ITAP Lecture 7 was about Ideas and Structure in Moving Image. Due to the subject, I was naturally more enthusiastic to do the critical commentary especially because I get to do it on one of my favorite films. Thus I will discuss in detail two of the 5 key principles and I will base both of them on the 1999-movie The Matrix.
The first principle discussed was Story Development. Like every story, fairytale of novel, a movie’s plot must have a beginning, a middle and an end (“although not necessarily in that order”).
Released in `99, The Matrix was a successful science-fiction movie directed by Larry and Andy Wachowsky. It starred Keanu Reeves and was also the beginning of a trilogy. It explored the new and original idea of the whole world being actually a “computer-generated dreamworld”. This world is controlled by a race of machines that draw their power from humans. The hero of this trilogy is Neo, initially himself a captive of the Matrix, but later becoming a savior for the human race.
The three acts (beginning, middle, end) are clearly divided in the storyline.
The beginning goes from the minute we see Trinity attacked by agents (a scene introducing us to the unusual nature of the Matrix), it presents Neo in his natural world and also his conversations with Morpheus, the captain of the and member of the human resistance against the machines. These lead him directly into agent-hands which question him and place him with a homing device in order to track down Morpheus. The beginning ends when Neo meets Morpheus and is unplugged from the Matrix.
The middle of the story consists of Neo meeting the Nabucodonoso`s crew, finding out the truth about the real world and learning new skills in order to defend from agents. The middle also contains the trigger for the end: one of the ships crew, Cypher, defects and makes a deal with the agents offering Morpheus in exchange for his body to be reinserted into the Matrix. This deals takes places as Neo and the crew seek the Oracle, an all-knowing matrix program meant to lead them the right way. The pass into the end is made when Neo and the others realize that they are trapped and Morpheus Sacrifices himself in order for Neo to escape.
The end is when Neo risks his life to save Morpheus from the agents. He is also confronted with Smith, an agent of the system and initially is defeated but then is revived and we see him taking hold of his role as “The One”.
Another key principles that was discussed was The hero`s journey. This was based on the monomyth, a pattern developed by Joseph Cambell, describing the stages a hero goes through the story. Neo follows the same stages. He is initially a captive of the Matrix but with the help of Morpheus and his crew he leaps into the real world, achieving supernatural powers and then returning to the Matrix in order to free his fellow humans.
In the hero departure he is subject to:
- the call to adventure – he is contacted by Trinity that tells him of his captivity and invites him to find out what the Matrix is
- supernatural aid – Morpheus calls Neo and instructs him how to escape the agents following him
- belly of the whale – despite Morpehus’s help, Neo is captured and interrogated by the agents
- crossing the first threshold – Neo is unplugged from the Matrix and wakes up in the real world, 200 years later than the time he though he was in.
The hero is also subject to initiation:
- road of trials – Neo learns new skills to fight the agents, confronts Morpheus in a duel and also fails the last trial
- meeting with the goddess – in this case Trinity, Neo falls in love with her and further in the series saves her life at the risk of his own.
- temptation – in the first sequel Neo meets with the Oracle again but fears that his choice of following the path of the one may lead to Trinity`s death.
- atonement with the father – also the first sequel, Neo meets the architect, “the father of the matrix”, and finds out about his true origins and path. This is also where “the path of the one ends”
- apostasis – right before the end of the first film, Neo is killed by Smith. He is revived however by Trinity`s love and returns to life
- the ultimate boon – after his revival, Neo becomes master of the Matrix and defeats Smith, also proving that he is the one.
- refusal of return – in the second movie, after unplugging countless people from the matrix, Neo is reluctant to take his place as a savior in the real world.
The final part of the hero`s journey is the return:
- magic flight – in the second movie Neo and his crew are flown back to Zion, the last human city, with the Nabocodonosor, a high-tech hover craft.
- crossing the return threshold – unlike other movies, in The Matrix trilogy this happens before the rescue from without. In the last film, Neo attempts to control the sentinels from the real world via his mind and succeeds but is thrown into a place between the matrix and the machine world where he is the captive of The Merovingian, a powerful and evil matrix program.
- rescue from without – Trinity and Morpheus risk their lives confronting The Merovingian and thereby rescuing Neo from his captivity.
- master of two worlds – in the final part of the trilogy, Neo achieved powers over both the Matrix and the real world. He is now able to control both worls.
- freedom to live – in the very end, Neo sacrifices himself being defeated by Smith (now also revived to be more powerful and attempting to control both worlds as Neo does) and infects him with a virus from the machine world, with whom he made a deal in order for Zion to live. The human city remains standing and most of the Matrix inhabitants are freed.