Serdar recently wrote an excellent re-look at the seminal film The Matrix. I have nothing to say about his essay except to go read this fine piece of work. However, I do have something to say about The Matrix and how pieces of media work together.
In some ways, The Matrix seems to be two films.
One film is an exceptional action movie with a near-perfect cast. As of this writing in 2021, it still influences the styling of movies, television, and games. The film showcases the talents of various actors and actresses, each well-fit to their role. Were it just an SF action film, it would be an accomplished one.
However, the film’s heart is that another movie: the story of a not-quite Chosen one on a journey about reality and physicality, machines and humanity. One can – and many have – spilled ink and moves electrons to going over the mix of Gnosticism, Buddhism, bodily identity, and more in the film. Later revelations about the transgender experience and the film only illustrate how much is in it.
Some films may be riddles wrapped in enigmas. This is a film of a philosophy wrapped in a stylish hail of bullets and punches to the face.
Both sides of the film are enhanced by the other. The stylish action catches our attention, grabbing us by the visceral parts of our brain. The deep thoughts and many sides of it reach our hearts and mind. The Matrix creates deep engagement by having these two facets.
There are many lessons to derive from The Matrix, and certainly more to be found. One lesson that I see as I look back on the film is that seemingly unrelated concepts can enhance each other. You can have your philosophy and gun-fu at the same time and be better for it.
A creative work can have “unrelated” ideas that come together for richer results. Let no one say to you “your ideas don’t work together.”
Genres are not limited by what they are “supposed” to be but can deliver any kind of payload in the right person’s hands. There is no “wrong” genre, and sometimes the “wrong” genre may be the most right one.
A “tightly focused” work may become too limiting, whereas other ideas, even conflicting ones, may enrich it. Sometimes focus is another name for “narrowness.”
If the Matrix taught us to break free from many forms of conditioning, let it also be a reminder to break free from simple ideas of what “genre” and “themes” are for.