The Matrix Deciphered: From Code to Cult
A reflective article I had written up a while back for a fortnightly newspaper.
The box office hit ‘The Matrix’ which revolutionized the movie effects has created a milestone in film industry. Though known for the advance use of computer technology, it has left series of philosophical questions for the fans to ‘mind chow’ about. Here, Anupriy Kanti sets out to ‘decipher’ the reasons for its success and secrets.
…Neo touched the armchair slowly…the only object in the endless white zone. “This is…real?” Morpheus looked at him. A glint in his eyes sparked behind his pince-nez. “What is ‘real’? How do we define ‘real’? If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brains”…
So is Reality an illusion? Is it no different than our dreams, thoughts or perhaps emotion? Could the world around us actually be ‘Matrix’, a computer simulation designed to lull us humans into a feeling of complacency while our actual bodies are being harvested and used as batteries for the artificial intelligence we helped create?
The more one ponders upon these dubious questions, the more one realizes the difficulty of attaining the answers. The movie starts with a tight black-clad mysterious female hacker named Trinity’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) superhuman escape through a nameless city from some businesslike black suited ‘Agents’, who then decide to catch next target, Neo (Keanu Reeves).
Meanwhile strange events start happening in Neo’s life. From a message in his computer and a mysterious call from Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a deep-voiced man who strangely says that he has been looking for him for several years, to an unsuccessful escape from the Agents, he soon discovers that the world he lived in till now was a hoax, elaborate façade designed by malevolent machines to use the essence of human for generating power. He was ‘The One’ to destroy the system and bring salvation to human species with the help of Morpheus and Trinity.
The movie, directed by and brainchild of Wachowski brothers in 1999, was not just an ‘action flick’ for entertainment but a philosophical science-fiction bringing a revolutionizing change in film-fight sequences and mindset of many viewers regarding the outlook of the ‘reality’. The film earned $460 million worldwide, and became one of the most iconic and imitated films in recent memory. It portrays the amalgamation of creators’ love for the comic book and Japanese animation traditions, as well as reflecting an affinity with video game culture with stylistic elements including certain modes of framing and lighting, along with an emphasis on martial arts.
However this Matrix cult, which includes the sequels of Matrix trilogy, ‘Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘Matrix Revolution’ was mostly propagated and popular due to its prodigious action scenes and ‘the bullet time’ photography, in which the action slows down or freezes as the camera seems to circle 360 degrees around the characters.
The superhuman agility and strength of characters are show in slow motion and through multiple point of view, rather than blinding or confusing the audience with to much speed, thus giving them a ‘visual thrill of omniscience’ and sense of control and power over the temporal world of the film. By providing the luxury to watch the ‘split-second events’ over a longer time interval, we feel a sense of mastery over time.
One can go on analyzing, but the interesting question still remains: What is The Matrix? For that, I quote Morpheus “…Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself…”