Flashback: the Gnostic scifi fantasies of the late 1990s

All this talk of Gnosticism in the movies is reminding me, last Monday marked the 15th anniversary of The Matrix.

It would be impossible to overstate what a huge deal that movie was at the time. It was not the first Gnostic parable to grace the big screen by any stretch — several films that touched on similar themes had come out just the previous year — and the whole thing fizzled out when the filmmakers cranked out two bloated, underwhelming sequels just four years later. But for a while there, the movie had everyone talking about Christ-figures and philosophy and the nature of reality, etc.

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Some of the many sci-fi films that Oblivion borrows from.

It’s difficult to review a movie like Oblivion. The film is such a wide-ranging pastiche of existing science-fiction movies that you spend most of your time thinking not about what’s actually in the film, nor about what any of it might “mean”, but of all the other movies that this movie reminds you of.

So, here are the movies that came to my mind during or immediately after my first viewing of Oblivion. Maybe, if I see the film a second time, I will find all the inter-textual references less distracting and will be able to focus on the movie for its own sake. Oh, and be warned: there are lots and lots of spoilers below.

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Review: The Matrix Revolutions (dir. the Wachowskis, 2003)

SO MUCH for the salvation of humanity.

When The Matrix first came out four and a half years ago, many Christians were intrigued and excited by the film’s many biblical allusions. The protagonist was a hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) who discovered that the entire human race was trapped within a virtual reality, and all people were living in a computer-generated dream state to hide the fact that the world had been conquered by machines that were using human beings as a power source.

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Review: The Matrix Reloaded (dir. the Wachowskis, 2003)

IT’S TOO early to say all that much about The Matrix Reloaded — it’s only the first half of a two-part sequel that won’t be over until the next installment comes out in November — but the film does force fans of the first movie to rethink everything they thought they knew about it.

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Review: The Matrix (dir. the Wachowskis, 1999)

REALITY ISN’T what it used to be. For whatever reason — premillennial anxiety, post-modern rootlessness, the increasing verisimilitude of special effects — filmmakers are increasingly obsessed with the notion that the real world is, in fact, unreal. Last year gave us The Truman Show and Dark City, in which human protagonists awoke to discover they were trapped in cages under someone else’s watchful eye. Similar themes may surface next month in The Thirteenth Floor.

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