Flashback: the Gnostic scifi fantasies of the late 1990s

Flashback: the Gnostic scifi fantasies of the late 1990s April 2, 2014

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.

I was especially attuned to that stuff because I had just finished several years at university, where I had read some Gnostic gospels as well as some essays and journal entries by Philip K. Dick, the scifi author whose stories inspired Blade Runner and Total Recall. I was also making the transition from unpaid student journalist to freelance writer, and being able to explore these themes in actual newspaper and magazine articles that people actually paid me to write was pretty exciting.

So, to mark the occasion, I have re-posted some of my reviews from back then. I would probably write a number of these articles differently now, but oh well.

First, Dark City: I reviewed the film for Books & Culture (July 1998), tying it in to some of Dick’s themes as well as then-current debates over genetic determinism. I also commented on the “director’s cut” of the film in this blog post from August 2008.

Second, The Truman Show: I reviewed the film for ChristianWeek (June 23 1998), and also for Christianity Today, but the final version of that article is currently behind a paywall; if I can find a copy somewhere, I might re-post it here later.

Third, Pleasantville: I reviewed the film for BC Report (November 16, 1998).

Finally, the Matrix trilogy: I reviewed all three films for BC Christian NewsThe Matrix in May 1999, The Matrix Reloaded in May 2003, and The Matrix Revolutions in November 2003 — and I later watched all three films in one sitting in July 2005. See also a post I wrote on “bullet time” parodies and precedents in June 2008.

And that about covers it for now, I think. More later, maybe.

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