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Study Guide to The Matrix

Study Guide to The Matrix

Director: Larry & Andy Wachowski

Screenplay: Larry & Andy Wachowski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carry-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Hugo Weaving

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Certificate: 15

Key Concepts

Mind, freedom, love, reality, truth, humanity, control

Summary

TEACHER RESOURCES

Thomas A. Anderson is a full-time programme designer, and part-time computer hacker who is troubled by deep questions about life. Something is gnawing away at him, and he recognises that there is a major problem with the world. He is afraid of not being in control of his life. The frustration, confusion, and answers begin to unwind and unravel when he meets Morpheus.

Neo’s life takes on a radical transformation, and he begins to see the world as it really is. He thus embarks on a breath-taking mission to find his true identity, to find the truth, and to free humanity from the bondage it has been subjected to by the Matrix.

Background

Many people in our world:

  1. wonder what life is about, seeking to find the purpose of and for their existence
  2. want to experience freedom to do as they desire, and live life free from rules and boundaries
  3. wonder how they can know for sure what truth is, and want to know who and what they can trust, to give them the answers they are searching for
  4. These are the issues that The Matrix deals with.

    Larry & Andy Wachowski are Writers/Directors, but little else is known about them. Their other films are: Assassins (1995) (writers only) and Bound (1996).

    Other resources on these ideas

    www.whatisthematrix.com

    Overview

    Thomas A. Anderson leads two different lives. A program designer by day and a computer hacker called Neo, by night. He waits for some kind of sign, from someone or something, hoping for answers to questions that he has, as he sits by his computer.

    One night, a mysterious woman called Trinity makes contact with Neo. Trinity arranges to meet Neo in a nightclub, where she warns him that he is in danger. She tells Neo that she knows that he is searching for an answer to a question. That question is: “What is the Matrix?”.

    Neo meets Morpheus, who partially explains what the Matrix is, telling Neo that “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth”. Neo questions the meaning of the concept of truth. Morpheus, responds by saying that the truth is “That you are a slave Neo, that you were born in bondage. A prison that you can neither smell, nor taste, nor touch – a prison for your mind.”

    Morpheus then goes on to explain that no one can be told what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself. At this point, Neo is offered the choice of taking one of two pills. The red pill will take him into the ‘true reality’, showing him the Matrix, and the blue pill will take him no further in his adventure and so he will remain as someone who believes whatever he wants to believe.

    Neo opts for the red pill, and then undergoes a complete physical transformation, where he sees the Matrix, and is set free from its control. Morpheus welcomes Neo “to the real world”, telling Neo that the year in which they are currently living, is not 1999, but is in fact closer to 2199.

    Morpheus, explains that at the beginning of the 21st century, the world was enjoying a huge celebration. Man marvelled at his own existence as he gave birth to AI (Artificial Intelligence) – a singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines.

    These machines depended on solar power to exist, so when humans ruined the atmosphere, the sun could not penetrate the earth, so the machines required a plentiful source of energy to survive. Thus warfare broke out between humanity and the AI. The machines won and now grow humans to feed off them. Hence, the Matrix then, “is a computer generated dream world, built to keep us under control.”

    Neo can hardly believe what he is hearing, especially when Morpheus tells him that he believes that Neo is the one who will ultimately bring freedom to humankind.

    Thus, Neo plunges in to an electrifying, exhilarating adventure. He acquires many new skills in combat and kung fu, via a computer-training programme, which leads to Neo practising his martial arts against Morpheus. As they engage in combat, Morpheus explains that rules such as gravity can be bent or even broken, and he tells Neo that he wants to free Neo’s mind “You’ve got to let it all go Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief, free your mind.”

    It becomes apparent that it is necessary for Neo to free his mind so that he can defeat the Agents. The Agents are sentient programmes (programmes, which can think for themselves), who can move in and out of any software. These Agents are the gatekeepers to the Matrix. Everyone, who fights against an Agent dies, but Morpheus tells Neo that Neo will succeed against them, because they live in a world based on rules.

    Cypher (one of Morpheus’ team) agrees with Agent Smith to betray Morpheus in exchange for being plugged back into the Matrix, because he can no longer bear living in the ‘real reality’. Morpheus and his followers continue to train Neo to be the chosen hero who will set them free. They take him to see the Oracle, a guide who helps Neo to find “the path”. She tells Neo what he needs to hear, namely that he will soon have to make a choice. This choice will leave either Morpheus or Neo dead.

    On the way back to their ship ‘The Nebuchadnezzar’, Cypher betrays Morpheus into the hands of the Agents. He then returns on his own to ‘The Nebuchadnezzar’, and starts to kill the members of Morpheus’ team (Dozer, Switch, and Apoc). Tank survives Cypher’s attempt on his life, and kills Cypher, which leaves Tank, Trinity, and Neo to decide whether or not to unplug Morpheus.

    The reason why they consider this, is to prevent the Agents from gaining any information about how to access to the Zion Mainframe (the system by which Morpheus and his team can jump in and out of the Matrix) from Morpheus. As Tank makes the difficult decision to unplug Morpheus, Neo remembers what the Oracle said, and believes that he has to go back to free Morpheus. Trinity tells Neo she will go with him.

    Neo and Trinity rescue Morpheus, and this adds more weight to Morpheus and Trinity’s belief that Neo is indeed the ‘Chosen One’. The Agents go in pursuit of them, but Morpheus makes it back to ‘The Nebuchadnezzar’.

    As Trinity is about to return to the ship, she attempts to tell Neo that she loves him, but does not get time. As Trinity phones through to ‘The Nebuchadnezzar’, Agent Smith appears on the scene and destroys the phone booth. Trinity makes it back to ‘The Nebuchadnezzar’, but this leaves Neo to fight Agent Smith. Neo ends up having to run, because he cannot destroy the Agent.

    Neo makes a valiant attempt to return to ‘The Nebuchadnezzar’, but is caught, and shot a number of times in the chest, thus he dies. At this point, Trinity seeing Neo die (when people die in the Matrix they die in reality, in this case on board the ship), tells Neo that she is not afraid anymore, and conveys what the Oracle had said to her – that she would fall in love with “the One”. Trinity declares her love for Neo and her belief in him. She then kisses Neo, and he comes back to life.

    The Agents realise this, and shoot Neo, he stops the bullets in mid-air (Morpheus had previously told Neo that when he was “ready”, he would no longer have to dodge bullets) and so Agent Smith tries to kill Neo with the use of his martial art skills. Neo, composed, faces up to his fears, and blocks Agent Smith’s attempts to kill him. Neo now realises that anything is possible and so he totally destroys Agent Smith, at which point the other two Agents flee.

    Trinity and Neo embrace, love has won this battle. The film ends with Neo’s closing speech, which shows that the battle has been won, but the war has just begun. The film ends with the following speech given by Neo:

    “I know you’re out there, I can feel you now, I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us, you’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future, I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how this is going to begin.

    I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, and boundaries, a world where anything is possible. Where we go from there, is a choice I leave to you.”

    Ideas for discussion

  5. What message(s) do you think the Wachowski brothers were trying to convey and achieve through this film?
  6. What were the key factors in Neo being able to defeat the Agents?
  7. What biblical parallels are there in ‘The Matrix’?
  8. Within current western thought, there is a growing obsession with the importance of ‘positive thinking’. In ‘The Matrix’, Neo triumphs when he believes in himself. Is there any worth in ‘positive thinking’?
  9. How does ‘The Matrix’ define:
    1. Freedom?
    2. Love?
    3. Reality?
  10. What are Andy and Larry Wachowski suggesting about the nature of truth?
  11. What does it mean to be human in the context of the film?
  12. Neo, at the end of the film, vows to set humankind free from rules, controls, and boundaries.
    1. What type of philosophy does this portray?
    2. Thinking objectively, what are the positive and negative aspects of such action? (Ju 17:6).
  13. Is there any value in Morpheus’ comment to Neo, to “free your mind”? (Rm 12:1-2).

Action Questions

  1. Morpheus told Neo: “You’ve felt your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

How could you use this statement in:

    1. a one-to-one evangelistic context?
    2. an evangelistic meeting?
  1. What other character statements/scenes could be used as a basis for leading into a discussion about the Gospel of Jesus?
  2. Cypher bottled up his anger and annoyance with life (with Morpheus in particular) inside himself. This resulted in Cypher betraying his team, and ultimately producing his own destruction. If we allow bitterness, resentment, and anger to take root in our lives, it will bring more misery and pain for ourselves and for others.

Read Psalm 42 and/or Psalm 88. In light of these portions of Scripture (and others), how should we as Christians deal with our anger?