Ever since the announcement that The Matrix 4 is being made with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Lana Wachowski returning, it got us thinking: what is the best Matrix film? The second two films, Reloaded and Revolutions, garnered heavy criticism when they were released. People expected Neo to end the war through force. It subverted expectations, but in a good way. Everyone Neo met helped him along his path. The Matrix Trilogy is Neo’s personal journey towards self-realization/self-actualization and enlightenment. This is no more evident than in the third film, which points to one simple and obvious truth: The Matrix Revolutions is the best Matrix film. Neo’s Rebirth The Matrix The Matrix Revolutions There are numerous parallels between The Matrix Revolutions and the first film, both visually and with regards to the dialogue. This is very much George Lucas-esque. He viewed his films as stanzas in a poem that rhymed with another, and The Matrix Trilogy is no different. In both these cases, Neo returns to The Matrix “reborn”; in the first case, he enters the Matrix for the first time. In the second, he is transformed from his connection to the source. This is symbolic of his spiritual awakening and growth throughout the saga. Neo is the only “One” who was every capable of ending the war. He goes on a journey of self-discovery on how to do this; to quote LOST, “he can’t be told what that is, he has to find it himself.” And Neo does exactly that, but we’ll get to that fact a little later. Revolutions is full of these subtleties, which is one reason why Revolutions is the best Matrix film. “You Are Seeing the World Without Time” Neo meditating Neo’s vision of what he must do As the Oracle told Neo in Reloaded, Neo is viewing the world without time. He’s already made his choices; now he’s finally beginning to understand them. Neo is hailed as a messianic-like figure and was expected to win the war through force; he does just the opposite, and this is one of the reasons the film is so poorly received. It’s deeply spiritual. In our current society, anything spiritual is lambasted. No doubt there are valid criticisms of the film, but one must take things into context; Reloaded and Revolutions are one film, cut in half. When you look at it that way, many of the film’s fundamental flaws disappear. And, the first film wasn’t without its flaws either. The Matrix Revolutions is able to take everything The Matrix did with Neo’s character and take it even further. Neo’s journey throughout all three films is nothing short of masterful, but it’s in the final installment of the trilogy where it shines the most. Neo begins to view the world without time and attains a level of understanding which furthers his journey towards self-actualization. A Journey Towards Self-Realization and Self-Actualization Smith blinds Neo, but for the first time, he’s actually able to see. He continues to reach a level of understanding that would not be possible if he weren’t blinding. The transformation is the greatest in film history. Neo begins to see the machines in a majestic light, which starkly contrasts to the idea that has been pushed throughout the entire story: the machines are evil, the humans are the good guys. Well, this isn’t so clear cut, as nothing with the Wachowski’s ever is. Neo being engulfed in light is symbolic to his spiritual awakening. At this point, he’s lost everything. His whole struggle in this story is to be able to let go, like in so many other classic stories, and it’s finally at the end that he surrenders and ultimately saves the world, fulfilling the prophecy of The One. Notice the Cross in the background One of my favorite examples of symbolism in The Matrix Revolutions is on the Logos (“The Word.”) Notice the cross in the background on the ship’s door. Neo isn’t just a messianic figure; he’s a Jesus-like figure. This foreshadows his ultimate choice. Instead of merely fighting through force, with his unlimited power, he lays his power aside, much like Christ did and so many others throughout history. Christianity was a huge influence on The Matrix Trilogy and this symbolism simply shows the obvious: Neo is not going to win through conventional terms, and he is a Christ-like figure. Neo versus Smith Neo and Smith’s ultimate showdown. While The Matrix is about Neo’s spiritual journey towards self-understand and self-actualization/enlightenment, the fight scenes are some of the best in the history of film. Neo’s final showdown with Smith is just that. As the battle rages on though, it becomes obvious that Neo cannot win by way of force. He is one man up against an army. Despite all his power, he’s rendered powerless. As Neo gets stronger, so does Smith, and this plays out throughout the fight, as Smith is Tha Matrix’s response to Neo; the result of the equation trying to balance itself out. Once Neo is beaten, in a sense, Smith goes on with the best speech of all-time. And yes, it is the greatest speech of all-time and encapsulates just why humans are so fascinating. Neo has lost everything he was trying to protect, yet despite that, regardless of how irrational it may seem, he keeps fighting. Not out of loyalty, not out of a sense of duty, but simply because he chooses to. This affirmation encapsulates the beauty in humanity. Smith is unable to understand this though. He’s a program built on logic; he can’t see beyond his own selfish ambitions, and lambasts Neo for refusing to give up. Why, Mr. Anderson? “Why, Mr. Anderson? Why, why, why? Why do you do it? Why? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom or truth?! Perhaps peace?! Could it be for love?! Illusions, Mr. Anderson, vagaries of perception! Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose! And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love! You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson! You must know it by now! You can’t win! It’s pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. Anderson?! Why?! WHY DO YOU PERSIST?!” “Because I choose to.” You were right Smith. You were always right. It was inevitable. After this exchange, Neo has a revelation. He tosses his power aside and completely surrenders, unlike in the previous films. He lets go. This is the most powerful scene in the series. Again, he doesn’t win the war through force; he wins it by fighting with compassion, not hate, which is all Smith has. He sacrifices himself to save the world, not with his extraordinary power, but with love. And this is the ultimate message of The Matrix Trilogy. Neo’s Enlightenment The Matrix Revolutions is the best Matrix film and is filled with so much imagery, and none is as powerful as this visual representation of Neo’s enlightenment. His journey complete, he reaches something almost unattainable: self-actualization. He’s engulfed in light, which symbolizes his enlightenment. It’s both elegant and touching, and rounds out Neo’s journey in perfect fashion. Neo doesn’t end the war in the way that was expected of him, and this turned off not only the characters in the film but filmgoers as well. The Matrix is a story of self-discovery and is a metaphor for our own journies in life. The Matrix Revolutions sums this up in perfect fashion. It’s only a shame that the film is so misunderstood.