In early 1999, strange posters appeared throughout the United States, advertising an enigmatic movie created by a little-known writer-director team with only one movie to its credit. The mystery extended to the film’s unusual name, The Matrix. When The Matrix finally appeared, over Easter weekend of 1999, the anticipation created by this campaign paid off. The film earned $460 million worldwide, and became one of the most iconic and imitated films in recent memory. Along with a number of other special-effects innovations, The Matrix introduced “bullet-time” photography, in which the action slows down or freezes as the camera seems to circle 360 degrees around the characters. This effect in particular was so stunning that it was spoofed or emulated in The SimpsonsShrekScary MovieCharlie’s Angels, and at the Super Bowl. Cowriters and codirectors Larry and Andy Wachowski—a.k.a. the Wachowski brothers—became famous overnight.  

The Wachowskis are notoriously private. They rarely grant interviews to the media, and their contract with Warner Brothers for The Matrix Reloaded and The MatrixRevolutions actually stipulates that they are required not to do so. The essentials of their biographies, though, are well-known. The brothers were born in the 1960s and raised in Chicago. In the 1980s, the two of them dropped out of college, Larry from Bard and Andy from Emerson, and became high-end carpenters and house painters before landing jobs writing for Marvel Comics. In the early1990s, they sold a script to Warner Brothers studios, which would emerge, dramatically altered, as the 1995 movie Assassins, starring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas. The film was a flop, and the Wachowski brothers vowed never to cede artistic control again.

Rebounding from their disappointment, the brothers wrote and directed Bound(1996), a noir-thriller with lesbian heroines that starred Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, and Joe Pantoliano, who plays Cypher in The Matrix. Even as the Wachowskis were making Bound, they were already planning The Matrix. After fourteen drafts, they showed the script to Warner Brothers—in the form of a comic book—and ultimately received a budget of nearly $70 million to make the film.

To prepare for filming, the Wachowski brothers required their actors to undergo as much as fourteen months of martial arts training, along with a course of required readings. The intense preparation paid off, and The Matrix was so popular that the Wachowskis quickly received permission to create the next two installments of the trilogy, with a much bigger budget. The films were skillfully rendered cross-genre spectacles with ground-breaking special effects and Keanu Reeves in a starring role, Warner Brothers gave them all wide releases. Critics praised The Matrix, but support waned with each of the next two films, a surprising phenomenon given that the trilogy maintained its internal story logic more rigorously than most other film series in recent memory. Nonetheless, audiences worldwide flocked to all three films, which together grossed over $1.5 billion. The Matrix Reloaded set box-office records for its opening days of release.

The Matrix films abound with references to pop culture, philosophy, religion, classic literature, myths, and other films. In making the Matrix trilogy, the Wachowski brothers drew on imagery and ideas from Greek mythology, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Nihilism, Taoism, comic books, the works of René Descartes, Homer’s Odyssey, Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control, and Dylan Evans’s Introducing Evolutionary Psychology. Actors from all over the world contributed their efforts to the films, and the cast is meant to represent a wide cross-section of humanity. In this mishmash of ideas, cultures, religions, and nationalities, cultural theorists of every stripe, religious scholars of all religions, and sci-fi fans all over the world have seen their own pet ideas reflected. The Wachowski brothers insist that the trilogy is not meant to reflect one consistent set of symbols or any single religious or philosophical system. Instead, they claim, the films draw upon an eclectic array of sources in order to forge a new, universal mythology.

While the Matrix films have also been remarkably influential in their own right, they have spawned several collections of philosophical essays, semester-long college courses, and endless debates and discussions. The “bullet-time” special effect pioneered by visual effects supervisor John Gaeta was instantly mimicked in television advertisements for cars and other products and has been spoofed in parodic films, both animated and live action. The Matrix films inspired an onslaught of commercial products, including video games, clothing, and comic books. The Matrix DVD became the first release to outsell its VHS copies and was instrumental in fueling the development of a burgeoning DVD industry. The Wachowskis were attuned to the cross-market potential of their films, and between The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions they created a series of animated shorts called The Animatrix, some of which give important background information for the films, and a video game called Enter the Matrix.

 
With its countless references, cross-references, riddles, and enigmas, the trilogy seems to raise more questions than it answers, creating a sense of frustration that the filmmakers gleefully acknowledge. The Wachowskis have said that one of their primary goals was to make an action movie that would make people think, and because the movie is based on the idea that knowledge frees us, we are left to figure much of it out for ourselves. The directors are careful not to produce clear-cut answers to the problems they raise. Sometimes understanding the Matrix films is less about knowing exactly what’s going on and more about knowing what questions you’re supposed to ask. As Trinity tells Neo when she first meets him, “It’s the questions that drive us.”  

The Matrix

The Matrix opens with a shot of a computer screen, indicating that a phone call is being traced, as we overhear the voices on the phone line discussing whether they have found “the One.” Policemen enter a motel room and confront one of the parties to the phone call: Trinity, a leather-clad, renegade computer hacker. Trinity dispatches them all with gravity-defying kung-fu moves. Reinforcements arrive in the form of Agents, men in business suits with ear radios and sunglasses, who commandeer the scene and try to capture Trinity. They pursue Trinity through a nameless city, and both the Agents and Trinity reveal themselves to be more than human. They sprint over abandoned rooftops and leap over city blocks, and Trinity dives through a window across streets. The chase ends inside a phone booth on a secluded street. Trinity answers a ringing phone and disappears. The Agents remark on her mysterious disappearance and discuss the next target, Neo. Next, a garbage truck, driven by an Agent, destroys the booth.

 

We next see Keanu Reeve’s character asleep at his computer desk. He wakes up to messages flashing across his computer screen. The messages, from an unknown source, call him by his hacker name, Neo. Neo sells illegal software, and just before a client knocks on Neo’s door, Neo receives a message on the screen saying “Follow the white rabbit” followed by “Knock, knock, Neo.” Delivering his goods to the client, a confused Neo notices a tattooed rabbit on the shoulder of the client’s girlfriend, and so, heeding the message, he follows them to a techno Goth club. There, Trinity approaches Neo. Neo doesn’t know who she is, but Trinity explains that she knows all about him. She knows he’s searching for something called the Matrix and that he’s suspicious of what it is. Abruptly, the club scene gives way to a ringing alarm clock. Neo wakes with a start, back in his own bed. He’s late for work.

At work, Neo’s boss reprimands him and reveals some vital information—Neo’s real name is Mr. Anderson, and he’s a successful computer programmer. A cell phone is delivered by FedEx to Neo’s cubicle and rings immediately. On the line, a deep-voiced man identifies himself as Morpheus. Morpheus tells Neo that Agents are after him and, directing him by cell phone, helps him navigate through the labyrinth of cubicles in his office and escape to a ledge outside the building. Neo doesn’t have the courage to walk across the ledge to some nearby scaffolding, and Agents capture him, then take him for interrogation. Neo demands his rights from the creepy lead Agent, Smith, who renders Neo mute by magically sealing over his mouth so that it nearly disappears. Agents hold Neo down and forcefully insert a metallic insectlike device into his stomach.

Neo jolts awake at home. Soon after, he receives a phone call from Morpheus, who explains his belief that Neo is “the One” he’s been searching for all his life. Morpheus and Neo arrange a meeting. Trinity, along with two other renegades named Switch and Apoc, pick Neo up under a bridge on a stormy night. Unsure of what’s happening, Neo decides he wants to get out of the car, but Trinity calmly empathizes with his confusion and his desire to know more, so he stays. Trinity then removes the bloody, wriggling, mechanical “bug” from Neo’s stomach with a terrifying spike and tube instrument, and Neo is shocked to realize that the episode with Agent Smith actually happened.

In an old room in an abandoned building, Neo finally meets Morpheus. Morpheus tells Neo that Neo has always been a slave and offers to reveal the Matrix to him. Morpheus presents two pills, red and blue. If Neo selects the blue pill, he’ll wake up again at home and remember nothing. If he selects the red pill, Morpheus will allow him to see the truth. When Neo chooses the red pill, a mirror near him liquefies. When he touches it, its mercury-like substance oozes over him, threatening to envelop him. His world dissolves in front of him, and he panics. Neo wakes up naked and hairless in a vat of jelly, with plugs connecting him to the vat. Millions of similar vats, each with a human inside, stretch around him in all directions. Flying robotic insects drill a hole in the back of his neck. Then the jelly drains from Neo’s vat, and Neo slips through pipes down into a pit full of water. A metal claw rattles down from a spaceship and plucks him up into the light.

In the true real world, Morpheus and his crew rehabilitate Neo’s body, for Neo has never actually used it. His muscles have atrophied, and his eyes have never actually seen. After this rehabilitation, Morpheus tells Neo that the year is actually closer to2199 than to 1999, and Neo meets the crew of Morpheus’s hovering ship, theNebuchadnezzar. Besides Trinity, Switch, and Apoc, whom he’s already seen, Neo meets the brothers Tank and Dozer, the snakeskin-jacketed Cypher, and Mouse, the youngest crew member. Tank works as the Operator of the ship, staying in the real world, guiding those who are plugged into the Matrix, and helping them find exits. These exits are pay phones through which the hackers can escape the program of the Matrix and return to the real world. Neo settles into a chair, and Tank thrusts a sharp spike into his head, via a hole at the back of Neo’s brain. Neo enters a computer program.

 

Morpheus explains that, years ago, humans developed Artificial Intelligence but lost control of it. In desperation, humans chose to create a nuclear winter, thinking that by blocking out the sun, they could eliminate the solar power the robots needed to survive. But the robots adapted, and now they run the ravaged world and harvest humans for bioelectric food. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world designed to keep these humans under control. Humans are kept sedated, effectively living a virtual life. Neo awakens in a bed back on Morpheus’s ship, and Morpheus further explains that one man was born into the Matrix with the power to change anything in it. This man freed the first human minds. An Oracle has prophesied his return, and Morpheus believes Neo is the reincarnation of the One.

Tank tells Neo about his homeland, Zion, the only city of free humans left. Zion lies deep underground, near the warmth of the earth’s core. Neo begins training with Tank, who downloads programs into Neo’s head that teach him martial arts. Instantaneously, Neo becomes a jujitsu master. His training carries on for ten hours, as Neo absorbs all martial arts. Morpheus tests Neo with a Kung Fu fight in a virtual computer world, emphasizing that Neo can bend or break the rules of whatever world he’s in. The crew eagerly watches their fight, which includes ultrafast punching, artful dodging, wall-cracking punches, and gravity-defying leaps.

Morpheus speaks in koans, or paradoxes, and tells Neo that he can show Neo the door, but Neo will have to open it himself. He plugs Neo into a test program in which he must leap from the top of one skyscraper to another. No one ever has enough faith to succeed on a first jump, yet the crew hopes that Neo might, since they believe Morpheus’s predictions that Neo is the One. Neo fails to clear the jump, however, and emerges from the program with a bleeding mouth. He learns that though the program world is virtual, his mind itself is real, and it affects his body. In other words, he can die in the Matrix, even though the Matrix isn’t real. Another training program demonstrates that the Agents work as a part of the Matrix and can immediately transform themselves into anyone in it. Therefore, no matter how innocuous he or she seems, every person in the Matrix is a potential enemy. Morpheus explains that no one has ever defeated the Agents, yet at some point Neo will have to fight them.

Back in the real world, robotic sentinels, which the crew refers to as “squiddies,” pursue the ship. The sentinels, which resemble metal octopi, can detect the electricity expended by humans. Their only function is to destroy. TheNebuchadnezzer hides out in an abandoned server port and switches its power offline to avoid detection. The ship’s one weapon against the sentinels, an EMP (high-voltage electromagnetic pulse), renders all the objects currently using electromagnets useless within a certain radius, but it can be used only once, requiring a long time to recharge. The Nebuchadnezzer escapes detection by the sentinels.

Cypher explains to Neo that from the Operator’s chair he understands the Matrix by reading its computer code, not by seeing any images. Cypher also offers him moonshine and explains his doubts about the whole journey. When Neo leaves, Cypher covertly enters the Matrix to make a deal with Agent Smith over a virtual steak dinner. Cypher, answering to his Matrix name, Reagan, promises to deliver Morpheus to Agent Smith in exchange for a safe return to the blissful ignorance of the Matrix, accompanied by an increase in socioeconomic status. Agent Smith wants Morpheus because, as the captain of the Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus has access codes to Zion, which Smith wants to destroy.

In sharp contrast to the rich steak dinner, the crew eats foul, nutrient-rich gruel in their cold, functional mess hall. Mouse chatters about the human need for sex and ponders the question of real taste in the simulated Matrix. Morpheus decides to take Neo to see the Oracle, and the crew knows the meeting will be meaningful. In the Matrix, Morpheus, Trinity, Cypher, and Neo drive to see the Oracle, with Switch, Apoc, and Mouse covering. Unseen, Cypher drops a cell phone in a trash can, allowing the Agents to discover their location. Neo watches his old city pass by in a new light. The Oracle appears in the form of a black grandmother in a tenement house. Young telekinetic prodigies fill her apartment’s waiting room. Neo encounters a young monk, who teaches him to bend a spoon using only his mind.

The Oracle speaks confidently and tells Neo that he’s not the One. Instructing him to “know thyself,” she reveals that soon he’ll make a choice to decide between his own life and Morpheus’s life. She claims that Morpheus will willingly give his life for Neo. Neo notices a black cat moving forward, then seemingly rewinding and moving forward again, as though he’s seeing the same thing twice. Such experiences of déjà vu indicate that a glitch has occurred in the Matrix, and this time, the Agents have set a trap with Cypher’s help. The group hides in the walls of the building, but dust triggers a cough from Cypher, and Smith’s Agents discover their location. Morpheus and Neo leave the Oracle, but Agents ambush Mouse, who dies with his guns blazing. Morpheus blasts through the drywall onto Smith so the others can escape, despite Neo’s protests. Smith and Morpheus fight in a rusted-out bathroom. A host of officers eventually overpower Morpheus and capture him, despite his valiant efforts.

Cypher mysteriously splits from the rest of the group and returns first to theNebuchadnezzar. There, he shoots Tank and Dozer and assumes control of the board. When Trinity and the rest of the group find an exit, Cypher answers the Operator’s call. Trinity perceives Cypher’s betrayal immediately, watching helplessly as Cypher unplugs Apoc and Switch, who collapse to the ground, their life support severed. Cypher doesn’t believe Neo is the One and argues that if Morpheus were really right, then a literal miracle would have to occur immediately to save the lives of both Trinity and Neo. Cypher believes he holds their lives in his hands. The miracle happens. Tank turns out not to be dead, but only grievously wounded. He manages to kill Cypher, thus saving Neo and Trinity.

Agent Smith, along with his subordinates, Brown and Jones, transports Morpheus to a secure skyscraper for interrogation, where he is hooked up to electrodes and given drugs. Smith hopes that this torture, combined with the wear from the beatings, will force Morpheus to reveal Zion’s access codes. Morpheus remains silent. Smith begins to explain the history of the Matrix. A previous version existed in which the machines created an entirely perfect world for humans, but the program failed. Smith believes the failure relates to humanity’s definition of itself through misery and its inability to handle happiness. Thus, the second, intentionally flawed Matrix was developed.

Back on the Nebuchadnezzar, the survivors discuss the option of pulling Morpheus’s plug. They reason that, despite their love for Morpheus, all of the humans in Zion together are more important, and they can’t risk him breaking and giving up the access codes. Just as Tank solemnly prepares to kill their leader, Neo remembers something the Oracle said to him. He begins to have faith in himself and believes he can save Morpheus. Although what he wants to attempt has no precedent, Neo believes he can do it. He plans to enter the Matrix and rescue Morpheus. Trinity accompanies him.

As Neo and Trinity outfit themselves with numerous firearms, Agent Smith describes his theory of humanity to Morpheus, who is beaten, bloody, and drugged. Smith reasons that humans are not mammals but viruses, since they spread exponentially, using up every resource they have then moving on to devour the resources of another place. When Morpheus refuses to break, Agent Smith asks the other two agents to leave him alone with Morpheus. This decidedly unmachinelike behavior alerts us to Smith’s anomalous position in the Matrix. Removing his glasses and disconnecting himself from his earpiece (the earpiece that connects him to his machine superiors), Smith admits to Morpheus that he despises the Matrix. He views himself as superior to it, and he wants Zion’s access codes to destroy humanity and free himself from the Matrix forever.

Meanwhile, Tank places Neo and Trinity at the lobby of the skyscraper, and the pair proceed to shoot their way through it, killing a team of security guards in the process. Agents Brown and Jones return, surprised and confused to see Smith without his earpiece. Because the earpiece was out, Smith didn’t hear that Neo and Trinity are trying to save Morpheus. Neo and Trinity drop a bomb down the elevator shaft and ride the elevator cable up to the skyscraper’s roof, where they battle a host of soldiers. The bomb cuts the building’s power, and the sprinklers come on, drenching the Agents and Morpheus. An Agent shifts into a helicopter pilot’s body, and a showdown begins between him and Neo. The Agent dodges all of Neo’s bullets at superhuman speed. Neo, with increasing confidence, manages to dodge most of the Agent’s shots. His skills aren’t yet perfect, though, and he gets nicked by a bullet. Just as the Agent stands over him, ready to finish him off, Trinity appears and shoots the Agent in the head. Before the body falls, the Agent shifts back out of it, leaving only a human soldier dead on the roof. The Agent himself is gone.

Tank downloads a B-212 helicopter flying program into Trinity, and she and Neo lower the helicopter right outside the room where Smith holds Morpheus. In an explosion of glass, bullets, and water, Neo empties the copter’s cannon, forcing the Agents to hide. Morpheus breaks his chains and runs toward the copter. Just as he’s ready to leap, an Agent’s bullet catches him in the leg. Realizing Morpheus won’t make it, Neo, tied to the copter, jumps to meet him in midair, sixty stories or so above the ground. He catches Morpheus as Trinity flies the copter away. The Agents empty their weapons, piercing the copter’s fuel tank.

Neo and Morpheus drop onto a roof. The helicopter crashes spectacularly into a nearby building, with Trinity leaping out just in time, grabbing onto the rope bound around Neo. Neo lets himself be dragged to the edge of the building, stands upon the edge calmly, and reels Trinity to safety, after which Morpheus proclaims that Neo is the One. Neo protests that the Oracle told him differently. Morpheus counters smoothly that the Oracle told him all he needed to know.

Tank finds an exit for the trio in an abandoned subway. Morpheus exits first. Trinity, worried, stops to confess something to Neo that the Oracle had told her. Soon after, Smith shifts into the body of a homeless man in the corner. Smith shoots at her just as she exits. He misses her but succeeds in slicing the phone line, which removes any possible exit for Neo. A final showdown between Neo and Smith begins. Although everyone has told him to run when an Agent arrives, Neo, starting to believe in his own abilities, turns to face Smith. Tank, Morpheus, and Trinity watch the code at the Nebuchadnezzar’s board. A colossal fight ensues with spectacular special effects, and Neo heroically bounces back many times from seemingly certain defeat. Smith refers to Neo by his Matrix name, Mr. Anderson, but just before a subway car crashes through, Neo fully assumes his new identity, saying forcefully, “My name is Neo.”

The subway appears to crush Smith, but even this collision proves insufficient to stop an Agent. The subway screeches to a halt, and Smith emerges for more fighting, but Neo finally runs. Back at the Nebuchadnezzar, sentinels close in. Multiple Agents chase Neo through crowded streets, shifting into any body that can get a good shot at him. Aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, the crew charges the EMP but can’t fire it until Neo finds an exit and joins them. Neo steals a cell phone, and Tank directs him through the streets and alleys back to the motel where we first saw Trinity. The sentinels land on the ship and begin to slice it open, but Morpheus believes Neo can make it and holds off from discharging the EMP. Neo opens the door to Trinity’s room, only to find Smith right in front of him. Smith empties his gun into Neo, who falls to the ground, dead. On the ship, as the sentinels approach the deck, Trinity whispers her revelation into Neo’s ear: the Oracle told her she would fall in love with a dead man, and that he would be the One. She kisses him. With this, Neo is resurrected.

With his newfound realization and acceptance of his role, Neo rises and assumes even greater powers. Three agents empty their guns at him, but with a quiet “No,” Neo stops all the bullets with his mind, holding out his hand and causing the bullets to drop harmlessly to the floor. Through his point of view, we suddenly see that everything around him is covered with green computer code. Neo is finally able to see the code that creates the Matrix. The agents are now powerless against him. Neo flies into Smith’s body, and in a blinding glow, explodes outward from within him. The other Agents run, Trinity screams at Neo on the ship as the sentinels pierce the deck, and Neo picks up the phone and exits the Matrix. With Neo safely back on the ship, the crew discharges the EMP. The sentinels drop away. Neo and Trinity kiss.

The Matrix ends with Neo talking to someone on a pay phone. He warns that he’s going to expose the truth of what’s really out there. He flies straight up into the sky.

The Matrix Reloaded

Trinity flies through the night air on a motorcycle, crashes into a building, and kills a host of security guards. Suddenly we see an image of her falling out of a skyscraper, shooting bullets upward at an Agent, who falls down with her. The Agent strikes Trinity with a bullet, something crashes hard into the ground below, and Neo wakes up from this nightmare, in bed next to Trinity. She tries to calm him. TheNebuchadnezzar sits and waits, the crew members hoping the Oracle will summon them. Morpheus speaks with the ship’s new Operator, Link, telling him that if he wants to volunteer for this mission, he has to trust Morpheus completely. Neo has accepted his new role as the One, but doesn’t know what to do. He, too, sits and waits.

 

The captains of all the humans' ships, both the Nebuchadnezzar and others, meet inside the Matrix, in an underground bunker. Niobe, captain of Zion’s ship, theLogos, reports that the machines have begun drilling toward Zion. A quarter million sentinels are ready to attack the remnants of humanity once they reach the core. Commander Lock requests that all ships return to Zion and prepare to defend it. Morpheus resists, wanting at least one ship to stay in case the Oracle calls. During this meeting, Neo senses something is amiss. Agent Smith has pulled up outside and asks a young guard to deliver a package and a message to Neo: “He set me free.” The package contains Smith’s earpiece. Neo orders the guards to leave, warning that Agents have arrived. The Agents refer to Neo as the “anomaly.” After an intense battle, Neo escapes, but something has shifted. Two identical Agent Smiths speak to each other, agreeing that things continue to go according to plan. Neo flies to visit the Oracle, but she’s not home.

Having left another ship behind, the Nebuchadnezzar enters Zion dramatically. A vast cylindrical city burrowed deep into the earth, Zion maintains central axes for defense and has living quarters around its perimeter. Humans guard it by sitting in the rib cages of large anthropomorphic robots that respond to each driver’s every move. Captain Mifune, a severe military patriot, greets Morpheus and his crew and escorts Morpheus to Lock’s office. We discover that Niobe used to work with Morpheus until the Oracle made a certain prophecy and has since been loyal to Lock. A teenager excitedly greets the Nebuchadnezzar’s crew and offers to help Neo with anything. Apparently, Neo once saved the Kid’s life. The Kid wants someday to become a crew member of the Nebuchadnezzar.

Morpheus and Lock clash in their beliefs concerning the best way to defend Zion. Lock is angry at Morpheus for leaving one ship behind, blatantly disobeying Lock’s direct order to bring all ships back to Zion. Lock puts little stock in the Oracle’s prophecies. Zion’s inhabitants notice that more ships are docked at one time than ever before, and rumors flood the city. People fear the coming of the Armageddon between Good and Evil, Man and Machine. Councilor Hamann, a senior member of Zion’s Council of Elders, wants to assemble Zion’s population that night and speak to them, but he is unsure what to say. Lock advocates discretion in delivering information. Morpheus advocates telling the complete truth and hoping inspiration will deliver them from fear.

Link and the Kid leave Neo and Trinity alone in an elevator, where they begin to kiss. They look forward to a few hours alone together. When the doors open, Neo finds that the sick and destitute of Zion have come to him for guidance and salvation, treating him as a Christ figure. Trinity leaves Neo to do his work. Link returns to his wife, Zee. Zee, sister of Tank and Dozer, worries about Link’s volunteer status with Morpheus, but Link reassures her that he’s starting to believe in the acts he’s seen Neo perform.

At a nighttime assembly in a great cave of Zion, Morpheus tells the people the truth about the impending attack from the machines but immediately inspires them with his fearlessness. The Zionites celebrate with a sweaty, pulsing, underground rave. Simultaneously, Neo and Trinity consummate their relationship under an arch in private quarters away from the assembly. As Neo and Trinity make love, Neo again has his nightmare vision of Trinity falling from the skyscraper and being pierced with a bullet. Trinity attempts to reassure him by telling him she’ll never let go. Finally, Zion sleeps.

Meanwhile, in the Matrix, two renegade hackers flee from Agents. One man makes his exit, but another, Bane, is intercepted by one of the two Agent Smiths. Smith slices his hand into Bane’s chest, infecting Bane’s body with the same type of fluid Neo first saw after he took the red pill. Smith exits the Matrix into Bane’s body, aboard Bane’s ship, in the real world.

Neo walks outside his room overlooking the sleeping city of Zion restlessly, knowing that something isn’t right, but unsure what to do. Hamann, the aging Elder of Zion, also wandering, joins Neo for conversation. Hamann takes Neo down to the engineering level of the city, the part no one thinks about. Hamann claims that people don’t want to know how things work, as long as they keep working. They converse about the symbiosis between man and machine, then discuss the nature of control. Hamann admits he has no idea how Neo does the things he does.

Someone knocks on Trinity’s door. Neo is there. Finally, the Oracle has summoned him. The Nebuchadnezzar prepares to leave. As Link readies to once again risk his life, Zee offers him a good luck charm. Link doesn’t believe in it, but Zee does, so he willingly takes it and promises to return. Bane/Smith has returned with his ship to Zion and can’t take his new human body, so he slashes himself. As Neo readies to board the Nebuchadnezzar, Bane/Smith approaches from behind with a knife, but Neo turns at the last minute when the Kid calls him. Though puzzled at Bane’s presence, Neo accepts a gift that someone instructed the Kid to deliver—a spoon. Neo understands. Lock doesn’t want the ship to leave and expresses his frustration to Hamann.

In the Matrix, Neo wends his way through a Chinatown and enters a door into a wood-and-paper templelike structure. An angel named Seraph awaits him politely, then begins to fight him. Neo and Seraph fight throughout the temple, knocking over wooden bowls. Seraph, the Oracle’s benevolent protector, insists that he had to be sure Neo was the One, and that the only way to do that was to fight him. Leading Neo down a white hallway full of doors, Seraph opens a door onto a city playground, where the Oracle sits on a bench.

Neo begins to realize that Seraph and the Oracle are not humans, but parts of the machine program that constitutes the Matrix, a fact that the Oracle confirms. Wondering aloud how he can then trust her, she replies only that he has to choose for himself what to believe in. She suggests he’s already made major choices and is presently only trying to understand them. She explains the anomalous programs a bit more. Everything in the Matrix is a program, but the noticeable ones are the ones that aren’t working. They’re either rebellious, failing, or resistant to being replaced. When a program faces deletion, it can either hide itself or return to the Source, the machine mainframe, where, she suggests, the path of the One ends. The Source, the Oracle reveals, comprises only light. She affirms that Neo can now see outside of time. He naturally wonders why he can’t see the end of his frightful vision of Trinity. The Oracle says he can’t see beyond the choices he doesn’t yet understand. As their time together ends, she tells Neo he must see the Keymaker to gain access to the Source. If he can’t, Zion will fall.

Agent Smith arrives as soon as the Oracle leaves, implying a connection between himself, Neo, and the Oracle. Smith and Neo discuss this idea explicitly. Smith maintains they’re both anomalies in the system, no longer part of it. However, both are still imprisoned and must play out their purpose, a purpose Neo has yet to discover. Smith tries to replicate himself inside Neo as he did with Bane, but Neo resists it, beginning a colossal street fight that pits Neo against Smith and dozens of replicated Smiths. Smith has departed from the strictures of the program, but he is still a machine. He has no free will and can’t escape his program. Neo eventually escapes again.

Back at Zion, Lock addresses the Council and emphasizes the seriousness of the machine threat, requesting them to hold all ships in port, as nothing has been heard from the Nebuchadnezzar. The Council overrules him and asks for two volunteers to search for the Nebuchadnezzar. Captain Soren from the Vigilant answers the call, as does, to Lock’s surprise and disappointment, Captain Niobe from the Logos.

In an effort to find the Keymaker, Morpheus, Trinity, and Neo visit the Merovingian, a haughty Frenchman, at his upscale restaurant in the Matrix. The Merovingian dines with his wife, Persephone. In their conversation, the Merovingian suggests that the three don’t understand why they’ve come, or why they need the Keymaker—they simply obeyed the Oracle’s order automatically. To demonstrate his power over the program, the Merovingian sends a coded slice of cake over to a gorgeous woman. The cake slowly affects her erogenous zones, a subtle process that the Frenchman narrates in appreciative detail. He observes that we are all similarly out of control, slaves to causality. He refuses to make a deal for the Keymaker. The Twins, a pair of white-suited, powder-skinned, dreadlocked enforcers, escort Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus to the elevator.

Unsure exactly what the Oracle intended to happen, the three ride the elevator. It opens onto a floor where they are surprised to be greeted by Persephone. She escorts them into a fancy bathroom and rants against the Merovingian, whom she says used to be like Neo but has since changed. Explaining that she can see true love written all over the stoic faces of Neo and Trinity, she requests that in exchange for the Keymaker, she wants to receive one kiss from Neo. She orders Neo to kiss her just as he kisses Trinity so that she can experience real love again. Trinity draws her gun. Persephone insists, saying that if she lies to them, Trinity can kill her where she stands. Neo kisses her chastely, then realizes the gravity of the situation. He removes his sunglasses and kisses Persephone passionately, with Trinity standing by. Persephone leads them through the restaurant’s basement into an impossibly large hall, then through the hall to the Keymaker, who grinds away making keys in a key-lined closet, waiting for Neo.

As they leave, the Merovingian and his henchmen confront the group. Persephone accuses the Merovingian of cheating on her with the girl from the cake episode. Though plainly guilty, he denies it. Seeing the Keymaker freed, the Merovingian orders an attack on all of them. The Twins disappear into the floor and come up on the other side of the room. The Keymaker flees, and Morpheus and Trinity run to help him. Neo stays to handle the rest in the great hall. He stops all their bullets, as well as the thrusts of the swords they pull from the great staircase. An extended battle and chase sequence ensues.

The Twins, occasionally shifting into matterless ghosts, chase Morpheus and Trinity into a parking lot, where they battle. Trinity gets into a car and drives it around, leading the chase onto city streets. Just as Neo defeats the henchmen in the great hall and aims to catch up with the others in the parking lot, the Twins close the door. When Neo forces it open, he’s suddenly miles away, high up in a mountain range. Careening onto city streets, the chase pits the Twins against Morpheus and Trinity, who attempt to protect the Keymaker. Agents arrive on the scene and also try to catch the “exile.” Link guides them onto the freeway.

During the chase, numerous cars crash, Agents shift into multiple drivers, and the Twins bleed into whatever car they want. At one point, Trinity and Morpheus split up, and Trinity grabs the Keymaker, leaps off an overpass onto a trailer carrying motorcycles, and drives the Keymaker down the wrong side of a crowded highway. Morpheus slices the gas tank of the Twins’ SUV with a sword and fights an Agent atop a speeding eighteen-wheeler. At one point, while defending the Keymaker, who has been passed to him, he’s knocked off the truck and crashes onto the front of a car driven by Niobe, who has arrived just in time.

Finally, Trinity escapes. Morpheus knocks an agent off an eighteen-wheeler and stands there helplessly with the Keymaker. An Agent drives the truck directly toward another eighteen-wheeler, also driven by an Agent. Morpheus pleads quietly for Neo’s help. The trucks smash into each other, erupting into balls of flame. In midair, Morpheus and the Keymaker are caught by Neo, who has flown in from the mountains. Watching the Matrix at his board, Link cheers.

In Zion, sentinels relentlessly grind away into the earth. The Keymaker explains to Soren’s, Niobe’s, and Morpheus’s crews that one door in the primary skyscraper leads to the Source. To access it, the units have to work together and knock out power in a massive grid as well as disable the emergency power system. They will then have only 314 seconds to access the door. They strike at midnight, during a shift change of security guards. Morpheus gives an inspirational speech in which he affirms his belief that this night will bring the Oracle’s prophecy of the end of the war to fruition. Neo, worried about Trinity, asks her to stay behind. Reluctantly, she agrees. During their attack, sentinels discover Soren’s ship and disable it, killing Soren and all his crew. Therefore, the emergency power system remains engaged. Link can’t contact Neo, so the only option left is for Trinity to enter. Otherwise they would miss their only chance. She has only five minutes.

We return to the beginning and witness the playing out of Neo’s vision: Link patches Trinity near the skyscraper, and Trinity flies in on a motorcycle, taking out a group of guards. At the same time, the Keymaker leads Morpheus and Neo down a white hallway with countless doors. As they turn the final corner, they meet Smith and hundreds of replicated Smiths. During the fight, Morpheus is nearly absorbed and replicated by the penetrating hand of Smith, but Neo saves him. The Keymaker hides. Trinity finds Soren’s lifeless crew and hacks into the emergency backup system, disabling it grid-by-grid. Just as the system finally falls, the Keymaker sneaks out and opens the correct door. At the sound of the click, all the fighters stop and turn. Neo grabs Morpheus and flies him through the crowd of Smiths, diving through the door just as the Keymaker closes it. The Smiths empty their guns as the door shuts, striking the Keymaker. As he dies, he affirms that he has fulfilled his purpose and gives Neo the key to the correct door from around his neck. Neo inserts it, and blinding light immediately surrounds him.

Neo finds himself in an all-white room ringed by monitors. He meets the Architect, the creator of the Matrix. The Architect reveals that his original, perfect Matrix failed because he didn’t understand the frailty and flawed nature of the human mind. His increased understanding spurred the creation of the second Matrix, in which a certain percentage of people did not believe. The Architect allowed Zion to exist so the disbelievers could congregate there. Once the instability in the system could be contained, the rebels, conveniently assembled all in one place, could be periodically destroyed. The Architect tells Neo that Neo represents the sixth cycle of these growths and extinctions. One of the earlier “Neo”s was the Merovingian, but Neo has been built much differently from his predecessors. With increased efficiency, the machines have this time created a “savior” who has direct experience and knowledge of the humans in the Matrix. The idea is to manipulate his capacity for love and thereby cause him, effectively, to choose to eliminate all of humanity.

The Architect gives Neo two choices, which explain Neo’s visions of the falling Trinity. Walking through one door will lead to the death of Trinity but the salvation of humanity for yet another cycle. Zion will be rebuilt from scratch and, essentially, the program will repeat with its previously acceptable levels of instability. Walking through the other door will give Neo the chance to save Trinity, but doing this will likely lead to the permanent elimination of all humanity. The Oracle and her prophecies of the One, then, were also intentional inserts into the program, further systems of control to manipulate the One into following his predetermined path. The One’s function is to return to the Source. Neo now has the potential to stop the cycle of mass extinctions. Possessing no humanity themselves, the machines are unable to predict what will happen if Neo chooses the door allowing him to save Trinity, selecting love over saving the human race. In the end, Neo chooses to save Trinity.

Trinity finds herself fulfilling the nightmarish visions Neo has been having of her. Trying to escape after disabling the emergency system, she’s met by an Agent at an elevator. As they fight, she is forced to leap out of the building. As she falls down in a hail of bullets and broken glass, shooting unsuccessfully at the Agent, who dives after her, Neo flies through the city in a blaze unlike anything seen before. Fire trails behind him, and cars and street matter are swept up behind him in his tumultuous, tornado-like wake. As in Neo’s vision, a bullet strikes Trinity, but just before she hits the ground, Neo swoops in and catches her. The Agent smacks into a car at street level, and Neo’s blazing wake destroys the entire block.

After soaring carefully to the top of a building, he reaches inside of Trinity’s body and removes the bullet. Nevertheless, Trinity dies in Neo’s arms. He reaches inside of her and massages her heart, resurrecting her as she did him. They kiss. Morpheus and Link look on at the board.

Back on the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo reveals the falsity of the prophecy to Morpheus. Though Morpheus doesn’t want to believe it, the fact that the war has not ended remains undeniable. Sentinels show up near the ship but stay out of EMP range. Neo senses that they’re building a bomb, so the crew evacuates the ship—just in time. The Nebuchadnezzar explodes as Morpheus watches, confused and despondent. The crew ventures out onto the mechanical wires of the real world, becoming utterly vulnerable. The sentinels attack, but something has changed—Neo can feel their presence. He stops running from them and disables them all with his own self-generated EMP. Then, exhausted, he collapses and enters a coma. Captain Roland’s ship, the Hammer, swoops in to pick up the crew of theNebuchadnezzar. The crew of the Hammer relates a pointless tragedy in which five ships were lost by an improperly discharged EMP.

The only survivor, Bane/Smith, lies in a coma, right next to Neo, in the Hammer’s medical bay.

The Matrix Revolutions

Captain Roland’s ship, the Hammer, drifts through the real world, trying to establish contact with Captain Niobe’s ship, the Logos. Trinity sits patiently by Neo’s bedside. The health monitor, Maggie, tells Trinity about the suspicious conditions surrounding Bane’s survival and Roland’s desire to interrogate him when he wakes up. On the Hammer’s deck, Morpheus asks Roland to search for Neo in the Matrix, even though Neo is not jacked in. Roland doesn’t see anything, but Morpheus’s suspicion—that Neo no longer needs to be jacked in—proves to be correct. The people of Zion believe that the city has approximately twenty hours left before the sentinels’ first drill pierces the upper dome of the city. Seraph calls the Hammer, and the Oracle beckons Morpheus. Trinity accompanies him.

Neo wakes up in a pure white train station. A small Indian girl, Sati, hovers over him. Sati, who is a program, not a human, explains that the Trainman will soon come to take her away. Seraph, Morpheus, and Trinity meanwhile meet the Oracle in her new shell. She explains to them that the Trainman, who smuggles programs between the Matrix and the real world and who works for the Merovingian, eventually will hold Neo hostage. They have to save Neo or Zion will be lost, but the Merovingian has set a bounty on their heads. Neo remembers seeing Sati’s father, Rama-Kandra, who reminds him that they met at the Merovingian’s restaurant. Rama-Kandra and his wife, Kamala, both of whom are programs, have made a deal with the Merovingian to smuggle Sati away from the coming battle to safety in the custody of the Oracle. Neo wonders how these programs can feel such human emotions. Rama-Kandra says love is only a word and what matters is the connection the word implies and the actions that follow based on that connection.

Seraph, Morpheus, and Trinity approach the Trainman on one of his subway cars to try to make a deal for Neo, but the Trainman refuses to make a deal without the approval of his boss. The three chase him through a station, making the Trainman late to pick up Sati. The Trainman narrowly escapes their pursuit by jumping in front of an oncoming train and disappearing into it from the opposite side of the tracks as it rushes by.

Back at Neo’s station, as the Trainman’s train finally arrives, Rama-Kandra explains that the Oracle has agreed to care for Sati. Neo tries to carry Sati’s luggage onto the train but doesn’t fool the Trainman, who created the station and all its rules. Laughing, he punches Neo into the wall, suggesting ominously that Neo’s prospects for escape are dim, since his freedom depends on the Merovingian. Neo tries to run after the train out of the frame, but he loops back to the other side. The program has trapped him in a closed circuit.

Seraph, Morpheus, and Trinity fight their way down into the Merovingian’s Dantean S&M club, Hell. They kill the bouncers and then the guards at the gun check. They move through the crowd of Hell’s latex- and leather-clad revelers by covering themselves in triangle formation. The amused Merovingian, wearing a bright red shirt, agrees to talk with them above the dance floor, amid masked thugs with guns. Sitting next to his wife, Persephone, who also wears red, and the grungy Trainman, the Merovingian licks two olives provocatively. Seraph, Morpheus, and Trinity try to make a deal for Neo, whom the Merovingian will return only in exchange for the eyes of the Oracle. Trinity refuses that deal and knocks away the nearest guns. The brief fight concludes with guns drawn all around, but no one dares shoot, since Trinity has hers pointed directly at the Merovingian. Powered by her willingness to die for Neo, Trinity revises the deal. Either the Merovingian returns Neo, or she pulls the trigger, sparking a chain reaction that will inevitably result in the deaths of everyone present. Persephone and the Merovingian both understand that her threat is sincere.

Meanwhile, at the station, Neo concentrates in an attempt to envision a means of escape. He has a vision in which he sees three heavy cables, but doesn’t know what this image means. A train finally pulls up, and Trinity, who has persuaded the Merovingian to release Neo, gets out. The two embrace and kiss. Morpheus, Seraph, and Trinity take Neo to visit the Oracle, who is baking cookies with Sati. Neo sees the Oracle from a new perspective and decides it’s time for him to learn more. The Oracle agrees and helps him realize he has no choice but to go back to the Source, and that the fate of Zion lies with him. She explains to Neo that Smith represents Neo’s programmatic opposite, “the equation trying to balance itself” in the face of instability, passion, and the fight for free will. Finally, she says cryptically that “everything that has a beginning, has an end.”

Smith, in Bane’s body, finally wakes up aboard the Hammer. Seraph takes Sati from the Oracle and tries to lead her to safety, but they are cornered by many Smiths. Eventually the Smiths enter the Oracle’s apartment. Waiting calmly, the Oracle sits at the kitchen table, smoking. Frustrated, Smith can’t figure out how much she knows or why she’s staying if she knew he’d come. The Oracle allows him to do what he came there to do, so he replicates himself into her. However, something doesn’t go quite right with the replication. The first Agent Smith steps back in confusion as the new Agent Smith stands up and laughs.

The crew of the Hammer interrogates Bane/Smith, but he claims he doesn’t remember anything. He agrees that his arm scars are suspicious but insists he has no recollection of the events he’s being questioned about. The health monitor, Maggie, notes his unusual neural activity and try to figure out a way to force him to remember. Alone in his quarters, Neo again envisions the three cables winding up through some dark, ravaged land. Finally, the Hammer locates Niobe and theLogos, which is damaged but reparable.

Lock delivers a bleak outlook of Zion’s chances to the Council and asks for volunteers to help his grossly outnumbered forces hold the dock. The city is evacuated, but Zee stays behind to volunteer. She grinds handmade artillery shells in her metal bunker apartment. The Kid offers himself as a volunteer to Captain Mifune, who realizes that though the Kid may be young, every available volunteer is needed.

As the crews repair the Logos, both ships’ Operators note something unusual taking place in the code of the Matrix. The three captains, Roland, Niobe, and Morpheus, try to figure out a way to sneak their ships back to Zion to assist in the city’s defense. At Niobe’s insistence, they decide to risk flying through a little-used, extremely narrow mechanical channel. Neo enters and announces that he must take one of their ships to the Machine City. Roland strenuously resists this idea, pointing out that no one in a century has ever made it even close to the city. Niobe offers to give up the Logos, claiming that she doesn’t believe in the prophecies, but does believe in Neo.

Alone in the medical bay with Maggie, Bane/Smith pretends to slowly regain his memory, admitting that he did blow the EMP. Maggie tries to sedate him, but he stabs her to death before she can warn anyone. In a quiet moment in a bunk, Neo tells Trinity he doesn’t know what’s going to happen at the Machine City, and that he’s probably not coming back. She tells him she’ll accompany him anyway. Neo and Morpheus say goodbye warmly, as do Link and Trinity. Niobe pilots theHammer, which takes off for Zion. Just as Trinity and Neo get set to launch theLogos, all the power shuts off. Trinity investigates the fuses below the hatch.

As they fly off, Roland’s crew discovers Maggie’s body and notices that Bane has disappeared. Realizing that Bane must have stowed away on the Logos, the crew know they cannot go back, because Bane may have gained control of another EMP. On board the Logos, Trinity fights with Bane/Smith, letting Neo know via intercom that he’s on the ship. Neo emerges from the cockpit with a gun and finds Bane/Smith holding a knife to Trinity’s throat. Though Trinity urges Neo to shoot, Bane/Smith notes with disgust the emotions of love that spur Neo to lay the gun down. Bane/Smith calls Neo “Mr. Anderson” and throws Trinity down a hatch, grabbing the gun.

Slowly, Neo realizes that Smith has concealed himself in Bane. Just before Bane/Smith can fire a fatal shot at Neo, Trinity manipulates the fuses and kills the lights. In the ensuing fight, Bane/Smith blinds Neo by jamming a work light into his eyes, burning them out. He taunts Neo by slipping into the shadows of a stairwell as Neo waves his arms helplessly. Bane/Smith picks up a massive crowbar and prepares to smash Neo’s head. As Bane/Smith swings, Neo ducks, and we see from Neo’s point of view that Neo can still see machines and programs. In the ensuing fight, Neo gains the upper hand and knocks Bane/Smith’s head off. He frees Trinity from the fuse room, and they embrace.

At Zion, the dock prepares for battle. The Kid loads ammunition into the anthropomorphic robots, but because he is inexperienced and too eager, he spills the ammunition, costing the soldiers valuable time. Mifune and his men strap themselves into their robots, and Mifune delivers a rousing speech. Zee and a volunteer friend promise to stand and fight with each other. Niobe approaches Zion slowly, creeping quietly through the tiny mechanical line. Despite her skill, she nicks an outcropping, and the sentinels instantly sense her. Demanding full power, she orders Roland and Ghost to man the turrets and Morpheus to work as her copilot. She races down the line.

The machines finally breach the dome. A monstrous corkscrew splits the upper sphere and falls through the city, causing massive damage. Hundreds of sentinels swarm into the opening like a plague of locusts. Zee and her friend load rocket launchers with their handmade shells—Zee loads, her friend shoots—and they take a leg off a drill. At the dock, bullets fly. To reload the oversize robots, the men have to wheel ammunition onto the dock while under attack and then elevate the ammunition awkwardly into the robot as the battle continues. Sentinels swarm over a command center. Zee’s friend shoots again, as another massive drill drops through the dome. Niobe races toward Zion, covered by sentinels and driving recklessly but successfully. Zee and her friend climb up a few levels and try to shoot down into a drill’s core, but they accidentally hit a sentinel. In response, several sentinels try to squeeze into their narrow opening. They kill Zee’s friend, but Zee escapes.

The crew members see the Hammer’s signal on Zion’s radar and tries to open the city’s gate to let the ship in. The gate jams, but Zee and the Kid together manage to fight off the sentinels and open it manually. Niobe blasts through the half-open gate and slams into the city wall. The Logos discharges its EMP, and thousands of sentinels, suddenly disabled, stream down through the sky and cylinder to the pit of the city. The people greet the disembarking crew as heroes, and Link and Zee reunite. Lock, though, is furious, for the EMP disabled all of Zion’s hardware, leaving the city completely vulnerable to another wave of sentinels. Lock blows up a shaft, sealing the city off for a couple of hours from the incoming sentinels, which have already arrived in a mushroom-cloud-like plume. The three captains report to the Council, explaining their decision to give a ship to Neo, a decision Niobe and Morpheus defend.

Trinity and Neo slowly approach Machine City, hovering over a vast crop of humans awaiting harvest. Neo, using his second sight, directs Trinity toward a mountain range, where he sees the three power cables he saw earlier in his vision. Massive city-sized ships emerge from the landscape and unleash hundreds of pods at theLogos. Neo wards off as many as he can but is unable to deflect them all. Sentinels attach themselves to the ship. Neo and Trinity’s only option is to fly directly up, straight over the city. As they rise, sentinels fall away, and for a brief, beautiful moment, Neo and Trinity peek up above the black post-nuclear clouds into a brilliant pink and orange skyscape. Just as quickly, they descend back down into the dark, flying behind the city, straight toward the heart of a tower. They crash.

Neo crawls over to Trinity, who has been impaled by many twisted rods. Through the wreckage, Neo is amazed at what he sees—nothing but light all around. Trinity reassures him yet again that this is her time to die and that nothing’s going to bring her back this time. She wants to say goodbye the right way. They express their love and kiss, and she dies.

At the now defenseless Zion, another drill breaches the hull of the dome. The city’s people gather at the temple and wait. In the machine city, Neo climbs through the wreckage and walks across beams of light. Little mechanical spiders and other tiny insectlike machines creep around him until he gets to an outcropping at the end of the wreckage. A spirit—the Deus ex Machina—rises, assembling a giant face made up of many tiny machines. Neo shows no fear and speaks quietly, asking only to be allowed to say what he came to say. The face grants its permission. Neo points out that the Smith program has gotten out of control and will eventually take over the real world as well as the Matrix. The face resents this and spits a swarm of robot bees all around him. Neo doesn’t flinch, and he tells the face he wants only peace. The robot bees calm. Neo allows himself to be jacked in to the Matrix.

The final battle between Smith and Neo occurs in the Matrix on a rainy highway at night. Smith has apparently replicated himself onto every inhabitant of the Matrix, which is now entirely full of Smith replicas rather than people. Neo fights a representative Smith as countless other Smiths look on. The fight ranges from the street to the sky to empty warehouses, and the two strike each other with enough force to send shock waves through the atmosphere, breaking glass all over the city. Neo gets up every time he gets knocked down. Smith says that the purpose of life is to end, as he drives Neo deep into the ground, forming a crater filled with rain and green liquid sewage. Smith demands to know why Neo keeps getting up. What is the cause? Freedom? Survival? Truth? Peace? Love? Neo answers that he gets up because he chooses to. Strangely, Smith says that “everything that has a beginning has an end,” revealing that a bit of the Oracle lurks inside him. Neo allows Smith to replicate himself into Neo; the Deus ex Machina gives Neo a bit of a jolt; and Neo, in a flash of light, explodes out of Smith’s body. The nature and cause of Neo’s triumph remain somewhat mysterious, but Neo has apparently purged the Matrix of Smith and restored it to its former state.

Precisely where Smith had been only a moment before, the Oracle lies in a puddle of water—the Smith that fought Neo was the replica that had originally been the Oracle. Neo lies on the wreckage in the Machine City, exhausted. At that moment, the sentinels suddenly withdraw from Zion. The Kid delivers the good news to the city, and the people rejoice. Link and Zee embrace, as do Niobe and Morpheus. Neo is slowly pulled into the Source, with no clear indication of whether he’s alive or dead. The real world Matrix remakes itself. The Architect and the Oracle meet on a beautiful expanse of lawn and confirm that all those who want to be freed will be freed. Seraph and Sati arrive, and Sati embraces the Oracle. They both admire the brilliant, multicolored sunrise that Sati made for Neo. Seraph wants to know if the Oracle knew all along that it would work out this way. The Oracle assures him that she didn’t know anything, but she believed.

 
Neo (a.k.a. the One, a.k.a. Thomas A. Anderson) - 

Played by Keanu Reeves

The protagonist of the trilogy, a hacker who eventually liberates humanity from the Matrix. Soft-spoken and reclusive, Neo is initially confused when he is torn out of the Matrix by strangers. Morpheus and his followers look up to Neo, thrust major responsibility onto him, and seem to know all about him, but he has little idea why he has been chosen as the object of their admiration. As the trilogy progresses, Neo becomes more sure of himself as he accepts and nurtures his newfound abilities. Neo is a unique kind of superman: healthy, but not overmuscled; strong, but not especially masculine. He assumes responsibility but gives no lectures on moral goodness, and he doesn’t shy away from violence when it’s necessary. His character develops gradually from passivity toward action, until he finally initiates conflict in order to bring about resolution.

Read an in-depth analysis of Neo (a.k.a. the One, a.k.a. Thomas A. Anderson).

 
Trinity - 

Played by Carrie-Anne Moss

The underground hacker who first contacts Neo and later becomes his lover. Trinity is a force of quiet intensity and utter confidence. She plays a crucial role in the first Matrix, when she resurrects Neo from the dead. Trinity is extremely loyal, and she is ready to die for Neo not long after meeting him. Her physical fighting skills are top-notch, and she tends to pilot the helicopters, drive the luxury vehicles, and speed on the motorcycles when in the Matrix. In the Matrix, she always wears black leather or latex, and with her closely cropped hair she appears both androgynous and attractive.

Read an in-depth analysis of Trinity.

Morpheus - 

Played by Laurence Fishburne

The brooding and mysterious leader of the Nebuchadnezzar, a renegade ship. A tall, strong presence, Morpheus leads his crew bravely, delivering inspiring speeches and exhibiting utter calm in the face of every challenge. His physical size and rock-solid confidence make him an anchor for the ragtag crew of theNebuchadnezzar. Morpheus is one of the first people to believe Neo is the One, and, since his faith in Neo has always been strong, Morpheus will go to any lengths to protect him. Morpheus is willing to die for Neo, but Neo is determined not to let this happen. Morpheus sports stylish sunglasses in the Matrix that consist only of lenses and a nose bridge.

Read an in-depth analysis of Morpheus.

Agent Smith - 

Played by Hugo Weaving

The most important Agent, who proves to be Neo’s foil. Able to inhabit any body in the Matrix, Agents Smith, Brown, and Jones are literally no one and everyone. Smith is the most dangerous and powerful, and he proves to be much different from the other Agents. Over the course of the trilogy he develops humanlike anxiety that becomes increasingly desperate and egocentric. Initially he represents only inevitable death, but eventually he develops a personality, a blend of sarcasm and incomprehension of the program in which he’s an anomaly. Smith, like the other Agents, wears a standard gray business suit, sunglasses, and a white earpiece through which he assimilates the information of the Matrix’s code. Smith manages to replicate himself a million-fold, rendering himself Neo’s toughest, most persistent enemy.

Read an in-depth analysis of Agent Smith.

The Oracle - 

Played by Gloria Foster (The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded) and Mary Alice (The Matrix Revolutions)

The gentle seer who guides the freed minds through the complex world of the Matrix. In a trilogy filled with stereotyped characters, the Oracle takes on the most stereotypical form of them all, that of the wise and kindly grandmother who bakes cookies in a tenement apartment. The Oracle moves slowly around her cozy green kitchen, drags pensively on her cigarettes, and conducts conversations that are alternately circuitous and direct. She often roots through her purse for hard candy to suck on. She is a source of faith and belief for Morpheus, and of maternal guidance for Neo. The Oracle doesn’t determine Neo’s fate, but she helps him realize for himself what his path should be.

Read an in-depth analysis of The Oracle.

Sentinels (a.k.a. Squiddies) - 

Created by the special effects team

Computer-generated, squidlike robots programmed to seek and destroy humans. The Sentinels are all eyes, slithering pads of searching, red, electromagnetic sensors. Their many surveillance mechanisms make them highly sensitive. Their responses are terrifyingly fast, and their aerodynamic tentacles can either entangle a helpless victim immediately or extend back into a cometlike tail for pursuit. When they appear en masse through the dome of Zion, they resemble plague of locusts, intent on bringing extinction.
 
Cypher - 

Played by Joe Pantoliano

The mustached, snakeskin-jacket-clad, traitorous crewmember of theNebuchadnezzar. The anxious Cypher accepts his role as a traitor over a last supper in the Matrix, savoring his juicy steak. He can no longer tolerate the depressing grind and tasteless gruel aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, and in exchange for betraying Morpheus, he expects to be granted a happy return to the Matrix, with no memory of the real world. He prefers the illusion to reality. His name suggests both the number zero and the act of making or breaking codes. His reptile-skin jacket hints that he is a serpent or tempter, but unlike the serpent in Genesis, he covets blissful ignorance rather than knowledge.
The Merovingian (a.k.a. the Frenchman) - 

Played by Lambert Wilson

The pompous and refined computer program who was a previous incarnation of the One. A very campy and entertaining character—and a bit of a ham—the Merovingian deliberately overemphasizes his French, delivers portentous lectures on causality, and professes to have lost all faith in all things human. He dresses impeccably in tight, expensive suits and sits as if on a throne, next to his voluptuous wife, Persephone, whom he treats as a trophy. His wife’s name, among other things, suggests that he corresponds to the lord of the underworld in Greek mythology. Having failed in other realms and given himself over to the thirst for power in his own, he is interested only in exploring poetic, subtle exploitations of that power, and in maintaining it. His name refers to a seventh-century Frankish dynasty of suspicious kings who stayed within their own kingdom, distributed power in a hierarchy, and believed themselves to be descendants of Christ. Neo attempts to persuade the Merovingian to help him find the Keymaker.
The Keymaker (a.k.a. the Exile)  - 

Played by Randall Duk Kim

The apron-wearing entity imprisoned by the Merovingian who holds the key to the Source. Believing that his only purpose is to deliver this key to the One, the humble, big-hearted Keymaker grinds away in a small closet filled with keys, waiting for the day of his calling. When it comes, he fulfills that purpose with serenity, conveying necessary information and organizing the renegades with acumen. Short and hunched, he contrasts with the muscular figures and sleek styles of the rest of the warriors in the Matrix. The keys to practically anything that needs to be started or opened are tangled somewhere around his waist, though he wears the most important key around his neck.
Commander Jason Lock - 

Played by Harry Lennix

The hardened military chief in charge of Zion’s home defense. An exasperated, tight-shouldered man, Lock believes in Zion and attempts to defend it the way he was trained, with as much fortification and as clear a plan as possible. He always pursues the proper channels when relaying his orders and voicing his opinions, but he has little room for creativity or hope in his desperate plans. Jealousy over Captain Niobe eventually starts to eat away at his normally confident demeanor.
Niobe - 

Played by Jada Pinkett Smith

An expert pilot and captain of Zion’s ship, the Logos. Niobe, whose name refers to a mortal who suffers a tragic fate in Greek mythology (she was a queen of Thebes who had to watch all her children and her husband die), embodies intensity, individualism, and courageousness more successfully than the other captains. She makes her decisions based on her own beliefs and instincts, and she allies with, and is swayed by, no one. She is both a skilled military asset and a source of contention between Morpheus and Lock.
The Architect - 

Played by Helmut Bakaitis

The dignified, white-suited, and white-bearded creator of the Matrix. A nonhuman figure of vast intelligence, the Architect cannot completely hide either his slight disgust for the weaknesses of humanity or his intense interest in investigating its behavioral patterns. He is so powerful that the mere clicking of a pen completely transforms the wall of monitors behind Neo in his room. As the creator of the Matrix, he strikes a Godlike figure, but the Architect operates on a different plane of morality. In Gnostic theology, Satan, rather than God, created the world and formed its sufferings and burdens to shackle humanity. Since the Architect provokes the coming Armageddon, he likely represents the Gnostic Satan instead of God.
Seraph - 

Played by Collin Chou

The tranquil, angelic spirit who protects the Oracle. Seraph first appears in a flowing white shirt, sitting cross-legged in meditation upon a wooden table in a sparse temple room. Seraph is a martial arts expert and tests Neo when he comes to visit the Oracle. His name refers to the seraphim of Christian theology, the highest order of angels. Composed of pure light, the seraphim communicate directly with God, since they are the caretakers of God’s throne. Seraph always wears sunglasses.
Tank - 

Played by Marcus Chong

The initial Operator of the Nebuchadnezzar. A friendly and muscular man, Tank serves Morpheus loyally and believes in his leadership.
Dozer - 

Played by Anthony Ray Parker

Tank’s more muscular brother and fellow Nebuchadnezzar crew member. When Dozer and Tank appear together, they may obliquely recall James and John, the brothers who were both apostles of Christ.
Zee - 

Played by Nona Gaye

Link’s strong and careworn wife in Zion, and the sister of Tank and Dozer. Essentially stuck in a small, dreary compartment, the winsome Zee exudes a quiet integrity and inner strength after having survived trial after trial. She is superstitious and gives Link a good luck charm when he reboards the Nebuchadnezzar.
Sati - 

Played by Tanveer K. Atwal

The young Indian child who escapes the Matrix through a deal her parents make with the Merovingian. Sati is a program, not a human. Wide-eyed and clear-speaking, she represents the future of humanity after Armageddon. Her parents’ love for her surprises Neo, who had assumed programs were incapable of human emotions such as love. Sati’s name perhaps refers to an Indian widow who bears the burden of following her husband in death at the funeral pyre, forced by the pressures of society or hallucinogenic drugs. At the end of the trilogy, Sati creates a stunning sunrise for Neo.
Rama-Kandra  - 

Played by Bernard White

The father of Sati. Rama-Kandra, a program, makes a deal with the Merovingian to save his daughter’s life.
Kamala - 

Played by Tharini Mudaliar

The mother of Sati. Kamala, a program, makes a deal with the Merovingian to save her daughter’s life.
The Trainman - 

Played by Bruce Spence

The grungy creator and operator of a limbo world in between the Matrix and the real world. Sporting a dirty jacket, long, unkempt hair, and an angular sunken face, the Trainman looks like a homeless derelict but actually reveals himself to be an ingenious programmer who loses himself in his invisible world of subway trains. He sometimes smuggles programs between the Matrix and the real world. His decisions are always contingent on those of his boss, the Merovingian.
Persephone - 

Played by Monica Belluci

The Merovingian’s curvaceous, alluring wife. Mostly silent around her devilish and loquacious husband, Persephone wallows in the loss of his human passion and their true love. Jealous of her husband’s attention to a virtual woman, Persephone betrays him by leading Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus to the Keymaker in exchange for a kiss from Neo. In Greek mythology, Persephone became the goddess of the underworld when Hades kidnapped her and took her below. The Merovingian’s Persephone also lurks beside her husband in Club Hell, and she is thrilled by Trinity’s commitment to die for Neo.
Captain Roland - 

Played by David Roberts

The captain of Zion’s ship the Hammer. A gray-haired, drawn-mouthed officer, Roland seems more human than the rest of his inspired captains. He thinks logically, makes mistakes, and changes his mind. He behaves like a kindly career military official.
Mouse - 

Played by Matt Doran

The young techno-whiz who creates the Nebuchadnezzar’s training programs. Mouse was an original member of Morpheus’s crew, and his excitability justifies his name. An incredibly intelligent philosopher-savant, he enjoys bringing up human concerns appropriate to his age level, such as sex and the taste of cereal.
Councilor Hamann - 

Played by Anthony Zerbe

The aging Elder of Zion, fond of prattling good-naturedly. Hamann is a kind of wild card on the Council. His approach to issues balances the wisdom of his age and experience with the irrationality of hope and faith.
The Twins - 

Played by Neil and Adrian Rayment

The powder-skinned, white-suited, white-dreadlocked bodyguards of the Merovingian. The shape-shifting Twins remain almost wordless through much ofThe Matrix Reloaded, but when they do speak, their calm British accents attest to their solidarity with the Merovingian in terms of smooth style and haughty decorum. The Twins look and act like something out of Ghostbusters, and they exemplify the Oracle’s claim that the ghosts and monsters of legend are actually anomalous programs.
Bane - 

Played by Ian Bliss

The crewmember of a Zion ship whom Agent Smith replicates himself into to enter the real world. With a goateed, shady face, Bane/Smith speaks with Smith’s considered affect but maintains Bane’s physical exterior. Bane/Smith lurks around the cabin and appears suspicious right from Smith’s first infiltration. His face lends Smith a new mask of terror late in the trilogy.
Deus ex Machina - 

Voiced by Kevin M. Richardson

The ultimate spirit at the heart of the Machine City, which takes the form of swarms of metallic insects. A face of light rising above the thick cables of the City, Deus ex Machina, sets up Neo’s final confrontation with Agent Smith when Neo has the courage to address him. Latin for “god from the machine,” the name is likely used ironically in the credits, since the entity is never addressed by name during the film. In Greek and Roman theater, a god would often suddenly emerge from the rafters to resolve a plot that had tangled itself impossibly or save characters who were in hopeless situations. In more recent works, it refers to any contrived or artificial device that ends a story in a manner that doesn’t follow logically from the plot.
Captain Mifune - 

Played by Nathaniel Lees

The extremely intense Zionite patriot who battles with his men on the front lines of the dock. With a seemingly bottomless pit of passion, Mifune screams and yells and ripples his biceps throughout much of The Matrix Revolutions.
The Kid - 

Played by Clayton Watson

The eager youngster passionate about Zion’s dock defense. Initially nervous and excitable, the Kid learns to stay calm and get the job done in battle, in the face of dying comrades and swarms of sentinels.
Captain Soren - 

Played by Steve Bastoni

The stolid captain of Zion’s ship the Vigilant. Captain Soren admirably volunteers with Niobe to ascertain the fate of the Nebuchadnezzar.
Switch - 

Played by Belinda McClory

An original crewmember of the Nebuchadnezzar. In contrast to the rest of theNebuchadnezzar’s crew, Switch wears crisp, clean, all-white suits and sports a spiked blond hairdo.
Maggie - 

Played by Essie Davis

The red-haired medical advisor on the Hammer. Maggie is murdered by Bane/Smith.
Councilor Dillard - 

Played by Robyn Nevin

The regal and authoritative director of Zion’s Council of Elders. Dillard’s poise speaks to years of experience, and the respect she commands on all sides is a further testament to the central position she holds in deciding Zion’s future.
Councilor West - 

Played by Dr. Cornel West, author and Princeton University Professor of Religion and African-American Studies

The funkiest, most soulful member of Zion’s Council of Elders.
Apoc - 

Played by Julian Arahanga

An original crewmember of the Nebuchadnezzar.
Ghost - 

Played by Anthony Wong

An expert gunner and member of Niobe’s crew.
 

Neo (a.k.a. the One, a.k.a. Thomas A. Anderson)

Early in The Matrix, Neo learns that his life as he knows it has been an illusion, a computer-generated world beyond anything even his own computer-hacker sensibilities can comprehend. He gets over his shock swiftly and undertakes the task of liberating others from the virtual fate that’s been forced on them. Neo’s path to enlightenment is quick and smooth. He is sought out by those who already understand the truth and given the choice to learn the truth or return to a life of falsity. He chooses the red pill—the choice that opens his eyes and changes his direction from lazy hacker to hero of the universe. Neo never shows much emotion, and we get a sense of his growing self-confidence mainly by watching his increasingly shocking and skillful fighting moves.

 

As he embraces his role, Neo becomes a Christ figure in the trilogy. Morpheus, the Oracle, and other characters in the Matrix trilogy call Neo “the One,” and they are certain he is the man who will liberate and save them. Several parallels exist between Neo and Christ. Neo is resurrected from the dead at the end of The Matrix, a feat that cements his role as savior of the human race. Christ was both earthly and godly, and Neo, once he fully understands who he is, can see the Matrix’s code covering everything around him, which demonstrates his own ability to transcend the division between realms. Even Neo’s Matrix name, Thomas Anderson, suggests a parallel with Christ. “Anderson” literally means “son of man,” a phrase used to describe Christ in the Gospels. “Thomas” suggests the New Testament figure of the disciple Thomas who won’t believe in Christ’s resurrection until he sees proof with his own eyes. Neo makes this same connection between believing and seeing, and he doubts himself and his abilities until he begins to actually accumulate experience. Neo is not meant to actually represent Christ, but these suggested connections elevate his status in the films and underscore the important role he plays in the battle to save the human race.

Morpheus

Morpheus serves as a leader in the real world, steadfast and courageous in the face of great danger and difficulty. He is the one who plucks Neo out of his comfortable life in the Matrix and shows him the truth, and he believes immediately that Neo is the One. Morpheus’s faith in Neo remains consistent even when Neo proves to be less than perfect, and his loyalty to Neo is so deep that he is willing to die so Neo can continue his work. Morpheus is a kind of father figure for Neo, Trinity, and the rest of the Nebuchadnezzar’s crew, and though Neo eventually eclipses him in terms of fighting skill and power, Morpheus remains the epicenter of wisdom and guidance. Morpheus represents the best kind of leader and teacher: He teaches Neo what he knows and guides him to the right path, then steps aside and lets Neo proceed on his own. Morpheus does not seek glory, and his selflessness makes him heroic in his own way.

The many philosophies and religions alluded to in the Matrix trilogy suggest that Morpheus has multiple roles and meanings. The name Morpheus itself suggests the Greek god of dreams, whose name literally means “he who forms.” The god Morpheus has the ability to change his own shape and manipulate reality, as well as the power to bewitch other people’s minds with dreams and fantasies. He also has the power to wake people up, and in The Matrix, Morpheus wakes Neo from the world of illusions. The root of the name Morpheus, “morph,” which means “form,” appears in words such as morphine, a drug known for its sleep- and dream-inducing qualities.

Trinity

Once a computer hacker, Trinity was freed from the Matrix by Morpheus and is now one of a band of rebels living in Zion. Tough, leather-clad Trinity is a kind of super-woman in the Matrix. Master of kung fu fighting and a skilled shooter, Trinity can take out a roomful of gun-wielding enemies without tousling a hair out of place. She isn’t made entirely of steel, though, and when she meets Neo, she proves to be a loyal partner, willing to follow him into danger and chase after him when he’s in trouble. Her love for Neo is powerful, and she brings Neo back to life at the end ofThe Matrix by declaring her love. Trinity is also a martyr, and though Neo does everything he can to keep her alive, she accepts her death as a necessary part of Neo’s work to save the world. This willingness to die for Neo is not the mark of a weak will or a yearning for victimization. Rather her death demonstrates her total commitment to the cause she believes in. She’s just as determined to save the world as Neo is—her role in the quest is just different.

The name “Trinity” carries with it a host of Christian connotations. The Trinity, in Christian theology, represents the unity of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). According to a Christian view of salvation, we can receive eternal life through the Trinity. Just as the Holy Trinity acts as the center of Catholic religion, the Matrix trilogy is in many ways united by the relationship that develops between Trinity and Neo. God is the only savior who offers us salvation, and he offers it through Jesus Christ, whom we can only come to know through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Matrix trilogy, Trinity serves as a uniting force, the one who gives us access to Neo.

Agent Smith

Smith is a computer program with a particular purpose to serve within the Matrix. When programs die in the Matrix—as the Keymaker does, for example—they are deleted because they have fulfilled their purpose. When Agent Smith fights Neo at the end of The Matrix, something unexpected happens to him. His program evolves or becomes corrupted, and increasingly Smith finds himself at odds with the Matrix world, where all the other Agents remain at ease. He is a program, but somehow he also demonstrates an evolution of character and purpose.

Hugo Weaving portrays Smith as a confused, complex entity. Smith is a program, but he also seems to possess human qualities. We see his desperation, for example, when he faces the Oracle and tries to figure out what she knows and how she knows it. Smith’s style of speech evolves as the trilogy progresses. Initially, Smith is smug, slow, and methodical in his questions, assured that whatever programs he is a part of will run smoothly. Slowly, though, doubt creeps into his voice, and his facial expressions become less controlled. He shows anger. The tone of his voice grows more varied. At crucial moments, Smith takes off his sunglasses and reveals his eyes. Smith blurs the line between man and machine, and though ultimately humans prove more powerful, his resilience suggests that victory was never certain, and that machines have more influence and potential than it might seem.

The Oracle

Like Morpheus, the Oracle is a trusted figure of wisdom and guidance who helps Neo make sense of his mission, but the actual scope of her powers is never quite clear. At times, she seems to be able to control the future, while at other times she seems able only to predict it or offer possibilities. In either case, her prophecies suggest that the future is predetermined and, therefore, that Neo and the others have no free will. However, her powers and her role evolve throughout the trilogy, as does our understanding of her. Eventually, we may question whether she truly knows anything about the future, or if she is instead simply a good judge of character. The discovery that the Oracle is actually a program, part of the Matrix itself, complicates our understanding of her abilities even further. Ultimately, her calm and comforting demeanor may help Neo and the others with their mission almost as much as an actual prophecy would or does.

The Wachowskis adapted their Oracle from the mythical Oracle at Delphi, who, according to legend, once declared Socrates the wisest man in the land. Socrates responded that if he was wise, it was only because he knew nothing. Neo, too, is aware of his own ignorance, and the inscription over the Oracle’s door, “Know Thyself,” suggests that self-knowledge is of the utmost importance. The Oracle in the Matrix films isn’t as grand or as awe-inspiring as the Oracle of ancient Greece, however. Where the ancient Oracle sat over a chasm in a three-pronged seat, inhaling hallucinatory vapors from the depths of the earth that were believed to be the breath of Apollo, here the Oracle sits on a three-legged stool in her tenement apartment and breathes in the smell of cookies baking in the oven.

 

 

 

hemes

The Blurred Line Between Humans and Machines

The films of the Matrix trilogy pit man against machine in a clearly drawn battle, but they also reveal that the humans are more machinelike than they think, and that the machines possess human qualities as well. The humans, for their part, are as relentlessly driven as machines. Morpheus’s faith in the Oracle’s prophecy, and in Neo, is unwavering and unquestioning, and his own followers follow him automatically. Trinity’s loyalty and attachment to Neo have machinelike constancy. Her actions suggest her love, but her love expresses itself not so much as passion or emotion than as ceaseless, frenzied activity. As Neo, Keanu Reeves exudes an almost robotic calm, and both he and Carrie-Anne Moss wear sleek, androgynous clothes. Their incredible fighting skills and superhuman strength seem to put them in the machine category, and their fluid movements are the result of programs that have been downloaded into them. The Agents, by contrast, are fluid, adaptive, and creative. They shift seamlessly throughout the programs and listen intently to human speech, responding accordingly and sensitively. When Agent Smith removes his glasses and orders the other Agents out of the room in a decidedly unmachinelike manner so he can confess something personal to Morpheus, he infuses his speech with human emotions such as disgust and horror. Indeed, Smith seems to become almost desperately human, and his endless replication of himself is decidedly egocentric.

 

With the line between man and machine blurred to the point almost of disappearing, theMatrix trilogy raises the complicated question of how interdependent man and machine actually are, or might be. One fear of artificial intelligence is that technology will entrap us in level upon level of dependence, and in the trilogy Neo discovers more and more about the thoroughness and subtlety of the Matrix. Technology threatens to become smarter than humans, but one larger point of the trilogy is that technology doesn’t have to be smarter than us to enslave us. As long as humans turn to technology to solve human problems, humans and technology are interdependent. In the trilogy, the machines are dependent on the humans for life, and they grow and harvest humans so they can continue to exist. Though the reverse doesn’t necessarily follow—humans don’t rely on the machines for their existence—the trilogy’s entire story hinges on the fact that at one point humans needed artificial intelligence for something, and so created A.I. to fulfill that need.

Fate vs. Free Will in the Matrix and the Real World

When Morpheus asks Neo to choose between a red pill and a blue pill, he essentially offers the choice between fate and free will. In the Matrix, fate rules—since the world is preconstructed and actions predetermined, all questions already have answers and any choice is simply the illusion of choice. In the real world, humans have the power to change their fate, take individual action, and make mistakes. Neo chooses the red pill—real life—and learns that free will isn’t pretty. The real world is a mess, dangerous and destitute. Pleasure exists almost entirely in the world of the Matrix, where it’s actually only a computer construct. Cypher, who regrets choosing the red pill and ultimately chooses to return to the Matrix, views any pleasure, even false pleasure, as better than no pleasure at all. Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and the others in Zion, of course, value free will and reality no matter how unpleasant they may be. The Matrix trilogy suggests that everyone has the individual responsibility to make the choice between the real world and an artificial world.

Though Neo is the exemplar of free will, fate plays a large role in his adventure. Neo relies on the Oracle, and everything she says comes true in some way. If she can see around time and guide Neo to the right decision at each encounter, he doesn’t have to exhibit much, if any, free will. Morpheus tries to describe the Oracle as a “guide,” not someone who knows the future, and at the end of the trilogy she tells Seraph that she actually knew nothing, she only believed. Nonetheless, the Oracle is always right, raising doubts about how much free Neo actually has. In another way, as an integral part of the Matrix, the Oracle’s intelligence and composure lead her visitors to believe what she says, a trust that perhaps renders her prophecies self-fulfilling. In this sense, she shares the same final goals as Morpheus, Neo, and Trinity, and together they actively shape the future.

The Relationship Between Body, Brain, and Mind

The Matrix trilogy explores the interconnection between the body, the brain, and the mind, especially how that connection changes when the world turns out to be an illusion. Two different kinds of humans populate the world of the Matrix films: ordinary humans and those who, thanks to a port in their head, can be jacked into the Matrix. People in the Matrix can feel physical sensations, which are created by the mind, and the Matrix trilogy makes it clear that the body cannot live without the mind. If skills, such as fighting skills, are downloaded into the brain, and if the mind is free, a person can control his or her body as if he or she actually has had these skills all along. The trilogy suggests that humans need the body, brain, and mind working together simultaneously to stay awake in the world, which, in a way, is a declaration of the power of individuality and humanity. The existence or absence of all three elements separates Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity from not only the Agents but also the Architect, the Oracle, and all the other Matrix-bound entities.

Motifs

Sexuality and Sensuality

In The Matrix, all references to sex occur only in the Matrix—that is, in the mind. Mouse, the young techno-whiz, creates a fantasy woman dressed in red as part of a simulation of the Matrix. The Matrix Reloaded shows an earthier version of sex in the real world, in the human city of Zion. Neo and Trinity, whose passion was previously much colder, make love under an arch, a traditional symbol of heavenly blessing. The film interrupts their lovemaking with scenes of the earthy, sensual Zionites celebrating their community to the beat of tribal drums. They’re loosely garbed in earth-toned clothing and are muscular, tattooed, and sweaty. The vast population jumps up and down, undulating in a sweep of ecstasy that seems to serve as a connection to the earth. Sex and sensuality are concrete in the real world, while in the Matrix, they are illusions like everything else.

 

he Matrix Revolutions portrays the Merovingian’s underground club, Hell, as an S&M paradise, full of latex, whips, chains, masks, and muscular bodies. The club suggests Dante’s circles of hell, in which sinners receive various tortures and punishments. Here, the Wachowskis present the idea that the simulation of punishment, the sensations of various materials, bindings, and masks, and the assumption of various roles of domination and submission can be a liberating and sensual experience. What the Christian Dante condemns as debauchery, the Merovingian presides over as an entertaining party.

Sunglasses, Eyes, and Mirrors

The renegades and the Agents always wear sunglasses in the Matrix. Sunglasses hide the eyes and reflect those who are being looked at. The removal of sunglasses signals that a character is gaining a new or different perspective, or that he or she is vulnerable or exposed in some way. When Neo removes his glasses to kiss Persephone in The Matrix Reloaded, he looks deeply into her eyes, indicating both the precariousness and gravity of the moment. When Morpheus offers Neo his crucial choice between the pills, the blue pill is reflected in one shade of his sunglasses, the red pill in the other, an overt reference to the two different ways of seeing that Neo must choose between. When Neo enters his new world, his sunglasses serve as protection for him, keeping him invulnerable to the dangers and surprises he encounters.

Mirrors reveal how we see the outside world, but also, crucially, how we see ourselves and our own world. When Neo takes the red pill, he enters the real world, and the mirror he touches infects him slowly with metallic goo, suggesting the fraying of all his illusions as he enters a new realm of perception. Other reflective materials are shattered throughout the trilogy. Skyscraper glass rains down, water rains from above and pools below, and anything transparent continually shifts forms and locations, transforming whatever it reflects.

Biblical References

The films in the Matrix trilogy frequently employ biblical references to augment character development and suggest a significance greater than the mere actions taking place. On the plaque of Morpheus’s Nebuchadnezzer, for example, as part of its identifying numbers, is the notation Mark III, No. 11 . In the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament, Mark describes large crowds who follow Jesus and are healed of their diseases. Chapter 3, verse 11 (King James Version) reads, “And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him and cried, saying, ‘Thou art the Son of God!’” In some ways, Morpheus parallels a Gospel writer delivering news of a savior. He is, after all, the first person to believe and declare that Neo is the One. When Neo disembarks at Zion for the first time in The Matrix Reloaded, afflicted crowds await him and treat him as a messiah, begging for his healing touch just as the crowds in Mark’s Gospel do. Though Neo isn’t necessarily a messiah, the biblical reference here suggests he embodies the qualities of one and presents a possible interpretation of his role.

Just before Agent Smith’s first appearance in The Matrix Reloaded, we see the license plate on the luxury car he drives: IS 5416. In the Old Testament, Chapter 54, Verse 16, of Isaiah, reads “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire and that bringeth forth an instrument for this work; and I have created the waster, to destroy.” In this chapter, Isaiah refers to the Lord’s assurances that Zion, the promised land for the Israelites, will be victorious in future glory. He reminds his people that he created everything and goes on to reassure them that “no weapon forged against you will prevail.” Though we don’t necessarily need to recognize and understand the biblical reference in order to understand the Matrix trilogy, references like this one add a second layer of meaning to the films. They augment what we do know about the characters and add depth to the conflict, giving the films hidden meanings and reinforcing the idea that what we’re seeing isn’t all that’s there—more lurks beneath the surface, if we just know where to look, much as those who take the red pill discover an alternate universe just beyond what they know.

Symbols

Zion

The meaning of the human city of Zion changes throughout the Matrix trilogy. InThe Matrix, the city is discussed but not seen and works mostly as a metaphor for a promised land of sorts, and a goal that makes the fighting worthwhile. The Zion in the films recalls the biblical city of Zion. In the Old Testament, Zion is Jerusalem, the heavenly city God promised to the Israelites. The city sits on the top of a hill, commanding a distant view of the kingdom—both for meditative purposes and for safety. The people in Zion live in harmony and are unified in their faith. The word Zion suggests safety, since the city became a religious haven for the Israelites after years of wandering and enduring torture. In the Matrix trilogy, Zion is still a promised land as well as a safe haven, but the parallels end there. The Zion of the Matrix commands not a vast view of land, but is instead buried within the heart of the earth, and though it offers the illusion of safety, in The Matrix Revolutions the enemy infiltrates that safe haven and crashes violently through its borders.

The Zion in the Matrix trilogy contrasts with the illusory program of the Matrix. The Matrix represents a system of control that operates completely in the mind. As a complex, machine-driven program, it appropriates any personal, political, or ideological leanings and renders them wholly false. It allows illusions but no action. Zion, as a promised land, represents a real, tangible, human place fought for, worked for, and died for. Zion is a living sanctuary and a memorial to the efforts and faith of a chosen people. When Zion appears in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, its symbolic connotations intensify as its inhabitants fight for a true human community.

The Green Light of the Matrix

Everything in the Matrix is bathed in a green light, as if the camera were capped with a green-tinted lens. (The green in question is the color that characters on computer screens used to be before the advent of Windows and word-processing programs that used black-on-white color schemes to make the computer world look more like the “real” world of paper and ink.) This color suggests that, unlike in the real world, what we see in the Matrix is being shown, or filtered, through something else. When Neo finally develops the ability to see the Agents as code rather than as their fake human shapes, he sees them in the same menacing green color that saturates the rest of the Matrix. In all three of the movies, when something is evil, green light is involved—Club Hell, for example, is bathed in green light, and green flames surround Bane/Smith just before Neo kills him. We might expect, then, that Neo will see nothing but green when he approaches the supposedly evil Machine City. Instead, with his second sight, Neo sees golden spires of light reaching toward the sky—no hint of green. Whatever the machines are, they’re not only embodiments of evil indulgence and selfishness as are the Merovingian and Smith.

Three/The Trinity

The Matrix trilogy itself is, of course, three films, and arrangements of threes and references to threes saturate the films. The number three has strong spiritual significance, which appears in the character of Trinity. The name Trinity suggests the holy trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which represents the divine nature of God. In the Matrix films, Morpheus, Neo, and Trinity form their own trinity, as do Agents Smith, Brown, and Jones. Three ships’ crews, another trinity, try to access the door of the Source: Soren’s, Niobe’s, and Morpheus’s. The reappearance of the number three perpetuates and emphasizes the idea of the trinity. The Matrix begins and ends in Room 303 at the Heart O’ the City Motel. Without the zero, the number becomes 33, which recalls the purported age of Christ at the time of his crucifixion and resurrection. Neo also has visions of three thick cables bound together in The Matrix Revolutions, and these power cables lead to his penetration of the heart of the city.