The Matrix

From Academic Kids

This article is about the film The Matrix. For other usages of the term, see Matrix.

Template:Infobox Movie

The Matrix is a film first released in the USA on March 31, 1999, written and directed by the Wachowski brothers (Andy and Larry). It stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving. A renowned Generation Y classic, it has developed a strong following as a cult film.

The film describes a world in which the titular Matrix is an artificial reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify and subdue the human population. It contains numerous references to philosophical and religious ideas, and to the hacker subculture, as well as homages to the style of Japanese animation and cyberpunk.

The film is a co-production of Warner Bros Studios and Australian Village Roadshow Pictures.

The Matrix was filmed in Sydney.


The Matrix series and franchise

The Matrix earned $171 million in the USA and $456 million worldwide. The movie's relatively unexpected success and cult following led to the next two films (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions), two video games (Enter the Matrix, The Matrix Online including The Matrix: Path of Neo which is due to release later this year), and a collection of nine animated shorts (The Animatrix).

It is important to note that although the Wachowski brothers have stated to have always intended to make a trilogy, it was only after the first installment's success that they were able to make the second and third films, although it was a number of years and several iterations of wholly different scripts before the final movies were approved. All of the ideas were written by the Wachowski brothers, although five of the nine animated shorts count among their authors noted figures from the world of Japanese animation (anime).

The movie's official website provides free comics, set in the world of The Matrix. Some of these comics are also available in two printed volumes, although the free versions will remain on the site.


Missing image
Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix

A computer software programmer named Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves) leads a secret life as a hacker under the alias "Neo". A series of unusual events brings him into contact with a group of people led by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne). Morpheus, a practitioner of critical pedagogy, explains to Neo that the Matrix is a false reality and invites him to enter the "real world." There Neo discovers that the year is not 1999, but closer to 2199 (although not given exactly) and that humanity is fighting a war against intelligent machines. In order to deny the machines their power source (solar energy), the humans "scorched the sky". The machines responded by making use of human beings themselves as an energy source. It turns out that the world which Neo has inhabited since birth, the Matrix, is an illusory simulated reality construct of the world of 1999, developed by the machines to keep the human population docile whilst they are connected to generators and their energy is harvested. Morpheus, with the other free humans, works at "unplugging" humans from the Matrix and recruiting them.

Morpheus has rescued Neo from the Matrix because he believes that Neo is "The One," who has been prophesised by the Oracle to "hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people." Morpheus believes that Neo has the power to free humankind from its enslavement through complete mastery over the Matrix. Neo, along with the other members of Morpheus' group, is initially skeptical, but Morpheus teaches him to bend or break the rules of the Matrix - subvert the operation of the normal laws of physics. Neo also forms a close personal relationship with a female member of the group, Trinity. Inside the Matrix, the humans are pursued by a group of self-aware programs, called Agents, having incredible martial arts skills and capabilites beyond those of the humans. Their most powerful skill is their ability to "jump" between bodies, enabling them to take over any person who has not been disconnected from the Matrix.

Neo meets with the Oracle, who, as in the traditions of Oracles everywhere, presents him with an ambiguously-worded prediction of his future relying on his future choices. He shall choose between his and Morpheus' life. Shortly afterwards, Morpheus, betrayed by Cypher, who prefers living in ignorance of the Matrix, is captured by the Agents, who attempt to gain from him information regarding the defences of Zion, the humans' city. They want to get the access codes to Zion's Mainframe. Neo decides to save Morpheus in spite of the prophecy and together with Trinity he returns to the Matrix and executes a successful rescue of their leader. After Morpheus and Trinity exit the Matrix, Agent Smith, the leader of the Agents, destroys the phone booth from which the escape signal was being broadcasted. Subsequently, Neo engages in a duel with the program, destroying the agent's current body. He then flees as a new Agent Smith arrives, having possessed a new person.

Upon reaching the second location of a hard line (a hijacked phoneline which carries the escape sequence necessary for exit from the Matrix), Neo is shot in the chest by Agent Smith. Neo slumps over, apparently dead. However, in the real world, Trinity refuses to accept Neo's death, and whispers into his ear that she now believes what the prophecy has foretold. Neo, who is seemingly awakened by the power of her love, realizes the fabricated nature of the Matrix, and it is only then that he is able to transcend the world around him. Empowered by this newfound notion of disbelief, Neo effortlessly defeats Agent Smith, thereby "deleting" him from the Matrix. He returns to the real world but promises the Agents that he will be leading the fight against them.

Awards and nominations

The Matrix received Oscars for film editing, sound effects editing, visual effects, and sound. Furthermore, the film won these awards in the year that Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released, making it the first film to win the special effects Oscars when competing with an entry in the Star Wars series.

Special Effects

The film is known for popularizing the use of special effects such as the one now known as "bullet-time", which allows the viewer to explore a moment by the use of slow motion and a camera which appears to orbit around the scene at normal speed.

While many fans believe the effect was invented for The Matrix, there are artistic precedents for bullet time. Bullet time is effectively a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time slice photography. In time slice photography, several cameras are placed around an object and fired in rapid sequence. When the sequence of shots is viewed as a movie, the viewer sees what is in effect two-dimensional “slices” of a three-dimensional moment. Watching such a “time slice” movie is akin to the real-life experience of walking around a statue to see how it looks at different angles.

In his online resume at (, freelance photographer Tim MacMillan claims to have pioneered by the mid-eighties “a way of freezing apparent time in a motion-picture tracking shot by means of multiple apertures registered to the frames of motion-picture film.” The work of Harold Edgerton, who Macmillan pays homage to in one exhibition, could be considered a yet earlier precedent. The creators of The Matrix have expanded upon Macmillan’s concept of the spatial exploration of “frozen” time by providing temporal motion, so that in bullet time a scene isn’t totally frozen but is rendered in slow motion. There is also an improved fluidity through the use of interpolation and digital compositing.

Influences and interpretations


The story makes numerous references to historical and literary myths, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Judeo-Christian imagery about Messianism, Buddhism, and the novels of William Gibson, especially Neuromancer. Gibson popularized the concept of a world-wide computer network with a virtual reality interface, which was named "the matrix" in his Sprawl Trilogy. However the concept and name apparently originated even earlier in the 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin on the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who, which featured a virtual reality known as the Matrix. The first writer about a virtual reality, populated with unsuspecting victims, was Daniel F. Galouye with Simulacron Three in 1964.

The concept of artificial intelligence overthrowing or enslaving mankind had previously been touched on by hundreds of science fiction stories. Many have commented that The Matrix was inspired by the work of Philip K. Dick, not only dealing with issues of Gnosticism and prophetic visions but also the war against the machines in a post-apocalyptic world. The idea of a world controlled by machines and all of humanity living underground goes back to the 1909 short story The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster.

The plot of The Matrix bears some resemblance to the basic plot of the book Neuromancer. This is not necessarily surprising, since both The Matrix and Neuromancer are roughly in the same cyberpunk genre. In both stories a computer hacker is recruited to perform a particularly difficult task. Some of the relevant conventions related to the genre might include the tough-guy hacker/cracker hero, his optional female sidekick, the more-or-less malevolent artificial intelligences.

Several illustrative differences between the two works also exist. For example, Gibson's human Turing Police are tasked to limit the growth of artificial intelligences. The Agents of The Matrix by contrast, are AIs who curtail human development. Gibson shows humans working alongside the AI Wintermute; their eventual triumph is presented as a victory for the "good guys". Again in contrast, the human-AI collaboration in The Matrix—Cypher defecting to the agents—appears to undermine all that good and right stand for. From this standpoint, The Matrix can be seen as an antithesis to Gibson's Neuromancer.

One other connection between the two is the use of a location called Zion. In Neuromancer, Zion is an orbital colony founded by Rastafarians, where the main characters dock before traveling to Freeside, the giant orbital station where the final act of the novel takes place. In The Matrix, Zion is the underground home of the free humans (never seen onscreen in the first movie, although it features prominently in the two sequels). It is possible that this is only a coincidence, and that Zion is used as a generalized metaphor for a mythical city which could be considered to be the last hope for humanity. However, given the obvious influences of Neuromancer on The Matrix, it is likely that the name Zion is used both as a metaphor and as a subtle homage.

The film also shares many ideas with Grant Morrison's counter-culture comic book The Invisibles, with which the Wachowski brothers have professed a familiarity.

Some resemblances also exist to Frank Herbert's seminal novel, Dune, most obviously in the "unwitting messiah" characteristics of the respective protagonists, and the concept of a war between humans and machines with religious overtones (Herbert's Butlerian Jihad). The sequels to The Matrix exhibit further similarities to Dune. The Matrix is only one of several pieces of fiction that have been influenced by this book.


The Matrix reused some of the film sets from Dark City, a movie filmed shortly beforehand that was similar in plot and style. The Matrix has many other cinematic influences, ranging from explicit homage to stylistic nuances. Its action scenes, with a physics-defying style also drawn directly from martial arts films, are notable. They integrate Hong Kong style kung fu hand-to-hand combat (under the skilled guidance of Yuen Wo Ping) and wire work, the hyper-active gun fights of directors such as John Woo and Ringo Lam, and classic American action movie tropes, including a rooftop chase. The film also borrows plot aspects from Strange Days (entering and experiencing a virtual world as a premise for action sequences) and many other films and novels (our own technology is turned against us, creating a post-apocalyptic Earth in which a small human "resistance" must fight the machines).

It could also be argued that The Matrix was originally based on or inspired by the concept of Ghost hacking, which is taken from the anime science-fiction film Ghost in the Shell. Producer Joel Silver stated in a Matrix making-of documentary that the Wachowski brothers showed him a "Japanimation" and told him they wanted to make a film like that, but live-action.

There are also other notable influences from Japanese animation. Both a scene near the end of the movie, where Neo's breathing seems to buckle the fabric of reality in the corridor where he is standing, as well as the "psychic children" scene in the Oracle's waiting room are evocative of similar scenes from the 1980s anime classic Akira. The title sequence, the scene late in the movie where a character hides behind a column while pieces of it are blown away by bullets, and a chase scene in a fruit market where shots hit watermelons, are practically identical to shots in the aforementioned Ghost in the Shell. This site ( contains screenshots and more similar scenes from both movies.

The Wachowski brothers themselves admit that they were greatly inspired by many things they'd read and seen before, and the parallels between films are endless. In the film Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger is offered a red pill to return to reality, in precisely the same way that Neo is.

Sunglasses play a significant role in the Matrix cinematic feel. Viewers would know whether a character or situation was being played out within the Matrix if central characters were wearing their characteristicly dark clothing, complete with sunglasses that would be of little use in the sunless realm of the real world. Sunglasses were worn regardless if it were day or night within the Matrix, adding to the image of detachment of reality in the Matrix. This may also reflect the degree of vulnerability of the characters; many characters (Morpheus, Agent Smith) lose their sunglasses during major battles, or discard them: a symbolic disposal of the tough, unemotional image.

Not all characters within the Matrix wore glasses, but as a general rule, the rebels wore sunglasses that had rounded lenses, and adversaries such as Agents wore glasses with corners or angles. Agent Smith's sunglasses changed after his transformation in The Matrix Reloaded from the square Agent-style into lenses shaped similarly to the protein capsule of certain viruses. The sunglasses used in this movie were custom-made on the set, although replicas are widely available. See Agent Smith for the stylistic geneology of the Agents.


Elements of theology and philosophy are heavily present in The Matrix. Students of Gnosticism will notice many of its themes touched upon. There are also many references to Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity, with concepts of Enlightenment/Nirvana, and rebirth. Further references to Buddhism/Hinduism include the free will versus fate debate, perception and the concept of Maya, Karma, and various ideas about the nature of existence. In many ways The Matrix is about a kind of reality enforcement, or similarly, hyperreality.

The Matrix follows all phases of the Campbellian heroic myth arc with near-literal precision, including even minor details like the circular journey, the crucial battle happening underground, and even the three-headed immortal enemy (the three agents).

The character of the Oracle is strongly similar to that of the Oracle of ancient Greek legend. In particular, her warning to Neo that he is faced with a choice between saving his own life, or Morpheus' is very reminiscent of the warning that the Oracle gave to King Leonidas when setting out for the Battle of Thermopylae. In the Greek legend, she warns Leonidas that either his city will be left in ruins, or that a Greek king must die, thus Leonidas is left with the choice of his own life or the survival of his city. It could be further argued that had Neo chosen to save his own life, Smith would have gained the access codes he needed from Morpheus and the city of Zion would have fallen. Thus, ultimately, Neo's choice was the same as that of Leonidas: his own life, or the fate of a city.

There have been several books and websites written about the philosophy of The Matrix. One of the major issues in the film is the question of the validity of the world around us, i.e., what is reality, or whether what is happening is merely sensory information fed to us, is also raised in other science fiction films including eXistenZ,The Thirteenth Floor, (both of which were released the same year as The Matrix, receiving relatively less attention in box office sales and ratings) Total Recall, and peripherally in the film Abre los ojos (remade as Vanilla Sky).

The ideas behind The Matrix have been explored in old philosophical texts on epistemology, such as Plato's allegory of the cave and Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. In a well-known Solipsistic thought experiment, the subject is a brain in a vat of liquid; in the Matrix, Neo is a body in a vat.

Postmodern thought plays a tangible role in the movie. In an opening scene, Neo hides an illegal minidisk in a false copy of Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation, a work that describes modern life as a hyperreal experience of simulation based upon simulation. Interpretations of The Matrix often reference Baudrillard's philosophy to demonstrate that the movie is an allegory for contemporary experience in a heavily commercialized, media-driven society, especially of the developed countries.

Some academics have argued that the Matrix series is consistent with a Marxist analysis of society. Professor Martin Danahay and then PhD candidate David Rieder co-wrote a chapter of the best-selling book The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (ISBN 081269502X ) in which they argue that the movie gives a visual image of Marxs ideas, particularly in the scene where Morpheus tells new recruit Neo that the computers have reduced him to nothing more than a battery.

Humans in The Matrix must produce electricity to run the machines that enslave them, just as workers in Marxs analysis must produce surplus value through their work, Danahay explained. Also, the rebels in the movie liberate Morpheus from an office, and they rescue Neo from his white-collar job. The rebels are trying to get workers to wake up and realize they are being exploited, which is one of Marxs aims, too.[1] (

Danahy and Rider also argue that rebellion against the machines' domination is an analogy for the modern-day workplace with the evil agents dressed like corporate executives, and Neo escaping from his cubicle to escape them. When he ambushes the evil agents later in the movie, they are in an office high-rise complete with impersonal decor. (Source: Arlington Star-Telegram, June 10, 2003).

Similarly, the Maoist International Movement has adopted the Matrix as one of its favourite films asserting that they "could not have asked for more in a two and a half hour Hollywood movie" and views it as an exercise in dialectics in which a new mode of production is explored, the "battery mode of production". [2] (

The youth wing of the Russian Communist Party has also embraced the Matrix and its sequels with youth wing leader Oleg Bondarenko asserting there is "no difference" between Neo and Lenin as revolutionaries.[3] (

See also: the philosophy ( section of the official matrix website (


It should be noted that the reason given in the movie for computers enslaving humans makes no sense from a thermodynamic point of view. The chemical energy required to keep a human being alive is vastly greater than the bio-electric energy that could be harvested; human beings, like all living beings, are not energy sources, they are energy consumers. It would be vastly more effective to burn the organic matter to power a conventional electrical generator or to use geothermal energy or the heat coming from the dissipation of the tidal movements of the oceans and crust or any other not yet imagined source. The sunlight was not able to penetrate the atmosphere in the movie.

Some people have pointed out the possibility that the laws of thermodynamics could work differently in real life than in the Matrix to make it harder for people to suspect they are being used as a power source, or that the machines have technology not yet imaginable by humans, and thus the known laws of science are impossible to apply in this situation (Morpheus mentions that the human power source is "combined with a form of fusion"). On the other hand, Morpheus speaks of physical laws like gravity applying both to the real world and within its simulation, and the scenes we see within the real world are certainly consistent with physical laws as we know them. Also, the entropy can't be the machines' invention, as if it did not exist in their world or if the direction of energy flow was sometimes concentrated instead of dissipated, the machines could not exist.

Critical fans have speculated (see Krypto-revisionism) that the machines were actually using the humans' brains as components in a massively parallel neural network computer, and that the characters were simply mistaken about the purpose. This error would then be reflected in the "Zion Historical Archive" of "The Second Renaissance". In fact, this was very close to the original explanation. Because they felt that non-technical viewers would have trouble understanding it, the writers abandoned it in favor of the "human power source" explanation. The neural-network explanation, however, is presented in the film's novelization and the short story "Goliath", featured on the Matrix website and in the first volume of The Matrix Comics.

It is also established later in the trilogy that the machines and humans are interdependent for reasons more philosophical than technological.

Principal cast

Trivia buffs should also be interested to learn that Carrie-Anne Moss also appeared in a short-lived science fiction television series called Matrix[4] ( in 1993.

The Matrix character names: Document shows meanings behind certain names.

Sophia Stewart legal case

On October 4, 2004, a California court granted Sophia Stewart leave to continue her case against Warner Brothers and the Wachowski Brothers [5] ( [6] ( The case was filed by Stewart on April 24, 2003 [7] ( Stewart claims that the story of the Matrix was based on a manuscript she wrote entitled "The Third Eye" which she allegedly submitted to the Wachowskis in response to an advertisement. One account misreported the October 4th decision as Stewart winning her lawsuit, rather than simply winning permission to continue with the case. The case also targets the producers of the Terminator franchise.


The Matrix upped the ante for cinematic fight scenes by hiring acclaimed choreographers from the Hong Kong film scene where such scenes had been refined by years of experience. The success of this film put those choreographers in high demand by other filmmakers who wanted fights of similar sophistication. To many martial arts, action or SF fans however, an unfortunate side-effect was a sudden and obvious surge in movies, commercials and pop videos blatantly copying "the matrix look", usually without the training and attention to detail that made it successful in the first place.

Following The Matrix, countless films have now begun to make abundant use of slow-motion, spinning cameras, and, often, the famed bullet-time effect of a character freezing in mid-air and the camera panning around them. The effect has been parodied in many comedy films such as Scary Movie, Shrek, Kung Pow: Enter the Fist, and Team America: World Police, and in TV series such as The Simpsons. In Scary Movie, the 'killer' doubles back like Neo does when shot by an Agent on a rooftop, except he hurts his back. In Team America, two fighting characters jump into the air, freeze, and then they revolve rather than the camera.

External links



Religion/philosophy/theory of The Matrix

Fan sites

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