The Matrix Reloaded
Itís finally out, the second chapter in The Matrix saga. The first time I reviewed this film, I unfairly focused on its shortcomings, and not much more. With this serving, I must say the Wachowski brothers and their screenwriting have grown. However, when it comes to storytelling itís, Iím sorry to say: still an amateurish attempt at philosophizing. But hold on, this isnít a negative review. It is possible to marvel at a film for its technical brilliance and decry its literary composition. This film is a technical marvel.. You know,the first time around, I completely ignored the philosophic issues the movie tackles. So, lets not make that mistake again.
The ĎMatrixí Idea
Actually, this film does engage a deep question that reminds me of a work by a Tulane University mathematical physicist Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality Tipler is not the first real scientist to consider this question, but he wrote a book directed at laymen, which did contain some real scientific ideas. I guess that gives him credibility. The issue he explored was the possibility of God being an Artificial Intelligence. The relevance to The Matrix of his book takes a little explaining. He envisions God as an artificial being developing to a state of super-intelligence. This AI being is initially created by us. He estimates sometime in the next 50 to 100 years or so, we'll have the computing power to do this.That would put it at around 2050-2100 AD. Sound familiar? It grows and envelops the whole universe and in the process becomes OOO, that is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient. There is a lot of stuff this book examines, which I canít go into without writing about 20 pages of metaphysical narrative, but the end result is the Omega Point (thatís his term for God) must do something to become OOO. It must resurrect all that has gone before it. How else could it be Omniscient if it didnít reconstruct the whole history of the universe? In so doing, it creates a world for us that is perfect, everlasting, and infinitely progressive. This world however is a computer emulation. Near the Big Crunch of the universe, we just canít live any other way. We will in the far future live in a computer emulation of our current natural world. Tipler argues that for life to survive in the far future (weíre talking about circa 100 billion years from now), where the universe will be contracting back on itself, it must become a computer version of the natural one. Isnít that The Matrix? Tipler is really saying that flesh and blood will be dispensed. We will become abstract computer versions of our physical beings. But, the computer version of us will be an emulation of our physical selves. In that it will be indistinguishable from our former states of being. Emulation in computer science jargon means a program, which is bit for bit exactly the same as another. So, for example when you click on print preview in your word processing program the view you see on the screen is an emulation of what the printer will create. It is exactly what the printer program makes on paper. It is an emulation of the printed document. Tipler expands this idea to people and asserts that the computer version of us will be quantum particle for quantum particle, identical to our natural world selves. Thus, it is not a copy but the same as the real thing. He goes into somewhat boring detail to make this point. We will be unable to tell we exist as a computer emulation. Now, if I didnít know better, Iíd swear these guys read Tiplerís book and used it as the basis for The Matrix. But I know better, they didnít. By the way, Dr. Tipler has gotten a hell of alotta derision from his scientific colleagues, since writing The Physics of Immortality.
It is almost a prerequisite that you must see the first one, to understand this one. Of course this is intentional. These guys want to make money after all. I bet video and DVD rentals of M-1 are just rising like the tide now.
It seems that the struggle of Man vs. Machine has continued since we last saw our group of determined rebels. Neo, has become much more powerful, for instance he actually flies like Superman in this one. And the symbolism and allegory abounds more than ever. The revolt against that evil AI system has grown, and more people have been liberated from the Matrix. We get to see Zion, the rebelís heartland, its culture, structure and purpose. Ah, PURPOSE, and thereís a word used quite frequently in M-2. It seems everything is preordained. All the programs, real humans, and events are going according to a divine plan. The machines are out to destroy Zion and as the story proceeds, we find theyíre drilling into the Earthís interior to crush this free human enclave.
Black, and black and black again. M-1 introduced us to some super-hip attire didnít it? I loved the black dress code the film inaugurated. And how Ďbout black actors and actresses? With this installment brothers Wachowski have done much to introduce talented black actors to the Hollywood scene. For this I salute them. It is seldom, very seldom, why almost unheard of to have 3 out of the 7 principals in a blockbuster being people of color, specifically the color Black. Even better, this time less weight on the religious theme, thank you very much, though Neo does dress in a monkís long robe. The Oracle woman was still a bore. I know she died during the making of the film and for this I am sorry. But she was miscast in this film. I liked her laid back quiet tone, but her dialogue was pretty tired. And how come they can build spaceships but canít get Morpheus a microphone? Again, Lawrence Fishburne plays a role that is well scripted. His speech was actually a little inspiring. So, lets ignore the minor flaws? Conversely, his romantic rival was a very weak character. He had no presence and a bit part to match. I can't even remember his name, see what I mean!
The technical excellence of M-2 is not just spec effs. For instance, the lovemaking sequence between Kneanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss was done to perfection. The hypnotic beat that turns into an airy, sultry track as they make love was exciting in more ways than one. The cuts between their action and the festive dancing are entrancing. On the downside nobody else gets a love scene. Oh, well whatcha gonna do, huh? The fighting, now here is some fighting. The sequence between Neo and Agent Smith or make that Agent Smiths, will be hailed as classic for at least one whole year! So look out Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this oneís gotcha beat. I didnít even mind Agent Smith sounding like Carl Sagan this time.
When this film first premiered it irritated me no end, that the serious field of cognitive science was used in the context of a trite Hollywood blockbuster. Three years later, Iíve mellowed on this point. Iíve begun to view the Matrix series as being in a class with the Star Wars saga. Itís not to be taken seriously, but enjoyed for its technical wizardry.
Now for the Sequel
The film however takes itself very seriously. Near its denouement, we are introduced to a new character. Heís called The Architect. Boy I tell ya these common noun appellations multiply like Agent Smiths. Letís see we got The One, The Key Maker, The Prophecy, The Oracle, The Source and now The Architect. Whatís next? No donít tell me, Iím gettiní it, ah yes I got it The Engineer! Oops, and I promised not to deride this one, pardon me. This Architect is a stately looking white-haired gent, whose manner and presence is intended to invoke the image of God. Heís the AI God, you dig. Heís done it all before and tells Neo, (remember heís The One) how the story ends. Neo, it appears is not the first One,. According to God, I mean The Architect; he has seen six other Ones. Though one should not have any other one before this One, or he wouldnít be the One. But there were, so much for Ones. Maybe they should have called Neo, The Seventh One. Heís got some flowery dialogue too. While he delivered the equivalent of an undergraduate speech on metaphysics, I had to cringe at points. Let me see how did that go. Oh yeah, he created the 1st Matrix and inevitably an anomaly developed that destroyed its perfection. So, The Architect sits right down and makes himself another Matrix but the same pesky anomalies develop. It starts with the human attribute of choice; it makes for discord and reverberates throughout the Matrix. So, heís got to tear up his creation all over again, and make a new Matrix. Why? Well silly because perfection and sublimity require Purpose. For a committed Existentialist like me, nothing could more objectionable even if it is just a trite Hollywood sci fi flick! Here is the allegory of the film. The Wach Bros are telling us a story of God making, then remaking, and again remaking his grand creation. God keeps on trying Ďtill he gets it right you understand. The AI God doesnít do this because he chooses to, it is necessary he does. The AI God must achieve infinite Perfection. Recall what I said about Tiplerís book above. Remember Tiplerís notion that an AI would eventually become God? At this point, the AI would be the final end purpose (there's that word again) to our existence. I wouldnít be surprised if the final installment in this series throws in some more ideas attributable to Tipler. You know, I think these guys did read Frank Tiplerís book!
One last comment. This Key Maker character got the worst part an actor could play in an action movie. This guy is thrown in cars, told to stay there, hauls ass whenever trouble starts and looks like a scared gerbil, while everybody else mixes it up. After playing such a demeaning role, they plugíem in the end anyway!
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Ken Wais 5/17/03