Matrix And Westworld, despite being produced two decades apart, they metabolize one of the central anxieties of our time: the fear (or hope) of being immersed in a simulation. The idea that the reality we live in is a lie concocted by someone or something greater than us.
Obviously, the declination of this theme diverges in the two works, indeed, it is reversed: in Matrix (here the summary of the Matrix saga) are the machines that throw humanity into a simulation, while in Westworld (here our Westworld review) it’s the men who subjugate robots by harnessing them in it. In short, the protagonists are always them, man and machines, and on the relationship with them (and how it changes over time) we will explore in the course of the article.
Contemporary obsession, Matrix and Westworld as a rejection of reality
The question to ask ourselves as a starting point is: why are we artistically so obsessed with simulation? Why does our imagination seem so bound by it?
On closer inspection, Matrix and Westworld are not the only productions that have explored the subject in recent decades, but they are certainly those that, thanks to their aesthetic declinations and stylistic intuitions, have reached a mass cultural consecration. In science fiction, in fact, we could venture that there is a before and after the Matrix, not only for the cinematographic technique, but for the dilemmas it triggers through a bewitching representation and a cinematographic language usable by all. Same thing in the serial world where for different reasons (for thematic depth, cinematic depth) there is a before and after Westworld. The explanation of this obsession transcends the cinema and touches some intimate and visceral chords of each of us.
The thought of the simulation in progress, in fact, is a defense system, has an amniotic function for man as it creates an aegis towards the real and chaotic world. A secularized world now without control, with nature perceived as adverse and fraught with risks (as the German sociologist Ulrich Beck argued), a reality stripped of symbols (myths, narratives, credible religions) that leaves humanity in a confused state orphanage as Neil Gaiman well allegorized in his American Gods through the protagonist Shadow Moon.
The simulation, in short, becomes a refuge, even if this is a deception, even if it represents evil, as in Matrix or Westworld. This is because it is a reassuring ploy for reject reality and sow the hope that what today’s man lives, so suffocating, so schematic, is only a fiction and not the true reality.
Matrix and Westworld: the apotheosis of fiction that tells reality
The similarities between the two works are not limited to the thematization of the simulation, but also to other aspects: in both products, in fact, there is a protagonist who reaches forbidden knowledge or self-awareness through the obstacles of a path. We are talking about the protagonists Neo (Keanu Reeves) And Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood who plays the park’s oldest android Westworld). In both productions we have the comparison between man and machine, or rather, man-technology with the disastrous implications of its enhancement.
Finally, the protagonists’ ruminations on the unreal nature of the world in which they live and the subsequent unveiling of the simulation. But dwelling on the similarities would be like telling a story that has already been heard a thousand times and without originality.More interesting are the differences between the two works (even more so when they start from a common background of intuitive perceptions) that tell us more about the direction that the reasoning around the human is taking and his way of telling it. The narrative center of Matrix they were men.
In Westworld, two decades later, they become the androids which, although indistinguishable from human beings, are still machines. We specify it because, not surprisingly, in the work of Wachowski sisters, the machines are strange, alien, cold, intimidating, and the only goal is to take them down.
Of course, the directors hint at an anthropological criticism, given that the human being is framed as a virus for the planet (Agent Smith says it to Neo in the first film talking about the action of human beings) but this dart does not go beyond blame superficial, does not pierce. Matrix (the first film, which is the only one in the trilogy that is not brainy and not so polluted by certain commercial or emotional erections) it is, summing up, a cry of hope, the strenuous resistance of the marginalized man overwhelmed by his own horrors which he wants to remedy. But most of all, it is the search for redemption and redemption and trust in a new type of man.
In Westworld all this changes. Androids and robots are phenotypically humanized, the narrative prompts the viewer to empathize for them. As if all humanity, using the showrunners and the film filter, had become aware and accepted their own cruelty as bestial beings. Beings who, stripped of all social constraints and legal repercussions, are prey to unspoken impulses and violence as predicted by it The discomfort of civilization by Sigmund Freud.
From “The world of robots” to Westworld: change the concept of human
Obviously, the observation proposed just now can be understood as a stretch if you think that Matrix was released in 1999 while the film it is based on Westworld, or The world of robots by Crichton, is from 1973. In short, how can the suggestion of Matrix be preparatory to the exegesis of Westworld if the original work of the latter is born earlier?
The answer is simple: from The world of robots to Westworld, morals change radically. In common, these two works have only the setting and the basic plot. In Michael Crichton’s film, in fact, the rebellion of the machines does not happen through a philosophical awareness, there is not that great empathy between the spectator and the machine as it happens in Westworld, the state of injustice suffered by the androids is not emphasized who, on the contrary, are told as enemies to be killed, cruel, cold, like those of Matrix.
This is the leap in terms of reflection: the same executioners androids in Crichton’s film become victims of their creators in the TV series forty years later. This says a lot about the change of perspective not only on the “machines”, but on the interpretation given to the human being just a few decades later, even if starting from the same work. Not only does he flee from the world “imagining a simulation” but also from himself and his condition as human beings: alone, cruel and abandoned, whose most dazzling creations end up rebelling.