The Matrix (1999)
Directed by The Wachowskis, Warner Brothers Pictures
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne
A group of rebels must bring down the computer simulation that is enslaving the human race.
Hey gang! I didn’t forget about you all…December got so crazy hectic with a full schedule, travel, weather, etc, in addition to it being the first Christmas without my mom, that I needed a break. But I’m back and VERY excited to talk about another EPIC film 😎 The Matrix!
I’m pretty sure everyone has at least heard of this movie. It hit movie screens back in 1999 like a nuclear blast, and has been cloned and troped a zillion times since then. From its groundbreaking special effects to its fascinating storyline, The Matrix has cemented its place in pop culture the way Star Wars did twenty years before. No one had seen anything like it, and although its creators have tried to replicate the original’s success, they never quite made it.
Now, I have to be honest, I did see this movie when it came out, but back in the summer of ‘99 I didn’t pay it a whole lot of attention to it because another little movie came out that same year I was way, WAY more excited for, one that took place in a galaxy far far away. Now, before you roll your eyes, because I know several of you probably are, keep in mind first that the original Star Wars is one of my top three movies of all time. The original trilogy was formative to me as a person growing up. They defined a HUGE part of my childhood and young adulthood, and I’m sure I’ll get deeper into it in another post at some point. Anyways, in ‘99, the Star Wars universe was a LOT different than it is now, and after Return of the Jedi came out in ‘83, no one was expecting there to be any more Star Wars movies, ever. So the news that George Lucas was making a new prequel trilogy was…well it was off the chart insane. So, that’s where most of my movie energy was going that summer.
It took me a while to warm up to The Matrix, I remember being enthralled with the special effects, and the exciting action scenes, but it wasn’t until later, when my relationship with God was more developed and He had started opening my eyes to stuff in movies, that I began to see deeper. Take the red pill and find out what He showed me below!
SPOILERS For The Matrix Here!
A young man, Thomas Anderson, works for a software developer by day, and by night, is an elite computer hacker who goes by the name of Neo. He has been trying to track down another hacker by the name of Morpheus. One night at a club Neo meets a woman, Trinity, who tells him that Morpheus has been looking for him, too. The next day at his job, Morpheus contacts Neo to let him know that the mysterious and sinister “Agents” are coming for him. He encourages Neo to try and escape by climbing to the roof, but Neo can’t do it, and is taken into custody.
The agents place a bug in Neo’s body, and he wakes up in his bed as if from a dream. Trinity contacts him and he meets her and her friends, where they remove the bug and take him to Morpheus. Morpheus offers to show him the truth about the world he is living in, but that it must be his choice, via a red pill (which will show him the truth) or a blue pill (which would allow him to stay in the illusion). Neo chooses the red pill and after swallowing it, wakes up in a gel-filled pod.
The “real world” is revealed to be a wasteland controlled by AI machines, who have enslaved human beings to power themselves. The humans are all “asleep” in their pods, and the machines stimulate their brains with a computer simulation that makes them believe they are living in the “real world”.
Morpheus believes Neo to be “The One”, a prophesied savior who has the ability to manipulate the Matrix and free the people from their mental prison. Neo goes through training on how to fight the Agents, learns how to leave his physical body by “jacking in” to the Matrix, and even visits a woman called The Oracle. The Oracle tells him he’s not the One, but Neo doesn’t tell Morpheus this.
The group is betrayed by one of their own, Cypher, several are killed, and Morpheus is captured. Trinity and Neo go on a suicide mission to rescue him, and Neo goes head to head with Agent Smith. As they fight, Neo begins to step out in his identity as the One, but when he does, Agent Smith guns him down, and he dies.
Trinity, in the real world, speaks to Neo’s passive body, telling him that he can’t be dead and that he has to be the One, because the Oracle told her she would fall in love with the man who was the One, and that she loves him, therefore, Neo must be the One. In the Matrix, Neo revives, and the agents fire on him again, but Neo merely waves his hand and the bullets fall to the ground as he proceeds to destroy the Agents. The movie ends with Neo telling the machines that he’s going to break their illusions and show the people what they don’t want them to see.
So What Did God Show Me?
-When Neo is at his computer, trying to learn more about what the Matrix is by searching for Morpheus, it made me think about how we are all searching for something. I believe that there is something embedded deep within us that tells us there is more out there, more than what we can see, hear, or touch. Something beyond what we can imagine. Some might call it nirvana, or enlightenment. I believe that it’s God. Why? Because when we are searching for that elusive something, the only reason we have that longing in the first place is because God put it there. He desires relationship with us, and he designed us to desire it too, and we will never be truly satisfied with anything else. We as humans will always be incomplete without God, and we will always long to be filled by Him, even if we don’t know what we are longing for.
In the Chronicles of Narnia book The Silver Chair, by CS Lewis, Jill is talking to Eustace, the Pevensies’ cousin, who has already had an adventure in Narnia. Jill is willing to try and seek Aslan out with Eustace, even though she doesn’t know who Aslan is or anything about him. But she has seen the change that has occurred in Eustace, and knows, like Neo, that there is “something more” out there, something that, even as she desires it, is also calling to her.
The good news is that our searching is not in vain. Trinity tells Neo that “the answer will find him, if he wants it to”.
-When Neo is on the phone with Morpheus for the first time, I was thinking how cool it must be when you find out the person you’ve been tirelessly searching for for years suddenly calls you out of the blue and confesses that he also has been searching for you? Picture God, imagine that you’d been searching and seeking after God for so long, desperate to find Him, to find fullness of life and satisfaction in Him, and He smiles and says, “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, too.” Because this is in fact what He does!
-I thought it interesting that during the scene where Neo is being interrogated by the Agents, they make his mouth disappear. I mean, I’m sure they aren’t bothered by Neo’s screams, and no one else around would probably care, either. If they just wanted to immobilize him, they could have made him pass out, or paralyze him. If they wanted to disorient him, they could have taken his ears, or his eyes. If they wanted to scare him, they could have changed their forms to something more monstrous. No, the Agents chose to take his mouth, and therefore his voice…which is exactly the same thing the enemy tries to do to us every day.
The mouth is how we express ourselves, it is where our voice comes from. The enemy does not want us to express ourselves, he wants to silence us, to stifle us. If he can take away our means of expressing ourselves, and how we communicate with each other, the consequences are crippling. (And I’m not just talking about using only our lips and vocal cords here, communication goes far beyond those fleshly things. Remember, the machines kept the humans separated from each other, isolated and “asleep” in their pods, so that not even body language was an option.)
If we can’t communicate with each other, we are truly alone. We can’t express love, we can’t give words of comfort, or healing. We can’t forgive. We can’t share wisdom, we can’t give warning. And perhaps most importantly, we can’t speak truth against the enemy’s lies. There is power in declaration, as we will see later in the movie.
The mouth is also how we nourish ourselves, take in water and food. If the enemy takes away our ability to sustain ourselves, either with food, or, to think on a more spiritual plane, the word of God which feeds our spirits, how long would we survive? Not long.
-”You’ve been down that road. You know what it holds,” and “You take the blue pill, you go home, and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
How many of us have come to that crossroads in our lives, where we have to choose between the known and the unknown? Allen Arnold calls this choosing between Story 1 and Story 2. Story 2 is “safe”. It’s a road that is familiar, one that we know. But Story 1 is the “Eden” option, the great unknown. We have no idea what we will meet on that road, much less what we will find at the end of it, but we know that is the road upon which God invites us to walk with Him. In his book The Eden Option, Allen asks us, which story would you like to see a documentary made of? The Story 2 where we take the blue pill, and go home, make some mac and cheese, binge Netflix and chill, and fall asleep on the couch? Or Story 1 where we take the red pill, go down the rabbit hole, and discover whole new worlds we had no idea even existed? It’s a great step of faith to choose Story 1, for sure. Story 2 reminds us that we have bills to pay, and laundry to be done, and desks to be at by 9am every morning. Story 2 is the responsible choice. But I doubt The Matrix would have been as popular if Neo took the blue pill, went home, ordered pizza and watched Seinfeld reruns.
-When I saw Neo, “asleep” in his pod, the thought came to me of what a waste it was. We were made for so much more. We were given muscles to use, to move and lift and run and jump and fight! We were never born to lie unmoving our entire lives.
Neo is rescued from his pod by the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, and they bring him onboard and spend a great deal of time repairing his body, not from injury, but from disuse. He complains his eyes hurt, Morpheus responds gently it’s because he’s never used them before. They must reconstruct his atrophied muscles so that he is able to train to fight against the machines, yes, but also just to simply live.
The machines control their human slaves by keeping them “asleep” and physically unable to do anything else, and the enemy does the same to us, even though we may not recognize it. The enemy wants to keep us “asleep” too…unaware not just of God, but of our true nature as His children. If he can keep us believing that we don’t matter, that nothing we say or do makes a difference, that it’s better to not even try, that we are totally helpless, then he wins. Every time we agree with the enemy, we stay lost to our true selves. We need to “wake up” and come alive! Only then can we embrace all God has for us and all he desires us to be.
-When Morpheus and Neo were fighting each other in the dojo, Morpheus tells him to stop trying to hit him and just hit him. I immediately thought of The Empire Strikes Back, and Yoda saying “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” and he was right. Trying is simply not doing, because even though you’ve put out an effort, even a good effort, the fact remains that nothing is accomplished. So why do we fail? Most of the time I think this boils down to two reasons. 1- You don’t care enough about whether the task gets accomplished or not, and 2- you don’t believe you can accomplish it anyway. Then it boils down to how badly you want something to happen. Badly enough that you are going to make it happen, no matter the cost, come hell or high water? Or, like Neo, are you doubting yourself and trying but not really expecting anything to happen because you don’t believe? Morpheus tries to show Neo that he’s free now, he doesn’t have to be a slave to his fears and doubts anymore. They’re not real, they don’t exist, so he doesn’t have to take them into account anymore. Remember, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13)
-Morpheus tells Neo several times he needs to believe in who he is, that there is a difference between knowing and believing. I looked up the definitions, and “knowing” means to have knowledge of a truth, like, I know the dent in my front bumper is because someone backed into my car, because I was there and saw it happen. “Believing” is to have confidence or faith in a truth. Believing, therefore, requires a much stronger force of will than knowledge, which is probably why Neo had such trouble in believing who he was at first. After all, he’s in a place where everything is manufactured, and he can’t even trust what he sees with his eyes or feels with his body.
-Trinity also says to Neo that the Matrix cannot tell him who he is, indeed, the Matrix is like the world around us (which the enemy has a great deal of influence over) in that way. We all have a God-given identity that we were born with, the identity that we are a son or a daughter of God. God has given us this identity, and the enemy cannot take it away, because he didn’t give it to us. I’ll say it again, the enemy has zero power to change that identity.
But, he can lie, and manipulate our perceptions, and make us feel like it isn’t true. People in the world give us false names, names like ugly, stupid, loser, disappointment, failure, worthless, and so on. He makes it easy to forget who we are. But I encourage you to not listen to his lies. The only power they hold over you is what you give them. You are a child of God, and that is true whether you believe it or not, it is a fact. When you embrace that truth, you are secure in your identity in Christ, and those labels have no power over you and can’t stick.
A terrific example of this is when Neo is fighting Agent Smith in the subway, and Smith keeps calling him by his Matrix name, “Mr. Anderson”. The enemy does the exact same thing to us, trying to reinforce those lies, those untrue labels on us. It is SO important that we take a stand against him, reject his lies, and claim our true identities as children of God, that we speak it out. Like I said before, there is power in declaration (after all, God spoke the world into being!) and it breaks the hold the enemy tries to keep on us, to keep us believing that we’re powerless and helpless.
-Once we know who we are and claim it, we are unstoppable. Look at the scene where Smith is attacking Neo after he’s been resurrected. Smith is trying to beat on him with everything he has in him, and Neo’s barely paying attention to him, just sort of brushing him off as an afterthought. Friends, we have NO IDEA what we are truly capable of until we realize who we truly are. CS Lewis said, “You’ve never met a mere mortal,” and when we are filled with the knowledge of our identities and the belief in who we are as a child of God, we can do so much that appears impossible to those still trapped in the Matrix. We can show them “a world with our rules and control. Without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.”
There’s a lot in this movie, especially about the “real” world we cannot see, and our true identities. It’s always interesting to me when creatives (directors, writers, composers, etc) who don’t necessarily follow or even believe in God produce something that He speaks so clearly through. I believe it’s because we are all born to be creative, whatever that looks like, whether it’s doing hair, or growing corn, or ballet dancing, or repairing cars, or healing babies. Being creative is taking what you have a passion for, what makes you come alive, and showing it to the world in a way that’s never been done before. The Matrix was certainly something that had never been seen before, and even non-Christians agree that there are strong theological themes running through it.
Links I like:
- The Matrix trailer
- The Matrix Resurrections trailer with it’s amazing cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” (I’m just including it because it’s a supercool trailer even tho the movie isn’t my fave haha)
- The Matrix episode on Men at the Movies
- The Matrix 2.0 episode on Men at the Movies
- Allen Arnold
- The Eden Option
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by CS Lewis
If you were given Neo’s choice, would you take the red pill, or the blue pill? And why? And what do you think would happen when you made your choice? Share in the comments below!