back to the matrix
now, just focusing on the themes of sacrifice and self-giving, esp. on Neo’s part, let’s see what the Matrix has to say about itself. In the second movie, Matrix Reloaded, the Architect tells us the matrix always needs to be balanced, all the variables taken care of. The need of free choice for humans create written into the matrix which created a problem for the Architect b/c it create a variable that could only be contained by allow “the one” to appear from time to time. But when this “one” appeared he would bring balance back to the matrix, equalizing the equation.
Now, at the end of the second movie we see that Neo does something that no other “one” did through his free choice, throwing everything off. So we might conclude that he transcended the “logic” of the matrix, throwing it permanently out of balance. A vindication of free choice and human potential? But in the last movie the Oracle tells us that Neo created Smith and that Smith was really the “negative” of Neo, his mirror or double. This double in Smith is reeking havoc, not just for the humans, but all the machines/programs.
So while all the humans are fight the machines, Neo is fighting himself, i.e. Smith in the Matrix having made a deal with the Machines that if he gets rid of Smith the machines will make peace. Skipping to the end, we see Neo stop fighting and is assimilated into Smith, a “self-giving sacrifice” of one so that the many might live, right? Well yes, because somehow Smith is kill, and the Machines let up there fight. But this is not the logic of the Cross at all.
From the account given by the Oracle, Smith is the double of Neo—if Neo is yin then Smith is yan—and the given what the Architect said about balancing the equation, we see that Neo never really transcended the logic of the Matrix, he just displaced out of the program, into the really world. But the logic is the same, there must be balance, and since Neo created the imbalance initially by killing/creating agent Smith, his sacrifice is the reinstatement of the logic of Balance (Karma?), not the breaking free from it. So, yes sacrificed himself, and created a tentative end to the war, but he did not fundamentally change the rules of the war. And this is really the problem with using Neo’s sacrifice as an allusion to Christ’s b/c Christ’s sacrifice changed the rules of war, and transcended the logic of balance through his self-giving for others. and really the flipside of this self-giving is the “incarnation” of the totally Other for man, from outside the system, which is totally absent from the Matrix. given all this, Christians should not go about claiming this as example of Christ because 1) it totally devalues what Christ actually did, 2) it totally misses the point of Balance, which is more Eastern than Christian. (I would claim Memento as a Christian movie way before i did the matrix)
now all that to say that I actually really liked the matrix for what they are, esp. the first movie. The multicultural integration of characters, the empowerment of women, a critique of hyper-reality and consumerism (these movies really lend themselves to a Marxist reading of liberation/revolution than a Christian one of salvation) are all great and appreciated. But could we please move beyond superficial moralizing of a movie (art in general) or an equally superficial “gospelizing” of art. We to be able to understand and appreciate a work of art according to its own terms before evaluating according to Christian ones. This will keep us from doing violence to the “creation” of others, valuing them as co-creators with the Creator.