The Matrix Reloaded (2003) 138 minutes
The Matrix Trilogy is one of those series of movies within which there resides a host of possible thematic explorations germane to an architectural film series. First of all, and maybe most pretentiously, there is the discussion of the Baudrillardian metaphysics of image and reality; it is no secret that the Wachowski brothers planted numerous references within the movie to his book Simulacra and Simulation (even though Baudrillard himself has said that movie “stemmed mostly from misunderstandings” of his work). Secondly, one could discuss the philosophical problem that has come to be known as the “brain in a vat” problem, which perhaps found its initial formulation in Descartes as the “deceiving” or “malicious demon” problem (to which his solution was, famously, cogito ergo sum). The discussion, in its most simplified, has to do with the ineluctable synaptic distance between our five senses and the known anatomic locus of our cognition; the problem and its fundamentally inescapable insolvability is the universe within which the premise of the entire trilogy traverses. All of which has to do with the reconciliation of vision and architecture, that being the primary subject of an ocularcentrically critical architectural space which has remained the dominant episteme since the Renaissance, and which may or may not have been superseded by McLuhanian electro-acoustic space in the 20th century. Or maybe more tectonically, one could discuss the various scenescapes and digital-apocalyptico architectures the film visualizes, most notably of which may be the 8 mile loop of California highway that was built entirely for one really awesome car-chase scene in this movie. Perhaps then the discussion could segue into an exposition of the fairly recent concepts of the technosublime or technorococo, two catchy-sounding concepts made possible primarily by advancements in digital modeling technologies (sublime as defined in the most antiquated Burkean-derived-from-terror sense, not in the more po-mo sense of elevated beauty). Discussion of various versions of Maya and their respective impacts upon the architectural profession would undoubtedly ensue.
This is all fine and well. But I think I’ll leave those topics for more appropriate venues, this one-page film notes handout not being one of them. Instead, I’ll talk about how the mastermind behind the Matrix (to those who have been living under a rock for the past decade: the Matrix, in the jargon of the eponymous movie trilogy, is essentially a souped-up computer program used to simulate reality) is a guy named, “the Architect.” We even are introduced to “the Architect” character in his room of infinite TV screens, like a 21st Century re-imagining of the panopticon that Foucault wrote about in Discipline & Punish.
How did it come to be that the man who enslaves all of humanity to generate electricity is named “the Architect?” Why couldn’t he be called, “the Structural Engineer?” Or, “the Contractor?” Aren’t they also capable of enslaving humanity in the service of their egos? No? At this point I can hear Keanu Reeves saying, “Dude, no way.” Why not?
Why does the title of architect have slight malignant undertones? Our fellow Yalie George W. Bush, in all his unknowing subtlety, even dubbed Karl Rove, his most trusted cabinet member and campaign director, “the Architect.” It makes him sound so scheming, like he’s behind a big desk somewhere rubbing his fingers together and saying, “Eh-xcellent,” like Montgomery Burns in the Simpsons (who, coincidentally, is another Yalie). It seems like hubris, architecture, and Yale all go together.
Well, who knows. Anyway, there are some really sublime action scenes in this movie.
(originally written 10/5/2006)