I’ve just watched Reloaded again, and I’m much more impressed with the film now that I’ve seen Revolutions. A lot of people have complained about the seemingly impenetrable exposition in the 2nd film, how the characters always spout lengthy philosophical claptrap that never seem to answer the questions posed. Indeed, at first glance, it appears as nonsensical evasion:
- Merovingian: Oh yes, it is true. The Keymaker, of course. But this is not a reason, this is not a `why.' The Keymaker himself, his very nature, is means, it is not an end, and so, to look for him is to be looking for a means to do... what?
Neo: You know the answer to that question.
Merovingian: But do you? You think you do but you do not.
Architect: Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which, despite my sincerest efforts, I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control. Which has led you, inexorably... here.
Neo: You haven't answered my question.
Neo: But why help us?
The Oracle: We're all here to do what we're all here to do.
Well, thank you for cutting to the chase! Without introspection, it is easy to understand how a large portion of the audience would metaphorically (and literally) roll their eyes at the dialogue. I have told any person who didn’t ‘get’ the film to see it a second time, whereby you have time to think about what is really being said. Then, perhaps, you’ll see the dialogue in retrospect (after viewing the third film) as I do: brilliant.
For a study of motivations, I want to talk about my two favorite characters in the epic, the Merovingian and his wife Persephone. As with nearly all things Matrix, their names are helpful winks from the directors to us, so if you have the inkling, read up on the mythological and historical relevancies of Merovingian and Persephone. Of course, I’ll tell you what I think about these so you can just take my word for it instead of reading the essays. But to use my favorite quote from “Merv” (as Trinity calls him in Revolutions), "Yes, of course, who has time? Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have time?" He’s such a clever nobbin.
And clever enough to be a major player in the game and survive Neo’s predecessors (and Neo himself, as one would assume at the end of Revolutions). But who is he – what is his purpose (i.e., what is it that he is here to do?)? The name itself is derived from the Merovingian kings, who, according to legend, were said to be decended from Jesus Christ. Now, taking that one story and importing it into the Matrix would lead one to believe (as many would like to) that the Merovingian and Persephone are just old versions of the One and Trinity. This is a possible (although I don’t agree with it) yet irrelevant theory because it doesn’t answer the question of ‘what is he here to do’? Funny how some people answer questions in the Matrix-style of not answering, isn’t it?
The Merovingian is the gatekeeper, the roadblock, the struggle, as is his wife. They are rogue programs, to be sure, both having been around long enough to use their knowledge to create power and set themselves up nicely in the Matrix. They both test the resolve of the humans in different ways, although ironically, neither of them may in fact know the reason, the why, that they do it. Though Merv has a solid grasp of causality and reason and ‘the why’, he is himself a product of the system and subject to the same rules and motivations as Agent Smith (as discussed here).
Presented (likely for the sixth time) with Neo’s request for the keymaker, he is all too aware of the ramifications of their task: the reloading of the matrix. He’s amused by their naiveté, and tries to explain to them why he won’t turn over their man, and in doing so really points toward the way to defeat the system itself. To know why is the most important thing , as echoed by the Oracle before, and even by other, more famous science-fiction characters:
- INT. ENTERPRISE BRIDGE
SAAVIK: I don't understand --
KIRK: You've got to learn WHY things work on a Starship.
That, of course (well, perhaps 'of course' only to myself, Jaquandor, and geeks alike), is an excerpt from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan; it's the scene where Kirk uses his superior knowledge of why things happen to escape a desperate situation (incidentally, if that scene comes on TV randomly I will stop whatever I'm doing to watch it). Not understanding why things work can get you into trouble. Being an engineer (and curious in nature), when confronted by a problem, I always first endeavor to understand why. It's only logical. Any vulcan can tell you.
Regressing, whether the Merovingian is being intentionally helpful or not, he is subtly suggesting that instead of just following instructions and prophecy and the course that if you grasp the why you might actually be able to make a choice. I assume that reloading the matrix has little effect on him, so instead of just moving on to version 7.0, perhaps he’s in his own way trying to make a difference, make a better system. That he knows what he is doing, or just being an “pompous prick”, is indeterminate.
Persephone is a roadblock in her own way as well – testing the bounds of Neo and Trinity’s love. No doubt that her motivations are selfish (revenge against her husband for the bathroom B.J., desire to ‘sample’ passion, and perhaps the games of a bored princess – note that Merv and Persephone appear to be playing another round of a game they both enjoy), but she may also be curious about whether this One and his girl have a love strong enough to upset the renewal process of the matrix. At the end of Reloaded, Neo’s love of Trinity is apparent, and hers of him.
[Aside, is love a choice? Trinity was told by the Oracle that she would fall in love with the One, which would one question whether she ‘knows’ she loves him because of who he is or because she was told that she would and believed it. That prophecy by the Oracle is instrumental in Reloaded (and probably in previous versions as well), for it sets up a scenario in which she would sacrifice herself for him so he can return to the source. Neo, on the other hand, loves Trinity for his own reasons (presumably – there is no mention of him being predisposed to be in love), which was not in the plans for the rebooting which has happened successfully five times before. The unknown and unreasonable power of chemistry threw a wrench in the system, but that love will end up as a better solution.]
It’s pretty clear I’ve had way too much time on my hands. What I do know is that these films have spurred my imagination and I’m pretty darn happy about that. Now I am officially Matrix: Overloaded for the time being and I'm going to go watch the end of Stalag 17, because we're all here to do what we're --- oh shut it!!