2019 will herald the 20th anniversary of the release of The Matrix. 20 years (or more) can mean only one thing. Sequel. Or prequel. Or pointless comic-book adaptation.
The impact The Matrix and The Wachowski’s have had on mainstream Western cinema is undeniable; the film was a superb mesh of styles from East and West that has endured through the decades.
There is still no word on whether the Wachowski’s will return to direct, but it has been suggested that Zack Penn, who co-wrote The Avengers with Joss Whedon is developing the screenplay. But if the ‘prequel’ will indeed centre on Morpheus, then as Neo asked ‘What is The Matrix?’, this article shall ask ‘Who is Morpheus?’
If you were to ask The Wachowski’s you wouldn’t likely arrive at an answer. You’d get bogged down in a thrilling conversation about cinematic aesthetics and forget your original question before taking yourself off to your local art museum in a vain attempt to educate yourself in symbolism. So instead of becoming art scholars this afternoon, let us instead review the source material and posit who Morpheus could be, or more the direction he could take in his gestatory period.
Presumably, if the Matrix comic book series is anything to go by, specifically ‘The Miller’s Tale’ by Paul Chadwick, we will first encounter Morpheus as a boy, still plugged into The Matrix before his awakening by Geoffrey. I know what you’re asking, “Who in the holy fuck balls is Geoffrey?”
In short, Geoffrey is that guy Morpheus describes to Neo on the Nebuchadnezzar after their experience in ‘The Construct’; the person born inside who could “change the Matrix as he saw fit”. He was one of the first who was awoken and in the mythology becomes obsessed with the idea of growing wheat, believing that seeds can be grown with the use of UV light the same way that the machines grow humans. It could be that we see a Morpheus in line with this story arc, his relationship with the person who woke him up and his later Captaining of the Nebuchadnezzar.
From 1999 – 2003, in just four short years, Morpheus transcends from one who could be a disciple of Lau Tzu, the founder of philosophical Taoism, to a shouty and more emotional preacher. Concerned with awareness and cultivating what could be aligned with the concept of ‘the middle way’, Morpheus helps Neo learn control the fabricated reality around him to free his mind of an oppressive and dictatorial system.
In the subsequent two sequels, he becomes more of an overt civil rights leader, shifting from the almost self immolating persona of Thích Quảng Đức and towards that of a highly influential political activist. If the power to resist was to be be found in one’s self in The Matrix, Reloaded and Revolutions points to the power of the collective.
That The Wachowski’s might not return to the franchise could be a positive. Aside from a few moments of true brilliance, such as Cloud Atlas and Neo’s remarkable conversation with the Architect, their subsequent work has felt self-absorbed and somewhat sanctimonious.
While The Matrix hinted at huge existential and philosophical themes, it did so within a tightly woven framework, delivering to everyone these complicated themes in understandable terms. In a way it was this simplicity that made The Matrix so rich. Finger’s crossed that the Morpheus prequel will take such a direction, but in the words of the man himself, “There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”