The Matrix (franchise)
|Directed by||The Wachowski Brothers|
|Produced by||Joel Silver|
|Written by||The Wachowskis|
|Music by||Don Davis
|Edited by||Zach Staenberg|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures
Roadshow Entertainment (Australia & New Zealand)
|1999 – 2003|
|Box office||$1.632 billion|
The Matrix is a science fiction action media franchise created by The Wachowski Brothers and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The series began with the feature film The Matrix (1999), and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003). The characters and settings of the films are further explored in other media set in the same fictional universe, including animation, comics, and video games.
The series features a cyberpunk story incorporating references to numerous philosophical and religious ideas where the heroes fight a desperate war against machine overlords who have enslaved Humanity in an extremely sophisticated virtual reality gestalt. Other influences include mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies).
Two of the Matrix video games, both supervised by the Wachowskis, are a part of the official chronology. Enter the Matrix, mainly focused on Niobe and Ghost and also written by the Wachowskis, connects the story of the short animated film Final Flight of the Osiris with the events of Reloaded, while The Matrix Online is a direct sequel to Revolutions.
The series depicts a future in which Earth is dominated by sentient machines that were created early in the 21st century and rebelled against humanity. At one point, humans attempted to block out the machines' source of solar power by covering the sky in thick, stormy clouds. During this time, the machines and mankind were engaged in a massive war in which the machines ultimately emerged the victor. Having no definite source of energy, the machines devised a way to extract humans' bioelectricity and thermal energy by growing people in pods, while their minds are kept under control by cybernetic implants connecting them to a simulated reality called the Matrix.
The virtual reality world simulated by the Matrix resembles human civilization around the turn of the 21st century (this time period was chosen because it is supposedly the pinnacle of human civilization). The majority of the stories in the Matrix franchise take place in a vast Western World unnamed megacity. This environment is practically indistinguishable from reality (although scenes set within the Matrix are presented on-screen with a green tint to the footage, and a general bias towards the color green), and the majority of bluepills - humans connected to the Matrix - are unaware of its true nature. Most of the central characters in the series are able to gain superhuman abilities within the Matrix by taking advantage of their understanding of its true nature to manipulate its virtual physical laws.
The virtual world is first introduced in The Matrix. The Animatrix short film "The Second Renaissance" and the short comic "Bits and Pieces of Information" show how the initial conflict between humans and machines came about, and how and why the Matrix was first developed. Its history and purpose are further explained in The Matrix Reloaded.
The Matrix series includes a trilogy of feature films, all of which were written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers and produced by Joel Silver, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving. The series was filmed in Australia and began with 1999's The Matrix, which depicts the recruitment of hacker Neo into humanity's rebellion against sentient machines. The film was highly successful, earning $460 million worldwide, and becoming the first DVD release in the United States to reach sales of three million copies.
The film's mainstream success led to the making of two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. These were filmed simultaneously during one shoot (under the project codename "The Burly Man"), and released in two parts in 2003. They tell the story of the impending attack on the human enclave of Zion by a vast machine army. Neo also learns more about the history of the Matrix and his role as the One. The sequels also incorporate more ambitious action scenes and visual effects.
In acknowledgment of the strong influence of Japanese anime on the Matrix series, The Animatrix was produced in 2003 to coincide with the release of The Matrix Reloaded. This is a collection of nine animated short films intended to further flesh out the concepts, history, characters and setting of the series. The objective of The Animatrix project was to give other writers and directors the opportunity to lend their voices and interpretation to the Matrix universe; the Wachowskis conceived of and oversaw the process, and they wrote four of the segments themselves, although they were given to other directors to execute. Many of the segments were produced by notable figures from the world of Japanese animation. Four of the films were originally released on the series' official website, one was shown in cinemas with Dreamcatcher, one was shown on MTV, MTV2, MTV3, and MTV4, and the others first appeared with the DVD release of all nine shorts shortly after the release of The Matrix Reloaded.
On May 15, 2003, the game Enter the Matrix was released in North America concurrently with The Matrix Reloaded. The first of three video games related to the films, it told a story running parallel to The Matrix Reloaded and featured scenes that were shot during the filming of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Two more Matrix video games were released in 2005. The MMORPG The Matrix Online continued the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions, while The Matrix: Path of Neo allowed players to control Neo in scenes from the film trilogy.
The Matrix Comics is a set of comic books and short stories based on the series and written and illustrated by figures from the comics industry; one of the comics was written by the Wachowskis and illustrated by the films' concept artist Geof Darrow. Most of the comics were originally presented for free on the Matrix series' website; they were later republished, along with some new material, in two printed trade paperback volumes.
Over a year after the cinematic release of the final film, Revolutions, Warner Home Video released The Ultimate Matrix Collection, a 10-Disc DVD set of the films. It included the three films, The Animatrix, and six discs of additional material (including a documentary about the making of the first film called The Matrix Revisited and The Zion Archive - a compilation of concept artwork and promotional material for The Matrix Online). A Limited Edition of the collection encases the ten discs, as well as a resin bust of Neo, inside a Lucite box. The collection was later released on HD DVD and Blu-ray.
Box office performance
|Film||Release date||Box office gross||Box office ranking||Budget||Ref(s)|
|The Matrix||March 31, 1999||$171,479,930||$292,037,453||$463,517,383||#199||#139||$63 million|||
|The Matrix Reloaded||May 15, 2003||$281,576,461||$460,552,000||$742,128,461||#60
|The Matrix Revolutions||November 5, 2003||$139,313,948||$288,029,350||$427,343,298||#297||#162||$150 million|||
Critical and public response
While The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded received largely positive reviews, the critical response to The Matrix Revolutions was mixed. One major complaint was that it did not give any answers to the questions raised in Reloaded. CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the series an average grade of "A-", "B+", "B" respectively on an A+ to F scale.
|The Matrix||87% (139 reviews)||73 (35 reviews)||A-|
|The Matrix Reloaded||73% (237 reviews)||62 (40 reviews)||B+|
|The Matrix Revolutions||36% (208 reviews)||47 (41 reviews)||B|
|The Animatrix||88% (17 reviews)|
Influences and interpretations
The Matrix makes numerous references to recent films and literature, and to historical myths and philosophy including Buddhism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Christianity, Messianism, Judaism, Gnosticism, existentialism, and nihilism. The film's premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, René Descartes's evil demon, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, Zhuangzi's "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly", Marxist social theory and the brain in a vat thought experiment. Many references to Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation appear in the film, although Baudrillard himself considered this a misrepresentation. There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson, who has described The Matrix as "arguably the ultimate 'cyberpunk' artifact."
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". 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 for 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". Besides Ghost in the Shell, another Japanese anime which influenced The Matrix was the 1985 film Megazone 23, directed by Noboru Ishiguro and Shinji Aramaki. An American adaptation of Megazone 23 was released in 1986 as Robotech: The Movie. There are also several more Japanese anime and manga that can be found as sources of influence, including Akira, Evangelion, and Blame.
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. There is also a similar "Matrix" used by the Travellers in Paul Cornell's 1992 Doctor Who spin-off novel Love and War, in which a socket at the top of the spine is used to plug into the Matrix.
The first Matrix film features numerous references to the "White Rabbit", the "Rabbit Hole" and mirrors, referring to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, as well as easter eggs.
Biblical and historical references are found in the names of places and vehicles in the trilogy, such as the "hovercraft" Nebuchadnezzar (pronounced ne-bah-cahn-ez-zer, /nɛbəkənɛzəɹ/). Another notable name is the City of Zion, often used as a synecdoche for the City of Jerusalem or the land of Israel in Abrahamic religious texts and by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or to refer to a "promised land" or utopia. There are significant overtones from Hinduism and Vedanta text. The final screen credits to the final of the three matrix movies include chants directly picked up from the Vedas. The concept of balance needed in the universe is also a core component of Hindu philosophy.
There are still numerous other influences from diverse sources such as Harlan Ellison (I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream), Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49), and William Gibson (Neuromancer).
Matrixism is a new religious movement inspired by the trilogy. A sociologist of religion Adam Possamai describes these types of religions/spiritualities as hyper-real religions due to their eclectic mix of religion/spirituality with elements of popular culture and their connection to the fluid social structures of late capitalism. There is some debate about whether followers of Matrixism are indeed serious about their practice; however, the religion (real or otherwise) has received attention in the media.
- The Art of the Matrix by Spencer Lamm (Newmarket Press, 2000) ISBN 1-55704-405-8
- The Matrix Comics by various (Titan Books, 2003) ISBN 1-84023-806-2
- The Matrix Comics Volume 2 by various (Titan Books, 2005) ISBN 1-84576-021-2
- The Matrix Shooting Script by Larry and Andy Wachowski (with introduction by William Gibson) (Newmarket Press, 2002) ISBN 1-55704-490-2
- Enter The Matrix: Official Strategy Guide by Doug Walsh (Brady Games, 2003) ISBN 0-7440-0271-0
- The Matrix Online: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Games, 2005) ISBN 0-7615-4943-9
- The Matrix: Path of Neo Official Strategy Guide (Brady Games, 2005) ISBN 0-7440-0658-9
- Jacking In to the Matrix Franchise: Cultural Reception and Interpretation by Matthew Kapell and William G. Doty (Continuum International, 2004) ISBN 0-8264-1587-3
- Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in "The Matrix" by Glenn Yeffeth (Summersdale, 2003) ISBN 1-84024-377-5
- Matrix Warrior: Being the One by Jake Horsley (Gollancz, 2003) ISBN 0-575-07527-9
- The "Matrix" and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real by William Irwin (Open Court, 2002) ISBN 0-8126-9502-X
- More Matrix and Philosophy by William Irwin (Open Court, 2005) ISBN 0-8126-9572-0
- Like a Splinter in Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the "Matrix" Trilogy by Matt Lawrence (Blackwell, 2004) ISBN 1-4051-2524-1
- The Matrix (British Film Institute, 2004) ISBN 1-84457-045-2
- Matrix Revelations: A Thinking Fan's Guide to the Matrix Trilogy by Steve Couch (Damaris, 2003) ISBN 1-904753-01-9
- Beyond the Matrix: Revolutions and Revelations by Stephen Faller (Chalice Press, 2004) ISBN 0-8272-0235-0
- The "Matrix" Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded by Stacy Gillis (Wallflower Press, 2005) ISBN 1-904764-32-0
- Exegesis of the Matrix by Peter B. Lloyd (Whole-Being Books, 2003) ISBN 1-902987-09-8
- The Gospel Reloaded by Chris Seay and Greg Garrett (Pinon Press, 2003) ISBN 1-57683-478-6
- The "Matrix": What Does the Bible Say About... by D. Archer (Scripture Union, 2001) ISBN 1-85999-579-9
- [Journey to the Source: Decoding Matrix Trilogy] by Pradheep Challiyil (Sakthi Books 2004) ISBN 0-9752586-0-5
- Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present by Karen Haber (St. Martin's Press, 2003) ISBN 0-312-31358-6
- Philosophers Explore The Matrix by Christopher Gray (Oxford University Press, 2005) ISBN 0-19-518107-7
- The Matrix Cultural Revolution by Michel Marriott (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003) ISBN 1-56025-574-9
- The Matrix Reflections: Choosing between reality and illusion by Eddie Zacapa (Authorhouse, 2005) ISBN 1-4208-0782-X
- The One by A.J. Yager & Dean Vescera (Lifeforce Publishing, 2003) ISBN 0-9709796-1-4
- Matrix og ulydighedens evangelium (Danish for: "Matrix and the Evangelium of disobedients") by Rune Engelbreth Larsen (Bindslev, 2004) ISBN 87-91299-12-8
- The Matrix and the Alice Books by Voicu Mihnea Simandan (Lulu Books, 2010) ISBN 978-0557258079
- The Matrix Cult. by Vladimir Tumanov (International Journal of Cultic Studies 3  2003).
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- Joel Silver, interviewed in "Scrolls to Screen: A Brief History of Anime" featurette on The Animatrix DVD.
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- Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, interviewed in The South Bank Show, episode broadcast February 19, 2006 
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"The Matrix" recycles the premises of "Dark City" and "Strange Days,"...
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The film is a perfect product of its time. It is a very modern conspiracy thriller, a film based, like The Truman Show, on the appealingly terrifying notion of a universal conspiracy - that life itself and everything that we know and take for granted are lies. It's also a film steeped in the traditionals of Japanese anime and megamixed philosophy and semiotics (spot the Baudrillard references kids).
- Rowley, Stephen (June 18, 2003). "What Was the Matrix?". sterow.com. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
The Matrix was the third in a cycle of movies to arrive in the late nineties with a strikingly similar theme. Like its predecessors from the previous year, Dark City and The Truman Show, it tells the story of a seemingly ordinary man who suddenly finds that his whole life is faked: he is trapped in an artificially created environment designed to keep him in submission. Like the heroes of those earlier movies, Keanu Reeves' Neo starts to realise that he is somehow special, and tries to escape the confines of his prison.
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- Condon, Paul. The Matrix Unlocked. 2003. Contender. p.141-3. ISBN 1-84357-093-9
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- Kotelawala, Himal (June 14, 2008). "Behind Matrixism". The Sunday Times Sri Lanka. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
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