By the time “The Matrix” gets Neo (the office drone formerly known as Mr. Anderson) unplugged from the Matrix and into the welcoming but dire situation on board Morpheus’ warship, the Nebuchadnezzar, viewers are in desperate need of regaining solid footing again. We’ve seen Neo’s world (and, by extension, our own) thrown completely upside-down thanks to the little reveal that his entire life was just part of a simulation. Struggling to come to terms with such an existential rewiring of the system and thrust into a messianic role that he never wanted on top of it all, the lifelong skeptic Neo and the fervently believing Morpheus are set on an inevitable collision course of worldviews — one that can only begin to be fixed through, well, fists.
Thanks to some exuberance by the ship’s operator Tank (Marcus Chong), Neo is uploaded with combat training involving a battery of hand-to-hand martial arts techniques, ranging from jujitsu to kenpō to taekwondo to, yes, kung-fu. A montage speeds us through hours of unconscious training and, by the time he wakes up again, he’s finally ready to get back off his heels and reclaim a long-delayed sense of autonomy. That moment arrives when Morpheus challenges him to, essentially, show him what he’s got.
Cue the dojo scene, a “sparring program” built for the express purpose of teaching new recruits that “reality” in the Matrix is only what they make of it. Rules are meant to be broken, and that applies twofold to what they previously thought of as gravity, physics, and other real-world constraints. So how best to communicate all these unintuitive, exposition-heavy concepts? As Morpheus puts it, “Hit me … if you can.”