What is reality? It’s a question we often ask ourselves — quite possibly in moments of absolute jubilation or distress. It’s also a question others tend to answer for us simply because it helps to have reassurances. Reality is an important theme of our lives. Human beings are conditioned to hold on to something, it is important for them to stay rooted to something that makes sense of the present.
However, when we rely so much on something, it also becomes imperative to understand what the absence of that certainty can do to us, what the other possibility could look like, what if the reality we inhabit is actually a simulation. I was all of 14 when I found myself asking these questions. I had not read a genre-bending novel, neither had I attended any motivational classes. I had simply watched The Matrix.
At the outset, it looked like any other slick sci-fi film with edgy stunts. But The Matrix was also possibly one of those rare films that married philosophy with action, a reason why expectations are already soaring with The Matrix Resurrections, the new Lana Wachowski film that returns to the Matrix universe. There were many reasons why the Matrix trilogy struck a chord. It was an action film with a heart, it has visual as well as an intellectual appeal for more discerning audiences.
Sample this scene, where Morpheus (played to perfection by Laurence Fishburne) tells Neo: “What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you are talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste, and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain?”. Or that moment when Neo is asked if he believes in fate, to which he answers, “No, because I do not like the idea that I am not in control of my life.” The idea of constantly questioning the reality you inhabit would be one that many would ask two decades later with the rise of artificial intelligence. The film raised questions whose answers we are still grappling with.
The struggle between the man and the machine has been subject of many a sci-fi movie. But The Matrix takes the idea a notch further — it asks what it means to be human. And really, this is the most important question of our time. The ideas that were deemed far-fetched or even futuristic in 1999 — the year the first film released — are not as ‘far-fetched’ or even ‘futuristic’ now. A beautiful analogy is also drawn with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, where the human simulations can be seen as people who have lived, survived and thrived in a cave, oblivious to the possibilities that exist outside it.
While Reloaded and Revolutions have had their own share of critics, I have found the trilogy to be a masterpiece in science fiction cinema. The release of The Matrix: Resurrections this week is a moment to rejoice. It’s not as much about seeing Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss donning the outfits of Neo and Trinity as it is about anticipating the newer dialogues the film would generate and how deep it would compel us to look, if at all. Between the two pills, we are ready for the red.
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