THE MATRIX

- Moive Review

Science Fiction/Fantasy and Action/Adventure

Rated R for sci-fi violence and language

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

Directed by: The Wachowsky Brothers

Produced by: Andrew Mason and Joel Silver

Written by: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski

Distributor: Warner Brothers

In the year 1999. To be more precise, people believe it is the Year 1999. In facts we are well into the middle of the twenty-first century. In addition, this is not the only reality concealed from us. The "creators" of artificial intelligence were caught unprepared while they were drunk on the extent of their accomplishments. There has been a great revolution-machine revolted against humanity and conquered life. Now we do not even have a system about whose corruptness and shortcomings we can complain. Yet we continue to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in our daily shifts, eat hamburgers while watching television, and attend parties. Children are still being born, and the sun still rises and sets.

However, none of this really exists, for only the "Matrix" exists. This "Matrix" is the name of a dream from which we cannot awake. It also is a three-dimensional curtain pulled between reality and humanity. With your fork-actually your fork does not exist either-you can still feel the taste of a nonexistent slice of meat. Tiredness, disappointment, and sorrow are all possible, along with the signals they send to your brain, most of which they already own.

Unless you believe "ignorance is a virtue," like someone who realizes the difficulty of "knowing" does after he or she has known, you would like to learn. Yet, you also realize immediately that knowing this particular truth does not exalt you. This is neither an auto-criticism nor a suggested solution, but rather a knowledge that you will not be able to relate to others with extravagant praise or mention in every meeting or social gathering.

In fact, you would prefer not to know it at all: Matrix is the name of a computer program that is animated as if it is "life." In reality, our bodies are connected to metal basins, and cables of various sizes are plugged into us. Our life lasts only as long as (the lifetime of the "battery." We are planted on electronic fields, harvested and fed "until we exhaust" the battery. We are walking around with large plap-ins,which provide our connection with the machine, located at the back of our heads. Only those few who were born naturally have seen the world in which real parents exist, known in the movie as "Zion," and do not have plug-ins. Zion is the only place that the electronic barbarians cannot enter, which is why the ruthless guards of the Matrix are trying so hard to find its coordinates.

THE CHOSEN MAN

Thomas Anderson is a computer geek who works for a software company during the day and spends his nights as a computer hacker known as "Neo." There is a truth that he has been trying to find for a long time: Is his life somehow being controlled? He is after "Morpheus," whose name is usually uttered as if he were a terrorist. Neo feels that this man is somehow connected to his problems and can provide him some answers. Morpheus gets in touch with Neo through his assistant "Trinity."

When they finally meet, Morpheus promises to show Neo "the truth," of which even minute parts are invaluable. Now, faith is the power that reality cannot deny. Neglecting humanity's fragile nature, men and women built the Machine and will defeat it to the extent that they can free their thoughts from it. Is Neo the awaited savior? If so, what will he promise to humanity? Unless they are killed at the instant they "awaken," will he promise the underground breakfasts consisting of mossy oats at best? In place of a joyful but unreal world, can he promise a dark but real world?

ELECTRONIC SCIENCE FICTION

Finally, a science fiction movie that can be viewed with enjoyment and suspense, one that is graded "A" despite its shortcomings. In The Matrix, the dose of excitement, long and technical dialogues, and contrasts are properly blended. The fighting scenes, modeled after Asian action movies and modernized in a computer environment, have been transformed into a public demonstration by the aesthetic style of the Wachowsky brothers. They do not hesitate to use such scenes, for they know that even viewers who do not like such action and fighting scenes will appreciate the results. With cameras that can shoot 12,000 clips per second, with actors seemingly almost independent of gravity, these fighting scenes seem like dances conforming to the movie's theme, rather than brutal fights.

The movie moves smoothly between prologue and awakening, development and meeting, result and struggle, and conclusion. Among the cool, black-clad men and women with sunglasses, Reeves, Fishburne, and Moss have peculiar facial expressions. But the movie itself has a power beyond its individual components. One example of this is how the camera approaches objects: In one scene, the camera is located right under the helicopter and window from which a gun is being fired. Both action areas can be seen, yet the focus is on cartridges seemingly suspended in the air and then gradually gliding to the ground

As a matter of fact, the question: "Seeing that this electronic mechanism fools man and condemns him to a virtual life, to a dream from which awakening is impossible, could not man be deceived by a better view of 1999 rather than the present one?" is answered before long. Agent Smith accidentally lets the cat out of the bag when he has cornered Morpheus: "We wished a better world for man, but man defines his essence with such misery and sorrow that these designs were rejected by human conscious in the experiments."

The martial-art figures borrowed from Asia give the impression that this struggle to awaken humanity carries a deeper philosophy, yet only in the movie's second half is this suspicion confirmed. But it is impossible not to notice the symbolic supports of the Bible and Greek mythology, which are layered one inside the other and pervade the movie's life and imagery. The relationship of "Trinity" to the Bible is self-evident. Moreover, "Neo" (like his name, he also is "new") ascends to his own "reality" under the protective wings of "Morpheus" (the Greek god of dreams), who heals the mental and physical harm caused by switching from one world to another. Trinity Morpheus, and Neo form a sacred trio who know the "truth" and partially own the mechanism to alter it. They are striving to benefit a humanity corrupted by its own faults, while at the same time being fully aware that they really do not have more than just their belief. Until he experiments with the limits of his powers to learn if he is the "Chosen One" or not, Neo continues to learn. A female soothsayer wants him to sacrifice himself. After all, is there any other savior for humanity, who became arrogant because of its accomplishments but lost the struggle against evil forces and was enslaved, other than a "Chosen One"?

A BROTHER TO LEM

I do not know how much of The Matrix is inspired by the science fiction work of Polish author Stanislaw Lem. But the theme of living in a fake world as if alive, which came to the public agenda with such books as Strangers by Day (by Vicki Malones, 1984) and movies as Dark City (written by Frank Lauria, 1998, the movie version released on February 27, 1998), or the theme of an existing dark reality contrary to the present make-believe world-in other words the theme of illusion-simulation-is not so new.

The Matrix's story-line bears a considerable resemblance to a book written in the 1970s by Lem, who is considered to be the genius of science fiction. But rather than eulogies, Lem delicately criticizes science. He foresaw humanity's misfortunes and degeneration years ago. He touches on the results of inventions and discoveries in his future tableaus, rather than becoming carelessly intoxicated by them, and analyzes our greed and inordinate desires via scientific diagnoses and terms. Lem fictionalizes a virtual world similar to The Matrix in his 1974 novel The Futurological Congress.

The story goes like this: After a space voyage, Ijon Tichy finds himself in an advanced twenty-first century civilization. He tries to understand the age in which he lives and what he missed while asleep in the shuttle. In this new age, people can assume any temperament they want via chemical stimulants, store in their brains any information they want to by means of drugs, torment those they hate in their virtual worlds, travel, and participate in any virtual fantasy. In this "democracy," such serious social problems as prejudice and racial discrimination are solved by chemicals. Opportunities are endless. There are firms to decide things for you, fight your fights, even to satisfy your religious sentiments. In short, this society has an ultra-free market economy.

Ijon comes across a Professor Trottelreiner, whom he had known long ago and who was sent to sleep in a spaceship like himself. He shows Ijon more than he wants to know by giving him a bottle of fragrance to smell. The scent emitted from the bottle shows reality to Ijon. The eye-catching restaurant coated with Italian tile, and the palm trees are transformed into a coarse underground shelter. The pheasant they are eating is, in fact, a porridge that has a grayish-brown vomit-like color, because the last pheasant died 25 years ago. The palm tree is really the rubber underwear of the man living in the upper shelf, which in reality is too narrow. People inhabit an incredibly overcrowded world, and forks and knives are made of tin.

Worse than that, Ijon understands why people are always red and out of breath: There are no elevators, so people reach the ninth and tenth floors by climbing up elevator cords. The chemical empire has already started to transform them, for most people now have stained and discolored skins, longer ears, and scaly backs. All seen images and used chemicals conceal the already demolished system of the planet, on which more than 20 billion people live. The air we breathe is full of camouflage mascots, reality is hidden under layers of chemical products, and humanity is rescued superficially from the reality of poverty and misery!

The Matrix is a movie that should be seen more than once. The Wachowsky brothers took into consideration not only aesthetic styles, but also commercial worries by meeting the expectations of an average sci-fi viewer and then combining both issues on the same platform. After the Coen and Taviani brothers, it is possible to say that the Wachowsky brothers, who managed to attract interest with their previous movie Bound, have opened a respected room in the cinema for themselves with The Matrix. We can only hope that the sequels, already rumored to be coming soon, will be just as good.

The best side of the movie is the Matrix paranoia itself, which is even scary to say. The Matrix gains importance when the uncontrolled life is faced with the reality of existence, the purpose of which is almost forgotten. It gains importance by becoming the new name for alienation, enslavement, and enumeration. Everything is assigned a number, including people. Our identification and accomplishments, everything we do, is specified with statistics and numbers, which have more value than the individual in the twenty-first century.

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