- This article is about the first film in The Matrix series of films. For the eponymous virtual reality construct, see the Matrix. For the franchise as a whole see The Matrix franchise.
The fight for the future begins.”
The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and Hugo Weaving. It was first released in the USA on March 31, 1999, and is the first entry in The Matrix series of films, comics, video games and animation. The film received four Academy Awards in the technical categories.
The film describes a future in which reality perceived by humans is actually the Matrix, a simulated reality created by sentient Machines in order to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Upon learning this, computer programmer "Neo" is drawn into a rebellion against the Machines. The film contains numerous references to the cyberpunk and hacker subcultures; philosophical and religious ideas; and homages to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Hong Kong action movies, Spaghetti Westerns and Japanese animation.
Searching for The One
Morpheus believes he is The One”
After years of searching, Morpheus and Trinity finally find information about a man that could possibly be The One they have been searching for who is capable of manipulating the Matrix universe. Another resistance member, Cypher, enters the Matrix first and goes to the Heart O' The City Hotel to gather the final information that reveals the whereabouts of the man they have been searching for.
The film starts with a phone call from Trinity, to Cypher, asking him if everything is in place for their encounter with the man. During their call, Trinity notices that the call is being traced and she quickly hangs up. Soon after, law enforcement arrive at the hotel to arrest Trinity for being a notorious hacker in Mega City. Three Agents arrive at the scene and tell the police lieutenant (who had neglected specific orders beforehand) that his men within the hotel are "already dead".
In Room 303 of the hotel, police officers arrive to arrest Trinity. However, Trinity puts up a fight and defeats all of them. She calls Morpheus and asks for an exit. Morpheus tells Trinity that there are agents coming for her and she runs off. Eventually, she reaches an exit and leaves the Matrix before Agent Smith ran over the telephone booth with his truck. As Trinity left, the three agents met up with each other and realized that they were looking for a man named Neo and decided to look for him as well.
Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”
Thomas Anderson works as a computer programmer while maintaining a double life as a hacker, under the alias "Neo". He is restless and driven to learn the meaning of cryptic references to "the Matrix" appearing on his computer. Infamous hacker Trinity contacts Neo and informs him that a man named Morpheus can tell him what the Matrix is; however, the three Agents arrest Neo to prevent him from collaborating with Morpheus.
Undeterred, Neo meets with Morpheus and confirms that he wants to learn more about the Matrix by choosing an offered red pill. After swallowing the pill, Neo abruptly awakens in a liquid-filled vessel, connected along with millions of other people to an elaborate electrical structure. He is rescued by Morpheus and brought aboard a levitating ship, the Nebuchadnezzar.
I didn't say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.”
Morpheus tells Neo that humans are fighting against intelligent Machines that were created early in the 21st century and have since taken control of the Earth's surface. After the humans darkened the sky to cut off their solar power, the Machines captured humans to use their bioelectric energy as a power source. Enslaved humans are kept docile within the "Matrix" – a simulation of the world as it was in 1999. Neo has lived in this simulated world since birth. Morpheus believes the actual year is closer to 2199, but really no one knows. Morpheus explains that he and his crew belong to a group of free humans who "unplug" others from the Matrix and recruit them to their rebellion against the Machines.
They can hack into the Matrix and re-enter the simulated reality, where their understanding of its true nature allows them to manipulate its physical laws, granting them superhuman abilities. Neo undergoes virtual combat training. He is warned that fatal injuries within the Matrix will also kill one's physical body and that the Agents he encountered are powerful sentient programs that patrol the Matrix and eliminate threats to the system. Morpheus believes Neo is "The One", a man prophesied to end the war between humans and Machines.
The Oracle's Message
After Neo's training, the group enters the Matrix to visit The Oracle, a prophet who predicted the emergence of The One. The Oracle implies that Neo is not The One, and warns he must soon choose between his own life and that of Morpheus.
The Ambush and Rescue
I know that's what it looks like, but it's not. I can't explain to you why it's not. Morpheus believes in something and he was ready to give his life, I understand that now. That's why I have to go.”
As the group prepares to exit the Matrix, they are ambushed by Agents and tactical police, leading to the death of a crew member called Mouse. Morpheus allows himself to be captured to let the rest of the crew escape in the walls. As they prepare to leave the Matrix, they learn that their ally Cypher has betrayed them. Disillusioned with the real world, Cypher had arranged to hand Morpheus over to the Agents in exchange for a permanent return to a comfortable life within the Matrix. Aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, Cypher murders crew members Switch, Apoc and Dozer before he is killed by Dozer's brother Tank.
In the Matrix, the Agents drug and interrogate Morpheus in an attempt to learn his access codes to the mainframe computer in Zion, the humans' last refuge in the real world. Neo returns to the Matrix with Trinity and rescues Morpheus; in the process, Neo gains confidence in his ability to manipulate the Matrix and is ultimately able to dodge bullets in the simulated reality.
Return of The One
He is The One”
Morpheus and Trinity exit the Matrix, but Neo is ambushed by Agent Smith before he can leave. In the real world, "Sentinel" Machines converge on the Nebuchadnezzar. In the Matrix, Agent Smith kills Neo. Trinity, standing over Neo's body in the real world, whispers that The Oracle told her she would fall in love with The One. She kisses Neo, restoring his life. In the Matrix, Neo revives with new power to perceive and control the Matrix. He effortlessly destroys Agent Smith and returns to the real world in time for the ship's EMP weapon to destroy the attacking sentinels.
In the Matrix, Neo makes a telephone call, promising the Machines he will show their prisoners "a world where anything is possible". He ends the call and flies into the sky.
- Keanu Reeves as Neo
- Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
- Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
- Joe Pantoliano as Cypher
- Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
- Gloria Foster as The Oracle
- Marcus Chong as Tank
- Julian Arahanga as Apoc
- Matt Doran as Mouse
- Belinda McClory as Switch
- Anthony Ray Parker as Dozer
- Paul Goddard as Agent Brown
- Robert Taylor as Agent Jones
- David Aston as Rhineheart
- Marc Gray as Choi
- Ada Nicodemou as Dujour
- Deni Gordon as The Priestess
- Rowan Witt as Spoon Boy
- Bill Young as Lieutenant
- David O'Connor as FedEx Man
- Jeremy Ball as Businessman
- Fiona Johnson as Woman in Red
- Harry Lawrence as Old Man
- Steve Dodd as Blind Man
- Luke Quinton as Security Guard
- Lawrence Woodward as Security Guard
- Michael Butcher as Cop Who Captures Neo
- Bernie Ledger as Big Cop
- Nigel Harbach as Parking Cop
- Robert Simper, Chris Scott as Cops
- Elenor Witt, Tamara Brown, Janaya Pender, Adryn White, Natalie Tjen
The Matrix is an action thriller and a co-production of Warner Bros. Studios and Australian Village Roadshow Pictures, and all but a few scenes were filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia, and in the city itself. Recognizable landmarks were not included in order to maintain the setting of a generic American city. Nevertheless, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, AWA Tower, Martin Place and a Commonwealth Bank branch are visible in some shots. Subtle nods were included in Chicago, Illinois, the home city of the directors, through place names, city maps, and a subtly placed picture of the Sears Tower.
The rooftop set that Trinity uses to escape from Agent Jones early in the film was left over from the production of Dark City, which has been remarked upon due to the thematic similarities of the films. According to The Art of the Matrix, at least one filmed scene and a variety of short pieces of action were omitted from the final cut, and have (to date) not been published.
The Wachowskis were keen that all involved understood the thematic background of the movie. For example, the book used to conceal disks early in the movie, Simulacra and Simulation by the French Philosopher Jean Baudrillard, was required reading for most of the principal cast and crew.
Actor Will Smith turned down the role of Neo. He later stated that, if given the role at that time, he "would have messed it up". Nicolas Cage turned down the role because of "family obligations". Janet Jackson turned down a role in the film because of previous obligations to go on tour.
In the film, the code that comprises the Matrix itself is frequently represented as downward-flowing green characters. This code includes mirror images of half-width kana characters and Western Latin letters and numerals. In one scene, the pattern of trickling rain on a window being cleaned resembles this code. More generally, the film's production design placed a bias towards its distinctive green color for scenes set within the Matrix, whereas there is an emphasis on the color blue during the scenes set in the real world. In addition, grid-patterns were incorporated into the sets for scenes inside the Matrix, intended to convey the cold, logical, artificial nature of that environment.
The "digital rain" is strongly reminiscent of similar computer code in the film Ghost in the Shell, an acknowledged influence on the Matrix series (see below). The linking of the color green to computers may have been intended to evoke the green tint of the older phosphor monochrome computer monitors.
The film is known for developing and popularizing the use of a visual effect known as "bullet time", which allows the viewer to explore a moment progressing in slow-motion as the camera appears to orbit around the scene at normal speed.
One proposed technique for creating these effects involved accelerating a high-frame-rate motion picture camera along with a fixed track at a high speed to capture the action as it occurred. However, this was discarded as unfeasible, as the destruction of the camera in the attempt was all but inevitable. Instead, the method used was a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which a large number of cameras is placed around an object and triggered nearly simultaneously. Each camera is a still-picture camera, and not a motion picture camera, and it contributes just one frame to the video sequence.
When the sequence of shots is viewed as in a movie, the viewer sees what are in effect two-dimensional "slices" of a three-dimensional moment. Watching such a "time slice" movie is akin to the real-life experience of walking around a statue to see how it looks from different angles. The positioning of the still cameras can be varied along any desired smooth curve to produce a smooth looking camera motion in the finished clip, and the timing of each camera's firing may be delayed slightly so that a motion scene can be executed (albeit over a very short period of movie time.)
Some scenes in The Matrix feature the "time-slice" effect with completely frozen characters and objects. Film interpolation techniques improved the fluidity of the apparent "camera motion". The effect was further expanded upon by the Wachowskis and the visual effects supervisor John Gaeta so as to create "bullet time", which incorporates temporal motion so that rather than being totally frozen the scene progresses in slow and variable motion. Engineers at Manex Visual Effects pioneered 3-D visualization planning methods to move beyond mechanically fixed views towards more complicated camera paths and flexible moving interest points. There is also an improved fluidity through the use of non-linear interpolation, digital compositing, and the introduction of computer-generated "virtual" scenery.
The objective of the bullet time shots in The Matrix was to creatively illustrate "mind over matter" type events as captured by a "virtual camera". However, the original technical approach was physically bound to pre-determined perspectives, and the resulting effect only suggests the capabilities of a true virtual camera.
The evolution of photogrammetric and image-based Computer Graphic Interface background approaches in The Matrix's bullet-time shots set the stage for later innovations unveiled in the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Virtual Cinematography (CGI-rendered characters, locations, and events) and the high-definition "Universal Capture" process completely replaced the use of still camera arrays, thus more closely realizing the "virtual camera".
This film overcame the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace by winning the Academy Award for Visual Effects.
The film's score was composed by Don Davis. He noted that mirrors appear frequently in the movie: reflections of the blue and red pills are seen in Morpheus's glasses; Neo's capture by Agents is viewed through the rear-view mirror of Trinity's motorcycle; Neo observes a broken mirror mending itself; reflections warp as a spoon is bent; the reflection of a helicopter is visible as it approaches a skyscraper. (The film also frequently references the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which has a sequel entitled Through the Looking-Glass.) Davis focused on this theme of reflections when creating his score, alternating between sections of the orchestra and attempting to incorporate contrapuntal ideas.
In addition to Davis's score, The Matrix's soundtrack also features music from acts such as Rammstein, Rob Dougan, Rage Against the Machine, Propellerheads, Ministry, Deftones, The Prodigy, Rob Zombie, Meat Beat Manifesto, Massive Attack and Marilyn Manson.
As an extra bit of trivia, the track "Exit Mr. Hat" (Track 6 on the regular release/Track 21 on the Deluxe Edition) is an anagram of "The Matrix" A similar anagram title trick was used on the original The Matrix Revolutions Score.
The Matrix was first released in the U.S. on 31 March 1999. It earned $171 million in the U.S. and $460 million worldwide, and later became the first DVD to sell more than three million copies in the U.S. The Ultimate Matrix Collection was released on HD DVD on May 22 2007.
The combination of special-effects-laden action and philosophical meandering was considered fresh and exciting. Philip Strick commented in Sight & Sound, "if the Wachowskis claim no originality of message, they are startling innovators of method", praising the film's details and its "broadside of astonishing images". Roger Ebert praised the film's visuals and premise, but disliked the third act's focus on action. Similarly, Time Out praised the "entertainingly ingenious" switches between different realities, Hugo Weaving's "engagingly odd" performance, and the film's cinematography and production design, but concluded, "the promising premise is steadily wasted as the film turns into a fairly routine action pic… yet another slice of overlong, high concept hokum". Other reviewers criticized the comparative humorlessness and self-indulgence of the movie.
In 2001, The Matrix was placed 66th in the American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Thrills" list. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly called The Matrix the best science-fiction piece of media for the past 25 years.
Several science fiction creators commented on the film. Author William Gibson, a key figure in cyberpunk fiction, called the film "an innocent delight I hadn't felt in a long time", and stated, "Neo is my favorite-ever science fiction hero, absolutely". Joss Whedon called the film "my number one" and praised its storytelling, structure, and depth, concluding, "It works on whatever level you want to bring to it." Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky commented in the article "The Outsider", Wired. November 2006 issue (pp. 224) "I walked out of The Matrix [...] and I was thinking, 'What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?' The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured."
Awards and nominations
The Matrix received Oscars for film editing, sound effects editing, visual effects, and sound. In 1999, it won Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film and Best Direction. The Matrix also received BAFTA awards for Best Sound and Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects, in addition to nominations in the cinematography, production design and editing categories.
Influences and interpretations
The Matrix makes numerous references to recent films and literature, and to historical myths and philosophy including Judaism, Messianism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Existentialism, Nihilism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Yoga, Vashishta Hinduism, Sikhism and the Tarot. The film's premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, René Descartes evil genius, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, and the brain in a vat thought experiment, while Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation is featured in the film. There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson.
In Postmodern thought, interpretations of The Matrix often reference Baudrillard's philosophy to demonstrate that the movie is an allegory for contemporary experience in a heavily commercialized, media-driven society, especially in developed countries. Another angle is supplied by French artist, psychoanalyst and feminist theorist Bracha L. Ettinger's "Matrix" Notebooks from the 1980s and Matrixial theory from the 1990s. This influence was brought to the public's attention through the writings of art historians such as Griselda Pollock and film theorists such as Heinz-Peter Schwerfel. Ettinger began to articulate the matrixial sphere and the matrixial gaze as a psychic unconscious sphere with social, cultural, spiritual, and finally political implications around 1985, alongside a series of paintings named Matrix.
Her notebooks named "Matrix" were first published in France in 1991, reprinted in 1992 by Deleuze and Guattari, and in 1993 by the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in Oxford. Starting a long series of essays on the Matrix with "Matrix and Metramorphosis" (Differences 4(3)) in 1992 and "The Matrixial Gaze" in 1994, Ettinger transformed the debates in psychoanalysis, postmodernism, feminist theory, gaze and aesthetics in terms of the matrixial borderspace already during the 1990s. In Ettinger's matrixial theory the emphasis is on the space of "co-emergence" of several "I" and "non-I", the virtual, potential and actual shareability of traces of trauma and of phantasy (beginning in the womb as matrix), on the mental re-co-birth where subjects are trans-connected by psychic strings and threads to form trans-subjectivity.
Some scenes from the film provide actual visualizations of her highly abstract notions. Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence. Producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowskis first described their intentions for The Matrix by showing him that anime and saying, "We wanna do that for real". Joel Silver, interviewed in "Making The Matrix" featurette on The Matrix DVD. Joel Silver, interviewed in "Making The Matrix" featurette on The Matrix DVD. Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, which produced Ghost in the Shell, noted that the anime's high-quality visuals were a strong source of inspiration for the Wachowskis. He also commented, "cyberpunk films are very difficult to describe to a third person. I'd imagine that The Matrix is the kind of film that was very difficult to draw up a written proposal to take to film studios." He stated that since Ghost in the Shell had gained recognition in America, the Wachowskis used it as a "promotional tool".
Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show. Comparisons have also been made to Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles; Morrison believes that the Wachowskis essentially plagiarized his work to create the film. In addition, the similarity of the film's central concept to a device in the long-running series Doctor Who has also been noted. As in the film, the Matrix of that series (introduced in the 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin) is a massive computer system which one enters using a device connecting to the head, allowing users to see representations of the real world and change its laws of physics; but if killed there, they will die in reality.
Influence on filmmaking
The Matrix has had a strong effect on action film-making in Hollywood. It upped the ante for cinematic fight scenes by hiring acclaimed choreographers (such as Yuen Woo-ping) from the Hong Kong action cinema scene, well-known for its production of martial arts films. The success of The Matrix put those choreographers in high demand by other filmmakers who wanted fights of similar sophistication: for example, Yuen Woo-ping's brother Yuen Cheung-Yan was the choreographer on Daredevil (2003). There was a surge in movies, commercials and pop videos copying "The Matrix look", usually without the training and attention to detail that made it successful in the first place.
Following The Matrix, films made abundant use of slow-motion, spinning cameras, and, often, the famed "bullet time" effect of a character freezing or slowing down and the camera panning around them. The bullet time effect has also been parodied numerous times, in comedy films such as Scary Movie, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Shrek and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist; in TV series such as The Simpsons and Family Guy; in the OVA series FLCL; and in video games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day.
The Matrix series
- Main article: The Matrix franchise
The film's mainstream success led to the greenlighting of the next two films of what was conceived as a trilogy, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. These were filmed simultaneously during one shoot and released in two parts in 2003. The first film's introductory tale is replaced by a story centered on the impending attack of the human enclave of Zion by a vast Machine army. Neo also learns more about the history of the Matrix, his role as The One and the prophecy that he will end the war. The sequels also incorporate longer and more ambitious action scenes, as well as improvements in bullet time and other visual effects.
Also released was The Animatrix, a collection of nine animated short films, many of which were created in the same Japanese animation style that was a strong influence on the live trilogy. The Animatrix was overseen and approved by the Wachowskis but they only wrote four of the segments themselves and did not direct any of them; much of the project was created by notable figures from the world of anime.
Four of the films were originally released on the series' official website; one was shown in cinemas with the Warner Bros. movie Dreamcatcher; the others first appeared with the DVD release of all nine shorts. Several of the films were shown first on UK television prior to their DVD release.
The franchise contains three video games: Enter the Matrix (2003), which contains footage shot specifically for the game and chronicles events taking place before and during The Matrix Reloaded; The Matrix Online (2004), a MMORPG which continues the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions; and The Matrix: Path of Neo, which was released on November 8 2005 and focuses on situations based on Neo's journey through the trilogy of films.
Available on the official website are a number of free comics set in the world of The Matrix, written and illustrated by figures from the comics industry. Some of these comics were made available in two printed volumes. Twenty years after The Matrix, a more complete 20th Anniversary Edition was printed to include more of the comics.
The Matrix Resurrections
The Matrix Resurrection, the fourth installment to The Matrix franchise, was released on December 22, 2021. It was written by Lana Wachowski, Aleksandar Hemon, and David Mitchell. Unlike the rest of The Matrix series of films, Lilly Wachowski did not return to co-direct.
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