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Author Topic: Movie review of The Matrix:Reloaded by Frederica Matthewes-Green  (Read 3739 times) Average Rating: 0
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sinjinsmythe
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« on: May 17, 2003, 06:01:29 PM »

Speaking Out: Desert of the Real?
The world of The Matrix is wrong: Creation really is beautiful.
By Frederica Mathewes-Green | posted 05/12/2003


If you can read this, you're probably not waiting in line at a movie theater. If you don't know why people might be waiting in line at a movie theater, you need to come out of that fallout shelter. Fans have been anxiously anticipating the release of The Matrix Reloaded ever since the house lights came up at the end of 1999's blockbuster, The Matrix.

The Matrix is surely the most overanalyzed movie since they invented Christian film critics. Type Matrix and Christian into a search engine and you'll come up with 13 pages of books and college seminars, youth group studies and evangelism strategies. The Christian themes in the film are so obvious that even nonbelievers can spot them across the room. A site that offers free essays to kids who cheat on their homework includes one with this title: "Christian Themes in the Matrix."

What are those themes? That this world is in the power of an evil force. It devours humans, while keeping them distracted with material pleasures. A small band of brave humans know the truth, and seek to free the race from destruction. Neo, "the One," is clearly the savior. (This role is a bit of heavy lifting for Reeves, who is not the most thoughtful of actors, but the first half of The Matrix is ideal for his talents. Reeves can be effortlessly convincing at portraying a confused person.) In the first film, Neo dies, rises from the dead, and rockets skyward making threats that sound more Terminator than Life-Giver. Neo is attended by Morpheus, who fills a John the Baptist role, and a brave young woman named Trinity. The underground camp of free humans is called Zion.

You get the picture. It's a mix of names and themes from many religious traditions, and hardly the screen equivalent of a Four Spiritual Laws tract. But the presence of any Christian resonances in a mainstream movie is so intoxicating to some Christians that they embraced it with glee.

But I believe there's one big flaw in the Matrix's theology. It's the idea that the beauty of creation is a deceptive lie, generated by evil forces. Real reality, the way Neo and the others discover it, is ugly, dirty, and gray. The temptation they must resist is the desire to return to the illusory world of flowers, birdsong, and sizzling steaks. Courageous humans instead must remain resolutely in their muddy realm, wearing their dingy clothes. (Not to be a pest, but if the struggling liberated humans can have clothes that are brown and gray, why can't they have clothes that are purple and green? And if they can whisk all around the time-space continuum, why can't they locate a Laundromat?)

It might occur to you that this actually sounds more like Hinduism than Christianity. Christians don't believe that this whole world is deceptive illusion (maya). We believe that it is created good—very good—and filled with the presence of God. "The heavens are telling the glory of God" (Ps 19:1). All creation reveals his presence. It isn't saying, "Look over there!" to keep us distracted from him.

In fact, the testimony of saints through the ages is that, the closer you draw to God, the more the beauty of reality unfolds. Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards wrote that in prayer "God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon, and stars, in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees, in the water, and all nature." Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God; it will flame out like shining from shook foil." Quaker founder George Fox found that, after his conversion, the world smelt different.

The world that The Matrix presents as "real" is the phony one. It is made in the image of a vague romantic idea that "facing reality" means embracing grim, unpleasant truths, and beauty is a trap to distract us. But God clothed the lilies of the field in splendor, because it shows what he is like, and indicates what he has in mind for us too. Creation has not been made beautiful in order to distract us from uglier truths, but to awaken our desire for the one who himself is Truth. Reality is not opposed to beauty. Beauty is the secret of God's living, breathing presence in our midst.


http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/119/11.0.html
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plutonas
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2003, 02:52:01 PM »

I hate religious "interpretations" of movies.  People need to understand that movies are primarily for entertainment and nothing more.  We aren't dealing with something like literature here that needs social and/or religious analysis to find it's meaning.
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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2003, 04:37:04 PM »

Neo, "the One," is clearly the savior. (This role is a bit of heavy lifting for Reeves, who is not the most thoughtful of actors, but the first half of The Matrix is ideal for his talents. Reeves can be effortlessly convincing at portraying a confused person.)

She sure got that part right.  Wink
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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2003, 08:39:06 AM »

I hate religious "interpretations" of movies.  People need to understand that movies are primarily for entertainment and nothing more.  We aren't dealing with something like literature here that needs social and/or religious analysis to find it's meaning.

Nonsense. Movies are lifestyle advertisements and are manipulative as all get-out. Star Wars is advertisement for pantheism, just as The Graduate was advertisement for parental disresepect. Sitting in a darkened theater and letting the projector pour those images into your brain is powerfully indoctrinating.

And the movie industry is, on the average, amoral at best-- more often worse. No to mention blasphemous. In Devil's Advocate the carvings of the central tympanum of the Episcopal National Cathedral (a representation of the creation of humanity) was blatantly copied and perverted into a depiction of a well of lost souls. Permission, of course, was not requested. Religion is ridiculed as a matter of course; venality and carnality are exalted.

I've never seen all of The Matrix. For various reasons I'm likely never to see it. But do not discount the persuasive power of movies. Entertainment is rarely just entertainment.
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2003, 08:59:27 AM »

Keble, I agree with you.  Moviegoers are, more often than not, passive and receptive recipients of whatever fare is doled out to them on the silver screen.

Hypo-Ortho

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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2003, 10:03:54 AM »

"I hate religious "interpretations" of movies.  People need to understand that movies are primarily for entertainment and nothing more.  We aren't dealing with something like literature here that needs social and/or religious analysis to find it's meaning."

Well, in this case the directors clearly wanted to do more than entertain ... they could have done that without all of the overt religious references contained in the films and video games.  What you have here is a movie using the action film genre as a means to get attention, to draw the viewer in, to a world that is literlally jam-packed with spiritual messages.

I'm not a big fan of the Matrix - I tend to agree with Frederica's critique.  What you see in the Matrix, from my perspective, is more like Gnosticism than Christianity, with a healthy dose of Buddhism thrown in.  Yes, there are some Christian ideas in there, but there is also a lot of Gnostic good/evil ideas, as well as the essential nihilism of Buddhism.  The spiritual world of the Matrix is therefore more new-agey than Christian per se, but I think with a film like this that was obviously produced with the idea of peddling a certain kind of spiritual ideology through a popular entertainment medium, analyzing it in this way is not only appropriate, but important.

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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2003, 12:07:24 PM »

Here's a moral critique of the original film from The Texas Mercury, from a perspective very different from any of ours but significant nonetheless. After I read this I had an interesting insight: that the morality of The Matrix is pretty much that of the video game.
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« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2003, 06:57:44 PM »

Nonsense. Movies are lifestyle advertisements and are manipulative as all get-out. Star Wars is advertisement for pantheism, just as The Graduate was advertisement for parental disresepect. Sitting in a darkened theater and letting the projector pour those images into your brain is powerfully indoctrinating.
 

Movies are entertainment and any secondary "messages" that may or may not exist would be far too subtle for most movie-going folk to even pick up on.  To say that they would be sublimally indoctrinated by these "hidden (and apparently anti-Christian) messages" is absolutely ridiculous.  I also don't understand how Star Wars is supposed to be an "advertisement for pantheism."  But considering the things I'm reading here, I don't doubt some religious nut wrote a review about that.

You people need to understand that when you start taking apart and deconstructing movies like this and over-analyzing every small detail to fit in with your own philosophy, then OF COURSE you will start finding some perceived "hidden messages."  But only because you want to, not because they actually were intended to be there.  I'm sure if we look hard enough and analyze hard enough we'll even be able to come up with some Marxist, capitalist, feminist, and a whole other slew of philosophical interpretations in movies like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."  Obviously, these types of analyses are all equally ridiculous.  

Quote
I've never seen all of The Matrix. For various reasons I'm likely never to see it. But do not discount the persuasive power of movies. Entertainment is rarely just entertainment.

So you haven't even seen the film, and yet you are ready to label it an anathema based on some skewed religious misrepresentations?  Interesting.  Just out of curiosity, have you seen Star Wars?
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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2003, 11:24:34 PM »

I won't be around again until Monday to continue the discussion, but I disagree with those who find movies to only be entertainment or hold them to be primary indoctrination.  While both of these are possible, film is one of the more important art forms.  When done right, it combines elements of most major art forms: visual art(cinematography) literature(scripting), music(scoring, editing) dancing(choreography, blocking), etc.  

While I would not hold The Matrix up as a shining beacon of what film can be, I think many of us forget those cinematic works of art that are part of the cultural treasure of humanity...among them:

La Passion du Jeanne D'arche (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer)
The Seven Samurai (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
The Third Man (dir. Carol Reed)
Paths of Glory (dir. Stanley Kubrick)
The Mission (dir. Roland Joffe)

While none of these are entirely perfect and according to the morals of Orthodoxy, neither are Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick, or War and Peace.
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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2003, 11:32:49 PM »

The Mission (dir. Roland Joffe)

LOVE IT!
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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2003, 08:36:15 AM »

Plutonas, I'm in my '40s. I've seen the original Star Wars series many times. I've seen the fourth one a couple of times, and frankly, it was so bad (and the overarching idea of the second series so repugnant) that I haven't felt moved to see the fifth.

The thing is, Lucas himself has all but admitted that he has been taken up in this notion of movies as moral and religious propaganda. When the original Star Wars was first out, people saw obvious parallels to Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress (there's even a brief tribute), but later Lucas started spouting all this stuff about Joseph Campbell. One is made to empathize with Luke, and thus to take the Jedi masters as mentors. If you are among those unfortunates for whom such empathy is impossible, then you are immune to this effect. I certainly am not immune, and it requires a positive act of will to withdraw myself from the movie and distance myself from the protagonists.

I have seen a fairly large section of The Matrix. As a computer professional my suspension of disbelief in watching it was not total, because I could see how to defeat Teh Matrix without having to participate in the virtual world. I didn't finish watching it for external reasons, not out of dislike per se. But I'm also not keen on dystopias anyway, and I can simply look around me to see how fundamentally wrong people were about life in the 21st century.

Advertisements themselves are entertainments. They aim at entertainment to catch your eye, and then use your captured gaze or ear to insert the real message. The difference at the movies-- usually-- is that this advertizing is unintentional. In some cases it surely isn't. Dr. Strangelove is a straight propaganda piece, for instance. (And because of this, it has a terrifically period piece feel to it.) That's one of the things that people miss about Harry Potter. That series is most certainly about moral instruction; magic functions as a gateway into interest in the story, but fundamentally the story is about virtue, the seductiveness of evil, and the importance of individual choice. The values it teaches are decidedly Judaeo-Christian. People who harp upon how it teaches that magic is OK are failing to engage it properly as story. Engaging it as story leads to being taught by it-- in its case, largely for the better.

The Star Wars movies present a world in which the divine is morally indifferent and can be harnessed to either good or evil by individuals. We are made to sit on the side of Good, but we could nearly as well been put on the side of evil. And in other movies we do see this happening. It is something that requires an act of moral judgement and of personal will to resist, and very many go to the theater and are not prepared to exercise either faculty-- after all, it's just entertainment.

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« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2003, 10:47:28 PM »

Greetings,

Pardon me for getting back on topic of "The Matrix: Reloaded"...  I believe Presvytera Matthews-Green had a few good comments regarding the movie, but she could've gone farther in her critique than she did.  I believe she was a bit lenient in many of her assumptions...

For instance...

The "prayer service" that was basically a pep-rally-turned-MTV-dance-orgy...  The film itself may have had religious undertones, but the script was about characters who practiced only humanism (and the worship was more pagan ritual than anything Christian... tho some parallels could be made to Charismatic Revivals)...  There was no reference to a higher power in the struggle between human and machine.

I believe Father Seraphim Rose would've given a better critique (may his memory be eternal), but the Presvytera gave a good high level summary.  She hit upon a few points that I had not even thought of.

I'm sorry if folks disagree, but the movie stunk of 'the spirit of this age.'  For a good 5 minutes of the movie, it shamelessly portrayed the worship of antichrist.  There was nothing Christian that one could take from this movie without pulling it out of context with the actual religion that was being followed by the characters.

Something else that can be said against this movie (as the Presvytera points out) is the amount of time and energy Christians are spending trying to glean spiritual meanings from this pagan-gnostic movie.

Lastly, I believe we shouldn't "compartmentalize" the movie and shrug it off as "just entertainment."  If you were charged $10 to be proselytized by a couple Jehovah's Witness for 3 hours, you wouldn't call it "entertainment" (even if they were entertaining).

I know most have read this book, but I'll recommend "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future" by Father Seraphim Rose...  There have been a few "reviews" of this book on the forum, so check it out for yourself.

SR
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« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2003, 02:47:52 AM »

Presvytera Matthews-Green

Actually, I think it would be "Khouria" and not "Presvytera" since she's Antiochian.

Yup, pagan-gnostic is what I heard from other Orthodox as well.  Even (probably non or most not religious) coworkers thought the dance scene should've been done away with.  Ironically, a baptist relative of mine didn't think it was that bad (and I think her dad is a preacher).
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2003, 01:27:27 PM »

Actually, I've been to Holy Cross and called her Presvytera.  She doesn't seem to mind.  If it's a stumbling block, I'll use Khouria. Smiley

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« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2003, 01:39:56 PM »

If you want the Syrian/Lebanese pronunciation of the word (best dialects there are), it is "khooriy'yeh".  Oh yes, the way the word is written above, you will most likely pronounce it as "khoorya".  Don't, as no one pronounces it that way.  Rather, they (non-Syrian/non-Lebanese) will say "khooriy'yah".

I'm sure there is a market on the web for correcting transliterations.  I do too much of it for free.  Smiley

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« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2003, 01:50:00 PM »

Hence, this is why I say "Presvytera".
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2012, 01:49:23 PM »

I'm very disappointed she didn't actually review the movie.
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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2012, 02:01:56 PM »

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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2012, 02:10:17 PM »

I'm very disappointed she didn't actually review the movie.
I thought the Matrix was, if anything, anti-gnostic -- that is, anti-"the world is an illusion".

The "world" created by the computers is not the real world.

The real world is...well, the real world. It's *this* world, the world that the movie-goer lives in day to day, outside of the movie theater.

I also saw the Matrix world as symbolic of hell.

For me, the computer-generated world is the world generated by "missing the mark", the world made whenever we try to separate ourselves from God, the world otherwise known as "hell".

Why would anyone want to stay in "hell"? Why would anyone not want to leave "hell" and enter into the "real world"?

Of course, some do want hell. Mr. Reagan wanted hell (and a nice steak). Hell can be attractive, very attractive. Neo, though, is the finger that points the way out of hell.
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