25 Jan 2023
The Matrix (1999)
Featuring Dr King-Ho Leung
When The Matrix debuted in 1999, audiences were delighted by its use of Hong-Kong style fight choreography (rooted in wuxia and involving mixed martial arts performed, in part, by suspending actors on wires) combined with a new cinematographic style, later known as "Bullet Time". Hollywood was forever changed. But the film was far more than a visual spectacle. Filmmakers, Lana and Lilly Wachowski, produced an action film that was also deeply intellectual, playing with allegory, religion, and philosophy in new ways. In so doing, it prompts age old questions on the nature of reality, and what it means to be masters of our own fate. In this episode, Dr King-Ho Leung breaks down some of the richer metaphors in the film, discusses the protagonist, Neo, as a 'Chosen One' who chooses to be chosen, and demonstrates how The Matrix can illuminate classical philosophical and theological ideas, including: Plato's Allegory of the Cave, René Descartes's theories on the nature of being, and Karl Barth's understanding of Christ.
The philosophical study of the nature of being, including what it is to exist.
The philosophical study of the nature of knowledge, including the difference between belief and opinion.
Doctrine of Election -
Being divinely chosen as God's own (either as an individual or as a group).
Literally, 'the study of Christ'. A branch of Christian theology exploring the nature of Jesus as Christ. This is different than studying Jesus as a historical figure.
Fallen World -
Relating to the Christian concept of "the fall", in which all humanity are believed to live with sin due to Adam and Eve's transgression in the Garden of Eden, when they ate the fruit of the tree.
Many thanks to Dr King-Ho Leung for his time and expertise.
King-Ho is Senior Research Fellow at St. Mary’s College, the University of St. Andrews. He was previously Lecturer in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Chester. His work has been published in journals including Philosophy, Modern Theology, Studies in Christian Ethics, and Theory, Culture & Society. He is currently completing a book on the understanding of philosophy as a spiritual practice and its relation to contemporary conceptions of secularity. You can find King-Ho on Twitter @kingholeung.
King-Ho Leung, Uploading Our Souls Online, TedX
James L. Ford, "Buddhism, Christianity, and The Matrix: The Dialectic of Myth-Making in Contemporary Cinema," Journal of Religion & Film. Vol. 4, No. 2 , Article 1 (2000).
Matt Lawrence, Like a Splinter in Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the Matrix Trilogy (Blackwell, 2004)
Marcy Cook, "Decoding the Transgender Matrix: The Matrix as a Transgender Coming Out Story" The Mary Sue (19 Apr 2016).
LeiLani Nishime, "The Matrix Trilogy, Keanu Reeves, and Multiraciality at the End of Time" in Mixed Race Hollywood, Beltran and Fojas, eds. (NYU Press, 2008).
Predrag Milidrag, “Platonism, Cartesianism and Hegel’s Thought in the Matrix Trilogy”. Filozofija I društvo/Philosophy and Society 24.4 (2013).
Alex E. Blazer, “The ‘Matrix’ Trilogy and the Revolutionary Drive through ‘The Desert of the Real.’” Literature/Film Quarterly 35, no. 4 (2007): 265–73.
Russell JA Kilbourn. “RE-WRITING ‘REALITY’: READING ‘THE MATRIX.’” Revue Canadienne d’Études Cinématographiques / Canadian Journal of Film Studies 9, no. 2 (2000): 43–54.
Catherine Constable, Adapting Philosophy: Jean Baudrillard and “The Matrix Trilogy. (Manchester University Press, 2009).
Why The Matrix Is a Trans Story According to Lilly Wachowski, Netflix Film (4 Aug 2020)
THE MATRIX - Really That Good, FilmBob - A YouTube review of The Matrix from a film criticism point of view, with reference to some of the themes discussed in our episode.