2 Stars – Disappointing
In the first of “The Matrix” films the Christian symbols were many: Prophecy predicted that “The One” would come and save people from lives of meaningless enslavement to the delusions of the matrix; Neo (Keanu Reeves), as the Christ-figure, both died and rose again through the love of Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) as he transcended the limitations of this computer-generated artificial life; Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) served as a forerunner preparing the way for the savior; The city to which the released persons had fled was named Zion; and the way people became released from their deluded existence was by making a choice, exercising their human freedom.
The use of Christian symbols and titles so prevalent within the first film is still used in the second film, “The Matrix Reloaded,” however, the Wachowski brothers who wrote and directed both films have stepped away from the resonance that many Christians experienced with the first film.
In this second of several films to come, the spirituality so affirmed by various imbedded symbols is given a twist that catches our attention and increases the complexity of the film, yet makes the spiritual message ambiguous. The first example of this is the worship in the temple.
Facing the imminent destruction of Zion by the machines that are warring against humans, Morpheus is invited by Councilor Dillard (Robin Nevin) to speak to the congregation within a great cavernous temple. Encouraging them to revel in the joy of their existence in the face of imminent peril, their worship becomes a sensuous orgy-dance. Faith or belief is not required, he explains, though he himself believes in the prophecies of The Oracle (Gloria Foster). To make sure we understand what is being worshipped, the film weaves the imagery of their dancing with the sexual union of Neo and Trinity, both reaching orgasmic climax.
Due to the complex turns of the plot that sets the stage for further matrix films to come, the meaning of this spiritual scene is not entirely clear. It could be that the film is limiting humanity to a sensual spirituality like pagan worship in ancient temples where intercourse with temple prostitutes was considered worship. But it could also be interpreted that the love of Trinity and Neo is expressed in a physical symbol of sexual union in order to portray a new union of complete love that finds strength enough to overcome the cold, passion-less calculations of the machines, indicating that love will overcome.
The archenemy in the first film, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), has himself become free from the matrix and duplicates himself in an attempt to gain power and control. But this symbol of evil is multiplied when we find out that the Matrix has many renegade programs that not only battle with one another as they hack into each other, but some have taken operating systems prisoner and are seeking their own mastery as well.
This suggestion that the artificial intelligence we are placing within our computers could also be expressing our lust for power and begin devouring each others programs is fascinating. It is even more interesting when the film brings the supreme human, Neo together with the supreme machine, The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis). Juxtaposing the spiritual necessity for human choice with the machines’ necessity for absolute control, their encounter produces a moment that is pivotal, not only in the lives of all humans, including Trinity, but also for the future. When Neo and the others retreat from the computer matrix into the “real world,” the power of Neo is experienced in a new way that sets the stage for the films to come. It is this power to stop actual machines and not just manipulate the programs that raises the message of the film to a whole new level of meaning.
- The film suggests that spirituality is most foundationally expressed through sensual pleasure. Do you agree with both that assessment and implication? If you disagree that this is the message, then how is spirituality expressed by the film?
- In the scene where Councilor Dillard takes Neo to the “engineering level” of Zion and explains that their lives are dependent on the machines to purify their water and provide them with air, he compares that with the machines that are warring against them. Neo suggests that the difference is that we control these machines and can turn them off. Yet the Councilor explains that if they did then they would all die. As we become dependent on machines to define our lives what do you believe this will do to our ability to be self-governing and have freedom of choice? Should we change the direction of our world in light of this?
- Do you believe that our computer programs are reflecting our “lust for power?” What will that do to our machines and to us?
- When the internet begins to enslave people in the virtual world of relationships, including virtual sex, what will this do to our ability to live in the real world? What “power” will we need to survive then?