A Nice Place To Visit,
But I Wouldn’t Want To Live There.
The Matrix revolves around the figure of Thomas Anderson, played by Keanu Reeves, a mild-mannered computer programmer by day that turns into the illustrious computer hacker Neo by night. Neo has always thought that there is something wrong with the world he lives in, feeling like he’s stuck in one long, overextended dream without ever waking up. Little does Neo know that the apocalypse, physically if not psychologically, has already occurred, and he has not really “lived” a day of his entire life.
Neo is freed by a group of hackers led by Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, who have already escaped the mainframe of the computer-generated world that Neo has called home. In reality, Neo has lived his life as nothing more than a “copper top”, or battery, feeding the computer with energy from his human body. It takes a metaphoric leap of faith for Neo to believe in not only Morpheus, but also himself, in taking the red pill that will free him both physically and mentally from the machine. Therefore, the character of Neo is not free until he chooses to be free, an idea which manifests itself throughout the movie.
Once Neo is free from this computer-generated world referred to as the matrix, he goes through an extensive period of withdrawal symptoms – his muscles are extensively weak from never having been used before, his body is seriously malnourished, and he must come to terms mentally with what has happened to him. When he is finally well enough to learn the truth, Morpheus shows him the world as we know it, and tells him how this state of affairs came to be.
The beginning of the end times, according to Morpheus, came when human beings created AI, or artificial intelligence – a “singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines.” These machines demanded to be treated as equals, and not subordinates, in regard to the human race. Eventually, this happened, but when it did, it wasn’t enough. The AI demanded more and more rights and, although no one is clear on who began the war, the onslaught occurred at the end of the twenty-first century and lasted for generations. What is known is that the human race, knowing that the AI depended on solar power to survive, used nuclear weapons to block out the sun, therefore wreaking the ability of humans to live on the Earth’s surface. The only problem is that these machines found an alternate source of power that generates more energy than a 120-volt battery – the human body. Through a new form of fusion, the AI was able to use the body heat of human beings to power itself, and began to clone and breed humans on its own, keeping them
safely in pod-like containers. When these humans died, new, bio-engineered ones took their place, receiving enough nutritional sustenance to survive from the liquefied remains of the dead. This is how the human race “survives”, as batteries for the AI machine. The life which people live is all part of a computer program designed to replicate life as it was in the 1990’s – a form of virtual reality which, to these people, has become actual reality.
This vision of the world contains many traditional apocalyptic images – black swirling clouds, an absence of nature, and a “hell-like” world covered by rocky remains marked most notably by the absence of color. The absence of color, while not stated as a sign of the post-apocalyptic world in the Bible has traditionally been viewed from a thematic viewpoint as representing a thing that is devoid of life. Recent analogies which could be made include the movie Pleasantville, in which people who undergo an awakening suddenly gain color in a traditionally black and white world, and Pi, a film shot entirely in black and white which features a mathematician who spends his time searching for the mathematical key to life avoids human contact. The black swirling clouds which envelop the Earth are part of forecasting the fallout which would be contained during nuclear warfare, a theme which has been touched upon in movies like Dr. Strangelove, in which nuclear war is debated endlessly in a war-room like setting, and, on a completely fear-based aspect, films like Broken Arrow in which people try to stop a nuclear warhead from “falling into the wrong hands”. As it is, the image of the Earth, with it’s jagged landscape and swirling black cloud overhead, stems from Revelation 6:12-14, where a great earthquake comes an “the sun became as black as a sackcloth… The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”
Another interesting fact about The Matrix is that it takes place in a
world where the Apocalypse has already happened. This is unusual – most films about the apocalypse involve either trying to prevent the coming (The Devil’s Advocate, End of Days), or present an image of apocalypse before a character travels back in time in order to prevent a change in the future from taking place (Terminator 1&2, Back To The Future 2). The battle that takes place is not for the future of the earth, which has already been lost, but for the future of the human soul. In fact, the only glimpses we have of the world come from two perspectives: those stuck in the matrix, and the rebels under the leadership of Morpheus. We know that the rebels are unhappy, living their entire existence on a ship subsisting on bland, multi-nutritional gruel for survival. It is true that they have a cause that they believe in and is worth fighting for, but are they truly happy?
This brings up the question of whether or not the matrix represents the paradise that the apocalypse is supposed to bring. The people contained within the matrix lead what we would consider to be normal lives, yet they are physically used as a power source for the AI machine. However, these people are unaware of this fact. The character of Cypher within the film openly pines for the simpler days he spent living within the matrix, and tells Agent Smith “ignorance is bliss”. While their physical bodies might be trapped, their minds are able to grow and expand. These “slaves” experience freedom of the mind, something that many people today strive for. Therefore, if there is a paradise shown in The Matrix, it exists within the machine itself. The only other paradise is a city deep in the Earth where people are born free. This city is called Zion, which is referred to in the book of Revelation as the kingdom of God where the righteous is saved after the Earths’ destruction (Rev 14:1-3). If the matrix itself is not paradise, then none of the characters have ever seen it. Instead, the rebels have seen the place of the damned, the decimated Earth. It is interesting to note that no one who lives inside the matrix has ever seen this destroyed world. Only the rebels have ever seen the place where evil reigns supreme, hoping that the world they have left behind is not truly the Promised Land itself.
It started early in the twenty-
first century, with the birth of
artificial intelligence, a
singular consciousness that
spawned an entire race of
In his sunglasses, we see storm clouds gather.
At first all they wanted was to be
treated as equals, entitled to the
same human inalienable rights.
Whatever they were given, it was