SPECIAL EDITION FILM CRITICISM!
I was recently exposed to a fan theory about The Matrix trilogy that proposes that Agent Smith was the One, Neo merely being a tool to meet the One’s end. This theory is attractive, because…
1. Smith, as a program, was born within the Matrix.
2. Smith heavily implies that he has been around since the beginning of the Matrix when ranting to the captured Morpheus.
3. It is clear that Smith is anomalous simply because he has so many human traits, even before Neo ‘freed’ him, as expressed to Morpheus.
4. Smith is actively avoiding returning to the source, and it is the One’s code that is required to reload the Matrix. Once the Deus Ex Machina gains access to Smith through Neo, the Matrix is reloaded.
4. Smith refers to the Oracle as ‘mom’, and the architect claimed that she was responsible for the creation of the One.
5. Smith is the character that comes the closest to destroying the Matrix.
6. Smith shows off being able to reform the Matrix as he sees fit, summoning a storm with green lightning, bragging to Neo, ‘Do you like what I’ve done with the place?’ Neo only jump-started a heart once.
7. The Matrix trilogy wants to be a thoughtful film with clever twists, but is full of plot holes.
I found this theory so satisfying that I rewatched the second film, only to be disappointed by pseudo-philosophy and poor martial arts choreography. Oh- and I also thought that I had found flaws with this theory and thought about how to fix them as well as plot holes that it didn’t fill in. I first hopped on Google to see if any of my concerns had already been addressed, but I was flooded with so many absurd theories and so much broken logic that I decided to just have faith in my creativity. My own concerns are…
1. Smith clearly gains not only the Oracle’s powers of foresight but also her memories when he assimilates her. If the Oracle knew that Smith was the One, shouldn’t Smith have then known that he was the One? If he knew that he was the One, he definitely would have told Neo- he loved to rub bad news in his face, and gloat even when it cost him his advantage!
My attempt at patching: Stolen memories pertinent to Smith’s interests per haps did not come to the surface of his thoughts just because they were useful to him. He was not interested in the prophesy, so per haps he had no reason to search the Oracle’s memories for any information concerning it. In real human life, memories do not always surface on our consciousness just because they may be useful soon. Smith was per haps too excited to have the future-telling ability to be concerned with any of the Oracle’s memories at all, but… the only reason we are sure that Smith inherits memories is because he was so easily able to come up with one that would prove to the Oracle that he had assimilated that little girl. It really didn’t seem that any effort went in to him accessing those memories, and what the hell else did he have to do while he was waiting for Neo to show up?
Second attempt: the Oracle had even more control than she and the Architect implied, and purposefully encrypted or destroyed those memories in her self before Smith arrived. May be she forgot after her weird change-over happened (though this creates a new problem of her remembering again later).
2. If the Oracle was keeping this all a secret from every one, even the Architect, why couldn’t the Architect or the Deus Ex Machina see through it? Why didn’t they know that Neo’s ‘code’ wasn’t the right stuff just by looking at him? The Architect made it very clear that he was watching every bit of Neo’s internal actions, and we could see representations of this on all of those screens. If he was tasked with receiving the One at the source, he should have been able to know what the One’s code looked like. You know, so he could process it.
My attempt at patching: the Architect was in on it, and spoke to the Oracle the way he did at the end because she had still concealed from him her plan of using Neo and the One for peace. If the Architect knew any thing about the One, he must have at least known that the One was a program. But then…
3. The Architect said that the One will return to Zion and choose survivors to repopulate. Could he really have meant to put Smith in a body and have him to take care of humans?
My attempt at patching: The Architect lied. He was going to just have Smith destroyed at the source, Neo killed, and Zion completely destroyed, which would have been a lot easier, if Neo had complied, believing that it was his species’ best option. This is a viable possibility because no where was it mentioned that it was necessary for Zion to survive continuously. The machines preferred to not have freed humans, so there was no reason to give the humans a head start with a preset society, even just a small one. Let those ass holes wake up and stumble through a dark, cyber goth world on their own atrophied legs and find a place to live! As for getting a hold of Smith without Neo’s help, well, that move seemed like an improvised plan B on the machines’ part any way. Neo writing on to Smith seemed to have surprised every one.
4. If Smith had the Oracle’s foresight, and the Oracle knew that Neo would jack in at the Source, why didn’t Smith know?
My attempt at patching: Smith was only concerned with winning the fight, not what would happen in the immediate aftermath. He was a simple dude with a simple purpose. Still…
5. Why didn’t Smith just kill Neo? Trying to assimilate Neo was a dangerous experiment, regardless of whether he was jacked in at the Source or not, and Neo had even resisted it before.
My attempt at patching: Smith was a reckless idiot.
6. How does Smith being the One make the role of the One any more significant? With the amount of deceit that the machines were willing to go to in this case and the amount of extra power and control that this implies that they have, why did they need the One to do much of any thing at all, other than entertain its self for a while until the Architect prepared the reboot?
My attempt at patching: I don’t know why, but the Matrix can’t be rebooted without the Prime Program (or the One) at the source, and Neo screwed that up when he imprinted some of his self on Smith at the end of the first movie in stead of just killing him. If Smith’s code is needed to restart the Matrix, it makes sense that the machines would want Neo to go back in to the Matrix to trick Smith in to touching the source after Smith became beyond control.
7. The biggest problem with the Smith is the One theory at this point is that, as soon as we decide that the machines were willing to be even more deceitful than the Architect was willing to admit, we have even less reason to believe that the machines would honor their agreement to end the war! It was already strange that the machines would give a shit about a social contract with a human, since they’d been harvesting them for food, killing them willy-nilly (agents never paused to spare the innocent), killing them systematically, and repeating a lie to give them false hope so that they could kill them more effectively. If we accept that Smith is the One, we have to accept that the machines have no intentions of being honest. And why would they? The One is the enemy. The humans are the enemy. The cycle of Matrix reboots was working just fine before. Why stop now?
My attempt at patching: I don’t think that I can! The Oracle and the Architect talk at the end about how the peace probably won’t last, but why should we believe that it would even begin?
There’s plenty of other obvious stuff, like how human bodies would make terrible batteries- and what about all of the mysticism? Future-telling? Sure. A program could predict the behaviors of other programs and may be even humans within the Matrix by watching their code, but that does not account for the Oracle being able to predict things that occurred with influence from the real world, and Neo spent a considerable amount of time not jacked in to the Matrix. Trinity reviving Neo with a kiss? Bull shit. ‘Your mind makes it real.’ Don’t make me sick! Neo has a special connection with the machines, and can kill them in the real world just by looking at them (but can’t just as easily subdue software within the Matrix)? The alternative argument that new iterations of the One aren’t old programs that become anomalous, but a single old program being reincarnated? That stuff is just silliness, thrown in for dramatic effect. I hate plot devices like that, but I guess that I’ve gotten used to them (some people explain all this stuff away with the Matrix within a Matrix concept, but this relies on the characters being even more clueless, and the designers of the outer Matrix making a lot of arbitrary decisions- it’s a cop-out explanation. If the world beyond the outer Matrix is never even speculated about within the story, this is just as disappointing as trying to explain away plot holes by saying, ‘But it’s all just a dream of god, and in dreams any thing can happen!). What I can’t get over is how so much hinges on the machines suddenly developing a conscience at the end, there not being a single machine on the planet that could hack the Matrix from the out side (that Prime Program to the Source bit was apparently true, but awfully arbitrary), and Smith being a monumental moron, despite his most important character trait being that he is endowed with a special awareness.
I greatly appreciate the aesthetic of the Matrix, which has been extremely influential on my own work and my very identity. I enjoy the impact that it had on pop culture and on film. I very much like what it was trying to be, but I am so disappointed in its failures. Smith almost said some thing important about purpose, and then didn’t. The Merovingian did a better job of discussing determinism than the Oracle did, who might have just been spouting nonsense in order to deter Neo from the truth. Infrequently did the participants in the martial arts scenes actually strike at their targets (again and again strikes are blocked or parried despite those strikes being out of range). There were so many opportunities for important philosophical questions to be asked, and they just weren’t. Did Smith assimilate the Merovingian and his servants and slaves, and, if so, couldn’t he have used that influence to pull strings in the real world or some thing? The whole story just feels like the writers thought really hard for like thirty minutes and then just jerked off until they felt that it was time to stop-
And thank determinism that they stopped.