The Rise, The Fall, and The Resurrection of ‘The Matrix’ Franchise

Images: Warner Bros.

The Matrix franchise became one of classics of film discourse. The films by Lilly and Lana Wachowski are universal and work on many different levels – literal but also metaphorical. To the surprise of fans and viewers, it was announced that a fourth part of The Matrix franchise is in the works. Lana is writing and directing the production with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss reprising their original roles. The question here that remains is how will two characters make a comeback from the dead? There are several possibilities, such as that, according to the Architect, Neo is an anomaly and the sixth saviour – a clone. Hence there is always a possibility of his comeback if the war begins again. The fate is in the hands of original creators. Whatever occurs, it will still be a great picture full of mind-blowing special effects and new characters.

In the first instalment, viewers are introduced to Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves). The man leads a rather dull life with a desk job and only a few friends. Not many people know that by night he is Neo, a famous hacker. Everything shifts when Neo follows a white rabbit and meets Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). “The Trinity? That cracked the IRS d-base?” he says, not believing his ears. The truth is even more twisted that he previously assumed. Neo lives in the Matrix, a computer program designed by the aforementioned Architect (Helmut Bakaitis). Neo additionally learns that he’s a Chosen One, an individual bound to battle and stop the war amongst people and machines, with the guidance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne).

The trope of the Chosen One is the most crucial component in the whole trilogy. The plot is based on said theme and develops throughout the film. Many filmmakers used this storyline in their work before; we can notice it in Star Wars, Terminator, The Hunger Games, etc. The narrative of The Matrix trilogy starts and ends with Neo being the saviour of the human race and promotor of peace between humans and the system. As the first film progresses, however, it turns out that Neo being the One has more depth than viewers could previously consider. The main character meets Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) who profoundly believes in Neo and his abilities. The Chosen One portrayed in three consecutive films can be effectively contrasted with the personage of Jesus Christ. More of this aspect is revealed in The Matrix Reloaded. The plot unfolds as Neo has seventy-two hours until the machines discover the last remaining town and destroy it. The said city is Zion. Zion is a biblical Promised Land; Neo’s mission is to prevent war and save Zion. According to the Bible, Zion is the city of David also known as a mountain. Additionally, the city refers to Jerusalem, the Land of Israel. 

Neo being the protector and savior of Zion are not the only references to religion and the Bible. Trinity, the name of Neo’s lover, refers to the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit as one God in three Divine Persons. The next significant character is the Oracle (Gloria Foster, later Mary Alice) – a woman who possesses knowledge of everything and can see the future. Her role exists in religion as well as mythology. She’s a medium and Gods’ helper: she assists in revealing hidden knowledge. The Oracle is also mentioned seventeen times in the Old Testament. As for Greek mythology, the most important oracles are Pythia (priestess to Apollo at Delphi), and the oracle of Dione and Zeus at Dodona in Epirus.

Another compelling figure is Seraph (Collin Chou). Described as an authentication protocol that protects the Oracle, his mission is to battle the user to validate their identity. Seraph has the most interesting reference to the Bible. As the name says, he is a biblical allusion to the first of nine orders of angels called the Seraphim. There is another hint in The Matrix Reloaded: it’s said that he is wingless. He is also the highest figure in the angelic hierarchy, and along with others, they are caretakers of God’s Throne. With his significant meaning, Seraph may be one of the most captivating correlations between the film and religion.

In the second film, Neo meets Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), who describes himself as a “trafficker of information”. Merovingians appear in the book called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982). It states there that they are descendants of Jesus himself. His character is in a relationship with Persephone (Monica Belluci) which ties the franchise with the Greek mythology. As generally known, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Hades abducted her to the underworld yet in the end, she was permitted to come back for part of the year. As Neo and Trinity’s characters refer to the Bible, Morpheus, on the other hand, was the God of Dreams, with the ability to appear in dreams of mortals in any form. In the Matrix trilogy, he has a sentimental past with Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith), whose name also refers to the myths.

References to the Bible and Greek mythology give The Matrix films further importance. Along with the story, the Wachowski sisters created a futuristic masterpiece that altered the course of forthcoming science-fiction films. The picture isn’t quite like the usual movies from this genre, where creators frequently focus on special effects first and foremost. Wachowski’s world is much more complicated where one has to always read between the lines to fully comprehend the depth of the series. The world of Matrix and the real-world blend and even after watching it over and again, the viewer can discover new, exciting things. That’s why the franchise is still very relevant, even after twenty years.

Additionally, the character of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), Neo’s eternal adversary, represents the supporter of the system. This aspect successively refers to today’s world and society. By his actions, he depicts how the said system takes advantage of ordinary people of Zion and other survivors. It’s more delineated in the third part; The Matrix Revolutions where the final battle is finally on the horizon. The Architect who designed The Matrix represents the abuse of a system and its people. Neo makes a deal with him – his life in exchange for ensuring peace everywhere. In this emotional scene, the machines take Neo’s lifeless body away after he loses a fight with Agent Smith. It seems the story has made a circle; the main character was fighting the robots, but in the end, he is taken by them. However, it is ultimately worth it in that people of Zion are safe. The described scene may mean an inevitable win for the system. The system may be many things: the government, society, law, etc. One can try to defeat it and change it, but it will always come back stronger. Neo won, however. Not the way we would wish, but isn’t it the saviour’s main goal to do the ultimate and sacrifice their life for the freedom of all?

That being said, Neo loses as an individual but wins for the people. However, it may not be for long. The last scene reveals Oracle with a little girl, Sati (Tanveer K. Atwal), and Seraph looking at the beautiful sky in a finally peaceful, content atmosphere. Sati created the sunset to honour Neo and his ultimate sacrifice. The Architect approaches them and states that the peace won’t last long, which foretells Neo’s return. This may just be the case, as Lana Wachowski confirmed the fourth part of the franchise with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. That means that Trinity and Neo will surely return, or some part of them at least. That would furthermore imply that the Architect’s words were correct, and there is another war coming.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the last part of the franchise was a complete bust. With its 35% on Tomatometer, it was defined as a “banality”. According to David Ansen from Newsweek, “the original Matrix was full of dizzying surprises. But it’s turned out that the Wachowskis didn’t have many more tricks up their sleeves”. There is some truth to his words. The third part seems to feel longer than the other two.  However, as one dives deep into the meaning and discovers all the references mentioned above, one can notice that the films are more complicated than that. It may have lacked the surprises that the viewers fell in love with before, but the trilogy makes up for it with its depth and the importance in contemporary film discourse.

Now the time has come for a resurrection.  With Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss who will recur their legendary roles, the fate of the Matrix franchise (and its stumble at the third part) may change for the better. With the many improvements of special effects and technology overall, the fourth part may open the door for the younger generation who will be able to meet the world created by Wachowski sisters – not only the upcoming part but also its predecessors.

All those components make The Matrix and its following films some of the most compelling stories ever told in science-fiction history. One part can be better or worse than the other, but overall, they complete each other. Each time one re-watches it, one will find something new and different; another metaphor or reference to pop culture and society. And as the creators decided to resurrect the franchise, it will undoubtedly welcome new, younger generations who will help us see even more and dive deeper into The Matrix for years to come.

by Zofia Wijaszka

Zofia lives in LA and is passionate about pop culture, television and Stevie Nicks. She graduated from the University of Wroclaw, Poland with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Social Communication with Creative Writing. Her work revolves around women in television and film. She previously has written for GirlTalkHQ, Reel Honey and Polish film portals. She loves the Scream movies, Carol and Big Little Lies. She wants Sarah Paulson to be her buddy and go for drinks with her. Her Twitter – @thefilmnerdette

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