The Desert of the Real

 Posted by on 15 May 2003 at 7:45 am  Uncategorized
May 152003


I agree with some of criticisms of Stephen Hunter’s (spoiler-heavy) review of The Matrix Reloaded. The politics of Zion, for example, really weren’t all that captivating. And we’re definitely stopped in the middle of a larger movie, which is frustrating. But his argument that the second movie lost touch with the first’s themes of “What is real? I am in control of my own life?” is just plain wrong. He writes:

Perhaps the most serious deficiency of “Reloaded” is conceptual. Possibly it couldn’t be helped. But at the core, the idea of what the Matrix meant — and it was that idea that drove the film to astonishing success and influence — isn’t truly reestablished here. I suppose the Wachowskis take it for granted and assume that we do as well, but that’s dangerous. It was so useful an idea, so resonant, an equal-opportunity delusion for the secret paranoids that all of us really are: that a secret screen of anti-reality had been imposed by a cabal of mechanical monsters to hide the elemental truth. We’re zombies, they drain our electricity, what we see is simply neural responses to pricks inside our brains.

Au contraire! Neo’s discovery of the true purpose of The One folds those same themes back on themselves. He and Morpheus and everyone else thought that unplugging from the Matrix left them securely in the Real World. They thought Zion was free and independent. But all is still merely an elaborate deception of the Matrix designed to maintain the dominance of the machines — but not in the obvious brain-in-a-vat way. And significantly, that plot twist resolves some of the deeply unsatisfactory ideas of the first movie, including fatalism and irrelevance of choice, the puzzle about source of Neo’s One-ness, and so on. The original themes of The Matrix are more subtle and twisted in Reloaded, but certainly very much still in force.

I won’t say more, as I don’t want to get into the details… go see the movie!


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