The Matrix is a science-fiction/action film first released in the USA on March 31, 1999, written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski. It stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving. It has developed a strong following as a renowned Generation X/Generation Y classic.
The Matrix earned $171 million in the USA and $460 million worldwide. This relatively unexpected mainstream success led to the greenlighting of the next two films of what the Wachowskis maintain was conceived as a trilogy, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, alongside an anthology film called The Animatrix.
The film is known for popularizing and evolving the use of a visual effect known as bullet time, which allows the viewer to explore a moment progressing in slow-motion while the camera appears to orbit around the scene at normal speed.
Bullet time is effectively a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which a large number of cameras are placed around an object and fired simultaneously. 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.
This film upset the juggernaut release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace by winning the Academy Award for an Achievement in Visual Effects.
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
The film describes a world in which the Matrix is an artificial reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify, subdue and make use of the human population as an energy source by growing them and connecting them to the Matrix with cybernetic implants. It contains numerous references to philosophical and religious ideas, the hacker subculture, and homages to Hong Kong action movies, Japanese animation and cyberpunk.
The film begins with two voices discussing a man they believe to be "The One". In the midst of their discussion a trace program begins. The trace program cuts to police officers invading an apartment in a hotel to capture a woman named Trinity. After mysterious government agents arrive, Trinity quickly escapes through amazing and seemingly impossible feats of strength and agility. Upon reaching street level, Trinity answers a ringing telephone booth just as a garbage truck slams into it, destroying it. The government agents step out of the truck and examine the remains. While the booth is destroyed, Trinity is nowhere to be seen. The agents remark that Trinity escaped, their informant is real, and they have the name of their next target: Neo. Neo, otherwise known as Thomas Anderson, is a computer programmer who deals in some illegal activity. He is contacted by Trinity at a night club. Trinity tells him that he is searching for Morpheus to answer a question that he already knows: What is the Matrix? Later in his cubicle at work, Neo is contacted by Morpheus, the man he's been searching for, who warns him of the agents that are searching for him. Despite Morpheus' guidance, Neo is captured by the agents. Inside an interrogation room, Neo's interrogation takes a nightmarish turn as his lips melt together and Agent Smith implants a robotic insect-like bug that crawls into Neo's navel. Neo awakens in his own bed, pausing for a moment believing it to be a dream. Suddenly his phone rings, and it is Morpheus requesting a meeting. Neo is picked up by Apoc, Trinity and Switch. Trinity removes the bug from Neo and takes him to meet Morpheus. During their meeting, Morpheus and Neo discuss fate and free will. Morpheus eventually explains that he has been searching for Neo his entire life, and offers him a choice between two pills: the blue pill, which would enable him to wake up in his bed and believe whatever he wants to believe; and the red pill which would allow him to "stay in Wonderland and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes", in other words, finally learn the truth about the Matrix. After accepting the red pill, Neo, scared and confused, abruptly wakes up naked in a liquid-filled chamber, his body connected by wires to a vast mechanical tower bristling with pods identical to his. Neo is ejected out of the pod into a dark pool of water. He is rescued by Morpheus and taken aboard his hovercraft, the Nebuchadnezzar. In the medical bay, Neo passes in and out of consciousness, though eventually recovering.
After being introduced to the crew of the ship, Neo is told by Morpheus that it is not 1999, but closer to 2199 but he doesn't know exactly what year it really is. He then offers to show him. He takes Neo to the center of the ship, sits him in an antique dentist chair, at which time a metal plug is inserted into Neo's head and, instantly, he appears in a blank white expanse, his appearance has returned to the state it was before he took the red pill. Morpheus is also there, and explains that they are in the Construct program, a virtual reality environment used for training. Neo is told that humanity is fighting a war against intelligent machines. After being denied their primary power source, the sun, by the human race, the machines responded by enslaving human beings and using them as their source for energy. 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 and Trinity are part of a group of free humans who "unplug" humans from the Matrix and recruit them to their resistance against the machines. Neo quickly refuses to believe Morpheus. After he is unplugged, he quickly faints at the idea of the truth. Neo awakens in his bed on the ship, Morpheus at his side. Morpheus explains that Neo cannot go back to the Matrix and that he rescued Neo from the Matrix because he believes that he is "The One", a man prophesied 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 of the Matrix. Neo is skeptical. In the morning, Neo discusses Zion with the ship's operator, Tank. Tank explains that Zion is the last human city and brings Neo to be plugged in for training. Tank trains Neo by downloading information straight into Neo's brain. Neo is taught all of the major martial arts. Morpheus asks to see Neo in action, and so Neo is brought into a sparring program, a world that is very similar to the Matrix. He is told that the Matrix is nothing more than a computer program with rules. Rules can be bent and some can be broken. Neo spars with Morpheus and soon grasps the idea of defying the physics of the Matrix. They are then transferred to "the jump program," a simulation of two skyscrapers that are a significant distance apart. Morpheus presents the same basic task, for Neo to "free his mind" and jump from one building to the other. Neo attempts and fails. After being brought out of the simulation, Neo is bleeding. He questions Morpheus about this, as he thought the training program was not real. Morpheus replies that his mind makes it real and if he is killed in the Matrix, his physical body will also die, "The body cannot live without the mind." he tells Neo.
In another training program Morpheus warns Neo of the rebels' main hazard in the Matrix: Agents. The men in suits who interrogated Neo earlier were actually self-aware programs who behave as anti-virus utilities; their purpose is to seek out and eliminate any problems within the Matrix in order to keep it stable. Anyone who has not been unplugged from the Matrix is potentially an Agent, because they have the ability to take over the body of anyone still connected to the system. They possess incredible martial arts skills, superhuman strength, agility, and speed, but Morpheus explains that Agents are still nonetheless limited by the physical rules of the Matrix. Once Neo, being The One, fully understands the true nature of the Matrix, the Agents will be no match for him. However, later, another member of the crew, Cypher, advises Neo to disregard Morpheus's advice, telling him that if he sees an Agent, his only chance of survival is to run away. Cypher is later seen having dinner inside of the Matrix with Agent Smith. Cypher strikes a deal with Smith that he will arrange for Morpheus to be captured if the machines will reinsert him into the Matrix as a celebrity and with no memory of true reality.
Neo is brought by Morpheus to an apartment and meets with the Oracle (Gloria Foster), who he first sees as an old lady baking cookies. Neo is puzzled at her ability to predict future actions. She then implies that Neo is not the One, and that he seems to be waiting for something — his next life, perhaps. She states that Morpheus believes Neo is "The One" so blindly, he would sacrifice his life to save Neo's, and predicts that Neo must make a choice between his life and that of Morpheus. As they leave, Morpheus explains to Neo that the Oracle's words were for him alone. After the meeting, the crew heads toward the nearest "hard line", a telephone line in the Matrix which may be used by the rebels to safely exit from the virtual world. As they approach the exit they become trapped, with Agents and a police SWAT team in pursuit. In their attempt to escape, an unarmed Morpheus saves Neo from Agent Smith's grasp, but is effortlessly beaten and captured himself. The others manage to escape. Cypher is separated from the group and is the first to reach the hard line. After exiting the Matrix, Cypher wounds Tank and kills Tank's older brother, Dozer. The crew discovers that Morpheus was captured due to a betrayal by Cypher, who preferred living in ignorance within the Matrix and blames Morpheus for giving him the red pill. Cypher murders Apoc and Switch by unplugging them, but before he can kill Neo and Trinity, Tank recovers and shoots Cypher. Meanwhile, Morpheus has been imprisoned in a government building. Three Agents attempt to use a serum to gain information from him regarding access codes to the mainframes of Zion. During this time, Smith confesses to Morpheus that (despite being a computer program) he hates the Matrix and he demands the codes to the Zion mainframe, so that Zion can be destroyed and he can leave. Neo decides to rescue Morpheus despite Tank's warnings. Trinity accompanies him. Entering the building, Neo and Trinity kill the dozens of soldiers guarding Morpheus. In the process Neo becomes more confident and familiar with manipulating the Matrix, allowing him to perform feats such as dodging bullets fired at him by an Agent by bending backwards at an impossible angle. Trinity remarks that she's never seen anyone move that fast. They finally succeed in rescuing their leader, and in an abandoned subway station Morpheus and Trinity exit the Matrix through a hard line. However, before Neo can follow, the phone being used is destroyed by Agent Smith, who takes control of a homeless man in the station. Instead of fleeing from him as Cypher advised, Neo duels with Smith. He manages to push one of the Smiths onto the tracks in front of a moving subway train. However, the train applies it's emergency brakes and several Smiths exit the train. He is able to hold his own for a while, however soon realizes he is overwhelmed and runs.
Neo is chased through the city by the three Agents while Sentinels (robots used by the machines as sentinels and attack craft) locate the Nebuchadnezzar's position in the real world and close in fast. However, the ship's electromagnetic pulse device, the crew's only weapon against the Sentinels, cannot be activated until Neo has left the Matrix. As they prepare to use it, Tank guides Neo towards an "old exit". He opens the door to the room containing the exit telephone, but Smith is already waiting. He shoots Neo several times. Neo collapses to the floor in the Matrix as a flatline readout of his heartbeat occurs on a screen inside the Nebuchadnezzar. The crew is devastated. Trinity whispers to Neo that she refuses to accept his death, since the Oracle told her that the man she would fall in love with would be the One, she confesses that she is in love with him and kisses him. Neo's heart monitor begins to beat again, and within the Matrix he stands up. The Agents shoot at him, but he raises his palm and stops their bullets in mid-air. As they fall to the ground, Neo looks up and sees the artificial Matrix as lines of streaming green code: he finally becomes "The One." Agent Smith makes one last ditch attempt to physically attack him, but Neo effortlessly blocks his punches. He then plunges directly into Smith's body, causing it to rupture and then explode, leaving Neo standing. The other two Agents flee, and Neo returns to the real world barely in time for the ship's electromagnetic pulse to short out the Sentinels. A short epilogue shows him back in the Matrix, making a telephone call promising:
- "I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you... a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world... where anything is possible. Where we go from here is a choice I leave to you."
Neo hangs up the phone, looks up, and flies into the sky above the city.
Spoilers end here.
Character name origins[edit | edit source]
In the Matrix series, the name of a character often refers to their role in the story.
- Neo comes from the Greek word meaning "new", and is an anagram of "One", Neo's title in the story. Neo's full name, Neo Anderson, might be read as "New Son of Man" (Greek "andros" meaning man, human), another reference to religion.
- Morpheus ("he who forms, shapes, molds", from the Greek morphe) is the principal Greek god of dreams and sleep. He is the one who awakens Neo from his dormant state, giving him a new life.
- Trinity commonly refers to the equal union of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost in one Godhead. It also is the cardinal number "that is the sum of one and one and one." Just as Christianity maintains that life comes from the Trinity, so is Neo brought back to life through his Trinity.
- Cypher differs from the rest of the crew from various aspects. He is the only one with a goatee, and during Neo's introduction to his new comrades, Cypher is the only one to speak. "Cypher" undoubtedly comes from the word cipher, meaning the set of rules used to encrypt a set of data. It also literally means "zero", a reference to Cypher's faithlessness. "Cypher" may also be a play-on-words as short for "Lucifer". Cypher betrays his crew in return for re-immersion into the Matrix.
- Smith, Jones' and Brown are common surnames in Western English speaking countries. It indicates the seriality and the lack of identity of the Agents, who are programs.
- Also Switch, Apoc, Mouse and Dozer, even if in minor part, are metaphors of their character's traits.
Cast members[edit | edit source]
- Keanu Reeves - Neo
- Laurence Fishburne - Morpheus
- Carrie-Anne Moss - Trinity
- Hugo Weaving - Agent Smith
- Julian Arahanga - Apoc
- Marcus Chong - Tank
- Matt Doran - Mouse
- Gloria Foster - Oracle
- Paul Goddard - Agent Brown
- Belinda McClory - Switch
- Joe Pantoliano - Cypher
- Anthony Ray Parker - Dozer
- Robert Taylor II - Agent Jones
Selected quotes[edit | edit source]
- "We don't know who struck first, us or them. But we do know it was us that scorched the sky. At the time, they were dependent on solar power. It was believed they would be unable to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun." - Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne)
- "Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." - Morpheus
- "I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... you're afraid of us. You're afraid of change." - Neo
[edit | edit source]
- Official website
- The Matrix at the Internet Movie Database
- http://www.dictionary-of-matrix.com/ - Matrix Wiki Encyclopedia
- Non-Authoritative Matrix Script Teaching material for English 192 at UCSB.
- Unofficial Matrix Music Video
- The Matrix multiple scripts by Andy & Larry Wachowski
T H E M A T R I X T R I L O G Y