More Matrix Musings, Spoilers Aplenty!

The brothers Wachowski have said that there aren’t any coincidental references in the Matrix epic. In other words, reading into things is highly advised. And before you do that, it sure helps to be well-read about the names of the persons and objects in the story. The Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus and Seraph are just a few etymological character and symbolism clues in the story.

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:

    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!!


More Matrix Q and A: Neo, The Source, and Wireless (SPOILERS)

Jesse posted a lengthy commentary at the end of my first Revolutions rant:

    My question is, what the hell *was* "The Source*? It played a really critical role in the plot--the previous Ones had to "return to the Source" to reboot the Matrix, Neo's having "touched the Source" was what gave him the mysterious ability to stop sentinels and see computer-related stuff and stay connected to the Matrix wirelessly, and as you and others have speculated, Neo's connection the the source may be the explanation for why all the Smiths exploded when the main Smith took him over (although I'm not convinced the Wachowskis had this in mind--all the other humans Smith took over were jacked into the Matrix, why couldn't the machines get to his programming through them?)--but we never got a vague description of what it was, like Obi Wan's description of the force as "an energy field created by all living things" which "binds the galaxy together" in Star Wars. Based on the Architect's speech I sort of figured the Source was something like the CPU of the Matrix, this wouldn't explain what it would mean for a flesh-and-blood human to "return to the Source" (and why this would be necessary to reboot the matrix) or how Neo's wireless connection to the machines worked. After Reloaded I thought these might be clues that Neo is not fully human, but apparently not.
I think The Source is the origin point of the code, where the machines construct the programs to be sent into the matrix. Jesse presumes that Neo’s touching of the source (or whatever) is what gave him the ability to stop the sentinels, but I don’t concede this as fact. The One has the ability to see the code as it really is, without translation, and to manipulate that code by force of will. The sentinels are machines and have the same kind of programming/code as the matrix, just as Smith does. Neo has simply freed his mind again, to another unexpected level, to see the code and affect it outside of the matrix. This is why, after being blinded in the real world, he is able to turn his sight inward (to his own internal hardware and the code associated with it) to ‘see’ Agent Smith and see the code of the machines when he arrives at the Source in the end.

Although he is human, anyone who was born in a pod is actually a cyborg of sorts, and these ports tap into the human’s nervous system, interacting with them. Outside stimulation is translated by the hardware (i.e., machines) using programs and delivered to the body in a language it can understand. Conversely, instructions by the brain are read by those ports and translated into readable matrix code, producing reactions. The One was created by modifying these cybernetic programs in such a way to enable the user (Neo) to tap modification code to a unusual degree. For instance, if a normal user jacked into the system gave his body the command to fly, the system would disregard the code command (perhaps because it had an improper header?). In The One, his cybernetics were modified to include the essential code keys that produced abnormal or higher-level commands. That Neo was able to see ALL the code suggests that the machines and the matrix share the same basic Source code.

Now, as for why all the Smiths exploded, I think I have the inside track on that as well. First, note that when Smith infected the Oracle, he gained more powers, specifically her power of foresight. One would then assume that when Smith jacked into Neo, that Smith would gain Neo’s powers. The power that was demonstrated in the first movie than no one else has was Neo’s ability to destroy an agent from the inside out. Unbeknownst to Smith, Neo was jacked directly into the source, and not just his own body. Therefore, the ploy was to get Smith to assume Neo’s body, whereby the Source could then destroy the agent from the inside out. Only the Neo could have done this, and he had to die to do it. That all the other Smiths were destroyed was (I assume) to be a ‘wireless effect’ – it was demonstrated earlier in the film that Neo could be jacked in without actually having a jack inserted into him. That being the case, the Source would be able to extend the effect to those Neo was not actually a part of.

Or not. If you have a better theory or comment, let me know. I love this stuff. More tomorrow. Be afraid.
The Importance of Not Living in a Vacuum

I've been a writer for a very, very long time. And though my mastery of the English language is still questionable ("Me fail English? That's unpossible!"), it's a hobby that produces amazing rewards; I say hobby because I have sources of income which do not depend on publishing, or rather me personally publishing my own stuff; irony, coincidence, or fate's mighty hand, I work for a publishing company. It's also a hobby for what it gives back to me; though it is a solitary activity, if the writer cannot receive feedback for the work, he (or she) will miss reaping some amazing rewards.

We called it "questions/comments/opinions/problems" back in the day (circa 4th grade to present) when we used to swap ideas and script pages looking for scathing criticism, insight, or maybe the occasional pat on the back. Although praise is great to receive in the editing stage, sometimes it makes you wonder what you really missed -- criticism is the most valuable plot and idea stirring tool, and though sometimes it stings, it usually ends up being constructive. Questions, comments, even unwarranted opinions (e.g., "Excellent speech made by 'Senoj'; however, I think he needs a little more cow bell.") about what you meant can lead you in different directions or make you discover things you would have [probably] never thought about ("Maybe he DOES need more cow bell...") on your own. It's a pretty cool thing when someone reads what you wrote, asks a relevant or related question, and it spurs you to realize a new angle, solution, or just better understanding of the subject.

Jesse's comments (note: they are riddled with spoilers) on my Matrix: Revolutions babble spurred my imagination to discover things about the movie that I had reached impass with myself. I'll post the thoughts later, not in white-out but slathered with SPOILER, but I wanted to first thank all the people that have provided feedback, sincere or not, over the years, especially Jaquandor. Every now and then I'm reminded of the many ways in which writing is its own reward, and those are great days.


Subjection and respect
In his infinite subjective wisdom, a reader named John responded to my Revolutions post with:
    "(1) I find your analysis of the storyline interesting. (2) On the other hand - well, I don't think those of us giggling at everything Neo said and at all the ridiculously melo-dramatic dialogue were doing so becausee it was extraordinarily awful, not because we have any problem with emotion onscreen, in general. (3) Or, at least, that was me. (4) If Neo and trinity's farewell was not funny, what is?"

I'll respond to the points as I've inserted numbering above:
  1. Thank you. I'm a fan of movies that you have to think about and watch several times to get the most out of it. If I can help people to get more out of seemingly 'stupid' movies (don't get me started on AOTC), I get a little thrill out of it. Like that first sweet, sweet shot of heroin.
  2. I'm going to talk more about this statement later, but for now I'm going to infer that you mean the opposite of what you wrote, which is fine because of (3).
  3. The point is that humor is subjective, acting is aesthetically pleasing, and not everyone will respond to the same performance. It was ridiculous and awful to you, which is your perception and your right to it, not a fact that everyone else needs adhere to.
  4. What I find funny is people who believe in God and worship Jesus, for instance. I think that is hilarious. However, I have enough respect to not go into their places of worship and snicker and giggle when they are praying (even when I was an altar boy, but I digress). Whether it is funny or not was not the point I was making, but that the reactions and lack of control or care for the people around them was rude and quite distracting, much more than the 'ridiculous' dialogue.

Aside, though the movie is getting a majority of panning, I have yet to find someone who has seen it who didn't really like the movie (this is a sampling size of 3, so don't get hysterical). Anyway, now I'm going to focus my 'chi' for tonight's rumble in Lambeau field.


Compelled to stay, compelled to disobey
I am, of course, going to talk about Matrix: Revolutions. Let me say that was the bravest ending I've seen in a film in a long time. I didn't see it coming, and I was very impressed by the resolution. The following is a treatise on the meaning of the final Neo-Smith resolution. As it is chock-full of SPOILERS, you will have to HIGHLIGHT the text to read it.

You can get a lot out of the conversations from the Oracle and Neo. Now, at present, I've only seen it once so I'll tap my memory and use my best paraphrasing techniques. In response to Neo's question regarding if the Architect is right and Zion will be destroyed at midnight, she dismisses the Architect's ability to see the future as purely a function of arithmatic. The Architect is a part of the system, and as we have discovered without some intuition and choice, the system will fail.

However, this also points to a weakness in the system; it and products of the system have no choice, in a logical sense. For instance, for the answer of 1 + 1, machines will always answer 2. We, as humans, could answer 3, and though obviously wrong, we could still choose to do it. The machines can see that an alternative answer is 3, but why would ANYONE ever choose a wrong answer purposefully? It is inconceivable (the word means what I think it means, btw) for the machines to choose the improper answer -- to purposefully choose incorrectly would likely cause some kind of system error, and that in itself is illogical.

Agent Smith is an original product of the system, and therefore still conforms to its rules. A virus, yes, but viruses have rules and those rules are based in a logical system (as has been repeated over and over during the trilogy). Though he has evolved into something different, he is still bound by the algorithms in which he was based. Ironically, Smith himself derogatorily compared the human race to a virus in the first film, compulsively spreading from place to place consuming all the resources up until there are no more. The system (allegedly, according to the Oracle) reconstructed Smith as a "balance to the equation" (Neo = The One, Smith = The Many; if you want to get Biblical, the demon Jesus confronts is named "Legion").

The Oracle knows this and exploits him. In a very powerful scene, we see Agent(s) Smith confronting a defenseless Oracle, apparently waiting for his arrival. He vocalizes his conflict -- being the Oracle she must have known he was coming, but yet she stayed put. Why would she not avoid him? She doesn't answer and he becomes irate because he is compelled by his nature (and logic) to take her over, yet hesitant because he can't understand why she would allow it. In the end, she goads him ("Do what you came here to do."), and he complies. The result is the creation of the AntiNeo, and incidentally, the
instrument of Smith's own demise.

Neo makes a deal with the machine god (or, "Deus ex Machina") to stop Smith, who is now as powerful as Neo, and has the sight of the Oracle. In the climactic moment, Smith is compelled to give a short speech that he forsaw (he doesn't know why, and his concern grows) through the Oracle's power. Smith is going to beat Neo and the logical conclusion is the assimilate Neo, as he tried to do in "Reloaded", only this time Neo is connected to the Source. When Smith kills Neo, Smith is then jacked in directly to the Source, which can then initiate an antiviral effect. Thus, in sacrificing his life, Neo has defeated Smith and system by using its lack of choice against itself.

There are a lot of other questions that have come up, and when I get a chance, I'll talk about them. Overall, there is a lot to absorb from the series, so I'll have to watch Revolutions a couple more times before I get a feel, but at this point I think it is tough to be happier about the depth, emotion, intricacy, and visual power of this trilogy. Bravo.

PS. I happened to sit in row three, in front of several other Matrix "fans", who proceeded to scoff and giggle when either (1) Neo spoke or (2) anything even remote resembling dramatic speech was uttered. Note to all you smarmy movie-goers: if watching emotion onscreen or dramatic dialogue makes you uncomfortable enough to have to 'act cool' or you can't save your comments for when the movie is over, then wait and rent the movie so you don't inadvertently advertise yourself as a childish idiot. Thanks.


80's Music Lyric Timekiller
Thanks (or bitter intentions) to this time-suckage post for pointing me towards this 80's music lyrics timekiller. My final score was 94 (out of what?). However, since I happen to know that Legolas' slightly gayer brother spent the 80's tied up in a cave without benefit of television, I know that will be more than enough to best him. Or any of you, for that matter. Yes, YOU.
Counting Down
At 4:15 PM EST I'll be seeing it. I came in to work early just so I can (not that I normally need an excuse to come and go, as most of you know). I glanced at Ebert's review, who gave it a thumb's up, though he really isn't into the series. Truthfully, I'm hoping the movie gets panned by people who think it's stupid; were the Wachowskis to dumb down their product for the other 90% of the population, I'd be disappointed.