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The Matrix
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The Matrix

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

The Matrix is a film first released in the USA on March 31, 1999, written and directed by the Wachowski brothers (Andy and Larry) and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving.

The story is about a young computer hacker who learns about the true nature of his reality and gets involved with a band of rebels fighting against the masters of it, sentient computer programs called agents.

The Matrix earned $171 million in the US and $456 million worldwide. The movie's unexpected success spawned its expansion into a series (see Matrix series) of three films (The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions), a computer/video game (Enter the Matrix), and a collection of nine animated shorts (the Animatrix). 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). Also, the movie's official website provides free comics, set in the world of The Matrix. Some of these comics are now available in printed form (on 120 pages), although the creators claim that free comics will be available on the site in the future.

Table of contents
1 Awards and nominations
2 Synopsis
3 Influences
4 Principal cast
5 Similarities with Neuromancer
6 Related articles
7 External links

Awards and nominations

The Matrix received Oscars for film editing, sound effects editing, visual effects, and sound. Furthermore, the film won these awards over making it the first film to win the special effects Oscars over a film of the Star Wars series. The film is known for its innovative special effects, including the "bullet-time" effect, a combination of slow motion and camera orbiting around a given subject.


Warning: Plot details follow.

as Neo in The Matrix]]

A computer software programmer named Thomas A. Anderson, who prefers his hacker name "Neo," is contacted by a group of humans who resist the Matrix. Morpheus, their leader and 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 about 2199 and that humanity is fighting a war against intelligent machines. Morpheus has rescued Neo from the Matrix because he believes that Neo is "The One," who will destroy the Matrix and save humankind. 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 used as power plants to keep the computers running.

Morpheus believes that Neo has the power to free humankind from its enslavement through complete mastery over the Matrix. Neo is initially skeptical, but learns how he can "bend the rules" of the Matrix. He 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, capable of punching through walls and dodging bullets, as well as having incredible martial arts skills. 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.

When one member of the resistance (code named Cypher) betrays them and allows Agents to capture Morpheus, Neo goes back into The Matrix with Trinity to save 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 final duel with the program, killing the agent's current body. He then flees as a new Agent Smith arrives, having just taken over 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 fortold. 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 and is greeted by Trinity and Morpheus.



The story makes numerous references to historical and literary myths, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Judeo-Christian imagery about Messianism 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 1964.

The concept of artificial intelligence overthrowing or enslaving mankind had previously been touched on by hundreds of science fiction stories, cinematically most notably in James Cameron's 1984 film, The Terminator. 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.

Note: The Matrix was often mistakenly considered by critics and public to be a sequel to Johnny Mnemonic which also stars Keanu Reeves and belongs to the Cyberpunk genre.


The Matrix has many 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.

It could also be argued that The Matrix was originally based on or inspired by the concept of Ghost hacking, which is taken from Ghost in the Shell.

Additionally, there are notable influences from Japanese animation (anime). 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 rooftop chase scene where an agent breaks a concrete tile on the roof when landing after a jump, 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 another anime science fiction classic, Ghost in the Shell.


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).

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

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, Total Recall, and peripherally in the film 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.

Postmodern thought plays a tangible role in the movie. In an opening scene, Neo hides a diskette 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.

See also: the Philosophy section of the official matrix website.

Computer science

It should be noted that the reason given in the movie for computers enslaving humans is implausible 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. It would be vastly more effective to burn the organic matter and power a conventional electrical generator. Some people have pointed out the possibility that the laws of thermodynamics 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. 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 basic physics. (It is difficult to imagine how the "real world" would look if entropy were the machines' invention, for example.) Critical fans have speculated 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.

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[1] in 1993.

Similarities with Neuromancer

The plot of The Matrix bears some resemblance to the basic plot of the book Neuromancer. In both a computer hacker is recruited to perform a particularly difficult task. (This is not particularly surprising, since both The Matrix and Neuromancer are in the same genre: cyberpunk.)

Related articles

External links