The Matrix Resurrected: A Philosophical Examination
The original Matrix was as bold as it was profound. It revolutionized sci-fi movies, action movies, and, well, all of cinema. Its concept of people living in a simulation was a philosophical smorgasbord filled with Jewish ideas and references. After 20+ years, could a sequel possibly measure up?
Nope. Not in plot, concept, or even mindless popcorn action. Though it lacks the philosophical insights of its predecessor, there are a couple of ideas that hit home. Particularly with regard to the choice of waking up and engaging in reality (the red pill) or going back to sleep (the blue pill). From here on out, there are major spoilers. You’ve been warned.
What is This Matrix? Fact or fiction.
Neo, who is now referred to by his given name, Thomas Anderson, finds himself back in contemporary life. He’s unsure whether the events of the previous movies were a psychotic delusion (which inspired a video game he created) or were in fact reality. To help him manage his mental state, he sees a psychologist (played by Neil Patrick Harris) who is simply referred to as the Analyst. Once Thomas breaks free of this new Matrix, he learns that the Analyst is the new master architect of it all. Because the Analyst has such an intimate knowledge of Thomas’s nature, he is far more formidable since he can attack Neo on an emotional and psychological level, on top of the physical.
During their first confrontation, the Analyst makes clear that his Matrix is different because, “It’s all about fiction. The only world that matters is the one [in your head]. And you people believe the craziest [stuff]. Why? What validates and makes your fictions real? Feelings.”
What could be more relevant in 2021? As much as the internet is a tool for research, it has also inundated us with sources, articles, and anecdotal evidence that it has made it almost impossible to come to an objective conclusion. So what do many of us do? Select the sources that reinforce our biases and feelings and close ourselves off in an echo chamber. We unfollow or unfriend those we disagree with or find offensive, creating our own simulated reality that we approve of. Even news networks cater to our political and social outlook, spinning the facts to fit the mold of perspective.
Judaism demands a relentless search for truth. Using rigorous Talmudic thinking, Jewish learning challenges every preconceived notion we might have. The Talmud is a vibrant, sprawling recording of never-ending arguments, guided by great thinkers like Hillel and Shammai, training the mind to think critically and examine ideas from every perspective – and with the aim to discover the truth.
Jewish learning challenges every preconceived notion we might have.
In fact, Jacob gets his new name “Israel” when he wrestles with an angel of God. The symbolism being that the children of Israel are only reaching their potential when they struggle with divine difficulties. In short, Judaism isn’t about feeling comfortable, cocooned in your preferred set of delusions. It’s about growth and understanding that only comes from engaging in the uncomfortable questions.
Two is Greater than Neo
As revolutionary as the first Matrix movies were, they did fall into the common trope of the hero’s journey – that of the singular messianic figure. The hero was not only referred to as “the one”, his name was Neo, an anagram for One.
To some extent, Matrix Resurrections breaks the mold in this regard. In the Analyst’s designs and simulations, he discovered that when Thomas and Trinity came together, it led to an unstoppable power. This time, salvation doesn’t come from one, but from two.
Love is a powerful union. Judaism regards the process of marriage itself as the key to unlocking each partner's truest potential. In the Garden of Eden, God recognizes that it is not good for Adam to be alone. When God creates Eve, she is referred to as an ezer kenegdo, the helpmate who faces Adam as an equal and challenges him. It’s through the couple’s complementary natures that they are able to see the faults in their partner, and from a place of love, help them overcome the challenges they would be otherwise blind to seeing.
In Jewish thought, the soul can reach higher heights when paired with its soulmate.
In a way, this sequel does feel a bit like taking the blue pill. This time that means the comfort of nostalgia, which the film industry finds itself enslaved to. But when you decide to engage in the challenging nature of Jewish wisdom and debate that necessitates critical thought, it’s like taking the red pill.