AMC has been playing the whole trilogy for a few days. I can watch the two sequels and try to figure out what they are trying to say. They are at least entertaining enough to pass. But compared to the first they are disappointing. Perhaps because the first is just such a great movie.
Obviously there is a message the first movie is trying to get across. And what you take that message to be can probably depend on your own preset beliefs. But as I was just watching Morpheus explain to Neo what the Matrix is I was able to more clearly dictate what I had always thought was a big theme of the movie. The big question in the first act of the movie is "What is the Matrix?". Morpheus explains that humans built AI and at some point humans and those machines started fighting. Humans blacked out the sky so that the machines couldn't use the sun for energy. But the machines figured out how to use humans as energy. Thus humans were presumably wiped out and just grown in fields like crops for the machines to eat.
Technically Morpheus says the Matrix is a computer program that the machines plug humans into to make them feel like they are living in what was the world as humans knew it before the battle with machines. Again, I presume they do this so that the human body can keep growing and thus providing as much energy as it can. But Morpheus gives us his own personal definition of what the Matrix is. He says it is "control". Now to me, this picture the writers/directors have painted us is a very Marxist view of the world.
To Marx, in short, the proletariat were controlled by the bourgeousie (yeah I muffed that spelling) that owned the means of production. Essentially the people were being exploited by the labor they had to take part of simply for the owners to benefit. I'm not sure the Wachowskis are Marxists. In fact, I doubt they are. But I don't think you have to buy into all of Marx's theories in order to think that most people are used in order to benefit a very small minority. If most people were honest I think they would agree with some sort of variation of that thinking.
And where I think The Matrix goes the complete opposite direction of a Marxist is in its remedy of the situation. Marx and probably most people sympathetic to his line of thinking do not like religion. Marx famously said it was the opiate of the masses, meaning that it was a way for them to reduce the pain of their lives. He thought people had to come together and change things for themselves, not rely on religion to save them. But The Matrix is laced with analogies to faith and religious themes. Neo is essentially a messiah figure that was sent to rescue the human race.
I'm not sure if the Wachowskis had sequels in mind when they made The Matrix. But assuming they didn't know it would be a massive hit, I'm going to take the ending for what it is and not try to look too much at the other films to gather meaning. And what I take is that Neo begins to pave the way towards salvation. He doesn't actually free humanity. He just shows that he can fight against the machines when no one had been able to previously. To me the ending is the Wachowskis signaling that there is hope in the midst of oppression, and religion can be that thing that provides hope.
If I'm really bored this weekend I might try and analyze the second and third movies. But if I don't get around to it I'll just say that the end of the third movie seems to confirm Neo as a messiah figure in that he dies beating the rogue machine and the final scene is one in which the sky is no longer blackened and the sun is shining. That hope that Neo represented brought together humans and machines so that they could live together peacefully.