Movies That Hate You: The Matrix

In a dark and seedy motel in the city, a clandestine operation is taking place.  The police have sent in officers to investigate and they find a woman dressed in tight leather sitting at a laptop.  At the same time, Federal-looking Agents have arrived on the scene to warn the police about the woman they intended to capture.  The warning went unheeded and the officers were defeated by this mysterious woman, who demonstrated speed and agility surpassing any Olympic world record holder.  Reinforcements arrive and a chase begins.  The police find themselves unable to catch her; she runs faster and jumps much farther than humanly possible.  Only one of the Federal-looking Agents seems to have abilities like her.

The Agents catch up to her, but she disappears after running into a phone booth and picking up a ringing phone.  They discuss the next target of their investigation and leave.Across town, a man is sleeping at his computer, which is currently searching for news on another mysterious man named Morpheus.  Suddenly, the computer displays an ominous warning and tells him to follow the White Bunny.  He is interrupted by what seems to be an illicit transaction of some kind and is invited to join them at a rave party.  He initially refused, but then sees the woman has a tattoo of a white rabbit.

At the party, he stands by himself until he is approached by the same woman from the police chase, who identifies him by his screen-name, Neo.  The woman, who calls herself Trinity, is a famous hacker.  She brings a warning about something called the Matrix.  An alarm rings and Neo finds that he’s in his bed.

Next, we find that Neo, whose real name is Mr. Anderson, arrives late at work and is reprimanded by his supervisor.  When he sits at his desk, he receives a delivery:  a cell phone.  The phone rings and there is a mysterious man on the other end of the call: Morpheus.  Morpheus tells Mr. Anderson that Agents have come to question him, and tries to show him a way out of the building.  When Mr. Anderson gets cold feet with his fear of heights, he allows himself to be captured.

Inside a Federal building, one of the Agents who pursued Trinity is now questioning Mr. Anderson.  When he tries to resist, they silence him and plant a bug on him.  That night, Trinity catches up to Mr. Anderson and has his bug removed.  He also finally meets Morpheus.  Speaking mostly in metaphor, Morpheus tells Neo that the life that he lives has been a lie, and offers him a path to the truth.  Neo accepts, and he is soon “disconnected” from his life, only to find that he is bald, covered only in tubes, and in a  field with billions of people trapped in pods.  The maintenance machine disconnects him from the pod and ejects him down a chute.  He is rescued by a ship and falls unconscious.

Later, Neo meets the crew of the ship, who were the same people he met inside the Matrix, and Morpheus explains what he does and what his mission is: To free humanity from “The Matrix,” a computer program created by the Machines to enslave Mankind after Man lost the war.  Neo is reluctant to join in them until Tank, a computer operator aboard the ship, force-feeds Neo knowledge of martial arts.  Neo challenges Morpheus, and Morpheus uses this as a teachable moment.  Morpheus defeats Neo at every turn, until Neo is finally pushed to the edge and displays abilities even beyond Trinity showed earlier.  Morpheus continues Neo’s training, and has Neo attempt to jump across a building, only to watch him fall to the ground in spectacular failure.

After the ship avoids contact with a robotic Sentinel, Neo talks to Cipher, who continues to express doubts about Morpheus’ goals.  Shortly thereafter, we find out why: Cipher makes a deal with the Federal-looking Agents to betray the crew and hand over Morpheus.  Sometime later, Morpheus takes Neo to see The Oracle, a woman who has worked with the Resistance for a long time.  When they reach her apartment, Neo interacts with children who have special abilities within the Matrix.  Talking with the Oracle, Neo realizes that she has clairvoyant powers, and tells Neo that he is not quite The One.

When they all leave, Cipher springs the trap by using his cell phone as a “beacon” to allow the Agents to close in on the group.  Neo notices that something looked like deja vu, and the crew immediately attempts to escape.  Mouse, one of the members of the group, attempts to hold off the armed police, but he is killed.  Morpheus and the group escape by rappelling down the inside of the walls, but Cipher’s sneeze gives away their position.  When one of the Agents attempts to grab Neo, Morpheus intervenes and the group escapes, except for Cipher.  Morpheus fights the Agent, who calls himself Agent Smith, and none of Morpheus’ techniques could even harm him.  Morpheus is then beaten by armed SWAT with batons.

Cipher calls Tank, the operator, and tells of a miraculous escape and asks for an exit.  When he leaves the Matrix, he grabs the electro-gun and severely wounds Tank.  Dozer, his brother, is killed shortly thereafter.  Cipher takes the operator controls and starts killing members of Morpheus’ crew.  Tank manages to regain consciousness and kills Cipher with the same gun.  After Trinity and Neo leave the Matrix, Tank is about to pull the plug on Morpheus to prevent him from being brainwashed into giving the Agents the secrets to the Zion mainframe.  Neo intervenes, realizing that the Oracle had given him a choice.  Neo and Trinity head back into the Matrix, armed for bear with pistols and machine guns, and a large bomb to assault the building where Morpheus is being held prisoner.

In the large building, the Agents pump Morpheus full of serum, but Morpheus resists its effects.  Agent Smith attempts to use philosophy to convert Morpheus, but then resorts to full-blown torture when that fails.  It would be here where the assault by Neo and Trinity would halt the session.  An agent would take over one of the bodies of a SWAT officer, and Neo would attempt to shoot him, to no avail.  The Agent then fires on Neo, and Neo begins displaying abilities similar to the Agents, although he is injured and is saved by Trinity in spectacular fashion.

The two of them take a helicopter and assault the room where Morpheus is held, and with a last second save by Neo, free Morpheus from his captors, although they lose the helicopter they were on in the process.  As the three make their way to the exit that Tank managed to create, the Agents traced their pirate signal and send a group of Sentinels to attack them.  Agent Smith, however, pursues the humans, and prevents Neo from escaping.

Neo decides to face Agent Smith head on, and as the battle escalates, Neo finds that he can hold his own.  After having Agent Smith run over by a subway train, Neo runs off, only to find that Smith has taken another body.  Neo steals a cell phone and Tank guides him to the exit.  Meanwhile, the Sentinels have made their way to the Nebuchadnezzar and begin to burrow their way inside.  Morpheus cannot set off the EMP, because Neo is still hooked in to the Matrix and would die as a result.  When Neo reaches the exit, Agent Smith is waiting and empties his clip into Neo.  Neo dies, and the crew is despondent.

Trinity confesses her love to Neo and kisses him, which is enough to revive him in the Matrix.  The Agents fire on Neo, but Neo stops the bullets with a thought.  As Neo realizes his true power, Agent Smith attempts to attack him once more, but now Neo’s abilities far outstrip the Agents, and Smith is defeated soundly.  Neo then dives into Smith and destroys him from the inside.  The other Agents run away quickly.  Trinity screams for Neo to run to the exit, and a Sentinel has reached Neo’s chair as Morpheus fires the EMP.  When Neo comes to, Trinity kisses him once more.

Soon thereafter, the Matrix attempts to trace a phone call being made by Neo, but Neo causes a system malfunction with his newfound powers as he tells the Matrix that he intends to free the minds of the humans trapped in the Matrix.  As he leaves the phone booth, Neo looks around at the people going about their daily lives within the Matrix, and displays new power:  The ability to fly.

Review and Analysis:

The Matrix was the sleeper hit of 1999.  In the same year, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released, but The Matrix cemented its legacy on American culture and film much like Star Wars did 22 years ago, with Phantom Menace now playing the part of Damnation Alley (big movie, expensive, over-hyped) this time around (minus the armored cockroaches).  This movie revived Keanu Reeves’ movie career, and re-established Carrie-Anne Moss and Lawrence Fishburne as bankable actors.  It would also be considered such an “IT” movie that celebrities would clamor to take on cameo and minor roles just to be in any sequel that is produced.

But for all of its hype and praise, The Matrix follows the same old scripts of Hollywood casting, along with a pile-on of racial and gender stereotypes that are staples of these kinds of productions.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before:

This movie, thematically, is similar to that of George Lucas’ Star Wars.  Neo is the quintessential Chosen One who comes to save the day at the end of the movie, but only after failing a few times.  Morpheus is Obi-Wan Kenobi, only without the death in the middle of the film.  Trinity is Princess Leia, except she isn’t Neo’s Sister.  This makes The Oracle Yoda, and Agent Smith is Darth Vader….except he isn’t Neo’s father.

So…Trinity is Fighting for Love?

Setting Back Action Heroines Since 1999.

The Oracle tells Trinity that she would fall in love with The One.  And, since then, she was been training under Morpheus to prepare herself for the day when she would meet The One.  And that the man she would fall in love with…would be The One.

And that’s all Trinity has been preparing for:  To be become the arm candy of Neo.

While this can be a worthwhile goal to attain, one must remember that fighting for true love seems to be almost the exclusive province of feminine characters in Hollywood, thus Trinity’s actions get undercut by her final goal.

And Neo gets resurrected by a kiss of Pure Love from his Oracle-ordained One True Love.

Trinity has demonstrated no other motivations, no other goals, no other reasons to risk her life.  Yet, almost like the Ripley character in Aliens, Trinity is praised as an Action Heroine.  And, like Ripley, Trinity is deeply problematic.

In other words, yet another demonstration of why movies should never be analyzed; you end up in a worse position than before, especially if it was a movie you liked when it first came out.

How Chosen Actors Make a Difference:

He almost didn't get this role.

According to, Keanu Reeves was not the first choice.  In fact, he wasn’t even the second choice for the role of Neo.  Both Will Smith and Nicholas Copolla-Cage both reportedly turned down this role.

Given Hollywood’s fear of Black Men in relationships, one has to wonder how Trinity’s motivations would have played out if Will Smith had taken the role.

She passed on the leather.

Sandra Bullock reportedly turned down the role of Trinity.  This would have had the potential to reunite her and Keanu, as they both starred in Speed.

Larry also wasn't even on the radar.

Other sources reported that both Sean Connery and Chow Yun Fat were considered for the role of Morpheus.  Connery was supposedly considered when Will Smith was the frontrunner for Neo, and Chow Yun was considered later.  Although Chow Yun’s martial arts skills are probably more fluid than Lawrence’s own, the role would have taken on the usual (and stereotypical) stereotypes of Asians in Hollywood as martial arts and philosophy teachers, perhaps personified by Noriyuki Morita in The Karate Kid.

An American-Centric Dystopia:

Bad Guys in Standard Issue US Government "Men-in-Black" suits. The only thing missing are the Black Helicopters.

The idea of the Matrix is that the world in which we all live in is nothing more than a computer generated program designed to keep humans enslaved as batteries.  Agent Smith mentions that Version 1.0 of the Matrix was a Utopia, where every need was catered to, every want virtually fulfilled.  However, the Matrix 1.0 was rejected by large numbers of humans connected to the Matrix, and thanks to The Oracle, subsequent versions of The Matrix are now about mundane human struggle.

First, the idea of a rejected Utopia can either be seen as a dig at or a tribute to one of the many philosophies espoused by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, where societal utopias often were not true utopias because they lacked choice and free will.  But for this to be true, one has to have lived a life where some choice could be exercised for the advancement of something other than immediate survival.  When you spend most of your time trying to fulfill basic needs such as food, water, and shelter, the choices one gets to participate in are limited.  Thus, if given an opportunity to never have to worry about basic human need, one wonders if a Star Trek-like rejection would actually occur on such a wide scale as Agent Smith describes.

On one level, this could be absolute genius.  Get the human mind in a state of constant stress and diversion, and there would be little chance for the average person anywhere to resist the idea of the Matrix.  On the other, should circumstances change and you’re forced to free the humans en masse, you can expect it to turn into a disaster of cataclysmic proportions.

Faceless Victims, Faceless Survivors, Faceless Bystanders:

Prime Example of Theme Reinforcement. Everyone is dressed in two basic colors.

As has been the case in movies with a group of plucky rebels, the population at large is either shown to be oblivious of the problems around them, or actively complicit with the enemy.  In the case of The Matrix, it can be a combination of both:  Anyone who is hooked into the Matrix as a battery pod can be taken over by a Sentient Agent, thus they often act as the eyes and ears for the Matrix against the Human Resistance.  And if the Sentient Agent is shot and “killed,” the Agent leaves the body for another and the person whom the Agent possessed dies.

Thus, The Matrix fulfills all of the tenets of Faceless Victims and Faceless Enemies all at the same time:  Their lives are unimportant, their motivations unclear, and their futures are irrelevant.

Jealous Traitor:

He betrays Morpheus because Trinity won't kiss him.

Cipher was freed from the Matrix many years ago, but has been skeptical of Morpheus’ goal of finding “The One” ever since.  In movie parlance, he plays the role of “The Cynic,” the one who doubts the goal of the heroes of the film.  In Star Wars, that role was fulfilled by Han Solo, who doubted the use of “The Force” to help their cause.  But in The Matrix, Cipher was also made into a traitor to show just how strong a hold the Matrix can have on a person.  Yet, he spends most of his time antagonizing Trinity for showing her affection to Neo – and to Neo for being the recipient of Trinity’s love.  So he let his jealousy get the better of him, and the Agents took advantage of that.

Chat Room Names:

The code names that the characters take seem to be those one would choose if they were participating in an IRC chat session. Apoc, Switch, Trinity, Neo, Morpheus, Tank, Dozer, Mouse, and so on.

About The Final Scene:

Prepare for Blatant Homage to Famous Comic Book/Movie Franchise

Neo steps out of the phone booth after making his call to “The Matrix” and flies.  Since nothing is done by accident, re-watch the scene and also note the man with the Fedora off to the left as Neo steps out of the phone booth.  This was nothing more than a quick one-off homage to the Superman franchise three different ways.

Morpheus…Does Nothing:

The "crowning moment" of Morpheus' role in this film.

Looking at how this movie unfolds, Morpheus does next to nothing of any significance.  All he does is infodump Neo on what the Matrix is, challenges Neo to a kung-fu fight, which he eventually loses, takes Neo to see Yoda The Oracle, then finishes his “Magical Negro” role at full-tilt when his crew is confronted by Agents of the Matrix to save Neo.

When Neo “dies,” what does Morpheus do?

How about…this:

That's right: Nothing.

Stand by and do absolutely nothing to defend his ship and what remains of his crew from the ongoing attack by the Sentinels.

And yet, even with all of this, there have been some so-called fans of the movie that insist that perhaps Morpheus should have been killed for Neo to grow.

Some things don’t need a long explanation.  However, there is a need for scripts to be blasted by artillery fire if they are written like this.

But Wait, There’s More:

There is exactly one woman of color in this film.  Gloria Foster as the Oracle.  And all she does is give very vague advice about what Neo needs to do.

In other words, it is yet another woman of color who has no other job to do but carry the water of yet another codified White male hero.

(Note: This is an edit)

The Philosophy Tale Within “The Matrix”:

To break this down succinctly, the Machines enforce the Matrix using Obscurantism.  Read the link to understand its definition.  Because that is all you need to know about how “The Matrix” operates.  Everything else is pseudo-intellectual drivel dressed up in big words.

In Conclusion:

The Matrix is a case of Star Wars once more; a hackneyed plot with otherwise problematic characters and inane background strikes the right chord with moviegoers.  It seems to match the nihilistic behavior of 1990s American culture, as well as the dour and depressive state of said popular culture (personified by nearly every movie starring Winona Ryder).  But with Morpheus as the Magic Negro, Trinity fighting for nothing but love, and Cipher pulling a Professor Bedlam from My Super-Ex Girlfriend, this movie should have been excoriated.  But much like most movies flying under the Action Heroine Handwave flag, The Matrix gets a pass thanks mostly to the barrage of bullets and the kung-fu wire work.

Take it for what you will.

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6 Responses to Movies That Hate You: The Matrix

  1. RVCBard says:

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  5. Pingback: Movies That Hate You: The Matrix Revolutions | Loose Cannon

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