The Matrix Trilogy as a Social Dystopia
In 1999, people expected the end of the world in different ways. Someone bought salt and matches, someone was digging a bunker, and the Wachowski sisters (then still brothers) shot the first film of the Matrix trilogy. They managed to fuse comic book aesthetics and the philosophy of a serious sci-fi dystopia, bring fashion to the style of “cyber-punk” and create one of the most famous movie characters in the world – Neo.
Who is Neo?
The first film “The Matrix” makes us remember all the ancient prophecies, starting with the biblical; at every step we are told that Neo is a hero, the Chosen One, called upon to save humanity from the world of machines. The first episode of the trilogy convinces us of this, the second “The Matrix Reloaded” is disappointing, the third “The Matrix: Revolution” – fills Neo’s messianic role with special meaning. But who is he, the savior of humanity in the era of machines?
A young man named Thomas Anderson works during the day as a programmer in a reputable company, and at night he hacks into computers, wielding the hacker nickname Neo. This is the image of a typical fighter against the system, a lone underground fighter who lacks his own “partisan cell”. And soon she is – in the form of a group of Morpheus, a rebel who is used to holding weapons heavier than a computer mouse in his hands.
Morpheus drags Neo along, takes him beyond the Matrix into the real world. Symbolically, this means a break with the system, disobedience to the authorities, an open transition to the side of the terrorist insurgents. But the name of Morpheus is too similar to the name of the ancient Greek god of sleep. This is a symbol of deception – Neo is still in a dream, he has not freed himself, although he does not know it.
Neo initially resists the imposed role of the messiah; but then assumes responsibility for the future of humanity. He is ready to fight the system, he is ready to fight the Matrix, he believes in saving the world. But the second and third parts of the “Matrix” trilogy bring down a terrible truth on Neo’s head: he is the same cog in the huge machine of the universe, like everyone else, his actions are programmed, foreseen, and he has to conclude an agreement with the Main Computer, which he wanted to destroy , and even act at the same time with him. This also fits into the usual scheme of social revolutions – sooner or later the leaders of the resistance become disillusioned with their ideals and bow to the system that they were so eager to break.
What is the Matrix?
The Matrix is a substitute for reality, a virtual surrogate. The computer gives people a fake life, proving that it has learned very well the character of its creators and even adopted their worst features. Artificial intelligence has taken over the reins of a lax human civilization. In fact, people themselves are to blame: they have turned from personalities into “users”, from an independent biological species into batteries, a raw material appendage of gadgets, and one can only marvel at the brilliant insight of the scriptwriters who foresaw the development of the situation that we are seeing now.
Even the Oracle, the prophetess whom Morpheus so sincerely believes, is one of the programs. She is as much a part of the Matrix, as agents chasing the rebels, as Neo’s formidable enemy – Agent Smith, a computer virus that rebelled against both humans and machines. In these complex relationships, there is also a clear social and psychological meaning: any system gives rise to antagonists, both external and internal. Fortunately for the Master Computer, Neo and Smith did not agree with each other; Neo realized that Smith’s victory would lead to even worse consequences: he would indeed destroy the Matrix, but he would destroy the human race too.
The architect, the author of the Matrix, once tried to create an ideal world for humanity, but in the end it was far from the best option. The biblical shades of the Architect’s image are undeniable: this is the God of artificial intelligence, acting in two worlds at once: real and virtual. It is he who explains to Neo that there is no prophecy, and his task is to reboot the Matrix. Morpheus’ Rebel Group is a special self-regulation mechanism for the Matrix that must find errors in its current version. The destruction of this auxiliary tool is preprogrammed. There will be no victorious outcome.
This thought also reflects one of the laws of the social and political history of mankind: very many terrorists were secretly contained by the state itself, its ruling elites, in order to reveal the mood of the people and through such controlled groups to find and expose real opponents of the ruling system.
What is the psychological innovation of the trilogy?
In the trilogy “The Matrix”, the main dream of mankind, for the sake of which so many feats and crimes have been committed, is deliberately turned upside down: the desire for a brighter future. The end of the world has already happened, and we must live with it. The main question facing the heroes is whether it is necessary to leave the cozy, lulling, comfortable world of the Matrix for the sake of a terrible reality? Will humanity want to give up comfort for the sake of independence?
In fact, the new messiah of the computer era is calling people not forward to the longed-for “bright future”, but back, in the old days, when they were not appendages to computers. Will a person be able to turn away from the gifts of the Matrix, from everything that he created with the forces of his intellect, falling into voluntary slavery to his creation?
The meaning of the ending of the trilogy “The Matrix”
Neo’s battle with Agent Smith leads him to the understanding that he cannot win without the help of the Main Computer, who was powerless in front of his creation, just as humanity was powerless in front of the artificial intelligence generated by him. Collaboration between Neo and Computer leads to a reboot. Neo managed to save the world, but most likely died. His motionless body is taken not by people, but by cars.
Neo managed to give people freedom – now every person who wants to leave the Matrix can do it without hindrance. Now people no longer face a choice: life in a dream or death in the real world. A few desperate ones could decide to choose death. The choice became harder and harder: a comfortable nap or waking up. And the trilogy does not give special reasons for optimism.