Subscribe to Christianity Today
Liberated by Reality
Some might call it bad timing. The Matrix, a sci-fi film conceived by Andy and Larry Wachowski, was released at the end of March and was still number one at the box office on April 20 when reports of a killing spree began to emerge from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Hardly had the shooting stopped when fingers began to point at media violence—especially in movies and computer games—and the creepy virtual violence of the Internet. Had Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Columbine's teenage killers, seen The Matrix shortly before they acted out their long-savored scenario?
At first glance, The Matrix seems an unlikely candidate for such censure. Although it features dazzling special effects, it is a cerebral film, with more time given to philosophical discussion than to mayhem. The premise of the film is that Earth has been taken over by a massive computer system, the Matrix. When the humans who created this network tried to knock out its power source by obscuring the sun, the Matrix learned to harvest human beings and use them like batteries to power itself—thus humans are "copper tops." The network also created a make-believe world to ensure the docility of its subjects, and so, in their minds, humans are living in the world of 1999, at the pinnacle of human achievement before the triumph of artificial intelligence.
A renegade band of human beings was able to stay free of the evil computer system, and its members live in hiding in Zion—a place that we won't see until the sequel. Further, a group of humans who have freed themselves from the Matrix roam the sewers and tunnels of Earth in a spaceship called The Nebuchadnezzar. Led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), they are seeking the One, a man who will be able to figure out the Matrix and begin to free humanity from its bondage. With the help of Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Morpheus tracks down the man he thinks is the One: Neo (Keanu Reeves). A meeting is arranged, and Neo is given the ...