The Matrix (franchise)

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The Matrix
Ultimate Matrix Collection poster.jpg
Created by The Wachowski Brothers
Original work The Matrix (1999)
Owner Warner Bros.
Print publications
Book(s) List of books
Short stories Included in The Matrix Comics
Comics
  • The Matrix Comics Series 1–3 (1999–2003)
  • The Matrix Comics Volumes 1&2 (2003–2004)
Magazine(s) The Matrix Online: The Official Magazine (2005)
Films and television
Film(s)
Direct-to-video
Games
Video game(s)
Audio
Soundtrack(s) List of albums

The Matrix is a science fiction action media franchise created by The Wachowskis, about heroes who fight a desperate war against machine overlords that have enslaved humanity in an extremely sophisticated virtual reality system.

The series began with the feature film The Matrix (1999), and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), all written and directed by The Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. The franchise is owned by Warner Bros., which distributed the films along with Village Roadshow Pictures. The latter, along with Silver Pictures are the two production companies that worked on all three films.

The first film was an important critical and commercial success, winning four Academy Awards, introducing popular culture symbols such as the red pill and blue pill, and influencing action filmmaking. For those reasons it has been added to the National Film Registry for preservation. Its first sequel was an even bigger commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, a title which it held for 13 years.

The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of man, in which a self-aware artificial intelligence has wiped most of humanity from the Earth except for those it enslaves in a virtual reality system as a farmed power source, and the relatively few remaining humans who are free of that system. The A.I. (Matrix) agenda is to destroy all humans who are free, considering them a threat/disease. The story incorporates references to numerous philosophical and religious ideas. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies). Consistent throughout are the concepts of inter-dependency and love.

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 comic "Bits and Pieces of Information" and The Animatrix short film "The Second Renaissance" act as prequels to the films, explaining how the franchise's setting came to be. The video game Enter the Matrix connects the story of the Animatrix short "Final Flight of the Osiris" with the events of Reloaded, while the video game The Matrix Online is a direct sequel to Revolutions.

As of February 2016, the franchise has generated $3 billion in revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.[1] In March 2017, it was reported that Warner Bros. was in early stages of developing a relaunch of the franchise with new films.

Setting[edit]

The series depicts a future in which Earth is dominated by artificial intelligence that was 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 controlled 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.

Films[edit]

Film Release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer(s) Distributor(s) Running time
The Matrix March 31, 1999 (1999-03-31) The Wachowski Brothers Joel Silver Warner Bros. Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures
136 minutes
The Matrix Reloaded May 15, 2003 (2003-05-15) 138 minutes
The Matrix Revolutions November 5, 2003 (2003-11-05) 129 minutes

The Matrix series includes a trilogy of feature films, all of which were written and directed by The Wachowskis 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.[2]

The film's mainstream success had backed up the initial idea of making a trilogy.[3] The sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were filmed simultaneously during one shoot (under the project codename "The Burly Man"),[4] 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.

Future[edit]

While making the Matrix films, the Wachowskis told their close collaborators that at that time they had no intention of making another one after The Matrix Revolutions.[5][6][7][8] In February 2015, in interviews promoting Jupiter Ascending, Lilly Wachowski called a return to The Matrix a "particularly repelling idea in these times", noting the studios' tendency to green-light sequels, reboots and adaptations over original material,[9] while Lana Wachowski, addressing rumors about a potential reboot, said they haven't heard anything, but she believed the studio might be looking to replace them.[10]

In March 2017, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Warner Bros. was in early stages of developing a relaunch of the franchise, with Zak Penn in talks to write a treatment, and interest in getting Michael B. Jordan attached to star. According to the article neither the Wachowskis nor Joel Silver were involved at that stage, although the studio would like to get at minimum the blessing of the Wachowskis.[11] Penn struck down the notion of a reboot or remake, stating he is interested in seeing stories set in the already established universe.[12] Reportedly, one such story the studio is considering, is a prequel film about a young Morpheus.[11][13] The previous month, Keanu Reeves said he would return to a potential new Matrix film only if the Wachowskis were writing and directing.[14] In April 2017, Hugo Weaving said he would be open to returning in future Matrix films if the scripts were good and came with the Wachowskis' blessing, although he believed the producers would likely want a fresh start with a new cast.[15]

Cast[edit]

The following is a list of cast members who portrayed characters appearing in the Matrix film series.

Character Film
The Matrix Reloaded Revolutions

Resistance[edit]

Neo Keanu Reeves
Morpheus Laurence Fishburne
Trinity Carrie-Anne Moss
Cypher Joe Pantoliano  
Tank Marcus Chong  
Niobe   Jada Pinkett Smith
Link   Harold Perrineau
Commander Lock   Harry Lennix
Councilor Hamann   Anthony Zerbe
Kid   Clayton Watson
Bane   Ian Bliss
Captain Mifune   Nathaniel Lees
Captain Roland   David Roberts

Agents[edit]

Agent Smith Hugo Weaving
Agent Brown Paul Goddard  
Agent Jones Robert Taylor  
Agent Johnson   Daniel Bernhardt  
Agent Jackson   David A. Kilde  
Agent Thompson   Matt McColm  

Programs[edit]

The Oracle Gloria Foster Mary Alice
Seraph   Collin Chou
The Architect   Helmut Bakaitis
The Merovingian   Lambert Wilson
Persephone   Monica Bellucci
Rama Kandra   Bernard White
Keymaker   Randall Duk Kim  
Sati   Tanveer K. Atwal
Trainman   Bruce Spence

Crew[edit]

The following is a list of crew members who have participated in the making of the Matrix film series.

Film Director(s) Writer(s) Producer(s) Executive producer(s) Director(s) of photography Editor(s) Composer(s)
The Matrix The Wachowski Brothers Joel Silver Barrie M. Osborne
Andrew Mason
Andy Wachowski
Larry Wachowski
Erwin Stoff
Bruce Berman
Bill Pope Zach Staenberg Don Davis
The Matrix Reloaded Andy Wachowski
Larry Wachowski
Grant Hill
Andrew Mason
Bruce Berman
The Matrix Revolutions

The Ultimate Matrix Collection[edit]

In 2004, Warner Home Video released The Ultimate Matrix Collection, a ten-disc set of the films on DVD. It included all three films, The Animatrix, and six discs of additional material, including the documentary film The Matrix Revisited, the live action footage shot for Enter the Matrix, and a promotional compilation of The Matrix Online. For this release, The Matrix was remastered under the supervision of the Wachowskis and Bill Pope to improve its picture quality and make its coloring closer to that of its sequels. At the request of the Wachowskis, as they explain in a written statement that accompanies the boxset, each of the three films is accompanied by two audio commentaries, one by philosophers who liked the films, and another by critics who didn't, with the intention that viewers use them as reference points to form their own opinion. A Limited Edition of The Ultimate Matrix Collection was also released. It encases the ten discs plus a resin bust of Neo inside an acrylic glass box.[16]

The Ultimate Matrix Collection was later also released on HD DVD and Blu-ray in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The HD DVD release added a picture-in-picture video commentary to the three films and the extras the original standalone DVD releases of the films had.[17] The Blu-ray release presented The Animatrix in high definition for the first time.[18]

Reception[edit]

Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date Box office gross Box office ranking Budget Ref(s)
North America Other
territories
Worldwide All time
North America
All time
worldwide
The Matrix March 31, 1999 $171,479,930 $292,037,453 $463,517,383 #246 #190 $63 million [19]
The Matrix Reloaded May 15, 2003 $281,576,461 $460,552,000 $742,128,461 #81
#120 (A)
#80 $150 million [20]
The Matrix Revolutions November 5, 2003 $139,313,948 $288,029,350 $427,343,298 #364 #216 $150 million [21]
Total $592,370,339 $1,040,618,803 $1,632,989,142 $363 million [22]
List indicator(s)
  • (A) indicates the adjusted ranks based on current ticket prices (calculated by Box Office Mojo).

Critical and public response[edit]

While The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded received largely positive reviews,[23][24] the critical response to The Matrix Revolutions was mixed.[25] One major complaint was that it did not give any answers to the questions raised in Reloaded.[according to whom?][26] 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.[27]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
The Matrix 87% (142 reviews)[23] 73 (35 reviews)[28] A−[27]
The Matrix Reloaded 73% (241 reviews)[24] 62 (40 reviews)[29] B+[27]
The Animatrix 89% (18 reviews)[30]
The Matrix Revolutions 36% (211 reviews)[25] 47 (41 reviews)[31] B[27]
List indicator(s)
  • A dark grey cell indicates the information is not available for the film.

Accolades[edit]

Influences and interpretations[edit]

What we were trying to achieve with the story overall was a shift, the same kind of shift that happens for Neo, that Neo goes from being in this sort of cocooned and programmed world, to having to participate in the construction of meaning to his life. And we were like, 'Well, can the audience go through the three movies and experience something similar to what the main character experiences?'
So the first movie is sort of typical in its approach. The second movie is deconstructionist, and it assaults all of the things that you thought to be true in the first movie, and so people get very upset, and they're like 'Stop attacking me!' in the same way that people get upset with deconstructionist philosophy. I mean, Derrida and Foucault, these people upset us. And then the third movie is the most ambiguous, because it asks you to actually participate in the construction of meaning.
Lana Wachowski, Movie City News, October 13, 2012[32]

The Matrix films makes numerous references to films and literature, and to historical myths and philosophy including Buddhism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Christianity, Messianism, Judaism, Gnosticism, existentialism, obscurantism, and nihilism. The films' 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 first film. Baudrillard himself considered this a misrepresentation,[33] although Lana Wachowski claims the point the reference was making was misunderstood.[34] There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson,[35] who has described The Matrix as "arguably the ultimate 'cyberpunk' artifact."[36]

Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence.[37] 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."[38][39] 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."[40] Similarities to the 1985 anime film Megazone 23 have also been noticed, but the Wachowskis claimed to have never seen it.[41]

Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show.[42][43][44] The Wachowskis claimed no influence regarding Dark City, but commented about it and The Truman Show that they thought it was "very strange that Australia came to have three films associated with it that were all about the nature of reality.".[41]

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.[45] The Wachowskis have responded that they enjoy the comic but weren't inspired by it.[41]

In addition, the similarity of the films' 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.[46] 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.[47][41]

Biblical and historical references are found in the names of places and vehicles in the trilogy, such as the "hovercraft" Nebuchadnezzar. Another notable name is 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 ending credits to the final part of the trilogy 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), and Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49).[48]

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.[49] 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.[50][51]

Legal claims[edit]

In April 2003 Sophia Stewart filed a legal complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California allegeding that the idea of The Matrix (and the 1984 film The Terminator) were plagiarized from her own film treatment entitled "The Third Eye."[52][53] The court allowed the lawsuit to move forward in 2005,[54] but Stewart did not attend the hearing. In a 53-page ruling, Judge Margaret Morrow dismissed the case, stating that Stewart and her attorneys "had not entered any evidence to bolster its key claims or demonstrated any striking similarity between her work and the accused directors’ films." [52][55] Despite the ruling, the case became the subject of "Internet legend," with many sources claiming Stewart had actually won the lawsuit.[52][55][56][57]

In 2013 Thomas Althouse filed suit in California federal court alleging that ideas for the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions came from a screenplay he called The Immortals. In a summary judgement for the defendants, Judge R. Gary Klausner stated "The basic premises of The Matrix Trilogy and The Immortals are so different that it would be unreasonable to find their plots substantially similar."[52][58][59][60][61]

Additional media[edit]

Anime[edit]

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, MTV4, and Syfi, and the others first appeared with the DVD release of all nine shorts shortly after the release of The Matrix Reloaded.

Video games[edit]

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.[62]

Two more The Matrix video games were released in 2005. The MMORPG The Matrix Online continued the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions,[63] while The Matrix: Path of Neo allowed players to control Neo in scenes from the film trilogy.[64]

The Matrix official website also provided several original Adobe Flash-based browser games.[65][66]

Comic books[edit]

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;[67] they were later republished, along with some new material, in two printed trade paperback volumes.

Screensaver[edit]

The Matrix official website provided a free screensaver for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, which simulates the falling "Matrix digital rain" of the films.[68][69] The screensaver was reported to have a password security issue.[70] The "Matrix digital rain" also inspired the creation of many unofficial screensavers.[71]

Books[edit]

Official[edit]

Unofficial[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]