The Matrix (franchise)
The Matrix is a science fiction action media franchise created by the Wachowskis. The franchise follows a group of heroes who fight a desperate war against machine overlords that have enslaved humanity in an extremely sophisticated virtual reality system. The series is most notable for its use of slow motion, which revolutionized action films to come. The series began with the feature film The Matrix (1999), and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 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.
|Created by||The Wachowskis[a]|
|Original work||The Matrix (1999)|
|Owner||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Book(s)||List of books|
|Short stories||Included in The Matrix Comics|
|Magazine(s)||The Matrix Online: The Official Magazine (2005)|
|Films and television|
|Soundtrack(s)||List of albums|
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, until it was surpassed by the film Deadpool.
The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of man, in which a self-aware artificial intelligence has wiped out most of humanity, and the vast majority of the survivors are imprisoned in a virtual reality system to be farmed as a power source. Every now and then, some of these prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the A.I. 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). The movies deal with the dilemma of choice vs control, and 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. In March 2017, it was reported that Warner Bros. was in early stages of developing a relaunch of the franchise with new films.
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.
|Film||Release date||Director(s)||Screenwriter(s)||Producer(s)||Distributor(s)||Running time|
|The Matrix||March 31, 1999||The Wachowskis[a]||Joel Silver||Warner Bros. Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures
|The Matrix Reloaded||May 15, 2003||138 minutes|
|The Matrix Revolutions||November 5, 2003||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.
The film's mainstream success had backed up the initial idea of making a trilogy. The sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, 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.
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. 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, 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.
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. Penn struck down the notion of a reboot or remake, stating he is interested in seeing stories set in the already established universe. Reportedly, one such story the studio is considering, is a prequel film about a young Morpheus. The previous month, Keanu Reeves said he would return to a potential new Matrix film only if the Wachowskis were writing and directing. 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. In March 2018, Penn said he is working on a revival of the franchise and teased the possibility of an expanded universe.
In May 2019, it was reported that Chad Stahelski, who worked as stunt coordinator of several films by the Wachowskis, including the Matrix trilogy, claimed that the sisters are involved with the new Matrix film, although he was not sure whether they would be directing it. Shortly later Stahelski debunked the report, clarifying he was talking hypothetically and didn't mean to confirm their involvement.
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 Wachowskis[a]||Joel Silver||Barrie M. Osborne
|Bill Pope||Zach Staenberg||Don Davis|
|The Matrix Reloaded||The Wachowskis[b]|
|The Matrix Revolutions|
The Ultimate Matrix CollectionEdit
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 did not, 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.
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. The Blu-ray release presented The Animatrix in high definition for the first time.
Box office performanceEdit
|Film||U.S. release date||Box office gross||All-time ranking||Budget||Ref(s)|
|U.S. and Canada||Other territories||Worldwide||U.S. and Canada||Worldwide|
|The Matrix||March 31, 1999||$171,479,930||$292,037,453||$463,517,383||285||232||$63 million|||
|The Matrix Reloaded||May 15, 2003||$281,576,461||$460,552,000||$742,128,461||96||103||$150 million|||
|The Matrix Revolutions||November 5, 2003||$139,313,948||$288,029,350||$427,343,298||412||262||$150 million|||
Critical and public responseEdit
While The Matrix received largely positive reviews, and The Matrix Reloaded received generally positive reviews, the overall 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||88% (147 reviews)||73 (35 reviews)||A−|
|The Matrix Reloaded||73% (245 reviews)||62 (40 reviews)||B+|
|The Animatrix||89% (18 reviews)||N/A||N/A|
|The Matrix Revolutions||36% (214 reviews)||47 (41 reviews)||B|
Influences and interpretationsEdit
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.
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, although Lana Wachowski claims the point the reference was making was misunderstood. 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." Similarities to the 1985 anime film Megazone 23 have also been noticed, but the Wachowskis claimed to have never seen it.
Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show. 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.".
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. The Wachowskis responded that they enjoy the comic but did not use it for inspiration.
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.
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.
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.
Following the Wachowskis' coming out as transgender women some years after the release of the films, the first film and the pill analogy have also been analyzed in the context of the Wachowskis' transgender experiences. In this case, taking the red pill and living out of the Matrix symbolizes exploring one's own gender identity, starting the transition and coming out as transgender, as opposed to a continued life in the closet. Lilly Wachowski has acknowledged this analysis by calling it "a cool thing because it's an excellent reminder that art is never static".
In April 2003 Sophia Stewart filed a legal complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging that the idea of The Matrix (and the 1984 film The Terminator) were plagiarized from her own film treatment entitled "The Third Eye". The court allowed the lawsuit to move forward in 2005, 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."  Despite the ruling, the case became the subject of "Internet legend", with many sources claiming Stewart had actually won the lawsuit.
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 wrote 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."
By November 2003, The Matrix franchise had generated $677 million from VHS and DVD sales, $162 million from the video game Enter the Matrix (2003), $37 million from The Matrix Reloaded: The Album soundtrack sales, and $3.5 million from licensed merchandise sales. As of 2011, the franchise has grossed $3 billion from all sources worldwide.
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.
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 The 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.
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. The screensaver was reported to have a password security issue. The "Matrix digital rain" also inspired the creation of many unofficial screensavers.
- 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
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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).
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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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