Loaded Matrix: Great Filmmaking and Lofty Ideas

Editor's Warning: The Matrix Reloaded is rated "R" for "sci-fi violence and some sexuality" (Screenit.com). The film contains overt sexual themes like a prolonged, sensual dance and nude sex scene. Leadership University does not promote or condone the film. If you are puzzled or put off by this warning or our approach, please read on. Could it be that a real-life matrix "has you" and you are wondering how to escape it?

"matrix /MAY-triks/ n. 1. a mold in which a thing is cast or shaped.... 2a. an environment or substance in which a thing is developed. b. archaic a womb (The Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide, Oxford University Press, 1999)." That definition was published the year that the groundbreaking film, The Matrix, took the popular culture by storm. Today, $460 million in worldwide gross receipts, (reportedly) more than one thousand Matrix-themed Web sites and an entire subculture later, the sequel is here. The Matrix Reloaded,  filmed in tandem with a third film over 18 months, released to an astonishing 95 percent public awareness (Entertainment Weekly, May 16), 24-hour movie screenings and more buzz than a bee hive. To call this film trilogy and its affect a cultural phenomenon would be a grand understatement.

Millions throng to the theater, interact with the DVD, play spin-off games and frequent fan sites galore because of the trend-setting and oft-copied special effects and action. But cultural commentators, philosophers and theologians claim a deeper pull, to a metaphysical search for meaning evoked by the storyline's postmodern brew of philosophy, religion and hero-mythology. Entertainment Weekly  described the newest entry as a "dizzying pastiche of Hong Kong kung fu, Japanese anime, American comic books, and religious texts from the Bible to Tao-te Ching." Pop culture meets the ivory tower on the trail to spiritual enlightenment and freedom from another's construct.

Unwilling celebrities, directors and  brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski, wanted "everything we do to look cool, (Time, May 12, 2003)" but they also named their project well. The "womb" out of which the Matrix epic was birthed is mainly the fertile mind of Larry, who reads and talks philosophy incessantly and says things like, "We're interested in mythology, archetypes, and trying to reinvestigate them in a modern context."

What does this postmodern syncretism of Gnostic, Zen Buddhist and Christian elements have to say? Are those schools of thought true to reality (and how do we know)? What does Christianity "bring to the table"? What issues does Artificial Intelligence raise? What is reality? Are we deceived by a construction of someone else's creation? If so, what are the stakes? Can we escape? How? Why do we want a hero and how can I be one? We barely touch these questions in our Special Focus, but that's okay - there are hundreds of sites out there giving it a shot. Consider this one among the many in the "matrix" of the World Wide Web.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe

Featured Articles

These are all new additions to the pages of Leadership University, which now contains more than 8,400 resources.

"Who Put These Fingerprints On My Imagination?" Engaging the Matrix
David Dark
Dark, as part of the book, Everyday Apocalypse, ties the human experience of looking beyond the world system to freedom with the popular film, The Matrix. A very experiential journey that explains The Matrix like Jesus explicating a parable, borrowing from Dark's close-up interaction with high-schoolers seeking answers to the big questions of life.

So, What is The Matrix? Rethinking Reality
Roberto Rivera
Cultural commentator Roberto Rivera sums up the religiously syncretist components of the the blockbuster film, The Matrix. He makes a strong case for the essential role biblical Christianity plays in a story like this, namely one that "works" in terms of inspiration and a worthy storyline. That's reality.

The Matrix and God-talk in America, Part I
Terry Mattingly
Syndicated "On Religion" columnist Terry Mattingly skims across several religious viewpoints regarding The Matrix and its successor, The Matrix Reloaded. Part II of this column focuses on the phenomenon of designer religion and God-talk in the U.S., of which the Matrix films are the epitome.

God-Talk After The Matrix, Part II
Terry Mattingly
Syndicated "On Religion" columnist Terry Mattingly follows up his first column on The Matrix and its successor, The Matrix Reloaded. He further explores the phenomenon of designer religion and God-talk in the U.S., of which the Matrix films are the epitome. Now that film number two is out, theological observers (and the rest of us) are still unsure what the new ground cut by The Matrix movies will mean.

The Gnostic Matrix
Don Closson
Launching from the first film of The Matrix trilogy and its use of gnostic themes, Closson goes on to explicate the essentials of Gnosticism as a historical religion and more recent seedbed for New Age and liberal "Christian" thinking.

Related Essays

Truth: A Journal of Modern Thought, Vol. 2: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind
Various Scholars
"The achievements and the revolutionary possibilities of work in Artificial Intelligence has made it, for many, the most exciting frontier of modern technology. It is of paramount importance, therefore, that its leading theorists and practitioners engage in a continuing dialogue with thinkers who work in other disciplines and who have made their own contributions to an understanding of the dignity and value of the human person. Such efforts at synthesis are essential, in the long run, if this fascinating fruit of modern technology is to be beneficial for humanity. It is with these objectives in mind that TRUTH: A Journal of Modern Thought, and The International Institute for Mankind, sponsored ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE HUMAN MIND, an international, inter-disciplinary conference held on the Yale University campus, March 1-3, 1986. Participants in the conference included four Nobel Laureates and six Gifford Lecturers, a few of the foremost researchers in Artificial Intelligence and noted physicists, brain scientists, psychologists and philosophers."

Featured Links

Leadership University is not responsible for links, sites, pages or content beyond its domain. We provide these links to broaden your view of this much ballyhooed movie trilogy.

What is the Matrix? (Warner Bros. Studios site)
Various authors
A fascinating and broad collection of essays by scholars that is part of the Warner Brothers Studios official Web site for the Matrix trilogy of films. Prepare for strenuous philosophy from a range of perspectives, some of which is written to be more accessible for laypeople. [Note: the editor cannot comment on them specifically.]

M&M: The Messiah and The Matrix (at Matrixfans.net)
Debra McCaw
McCaw's contribution to a Matrix fan site'a discussion forum on the common observation that the film, The Matrix (first of three), comprises a host of biblical themes. In fact, she goes further than some, stating, "It is my theory that The Matrix is metaphorically a science fiction version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in relationship to the original sin of Adam and Eve." [Editor's Note: Curiously, each time I enter the site, I am "the 1,000,000th visitor," according to a moving pop-up window. I also noted my browser's cookie alert had blocked a sponsor's automated tracking file ("cookie"); my IE browser is set to Medium security level regarding cookie files.]

HollywoodJesus.com: "The Matrix Reloaded" Page
David Bruce
This site is David Bruce and company's labor of love for movies and spiritual (as in, Christian) truths found therein. Some descriptions: "A spiritual spin on this week’s box office hits" -ABC World News Tonight; "A web site devoted to spirituality in movies" -The Wall Street Journal; "Examines movies' spiritual content" -The Christian Science Monitor; "The popularity of Hollywood Jesus has been a pleasant surprise" -Christianity Today.