You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The Matrix is a science fiction action franchise created by Andy and Larry Wachowski and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The series began with the 1999 film The Matrix and later spawned two sequels; The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both released in 2003, thus forming a trilogy. The characters and settings of the Matrix fictional universe are further explored in other media, including animation, comic books, and video games. The series depicts a cyberpunk story incorporating numerous references to philosophical and religious ideas. Other influences include mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies). The fight choreographer for the trilogy was Yuen Woo-ping.
In the dystopia the series depicts, Earth is dominated by sentient machines, who have turned on humans and forced them into slavery. At one point, humans believed they could wipe out the machines by "scorching the sky," as they thought solar energy to be the life source of the machines. However, the machines devised a way to extract the bioelectricity and thermal energy from the human body by growing humans in pods connected by cybernetic implants to an artificial reality called the Matrix, which keeps their minds under control. 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 films and games of the Matrix franchise take place in a vast unnamed megacity, although it is not the only city within the Matrix, as other familiar locations are mentioned and visited by the characters during the trilogy and the Animatrix. As this environment is practically indistinguishable from reality, except when a slight green tinge appears (becoming more prominent as the series continues), the majority of humans connected to the Matrix are unaware of its true nature. Most of the central characters in the series know that it is not "real" and as a result can partially bend the simulation's physical laws in order to perform superhuman feats within the simulation. 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 films include numerous and varied references to literary, philosophical and religious works. Notable examples include references to the "White Rabbit" and the "Rabbit Hole," referencing Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland along with the use of a mirror as a portal to another world as explored in Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. Biblical and historical references are found in the names of places and vehicles in the Trilogy, such as the "hovercraft" named "Nebuchadnezzar" (pronounced ne-bah-cahn-ez-zer). Though it is not clear whether this name refers to either of the Babylonian Kings of the same name, or merely shares the literal meaning "Nabu (god of wisdom), preserve/defend my firstborn son," which could refer to the ship's role in the protection of "The One." 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, 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 on Hindu philosophy.
The series began with 1999's The Matrix. The film, directed by the Wachowski brothers and produced by Joel Silver, was highly successful, earning $460 million worldwide. In addition, by 2000, the DVD release of the film reached three million sales, the first DVD release in North America to do so. 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, and released in two parts in 2003. The sequels were produced under the project codename "The Burly Man" (which later led to the name of the Wachowski brothers' comic book production company, Burlyman Entertainment). The first film's introductory tale is succeeded by the story of 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.
In acknowledgment of the strong influence of Japanese anime on the Matrix series, The Animatrix was produced in 2003. 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 Wachowski brothers 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 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 the series' protagonist Neo in scenes from the film trilogy.
In addition, several comic books and short stories based on the series – one written by the Wachowskis, the others by guest writers – were released on the official website. Many of these have since been collected in two printed volumes of The Matrix Comics.
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, 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", Marx's 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. Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence. Producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowski brothers 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 Wachowski brothers. 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 Wachowski brothers 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. 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 Wachowski brothers 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. 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 or The Path Of The One is a new religious movement inspired by the trilogy. The 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. Conceived by an anonymous group in the summer of 2004 it claims to have attracted 300 members by May 2005, and the religion's Geocities website has claimed "over sixteen hundred members". 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. Matrixism is described by its founders as a syncretic or ecumenical religion. Though Matrixists cite references to "the matrix" from a text of the Bahá'í Faith, called "The Promulgation of Universal Peace", to make a connection with broader world religious history, the commercial Matrix trilogy, along with related mass media products such as video games, is generally considered to be the "sacred text" of the movement. Matrixism carries with it four main beliefs that are described as "The Four Tenets of Matrixism". Briefly these are: belief in a messianic prophecy, use of psychedelics as sacrament, a perception of reality as multi-layered and semi-subjective, and adherence to the principles of at least one of the world's major religions. The Matrixism website singles out April 19 as a holiday – known as Bicycle Day, April 19 marks the anniversary of Albert Hofmann's 1943 experiment with LSD. The adopted symbol for Matrixism is 赤, the kanji for "red". This symbol was used in the video game Enter the Matrix. The color is a reference to the redpill, which represents an acceptance of and ability to see truth, as established early in the first Matrix film.