the WB's were saying in the second film, it isn't very original or even very new. It's actually, well, cliche. Since they make no claim to be Christian, why the expectations?
But I think the premise is still flawed. While the thesis is credible, we really don't know that Neo won't be a savior of sorts until after the third film is released. And is this really what was being said in the second film? In some ways, I agree, all bets were off in the second film since the Oracle was discovered to work for the system. That makes all the prophecies, well, questionable, since they were designed to get Neo to the Mainframe and integrate with it.
But at the same time Neo is still unquestionably a remarkably gifted person and at the end we see his abilities extend beyond what has been recognized as part of the Matrix so far. What does this mean?
Remember the scene in the first movie where Neo first met the Oracle? She told him to watch out for the vase, Neo knocked it over, and then she said that what would really bake his noodle later on is the question, "Would you have knocked it over if I hadn't said anything?" I think the Oracle intuitive abilities really give her the power of self fulfilling prophecies. If Neo really does defeat the computers at the end of the third film, then the film's thesis is that mechanisms of control are ultimately self defeating. And Neo, of course, would still be a savior.
I think the reality is that the thesis suggested by this article and the previous one exists in the films _alongside of_ salvation narratives, not in place of it.
Just making the WBs very confused people.
I won't know for sure, though, till the third film.
So basically this is an apology for the first one. It is as devoid of new ideas as many claim 'Reloaded' was. The point everyone has thus far failed to grasp is that the truth is not always, or ever, this brilliant epiphany that takes you on a ride through transcendantal spaces and finally into the realm of ultimate enlightenment. Most of the time, the truth is simply that: the truth. It is up to you what you do with it. Also, as I said in the discussion over at the brothers' interpretation: there are three stages to every question: what, why, where. 'The Matrix' answered 'What is the Matrix'. All 'Reloaded' was supposed to be was the answer to 'Why does the Matrix exist?', it did that, rather eloquantly, I think. And 'Revolutions' has but one "responsibility" inherant in it: to answer "Where is the Matrix?" Or rather explain the relationship between The Matrix, the world of Zion, and the real world. It's so easy to expect more than is there when the first step is so huge.
By the way, Echo, I like that. We are here to do what we are meant to do, and we know this is is true because we are meant to it. Nice.
So the point is...the Wachowski Bros don't have to make Neo into Aslan, they just need to be respectful of Aslan?
It's more than a little silly to get uptight because someone registers incredulity toward all salvation narratives and transcendence in general. This isn't exactly radical stuff anymore. The theologians have all been there long ago, and the folks concerned about increasing the number of the saved should provoke incredulity since they look more and more like any other materialist cult.
I don't like the idea that I am not in control. Unfortunately, I am only here to do what I am meant to do, and I know this because I am meant to know this. When do tickets go on sale for the next film? Guess I will go watch the Animatrix while I wait and try to figure this stuff out.
Tommy Viola takes the origal critique of the brothers to a new level and he is dead on. We have been scammed by two brilliant marketers named Wachowski.
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