Understanding The Matrix Trilogy
The series of Matrix movies is probably one of the only movie series I highly recommend anyone to watch. This post is a deep dive into understanding the series and examine my interpretation of some unknown questions.
I've watched these films many times and discovered these conclusions, perhaps wrong, on my own accord. The rest of this post does assume you've seen these movies.
We learn a lot of things in each movie, so we will start in the beginning and walk through this series.
- The Matrix (1999)
Neo is located and freed from the Matrix, entering what we believe is the real world. A world decimated by machines, atmosphere clouded by humans and intrinsic tunnels littered underground holding various massive crafts used to "hack" into the Matrix.
This movie is all about the journey of learning about the Matrix, which is in fact, a large networked computer system powered by the brains of humans. The characters we follow work between the real world and the Matrix. As these characters "hack" into the Matrix, they can be loaded into their own sandbox of code. This area allows the introduction of weapons and/or items which they can load into the Matrix when ready.
With this understanding, these characters knowledge in the Matrix is infinite. They can be taught anything from fighting to hot wiring a car. Knowledge in the Matrix is just ones and zeros, which can be hacked. As these characters "jack into" the Matrix, a set of programs in the Matrix known as "Agents" are immediately after them. They are attempting to discover the entities responsible for hacking their system and eliminate them. Much like a human body works to rid itself of disease.
In this movie, we are introduced to The Oracle, one of the many important characters in this movie. An all knowing program who tells our characters exactly what they need to hear. After some small talk, Neo leaves with a cookie from the Oracle, which sounds eerily familiar to browser cookies. He takes a bite, absorbing a tiny amount of code from the all-seeing Oracle. Neo is under the impression via Morpheus that he is The One, the Oracle neither confirms nor denies this and if Neo cannot exhibit anything more than a regular human plugged into the system, is he really the One?
We don't learn this answer until the end of the movie where Neo takes 8 bullets to the chest from an agent program. He is apparently dead in the Matrix and a body without a mind cannot live, so we are lead to believe he dies in the real world. However, this is The One whose Matrix counterpart finally realizes it (perhaps from the cookie from the Oracle and kiss from Trinity) and awakes from death in the Matrix. With this new profound knowledge that this world is fake, Neo sees it for what it is - a bunch of computer code.
The Matrix is fake and Neo knows it now, going straight into fighting an Agent, jumping into its body killing it. We can infer from this exchange that Neo's Matrix code has overlapped with a Matrix program's code which is crucial to understanding the future movies.
2. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
As this movie begins, we get to see Zion which is initially depicted as an all white organized realm. The last remaining human civilization in the real world, hidden deep underground which the Agents in the Matrix are destined to discover and destroy. We learned that minds that reject the Matrix are no longer viable sources for energy which makes them useless for machines. The machines toss out these bodies for death, possibly unknown to the fact that Zion humans are saving these rejects returning them to Zion.
This is why Neo took the Red Pill in the first movie, it disrupted his real world signal tricking the Matrix into thinking he rejected the simulation he was being fed. This allowed our characters to find his rejected body in the real world and save it, as a body that hasn't moved isn't exactly usable.
Back in the Matrix, Agent Smith who was killed at the end of the first movie has returned. However, he is not connected with the machine mainframe which we can believe just makes him a rogue program. Much like a virus, Smith begins replicating himself taking over other programs, including the body of a real world human "jacked" into the Matrix.
This creates a massive problem as Agent Smith, who lived solely inside the Matrix, took over the conscious of a human being. This body when removed from the Matrix will then carry with it the mind overwritten which in this case is Agent Smith. The fear is now placed in the eyes of the viewer that Agent Smith is much like our human characters able to have a spot in both the Matrix and real world.
Agent Smith has his own agenda, he just wants to watch the world burn from killing Neo to destroying Zion and claiming every program inside the Matrix. He does not care about the ramifications for the minds connected, he just wants full control. He continues to replicate and encounters Neo, but numbers mean nothing to Neo - he continues to win.
Once again, we meet The Oracle this time she carries the news that Neo must meet the Source of the Matrix, otherwise known as The Architect. This journey is not easy, which takes a good portion of the movie as our characters fight and battle a new smarter enemy who disobeys the laws even further that the Matrix once respected.
Back at Zion, news is discovered that the machines are digging for Zion instead of blindly traveling millions of miles of tunnels. So we now have the threat of Zion being destroyed, the Matrix collapsing from a rogue program and Bane (Agent Smith) now walking the real world. Things seem bleak until we meet the Architect and that encounter drops everything on our head of what we thought we knew.
The Architect begins explaining that Neo is standing in the 6th iteration of the Matrix. This leads to a great understanding by Neo that he was either lied to or no one knew. This 6th iteration is unknown to the humans, except for The One and the Architect. We begin to learn about the previous iterations of the Matrix, with the 1st iteration being a Utopia, which failed miserably as an imperfect subject could not live in a perfect world without rejecting it. Minds awoke and the batteries they were once enslaved for began collapsing.
This led to the 2nd iteration, where the Architect made the world imperfect along with spawning a program to learn from humans who we'd discover to be The Oracle. This iteration also failed because of a lack of choice which the Oracle discovered. The AI responsible could not fathom a simulation where choices, perhaps invalid, could be allowed.
The 3rd iteration was born between the Oracle and Architect giving humans (test subjects) the perception of choice at a near conscious level. This worked in 99% of humans and the remaining percent was freed and would discover Zion. As an unlocked mind inside the Matrix would only increase the potential for catastrophic failure.
This destroys an inkling of hope as we learn Zion is nothing more than another machine oriented control structure. The machines built it, know exactly where it is and only chose to delay the inevitable for the perception of choice. Meanwhile, back with the Architect, Neo is given two doors each carrying a choice.
Door 1 - Neo selects 23 people to free from Matrix to rebuild Zion after its destroyed and the Matrix is reborn into version 7.
Door 2 - Neo returns to the Matrix, which is collapsing and dying. This will result in the loss of lives of millions in both Zion and the Matrix and extinction of the human species.
As the Architect explains, the previous iterations of Neo have always "reloaded" the Matrix as the survival of the species is more important than the life of his friends. With each reload the Architect hoping for 100% acceptance into his fake simulated world. The 6th iteration of Neo does something different though and goes through the door ending the species in order to save Trinity over love.
So many dots are connected here, as we learn the prophecy isn't true and this existence Neo has is one big lie in order to keep minds enslaved chasing something. His entire life has done this pattern before, being awoken and freed, trained and given the choice to reload the Matrix. As Neo saves Trinity and leaves the crumbling Matrix, he kills five Sentinels in the real world!
With the destruction of machines in the real world we are left wondering a lot of things. Is the real world another Matrix? How can Neo affect objects in the real world? This explanation jumps all the way back to the end of the first movie when Neo enters Agent Smith's body. His Matrix brain code is ran directly on a machine program and a part of it stays behind.
After his discussion with the Architect he becomes aware of this connection to the machines and can use this connection, much like a WiFi network works, to disrupt them in the real world. The 2nd movie ends with Neo passing out right next to Bane, who we remember is now the real world version of Agent Smith.
3. The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
With the machines moments from the surface of Zion, the entire world of the Matrix almost consumed by Agent Smith, and the looming fear of Agent Smith in the real world. We are at an interesting dilemma which hasn't been present in the previous iterations of the Matrix. Neo is additionally trapped in between the Matrix and real world, presumably because the machines are upset he did not make the correct choice, denying his "program" exit to the real world.
This is displayed as a train track, where programs by the "Trainman" are smuggled into the Matrix. This leads our characters to an interesting battle back to a familiar face in order to free Neo. As Neo is freed, he once again takes another trip to see The Oracle.
The Oracle this time just has bleak news for Neo, explaining that "everything that has a beginning has an end". She is of course referring to the pending destruction of Zion and collapse of the Matrix via Agent Smith. This would cause a full reload of the Matrix with a complete loss of life of the existing minds.
As we saw in the first movie though, humans are not born they are harvested from a field in large quantities. Perhaps the idea of million of batteries (humans) dying is not so bad after all, as the machines can easily replace them in time.
At this point in time though, the ship Neo has lived on for two movies is now destroyed. The "Nebuchadnezzar" as it was called was destroyed from a mine from a Sentinel instead of being ripped apart like how the Sentinels usually attack. We can assume the machines are well aware of the defense mechanisms of these ships and therefore have changed tactics to an attack that cannot be blocked.
In the previous movie, we learn that Zion's counsel has dispatched two ships to provide backup to Neo. They understand that hundreds of thousands of Sentinels cannot be stopped so they begin to put faith in Neo and his idea.
Only one of the ships makes it to Neo, we learn the other ship fired an EMP which rendered it useless. We soon find out this was done by none other than Bane, who is Agent Smith. With the crew of Neo without a ship they are rescued by another ship destined to return to Zion to join the fight against the machines.
On their way back to Zion, they discover a ship out of commission by the hand of Bane and help to get it running again. At this point with two ships operational, Neo asks for one of them to complete his task. One of the captains disagrees with the request intent on heading home, the other folds giving up her ship on the condition that she gets to drive the other.
Neo leaves with Trinity on a brand new ship, destined for the machine homeland - a place never visited by any character we know about. However, Bane (Agent Smith) was hiding on this ship and fights Neo intent on killing him. Smith fries the eyes of Neo leaving us to believe that Neo will die unable to see.
In a turn of events we learn that Neo in the real world can perceive machines as a golden light. Much like he can affect machines he can use this gift to view machines, which by extension is Bane. After barely surviving this encounter, he and Trinity continue to head for the machine homeland.
Zion at this point has suffered its first breach to the walls. With hundreds of sentinels screaming through per second. We watch Zion fight a losing battle, which we've learned has happened time and time again. They are just simply too many machines to kill.
As Neo approaches the machine world, they discover a highly reinforced structure including machines much larger than the sentinels we've learned to hate. Neo begins to use his gift over the machines and begins destroying them in mass. The machines quickly learn that Neo has some connection to the machines and seek to destroy it.
A sentinel dives through the soul/mind of Neo in hopes to sever the connection he holds against the machines. This maneuver benefits Neo more as he gets a small glimpse further into the machines. He learns the machines cannot travel to the sky, so he instructs Trinity to head for the sun. For the first time in the series, we get to see the real world Sun and the characters love it.
What goes up must come down though and the large barreling ship crashes into the machine structure. Trinity dies from this crash and leaves a blind Neo to wander the machine halls. Zion at this point is almost destroyed with nearly a million sentinels flying around eliminating everything. Thankfully, the ship carrying Morpheus has made it home and they fire off an EMP. This move only delays the inevitable as all defensive measures have been fried. Our remaining humans alive in Zion retreat the caves and await the final stand.
Neo finally meets the machine leader, which is known as the Dues Ex Machina. Seeing how the machines have probably predicted every outcome, it is in their best interest to listen to Neo. The Matrix is nearly destroyed and the possibility of all humans connected dying is real. With this danger in mind, the machine leader grants Neo his wish. Peace for Zion on the condition that he kills the rogue Agent program who decimated the Matrix.
This sets the table for the largest single battle in the history of this series. As Neo faces off against an enemy who has taken over the Matrix, Zion is in a limbo currently unharmed pending the resolution of this battle. Agent Smith back in the Matrix though has assimilated every program, foreseeing his victory against Neo. Smith has the copies watch as he fights Neo alone, Smith can't comprehend why Neo continues to fight when he knows the end.
As the battle draws to a close, Neo allows himself to be assimilated by Agent Smith. However, unknown to Agent Smith, Neo is currently connected to the Matrix at the source with the machine leader. The machines now have a direct connection to the Smith virus and purge it from existence. This unfortunately kills Neo, but we see the sentinels in Zion withdrawing their attack. The machines have kept their end of the bargain and we see the Matrix rebooting into its 7th iteration.
The sun begins to rise in a city that looks normal and we see the Oracle and Architect exchange some final words. The Oracle is concerned with the humans in this 7th iteration, but the machines do something differently this time. They provide a choice to every human. Live in a fake world or exit the Matrix for a real, but difficult life. With no humans connected to the Matrix who reject it, perhaps this iteration will survive. The machines agree that the peace will last "as long as it can", which will probably be challenged as Zion grows and/or the 7th Neo is discovered.