(English vocabulary for science fiction B2 +)
“Neo this is your last chance… you take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe what you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland. And I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
The Matrix films were a phenomena. Not just for sales of wrap-around black sunglasses and long black leather coats.
Welcome to English in the Pandemic 11. Which pill would you take? Join Benedicte, a Matrix devotee, for another trip down the rabbit hole.
Subscribe to our blog to receive our regular updates by email (details on the right-hand side column)
I think, therefore I am
Watching The Matrix trilogy is always a pleasure. It’s the ultimate mind-stretching (or mind-expanding) work of fiction.
The Matrix, probably the best sci-fi (science-fiction) action movie of all time, is packed with action, guns, martial art sequences, spectacular car chases, bizarre creatures, mystery, and superb visuals. And, of course, there is Keanu Reeves.
Moreover, it explores many philosophical topics such as mind and body, freedom, illusion, doubt, slavery, belief, superman, ignorance as bliss, rebirth, and enlightenment. All these themes have been examined by philosophers over the ages. And certainly by the Wachowski brothers (now sisters), who wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy.
But the principal question The Matrix poses is the question of reality. In the story, reality is discovered and illusions are destroyed. Illusions were all in the mind. They were a dream world.
In the first film, the character Morpheus (the mentor) tells Neo (the hero, “the one”): “You have to see it for yourself… this is your last chance… you take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe what you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland. And I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Of course, Neo chooses the red pill. And he is reborn into a reality he didn’t even suspect.
How do you know for certain you are reading this blog? If you lived in the Matrix, your reading of this would be an illusion of the mind, necessary to keep your body alive – and to feed the artificial intelligence (A.I.).
As Mark Rowlands writes in his book, “The Philosopher at the End of the Universe: Philosophy Explained Through Science Fiction Films”, the Matrix story is organised around a philosophical idea made famous by the 17th century French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and sometimes mercenary, René Descartes: Cogito, ego sum, he wrote, or, I think therefore I am.
How do you know for sure
that you are
not dreaming at the moment
How do you know for sure that you are not dreaming at the moment, Descartes asks. After all, when you dream, you don’t know you are dreaming. For most of us, this question is not a practical problem. We know we are not dreaming. But it poses a theoretical problem.
Descartes’ point is that is possible, even if extremely improbable, that what we call the world does not really exist; that it is just a dream or a construct manipulated by an evil demon; or that you are a brain in a vat (a vat is a large container for holding or storing liquids).
This question gives birth to scepticism, that is, we cannot be certain of anything. However, according to Descartes, we can be certain of one thing: our own existence. Cogito, ego sum. I can doubt everything, even the existence of my body, but not the existence of me, the one who does the thinking. Although this claim is not completely foolproof, it is an important one in the philosophy of rationalism.
“Human beings are a disease,
a cancer of this planet…”
The film also explores how artificial intelligence might view humanity if it could think. This view is not very optimistic. The character Agent Smith, an A.I. being, compares humanity to a cancer.
“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not,” he says. “You move to an area and you multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet…”
In the time of the pandemic, it is good to watch the Matrix and other good science fiction movies. They show different realities. Then, when the film is over, we come back to today’s reality and see the science fiction in our reality.
Match each word with its definition:
a. complete happiness
b. (in this context) an object built from various parts
c. the belief, according to some religions, that a person’s spirit is born again into another body after death
d. a series of actions or events that together show how things normally happen or are done
e. a method, plan, or system is so well designed that it cannot go wrong or is certain to succeed
f. books and stories about imaginary events and people. Books that give facts about real events, things, or people are called non-fiction
g. a story that shows a lot of imagination and is very different from real life
1:f – 2:a – 3:c – 4:b – 5:e – 6:d – 7:g
Definitions from macmillandictionalry.com
More reading here:
The best sci-fi movie?
How many have you seen?
“Luke. I AM your father.”
Best quotes in sci-fi and fantasy
Best quotes from science fiction and fantasy movies (for movie buffs only).
Match the quotes with their movies:
- “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
- “You shall not pass.”
- “I’ll be back.”
- “Luke, I AM your father.”
- “It’s only a flesh wound.”
- “E.T. phone home.”
- “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”
- “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
- “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”
- “Get away from her, you bitch!”
- “The needs of the many outweigh … the needs of the few… or the one.”
a. 2001: A Space Odyssey
c. ET-the Extra-Terrestrial
d. Planet of the Apes
e. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
f. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
g. Blade Runner
h. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
i. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
j. The Princess Bride
k. The Terminator
1:j – 2:i – 3:k – 4:e – 5:f – 6:c – 7:d – 8:a – 9:g – 10:b – 11:h
More quizzes here:
An easy one
And a more difficult one
Video: The Matrix explained
A guide to freeing your mind (26 mins)
Rocky Horror Show 2015 – Science Fiction Double Feature