Mega City (The Matrix)
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Mega City is an enormous virtual megacity in which the inhabitants of the Matrix live their lives in the Matrix series. The City is a conglomeration of many cities, fused into one large city with a gigantic downtown and an impressive skyline.
Design and description
The city was designed to represent an amalgam of any number of major cities in the United States during the 1990s; i.e., gray and utilitarian with small pockets of color and entertainment.
According to the films' graphic designer Suzanne Buljan, companies and utilities in the city were uniformly given generic "City" names which are seen on signage and vehicles throughout the films, such as City Metro, City Waste, City Rail, City Post and City Power:
"Everything is City—something; all the facilities are City related."— Suzanne Buljan
Philosophy and hyperreality
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The concept of the City in The Matrix and its sequels is an archetype of the hyperreality theory proposed by Jean Baudrillard and developed by Umberto Eco; that is that the virtual "city" constructed by the machines controlling the society is more convincing and realistic to its inhabitants than the "real world" – a dystopian futur noir portrayed in stark contrast to the virtual one.
The harsh, gray, uninteresting landscape was implemented to make sure the unknowing inhabitants of the Matrix did not question their living space, lacking an alternative. It is possible that the City is an inhabitant-unique environment, in which no one sees things the same way. The visualization of the City as gray and unnatural in The Matrix could possibly be a result of the redpills' experience outside of the Matrix. Further, Agent Smith describes to a captured Morpheus that earlier instances of the Matrix which were cheerier did not meet the (subconscious) expectations of the humans hosted within; the Architect later expands on that explanation, telling Neo that the first versions failed because they were designed around two extremes (perfect paradise and absolute hell) that the human mind was unable to accept.
Locations and references
Mega City as it appears in the Matrix films is an amalgam of various cities of the late 20th century, in particular:
- Sydney, New South Wales (where most of the movies were filmed)
- Oakland, California (where some of the car chase scenes in The Matrix Reloaded were filmed)
- Chicago, Illinois (where the Wachowskis were born and raised)
Excluding the car chase sequence in The Matrix Reloaded, the Matrix films were entirely filmed in the Australian city of Sydney.
Although such distinctive landmarks as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, visible in the final scene of the first film and the Sydney Opera House were digitally removed or shot around, there are several clearly Australian buildings, companies and signs visible throughout the trilogy, particularly the first movie.
Buildings: Sydney Tower is visible on the construct TV screen. Martin Place, St James railway station, and various locations near Central station and Surry Hills are also recognisable. The UTS tower building is also seen in the rooftop 'bullet' scene. The distinctive AWA Tower is flown over while Agent Smith dangles from a helicopter.
Companies: Aon Corporation (201 Kent St, Bullet-time fight scene was filmed on the roof of adjacent Symantec building), Australian Associated Press (aap) (259 George St, Signage changed to AAPT in Matrix Reloaded, currently Suncorp), AWA Limited (Television in Morpheus' Room is an old AWA), AMP Limited (50 Bridge St), Citigroup (old logo on old building seen in The Matrix, new building at 2 Park Street seen in Matrix Reloaded), Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Dymocks Booksellers, KPMG (45 Clarence Street, now RBS), IBM Corporation (201 Sussex St, now Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie Bank (20 Bond Street), MMI, Westpac (several buildings, 60 Margaret Street, where the company Neo works for, is now known as 'Metcentre' has no signage), CityRail.
Signage: Australian English spelling and terms, such as "Authorised personnel only" or "Do not use lift in case of a fire," appear occasionally.
The highway scenes were shot on a specially-constructed set at the Naval Air Station Alameda, near Oakland, California. A two-mile purpose-built highway complete with overpasses, onramps and offramps, and highway signs was erected on portions of two unused aircraft runways on the former military base. After filming, the movie set was taken down and removed (although the darker pavement on top of the lighter concrete runway is still visible in satellite imaging programs). The preceding chase sequence from an underground car park was shot in various Oakland streets. The Webster Tube, which goes under the Oakland Inner Harbor between downtown and Alameda Island, was also used. A highway sign reading "Whipple Ave ½, Woodside Rd 1½, Marsh Road 3¾" is seen on an overpass during the motorcycle chase scene. These roads are connected to US Route 101 on the San Francisco Peninsula, and a sign with those three names (although "Road" is abbreviated as "Rd") and exact distances can be found on southbound 101 in the Redwood City area, although no scenes were photographed in that area.
Early drafts of the screenplay identified the city as Chicago, and most of the street and landmark names referenced in the films are from Chicago, such as Wabash and Lake, Franklin and Erie, State Street, Balbo Drive, Cumberland Ave, the Adams Street Bridge and the Loop Train. Some street names, such as Paterson Pass and Wu Ping Ave., are derived from names of production staff.
In a brief screenshot of the first movie, wherein Tank zooms in a map on the screen to give Cypher directions to the telephone, the map of the city shows a coastline similar to that of Chicago's Lake Michigan Coastline.
The Matrix Online
The Wachowskis provided a map of Mega City for the designers of the MMO game The Matrix Online, which splits the city into four main districts: Downtown, International, Richland (ironically called the "slums" by the redpills), and Westview.
The map shows that the actual shape of the city represents the Y-shaped symbol seen at the end of the code sequence in The Matrix Revolutions.
A series of "factoids" appearing on computer screens within The Matrix Online game imply that Metacortex, the company Thomas Anderson worked for in the first film, was responsible for obtaining the data required to create the city: "Metacortex is involved in several government programs to index and catalog the history of all citizens in order to provide greater security for you and your family."
In the Matrix series, Club Hel is a nightclub run by the Merovingian, a ruthless, powerful elder program in the Matrix. The club appears in the film The Matrix Revolutions and the games The Matrix Online and The Matrix: Path of Neo.
The club is located in the basement level of a building in the Mega City. The entrance is guarded by armed supernatural programs with gravity-defying capabilities.
In The Matrix Revolutions, Morpheus, Trinity, and Seraph defeat these guards before proceeding to the inner chamber. Here they meet with the Merovingian to barter for Neo's escape from the Mobil Avenue Station, a computer construct run by the Merovingian's henchman, the Trainman. After Trinity starts a fight and creates a Mexican standoff with the Merovingian, Neo is freed.
The name is drawn from the realm of Hel in Norse Mythology, where a goddess of the same name ruled over the spirits of those who died ingloriously or who broke oaths. Similarly, the Merovingian offers protection for Exiles (programs that have been rendered obsolete and are scheduled for deletion), and acts as an information broker, but usually requires payment of some kind in exchange for his services.
The name of the Merovingian's wife Persephone is a reference to Greek mythology, in which Hades, the god of the underworld, kidnapped and married a young maiden named Persephone, who always remained resentful of him and unhappy with her marriage. Similarly, The Matrix's Persephone is constantly working against her husband and trying to undermine his endeavors, even though there is never a mention of the possibility of their separation.
There is also some allusion to hell. The décor of this club is theological and mythological in nature. Eve of biblical fame can be seen in the background holding the forbidden fruit of knowledge, which she had eaten and fed to Adam.
The club is a depiction of a gothic/fetish nightclub, filled with stereotypical members of goth, punk, and other modern subcultures. Some of the patrons even appear to be engaging in heterosexual and homosexual acts. It is similar to the club in the first Matrix film in which Neo first meets Trinity. The patrons are Exiles in fact, and their attire and mannerisms are tied into the supernatural beings they are thought to be emulating (two Exiles standing guard to the Merovingian's balcony look like Satyrs, or possibly Minotaurs). A majority of the Exiles present are Vampires, Lupines, and other creatures from previous versions of the Matrix.
Locations outside of Mega City
The revelation that the Matrix films and games take place in a single megacity was surprising, as there were several references to other places and cultures throughout the series. This gave rise to the speculation that the Matrix contains only one city, wherein the names, media, and language differences exist to convince the inhabitants that an entire world exists outside it. References to other places are shown below.
- During Neo's online search for Morpheus, the headline "Morpheus eludes police at Heathrow Airport" and an Arabic newspaper appears, suggesting that London and the Middle East are simulated to some degree in the Matrix world, unless the City's airport is called "Heathrow". Alternatively, London exists only in name and the news article was just propaganda to make inhabitants of the Matrix afraid of Morpheus and see him as a terrorist instead of a liberator.
- The presence of an airport and a post office in Enter the Matrix implies that City-dwellers can travel, or seem to travel, to other cities and countries.
- In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo is transported to a remote mountainous area resembling the Alps or the Himalayas (supposedly the location of the Merovingian's mansion), from which he has to fly "500 miles due south" in order to return to the City.
- In The Matrix: Path of Neo, Neo, Morpheus, and the Keymaker enter the United States Congress, which is then overwritten by Smith. The presence of a national government suggests that there are other nations within the Matrix.
- In Beyond, one of the short films from The Animatrix, the setting appears to be that of Japan - East Asian lettering can be seen on signposts, and the main character Yoko owns a cat called Yuki, indicatively Japanese names. In addition, in World Record, another Animatrix short, the runner wears running gear emblazoned with 'USA', and a nurse mentions her aunt who lives in the south of France. This seems to suggest that not only are there regions outside the City, but other nations too, leading to the possibility of the Matrix being larger than previously thought.
- While interrogating Neo in the original film, the Agents view some of his biographical data. Neo's birthplace is shown onscreen as "Lower Downtown, Capital City". The idea of a 'Capital' city suggests that there are other cities, else the term 'capital' is meaningless. Another thought is that the name of Mega City in the Matrix universe is Capital City.
- During the same interrogation, a glimpse of Neo's passport is visible, upside down. It clearly shows that it is a United States of America passport, issued in Capital City, USA.
It has never been explicitly stated that the Megacity is or is not the only location in the Matrix, though the implication throughout the franchise is that the world as a whole is simulated to some degree.
- Interview: Suzanne Buljan, Archived from the original, whatisthematrix.com.
- Gold, John Robert; George Revill (2004). "Historic cities, future cities". Representing the Environment. London: Routledge. p. 321. ISBN 0-415-14589-9.
- Lights, Camera, Sydney, Voyeur (Virgin Blue), May 2005.
- Lawrence, Matt (2004). "Before the philosophy". Like a Splinter in Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the Matrix. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 1-4051-2524-1.
- Wachowski Brothers Transcript, whatisthematrix.com, November 6, 1999.
- The Matrix Online; Timesplitters: Future Perfect; MX Vs. Unleashed, The Washington Post, April 10, 2005.
- Bainbridge, William (2011). The Virtual Future. Springer. p. 16. ISBN 0-85729-903-4.
- "Understanding The Matrix Revolutions - Symbolism". thematrix101.com.