Set in a dystopic future where nearly all of mankind is imprisoned in virtual reality, “The Matrix” follows the character of Thomas A. Anderson, a.k.a “Neo” as he is introduced to the concept of the real world and the fantasy realm he currently inhabits. The film begins by introducing viewers to the life of Neo, showing how he feels dissatisfied with his current existence and seems to believe that something doesn’t quite seem right with the world that he lives in
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. This assumption is validated by the fact that in several scenes he is introduced to the concept of agents, programs designed to ensure the stability of the virtual world, and is given the choice of either choosing to stay in the reality that he knows or experience “the real world” by Morpheus, a supposed terrorist but in reality is a freedom fighter fighting for the future of humanity. His choice of accepting reality causes him to be disengaged by the system resulting in him “waking up” from the virtual world. What he sees is confirmation of the “truth” Morpheus has informed him about leading to succeeding events where Neo is believed to be the chosen one prophesized by the “Oracle” within the Matrix.
The movie continued to elaborate on numerous existential concepts such as the validity of reality, the power of the mind, and whether what we see right now is in fact the “true” world or nothing more than an illusion created by the mind.
Throughout the film, it is hinted that the prophecy that Morpheus attaches to Neo, yet he himself denies, is actually true with Neo showing instances of accelerated motion, intuition, and even power unlike that shown by other users of the virtual world. This culminates in the ending sequence of the film where Neo comes into the full realization of his powers by literally coming back from the brink of death and showing superhuman abilities.
Theme: There are three distinct themes found in the movie namely the blurring of the line between humans and machines, fate vs. free will, and finally the relationship between the body, brain, and mind. It is the combination of these three distinct themes that help to create the degree of futurism seen in the film since they touch upon topics normal audiences rarely associate themselves with.
Exploration of Content
When examining the content of the film it seems to follow the normal sequence of events usually seen in movies depicting unsuspecting heroes in that first the hero is discovered, there is a period of denial, begrudging acceptance and finally a manifestation of heroism. On the other hand, it must be noted that when taking into account the subsequent sequels to the film the matrix seems eerily familiar to the concept of the messiah seen in ancient Christian history wherein the unsuspecting son of a carpenter became the messiah who saved all of humanity.
Further examination of the film seems to support the theory that Neo is being compared to Jesus Christ when his coming is prophesized; he is expected to do great things yet is expected to die for the sake of humanity as seen in the ending sequel “Matrix Revolutions”. It must be noted that though that this is only one aspect of the content of the film, another interesting facet explored is the evolution of machines into a state that is equivalent to that of humanity.
The film show’s how artificial intelligence has evolved to such an extent that machines have the same level of intellect, creative capacity, and even emotion that humans display. This is shown by the behavior of Agent Smith wherein he displays behaviors tantamount to pride, hubris, and even a sense of distaste.
The film presents viewers with the idea that through technological advances machines may one day be indistinguishable from humans and that they may in fact become superior. It must be noted that though it is shown that machines are superior in the film the concept of “the human spirit” is shown to be an aspect that machines do not possess and invariably makes humans more superior to machines.
Other films have actually used the concept of the “human spirit” as a plot device to show humanity’s superiority over beings that appear to be superior to us in every way, shape, and form. It is a concept that is integral to the entire plot of the film since without the addition of some other factor that cannot be measured that gives humanity a fighting chance then they would have no hope.
Another concept touched on by the film is the concept of fate and human free will and the ability of humans to actually be able to decide their future. It can be said that the world of “The Matrix” is in fact a recreation of the current world that humanity lives in. It has been said that God knows everything that you have done, are doing and will do as such this shows that to an extent the concept of freewill seems to be non-existent since if an action is already known then that must mean a person is going to pursue that particular action because it is their destiny to do so thus making it seem that freewill is, in fact, an illusion.
In the sequels to the movie, it is shown that the actions of Neo are in fact predestined and seemingly occur over the course of a cycle thus it shows that from the beginning he had no free will, to begin with. As such the film touches on the subject of whether or not the current world we live in right now is nothing more than an illusion of free will wherein we are all following predestined paths.
Examining the Music of the Film
The score of the film can be considered eclectic, thoroughly futuristic, and resoundingly techno yet at its core it brings out thoughts of the philosophical, romantic, and even the disturbing since when combined with the dystopic future presented in the film one cannot help but be moved, disturbed and even at times frightened by the combination of scenes and the score of the film.
The composer, Don Davis, took an approach wherein he integrated a large portion of the film score towards incidental music. What this means is that there is no constant melodious quality but rather the scores are interspaced with sudden ear jarring music meant to frighten and thrill but not to elicit any sense of comfort.
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While such a method of composition works rather well with the overall direction of the film since it helps to emphasize certain actions such as Neo apparently coming back from the dead during the ending sequence or the escape of Morpheus from agent captivity it must be noted that this works well within the context of the film however when listened to separately the film score causes more headaches rather than a pleasure after continuous replays.
One of the most powerful instances within the film score is the opening track of the film entitled “Trinity Infinity”. It rather succinctly begins with a rather strong, almost ethereal opening possessing large orchestral chords which seemingly leads up to the second half of the song which seems more like the type of music that one would hear when watching a chase scene. In fact, the song itself is used in several chase scenes and fight sequences.
It can even be said that the fight sequences themselves seem to be choreographed to the song since all of them start with a strong opening then turn into a pattern of up and down action similar to the up and down nature of this particular score. As such it can be assumed that the song itself was meant to draw audiences into the various sequences in the film through the choreography of the film to the song which in turn can affect audiences as a result of them being influenced by the shifting up and down the quality of this particular song.
It must be noted though that scores utilized in “The Matrix” are similar to those utilized in the original Batman film. While the score in “The Matrix” has a decidedly more modern feel to it, one cannot help but notice how the scores created by Don Davis for this film are similar to those created by Danny Elfman for Batman. On the other hand, musical “sampling” is nothing new and as such should be appreciated to an extent since it helps to enhance future songs.
One notable aspect of the film is the fact that despite the film score being dark and apocalyptic, appropriately reflecting the dystopic world human society had to exist in within the film, the composer was actually able to insert a few “heroic chords” interspaced in various parts of the score in order to signify hope and power, as shown by the song “Ontological Shock”. These instances are notable in parts where Neo fights Agent Smith in the subway tunnel and the other being when he manifests his powers by stopping bullets in the corridor of the abandoned building. These additions to the film were meant to influence audiences by giving them the perception of hope.
Heroic chords, as they are defined, are instances in film scores marked by a certain high pitched fast-paced music or a low pitched melodious type all of which focuses on instilling a mood which focuses directly on the protagonist of the film. This particular type of music when used in conjunction with certain pivotal scenes in the film makes audiences believe in the heroism of Neo with them realizing through the power of the song that he does indeed possess the power hinted at in various scenes within the film.