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Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) in The Matrix Reloaded (The Wachowskis, Village Roadshow Films, 2003)
Stories & Ideas

Sun 01 Nov 2020

The Matrix Reloaded – Believe me when I say

FilmRead
ACMI Profile

Blake Howard

Australian film critic and award-winning podcaster behind Michael Mann’s One Heat Minute

We take a look at Morpheus' iconic speech from the second Matrix film.

When Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus addresses the people of Zion with his passionate and inspirational speech, he does so with candid poetry. Morpheus says, "Believe me when I say… we have a difficult time ahead of us." In isolation, Morpheus is Neo's wizard mentor but when he arrives at humanity's last refuge you see him received with cynicism. The elders of Zion don't prescribe to his prophecy, but the people crave his aura. His booming defiance is a kind of elixir; "We are still here…. This is Zion, and we are not afraid!"

Believe me when I say... that the release of the Wachowski's (Lana and Lilly) 2003 follow-up to sci-fi genre-redefining The Matrix (1999) was one of the most anticipated films of this century. Believe me when I say... that Australia had never experienced a more immense surge in work for our local film industry until the Star Wars prequels/The Matrix series occupied our shores for half a decade. Believe me, when I say... that before the current final entry in the series, The Matrix Revolutions (2003) intellectually challenged and emotionally deadened our impressions of the series, The Matrix Reloaded sensationally expanded the characters and the world.

Picking up within a year of The Matrix (1999), Neo, Trinity and Morpheus return to rebel against the machine slave masters as the underground human refuge Zion comes under assault. Neo must fulfil the prophecy laid out by the oracle, or the sentinels' swarm will extinguish the resistance once and for all. Meanwhile, Neo's ascension has caused another awakening; Agent Smith's destruction is, in fact, an awakening. The arrival in Zion is the confluence moment in Wachowski's ambitious arc, what media scholar Henry Jenkins named "transmedia storytelling". Before the release of The Matrix Reloaded (2003), the animated anthology shorts know as The Animatrix (2003), and adventure video game Enter The Matrix (2003) expanded and contextualised the characters and the world of the yet to be seen Matrix sequels. The Animatrix, a series of anime and digital animation shorts, created a strange chicken-egg quandary. The collection used the art form and style that directly influenced the series - anime - to expand and inspire unseen glimpses into the Wachowski's vivid world. With more than an hour of footage directed by the Wachowski's and providing an avenue for an altogether different kind of screen-time to Jada Pinkett-Smith's Niobe and Anthony Wong's Ghost; Enter The Matrix, on the other hand, created an essential accompaniment to the sequels.

In a 2019 article for Polygon, Patrick Willems observed that, In many ways, it's a pattern that has defined the Wachowskis' work: They were doing something audiences weren't quite ready for that might have been a little overly ambitious. But the ripples from its impact can still be seen more than a decade later. As the Disney owned Star Wars and Marvel brands soar their characters into transmedia, interconnected universes across comics, novels, streaming shows, cinema and games; remember the oracle's prophecy and the booming rebel voice of Morpheus imploring humanity to believe.

– Blake Howard

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