My Unsolicited Dissertation on The Matrix, Part 3

26 11 2010

The Matrix Revolutions: Purpose

Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson, why, why do you persist?
Neo: Because I choose to.

The journey into fully realized humanity began with belief; the human being must unlock his/her power of self-determination by first overcoming doubt. Self-determination raises the question of choice; the human must choose exactly what kind of self will be determined. Compared to the exhilarating epiphany of unlocking belief, making choices is hard work. Naturally, the human seeks out a guiding principle to aid in making decisions– a purpose.

“Purpose” is another of those weighty words that repeats throughout the trilogy, but this one is spoken almost exclusively by Smith. Machines are always created with an external purpose. Every program in the Matrix has a specific role to play. Smith has gone rogue, making him a machine without a purpose. In fact his condition reflects that of a human being, brought into the world for no specific reason, forced to discover purpose for himself. Smith is deeply uncomfortable in this state. He cannot fathom existence without purpose. Cut off from the Architect’s plans, Smith gravitates to the basest motivations of all life forms: self-preservation and propagation.

Not all programs are incompatible with freedom. Some choose exile, living inside the Matrix without any external purpose. One might describe those programs as humanlike. But really, the story as a whole suggests that the divide between artificial intelligence and natural intelligence is meaningless. People may be courageous or cowardly, selfless or selfish, a willing cog or a rebellious monkey wrench, regardless of their chemical makeup (or lack thereof.)

Plenty of mistakes were made in the third film, both large and small. (First mistake: not beginning with a solo action by Trinity. Last mistake: not playing Rage Against the Machine over the end credits.) Reloaded took what had been established in the first film and upped the ante, giving us back doors, the army of Smiths, the Merovingian’s supernatural minions, and the freeway. Sadly, Revolutions fails to keep the ball rolling. The Matrix as an environment becomes tedious, and the action inside it pedestrian.

Where Revolutions finds new ground is in the Real World; Zion battling the squiddies, Niobe stunt-flying a hovercraft, Smith crossing over into a human body. Much of the Real World action has more in common with traditional sci-fi movies than with the original Matrix, but the war– and the story– has to move to the Real World to reach any kind of conclusion. The Real World is what the war is all about.

What really makes Revolutions worth watching are the character arcs. Relatively little screen time is given to the subtler human dramas, but for a sci-fi action franchise the characters are treated with rare sensitivity. Morpheus, a secondary character, goes through a transformation worthy of his own epic. He spends the third movie trying to cope with his loss of faith, which has carried him through all adversity, serving him like purpose serves Smith. When he and Neo part for the last time (Neo: It was an honor, sir. Morpheus: No, the honor is still mine) we see in Morpheus a man who has lost his external guiding principle, but found the same old indomitable will inside himself.

Neo and Trinity both find themselves on a path to self-sacrifice. They have played out their roles in the Matrix and come to a point beyond anything they could have previously imagined. Now they must go further, to confront the machine mainframe with their frail flesh-and-blood bodies. Trinity doesn’t expect to survive. She’s piloting the hovercraft into machine territory for Neo and for the human race. She receives the unexpected reward of a glimpse of blue sky, the only glimpse of the real sky that any human has had or will have for generations. In a split second, almost her last, she receives the prize that everyone is fighting for.

When Neo freezes the squiddies outside the Nebuchadnezzar, he enters the Train Station, a zone between the Matrix and the Mainframe. His friends rescue him, but Neo never really comes back all the way. Back in his body, he retreats from the others to think and plan in isolation. He has never found a comfortable role in the Real World, and finally may be incapable of dwelling in it. Trinity is the only link to humanity he can hold onto. Once she’s gone, he has no reason to look back.

For the most part, Neo’s showdown with Smith is pretty silly. For all the giant shockwaves their blows send out, it’s just not that interesting watching them hit each other. Especially knowing that both of them could be bending the simulated reality around them. The most interesting part is Smith grasping for purpose. Still unable to get past his most machinelike tendencies, Smith demands to know Neo’s reason for struggling so hard.

“Because I choose to,” Neo says. Purpose is a function of choice. Purpose is what we believe it to be. Belief, choice, and purpose are one and the same.




4 responses

2 01 2011

Belief, Choice and Purpose are not one and the same. That of course is my interpretation.

Purpose: is the reason we are all here, we all have an individual purpose that we are seeking. However, the problem in finding our purpose is that we are looking outside of the Self who is responsible for our purpose. Yes, it’s psychological and that’s where we’re headed. We are so stuck in the belief that there is an external world independent from us that we strive to find ourselves out there when the truth is there is no “out there” out there. I believe very much that this is the message the Matrix Trilogy is trying to convey.

Belief: on the other hand are all those “programs” that have been downloaded throughout our lives. Be it in religion, politics, schools, or what mom and pop have instilled in us. The question is what do WE (you and I) believe that we haven’t been taught by someone else. This is where we begin to truly get to know who we (Self) really is. Everything is belief and there is no such thing as actual truth. Truth lies within the Self not outside of us. Search all you want but I promise you, you will never find Truth outside of you. Should you choose to believe that it’s out there, then it’s a choice you’ve made and that choice is choosing to live within the Matrix. The Matrix is real. Quantum Physics has confirmed this. But then again, I can’t make you believe that.

Choice: Newtonian Science has suggested that everything happens with cause and effect but Quantum Physics says otherwise. A little theory called Relativity states that the observer (you and I) interact with so-called reality relative to how we’re observing reality but according to Newtonian Science (classical science) so-called reality interacts with us relative to it. With Quantum Physics, modern psychology and even Buddhism, the old paradigm of cause and effect has been put to rest. Psychologist C. G. Jung and Physicist Wolfgang Pauli discovered Synchronicity which is the exact opposite of Causality (cause and effect). Sycnchronicity suggests that WE are constantly creating things in our lives and it is by Choice alone that these things happen. Unfortunately, the western world has been conditioned to believe that things happen outside of us and we have no part in it. So basically, we’ve been conditioned to be victims of a reality that we (ourselves) are 100% responsible for.

3 01 2011

Hi Gerrit, thanks for the extensive and thoughtful comment! I’m still working (very slowly) on part 4, Truth. I hope you’ll be back for that.

31 01 2015

Oh the joys of the internest! I have been revisiting the Matrix and becoming better acquainted with the Wachowskis while waiting for the opening of Jupiter Ascending and came across your views from 2010. Nice!

1 02 2015

Thanks lightenup! I’m excited for Jupiter Ascending too. Maybe it’ll inspire me to finish part 4 of this whole Matrix thing…

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