What You Need To Know:
Christian allegory & moral worldview with Pagan elements, vaguely New Age, regarding violence & philosophy about virtual computer world & real world; 25 obscenities & 14 profanities, mostly exclamatory & a few that are also appeals to God, plus four "f" words heard in song over final credits; extreme action violence, with a little gore, including several brutal martial arts battles, evil secret agents get police to chase & shoot heroes, two main heroes storm office building in a hail of bullets to rescue leader, explosions, minor heroes betrayed & murdered, movie shows how evil intelligent machines hook up human bodies, placing them in vat of goo, to harvest their electrical energy as a replacement for solar power; no sex but reference to sex in virtual computer world; upper male nudity & brief rear male nudity, plus woman in low-cut red dress & woman in tight-fitting clothes; alcohol use; smoking; people go to vaguely occult seer called "The Oracle" who "reads" their future but no mention of where prophet gets her power & boy with shaved head mentally bends spoon in virtual computer world; mildly feminist images of women doing macho combat but men do most of the brutal martial arts combat; and, evil villains pose as secret agents to oppress humans but are defeated, evil agent expresses hatred for humanity, talk of Fate is rebuked, & virtual computer world is described at the end as "a world without rules and controls, beyond boundaries, a world where anything is possible."
Hong Kong action thrillers continue their influence in Hollywood with the science fiction thriller THE MATRIX, the new movie starring Keanu Reeves of SPEED and LITTLE BUDDHA. Like the “Spaghetti Westerns” of the 1960s, these action thrillers are changing the way Hollywood depicts violence, with intense, almost balletic, martial arts fight scenes and two-handed gun battles full of dramatic leaps and slow-motion body twirls. This time, however, the action is couched in a provocative science fiction fable that uses an explicit Christian allegory to support a moral worldview where Good triumphs over Evil.
Without spoiling the surprises in the plot, the beautiful Carrie-Anne Moss plays Trinity, a mysterious leather-clad computer hacker who is trying to enlist another hacker calling himself Neo (Reeves). Neo, meanwhile, is looking for another elusive computer hacker who calls himself Morpheus (the name of the Greek god of dreams), played by Laurence Fishburne. Neo, whose “real” name is Thomas Anderson, thinks Morpheus can tell him the secret of The Matrix, an unknown power whose mysterious plainclothes agents relentlessly pursue Trinity and Morpheus. Eventually, the movie reveals the evil intentions of the agents, who wish to oppress all humans. Morpheus believes Neo is the prophesied messiah who will help him, Trinity and their cohorts defeat the evil agents and break the power of The Matrix. Morpheus trains Neo to battle the agents in a virtual computer world. The movie describes this world “a world without rules and controls, beyond boundaries, a world where anything is possible.” Neo doubts his messianic role, however, and has trouble freeing his mind to use all the possibilities at his command in the virtual reality of the computer world.
THE MATRIX was written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, known in the credits as The Wachowski Brothers. Production notes from Warner Bros. reveal that the two men grew up exploring the dramatic possibilities of alternate realities that not only challenge current perceptions of reality but also challenge the laws of physics, biology and time. The two brothers also have a long-time interest in classic mythology and legend. The brothers say, “We believe passionately in the importance of mythology and the way it informs culture.” Used in this context, mythology can be described as any story with religious connotations, whether true or false.
Neo is clearly a messianic hero in THE MATRIX. As such, he is called to be a power for good in the world, a hero who opposes and overcomes evil. Such an heroic fantasy can have all sorts of wonderful references to Christianity, as it did in the scenes in the New Age-oriented STAR WARS movie, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, when Luke Skywalker becomes a messianic figure at the end of the movie. The Wachowski brothers heighten the Christian allegory in THE MATRIX by having Neo nearly sacrificing himself to save the life of Morpheus. Also, at one point in the story, Trinity brings Neo back to life through her love. This scene deliberately reminds one metaphorically of the love of the Father who brought Jesus Christ back to life in the Resurrection, the historical lynchpin of the Christian faith. The fact that the name Trinity seems like a direct reference to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the Bible reinforces the Christian symbolism, even though the movie does not have any other explicit references to God, prayer or Jesus Christ.
Working against this Christian allegory are a couple minor scenes with occult connotations. In one, a woman reads people’s futures in prophetic utterances, but with no apparent supernatural power behind her “ability.” In another scene, a boy with a shaved head mentally bends a spoon, but only in the “reality” of a virtual computer world. Complementing these scenes are some lines that contain a vaguely New Age, pagan philosophy about magical thinking and about no difference between dream and reality. These lines, however, are rebuked by the heroes’ search for Truth and Goodness, plus their strenuous efforts to defeat the dehumanized evil they must confront in the movie.
Although THE MATRIX does not have any sex scenes and only brief glimpses of naturalistic male nudity, it does have plenty of strong, R-rated obscenities and strong profanities and lots of action violence. The most disturbing violence is an overlong scene where Neo and Trinity fire automatic weapons at some security guards defending one of the buildings that the evil agents of The Matrix occupy. Although THE MATRIX is pretty exciting, interesting and provocative throughout, its action scenes are a little repetitive in the last part of the movie and some of the dialogue borders on the silly and corny.
Despite all this, THE MATRIX is a unique blend of martial arts action, cops and robbers thriller, science fiction fantasy, special effects, and moral/religious philosophy. Its moral worldview and Christian elements ultimately outweigh its objectionable material.