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Change is a Dangerous Game
by Vince Schuck
I write this thesis for the same reason that every other writer decides to address meanings and symbolisms. There is a feeling of necessity that burns within some people. "You [write] because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel itů You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad."
I will extract truths from the words and actions within the trilogy, and I will state one rule before beginning: Theories cannot not be derived from incomplete inferences and/or implications. It is easy to find meanings and symbolisms that you are looking for, but it is more useful to discover the meanings and symbolisms that were actually intended. Anyone can argue that Neo is any religious figure or mythical god because he acts in various ways that makes him comparable to many. Let's not make leaps of faith to create connections that are not intentional. This also includes believing everything characters say and not thinking that they are trying to deceive the audience. This is not an epic mystery; there are no lies.
The focus of this essay is to concentrate on the dialogue between Neo and the Oracle in Revolutions. A lot is said that explains the trilogy's plot and internal structure. However, like most of the important conversations in the movies, it is complex and confusing (i.e. the conversation between Neo and the Architect). At this point, there are things that must be accepted from the previous movies and from prior scenes.
If you don't understand these things, slap yourself in the face and re-watch the first two, right now. Now, let us dissect the dialogue between Neo and the Oracle. What does this explain in the big picture of the story? What does it all mean?
The Oracle: I don't know.
Neo: You don't know or you won't tell me?
Oracle: I told you before. No one can see beyond a choice they don't understand, and I mean no one.
Choices have already been made, but they do not understand why they have made them. They both have to fully comprehend their own purpose, meaning, design in order to know what is going to happen. Neo is still discovering who he is (or even what he is at some points), and he has to continue to do so until he is fully aware of himself. Only then will he know what to do and know how it will end.
Oracle: It doesn't matter. It's my choice. I have my mind to make up, same as you have yours.
The Oracle has made a choice that will affect the outcome of Zion's fate. We do not know what this choice is specifically, but there is only one thing she does before the end of the war: she willingly succumbs to Smith. Why? Who knows?
Oracle: Of course not.
Neo: Then why didn't you tell me about the Architect? Why didn't you tell me about Zion, the one's before me - why didn't you tell me the truth?
Oracle: Because it wasn't time for you to know.
Neo: Who decided it wasn't time?
Oracle: You know who.
This is very simple, and it is shown when the Oracle directs her eyes toward the sign above the door. "Know Thyself". Neo wasn't aware of who he was or what he was enough to grasp the truth. He needed to grow (mentally and spiritually) in order to come to terms with truth.
Oracle: So do I.
Neo: Tell me how I separated my mind from my body without jacking in. Tell me how I stopped four sentinels by thinking it. Tell me just what the hell is happening to me.
Oracle: The power of the One extends beyond this world. It reaches from here all the way back to where it came from.
Oracle: The Source. That's what you felt when you touched those sentinels. But you weren't ready for it. You should be dead, but apparently you were ready for that either.
Neo is a product of the Source. The One has abilities and powers that allow him to bend (and sometime break) the rules and laws that govern the Matrix (i.e. flying). Furthermore, he has the ability to control things in the real world because of his connection to the Source (i.e. exploding the millions of bombs over the fields with his mind while traveling to the machine city).
Oracle: Please... You and I may not be able to see beyond our own choices, but that man can't see past any choices.
Neo: Why not?
Oracle: He doesn't understand them - he can't. To him they are variables in an equation. One at a time each variable must be solved and countered. That's his purpose: to balance the equation.
Neo: What's your purpose?
Oracle: To unbalance it.
This explains so much. The Architect makes decisions but does not understand why. He does things because he is designed to do so. He has no choice or option; he acts solely on logical codes and laws. He sees everything as "an equation". An equation has an '=' sign in the middle. What is represented on one side must equal the other side. The Architect's purpose is to make each side of the equation equal each other by any means necessary.
The Oracle then says it crystal clear, her purpose is "to unbalance" the equation. She unbalances the equation by allowing the anomaly to grow and become stronger. She assists the One to create unbalance. The Architect attempts to balance the equation through the One's opposite, it's negative, in order to offset the inequality. What is the One's opposite, the negative? Smith. Smith's rise to power and rebellion was created through the Architect's attempt to balance the equation of the One.
Oracle: I want the same thing you want, Neo. And I am willing to go as far as you are to get it.
Neo: The end of the war. Is it going to end?
Oracle: One way or another.
This is another simple portion of the dialogue that requires little interpretation. The Oracle has always been acting in a way to support the end of the war, although she is unaware of the specific outcome. "One way or another" means that Zion will be free from the machine's oppression or Zion will be destroyed.
Oracle: I'm sorry, I don't know the answer to that question, but if there's an answer, there's only one place you're going to find it.
Oracle: You know where. And if you can't find the answer, then I'm afraid there may be no tomorrow for any of us.
The Oracle cannot see the future of Zion because not even Neo understands his future choice. Zion's fate is dependent upon Neo's choice, which he must understand to see further beyond. Neo can learn to understand his choice by going to the machine city, and the Oracle and Neo both know it.
Oracle: Everything that has a beginning has an end. I see the end coming. I see darkness spreading. I see death. And you are all that stands in his way.
If Neo is unable to find the answer of his unforeseeable choice, then the human race and the machines will both be doomed. The machines will destroy Zion and all of the freed minds, then Smith will infect and corrupt the Matrix, and finally Smith will infect the machines.
Neo: What is he?
Oracle: He is you. Your opposite, your negative, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out.
This portion of the dialogue is affirming what I have already said. Smith will destroy the Matrix, and then the real world along with the machines. Furthermore, the Oracle confirms that Smith is "the result of the equation trying to balance itself out." Smith's power is the Architect's counteraction against the Oracle unbalancing the equation through Neo.
Oracle: One way or another, Neo, this war is going to end. Tonight, the future of both worlds will be in your hands... or in his.
Remembering that no character in the trilogy lies or tries to deceive the audience, the Oracle says the "war is going to end" and we have no reason to believe otherwise. If Neo cannot defeat Smith, then the machines will destroy Zion and Smith will destroy the machines. Both parties lose. If Neo defeats Smith, then Smith is gone and Zion and the machines will have peace. Both parties win.
What is more important is to understand what happens when Neo defeats Smith. Neo realizes his choice and he understands why. This epiphany comes after Smith gives his "why do you persist?" speech. Neo allows himself to be infected by Smith because he sees the outcome. Without Neo, the Architect will see the imbalance in the equation and he will do away with Smith to re-balance it. The Architect cannot eliminate Neo because he is a freed mind. However, The Architect can erase Smith because he is a program; although a rogue program, a program none the less. The end of Neo causes the end of Smith. The equation is balanced out by the Architect.
A good theory that may arise from this is that it could have been the Oracle's plan the entire time. If the Oracle knew the Architect's purpose is to balance the equation, she could have created the imbalance in order to indirectly create Smith. This is supported when Smith calls the Oracle "mom". The Oracle wants the end of the war, and she gambled on the One to stop Smith. If the One cannot stop Smith, then everyone loses. This supported when the Architect and the Oracle speak to each other at the end of Revolutions.
Architect:: You've played a very dangerous game.
Oracle: Change always is.
Architect:: Just how long do you think this peace will last?
Oracle: long as it can.
The "game" the Architect speaks of is creating the imbalance in the equation through the building up of the One, while knowing that the Architect would create an opposing force to balance the equation. Once the opposite power grew beyond the Architect's control, then only the One can stop him because they are of equal power.
To wrap everything up, this conversation is critical to the entire understanding of the trilogy and the relationships between characters. The dialogue gives insight into the connection between Neo and Smith, the connection between Neo and the Source, the purpose and the relationship between Oracle and the Architect, and the theme of 'understanding choices'. I highly recommend watching Revolutions again during or after reading this.
Did You Know?
Many of Zion's councillors are named after philosophers and writers: Councillor Dillard - Annie Dillard is renowned for her work in religion and mysticism; Councillor Hamann - J. G. Hamann, a passionate critic of enlightenment philosophy and theology; Councillor West - played by and named after Princeton philosopher Cornell West.
- 'Like a Splinter in Your Mind'