Already, quite visibly and more or less with the acquiescence of all of us, the world is splitting up into the two or three huge super-states forecast in James Burnham’s Managerial Revolution. One cannot draw their exact boundaries as yet, but one can see more or less what areas they will comprise. And if the world does settle down into this pattern, it is likely that these vast states will be permanently at war with one another, though it will not necessarily be a very intensive or bloody kind of war. . . .
If these two or three super-states do establish themselves, not only will each of them be too big to be conquered, but they will be under no necessity to trade with one another, and in a position to prevent all contact between their nationals.
—George Orwell, Tribune, February 2, 1945
(three years before the publication of 1984)
the most inconclusive conclusion in the history of cinematic trilogies, the truth can be told: The Matrix trilogy is not a narrative film series. The Matrix trilogy does not have a beginning, middle, and end. The Matrix trilogy may please, confuse, and then really frustrate you (as expressed by the sequential mass of critical reviews), but this is largely a function of the blinders of cultural perception—that is, this mass of critical reviews comes from within Western, and specifically American, culture. But step outside the trilogy, and outside the parameters of those blinders, and look at the trilogy from the outside, and it becomes wonderfully, terribly, suddenly clear.
The Matrix trilogy is the first planetary experiment in marketing film as a universal medium to a global market. Film is the only medium powerful enough to simultaneously inspire and manipulate cultural consciousness, but with a project on this unprecedented scale the Matrix series is required to do two things above and beyond all other things a film must (and normally does) do—which explains in part why good storytelling is so conspicuously absent from the second two installments of the trilogy. These two things are (1) market The Matrix to the three major centers of global film audiences; and (2) do so by appealing to and appeasing the cultural baggage, religious history, and philosophical worldview of those respective cultures.
As George Orwell suggested in 1945, and then saw so presciently in 1948, the future would see a tripartite division of the planet into Oceania (America), Eurasia (Europe and the near-Mideast), and Eastasia (India and Asia). The Matrix trilogy, which up to now has referenced through intertextual reference or cinematic homage every other science-fiction oeuvre to date, has been conspicuously lacking any reference to 1984. Unless . . .
Unless you count the fact that Winston Smith faces his worst fear in Neo’s apartment, Room 101.
Unless you count the fact that the Wachowskis have realized the true gender of the system, that it’s not Big Brother watching you: The corporate-government-entertainment-surveillance state is actually Big Mother, and she is offering you an electronic teat of infantile satisfaction to keep you permanently childlike, nay fetus-like, blissfully ignorant in your womb of mass media, politically indifferent to everything but consumer price points.
Unless, finally, you realize that the Matrix trilogy is, in fact, not a consistent or coherent storyline from film one through film three, but is in fact three entirely separate stories, told for three entirely different markets, to reap and then control through future prediction (based on the current experimentation), the desires and fulfillments of the global film market.
The original Matrix film is aimed squarely at the heart of the Judeo-Christian mindset, which is why the film did so well in America and with worldwide Christianity. This is why the story has the classic Aristotelian narrative arc of set-up, crisis, resolution, and denouement with the savior figure arriving at the end. The medium is the message: by translating comic book moments through video game motion into cinematic eye-candy, the film succeeded by being the latest, coolest retelling of the greatest story ever told.
The Matrix: Reloaded, by contrast, was aimed squarely at the agnostic, atheist, and skeptical mindset—meaning the Europeans. This is why the Merovingian and his DaVinci Code crew of Gnostic followers were so very much into their smoking, their leather, their sex, and their raves. All of life is an experience, and we humans are merely “out of control” in our desires—including, it seemed, Neo and Trinity. This was the film in which Morpheus realized it was just a big delusion, and in which Sigmund Freud and Cornell West made guest appearances to rationalize the irrational side of our impulses. This was also why the film did not follow the linear narrative arc of the first one, opting instead for Nietzsche’s eternal return, why there were so many images of wheels within wheels, key cylinders, and suggestions of time loops within the story itself. If the first Matrix was the story of the new heaven, then Reloaded was set smack dab in the middle of hell, with Zion taking place as the last human city of carnal desire.
And then along comes Revolutions, and it strikes most American critics as revolting. But Revolutions is set in limbo, between the heaven and hell of the first two films, and is why the key scene at the Mobil (anagram of “limbo”) Ave. train station is so important, because here Neo is powerless compared to an old trainman who looks remarkably like Tom Waits. The philosophical power, and the film’s final scene, goes to the Indian girl Sati and her parents, who understand the Eastern mystical injunction that, you know, whatever.
If you doubt the economic interpretation, here’s the only real question to ask yourself: why would the film need to be simultaneously released, not merely on the same day, but at the same exact hour, all across the planet? Answer: because the investors knew how badly it sucked, and knew unequivocally that the only way to make a decent profit was to fool all the potential customers they could at the exact same time. In the age of instant messaging and cell phones, no reason to let even one disappointed fan warn his friends how badly they should avoid it. If there’s a sucker born every minute, then instant communication devices require marketers to maximize their profits by suckering each and every one of them at the exact same minute.
So here it is, in Marketing Chart Layout:
|New World Target||Oceania||Eurasia||Eastasia|
|Defining War of||WWI||WWII||War on Terrorism|
|Primary Film Market||United States||France||India|
|Religious Shell of||Christianity||Enlightenment||Hinduism|
|Major Plot device||Neo dies/resurrects||Trinity dies/resurrects||Trinity dies|
|Product Placement||FedEx, Nokia||Heineken, Coca-Cola (Powerade), Samsung, Cadillac||Tastee Wheat|
|Neo||I know kung fu||I can fly||I’m blind|
|Protagonist Inspired by||Jesus||Superman||Bruce Lee|
|Oracle||Have a cookie||Have a candy||Have a nice day|
|Agent Smith’s role||Enemy||Yin-Yang||Victory as Oracle|
|Nightlife||Dance Club||Zion Rave||Club Hell|
|Whoa||There is no spoon||There is no meaning||There is no conclusion|
rev. 11 Nov 2003