In the dystopia the series depicts, Earth is dominated by sentient machines. Humans are grown in pods and are connected by cybernetic implants to an artificial reality called the Matrix, which keeps their minds under control while the machines use the bioelectricity and thermal energy of their bodies as an energy source.
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 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.
According to character dialogue in The Matrix Online, the following about the Matrix' past has been revealed:
Matrix v1.0 = Paradise Matrix, where the Angel Agents originate. Humans cannot be unplugged. Failed.
Matrix v2.0 = Nightmare Matrix, where Vampires/Werewolves/Ghosts/Monsters originate. Humans cannot be unplugged. Failed.
Matrix v3.0 = Oracle's proposed version of the Matrix involving choice and the prophecy. First unplugged redpills populate Zion. First time the One appears to reload the Matrix. Success.
Matrix v3.1 = The One, having reloaded the Matrix, chooses 23 people to repopulate Zion, and dies. Second time the One appears to reload the Matrix. Success.
Matrix v3.2 = The cycle continues. No further data on this version of the Matrix.
Matrix v3.3 = The cycle continues. No further data on this version of the Matrix.
Matrix v3.4 = The version of the Matrix where the Commando Agents originate. They attempt to fight against their prototype replacements (Current G-Men type Agents) before they can finish their test trials, and fail. The cycle continues.
After the human race was defeated by the machines, the machines performed experiments using cybernetic implants to connect human minds to computers, and presumably erased the memories of their former lives. The first version of the Matrix into which the humans were hardwired was created by the Architect. As mentioned by him in The Matrix Reloaded, and by Agent Smith in The Matrix, it was designed as a perfect world containing no wars, plagues, or dangers of any sort. People began to reject this simulated utopia, on the premise that it was "too good to be true"; according to Agent Smith, this rejection caused "entire crops" of humans to die.
Template:Cleanup-section Instead of the "perfection" of the first, the second version of the Matrix simulated a world more in line with "the varying grotesqueries of [human] nature", featuring wars, plagues, and more hellish environments. Images shown to describe this include images of Nazi Germany, war, sickness, and death. Particularly evident are images of radiation-burnt victims of the atomic bomb. It has been alluded by older programs such as the Merovingian and Persephone that entities such as the Twins (ghosts), Cujo and his werewolves, Vlad and his vampires, as well as other "supernatural" programs are remnants of this era of the Matrix.
Much to the frustration of the Architect, this version was also a failure. Human nature again interfered, in that while perfection was inherently unbelievable, so too was an unending nightmare.
The solution was discovered by what the Architect described as an "intuitive" program that was designed to help the machines better understand the human psyche. This program was personified and known to the humans as the Oracle. The Oracle found that 99% of humans would accept the system if given a subconscious choice to accept or reject the Matrix. Continually permitting the escape of the rebellious elements as they emerged created the first stable Matrix. The remaining 1% could eventually become dangerous to the stability of the Matrix if left unchecked. This problem was solved by gathering them in a settlement of their own called Zion.
In order to keep the inhabitants of Zion under control, the Machines created the concept of The One. The Oracle disseminated among the rebels a prophecy that one day a messiah would be born with the power to 'free' humanity. This figure, called the One, would actually be instrumental in the continuation of the Matrix. When Zion's population grew too large, the One would be introduced into the Matrix and would be permitted to make contact with the Zion rebels and escape from the Matrix, causing them to concentrate their attentions on the prophecy rather than the actual progress of the conflict. After a certain amount of time had passed, Zion would be attacked, and that would be the impetus guiding the One to a meeting with the Architect, who would then tell him the truth about the Matrix and his following task:
"The function of the One is now to return to the Source allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the Prime Program. After which you will be required to select from the Matrix twenty-three individuals — sixteen female, seven male — to rebuild Zion. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the Matrix which, coupled with the extermination of Zion, will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race."
The selected individuals would be told the prophecy of the One, but would not be allowed to know of the cycle of the Matrix's renewal, each time believing it to be first time anyone had been freed from the Matrix.
This "One cycle" was put into effect, with the machines maintaining control of the system for five full cycles and five Ones. The sixth One, Thomas "Neo" Anderson, was different from his predecessors in a way the machines had not expected. The previous Ones had all been conditioned to feel an intense platonic connection with the human race in general, and had chosen to prolong the Matrix in order to prevent the extinction of the human race. For Neo, however, that connection was romantic: he loved a woman, called Trinity. Neo therefore rejected the compromise offered by the Architect to save humanity and instead made the irrational decision to save Trinity from an attack by an Agent.
Meanwhile, Smith, a rogue Agent corrupted and strengthened by a previous encounter with Neo, was spreading throughout the Matrix like a virus, becoming a threat to both machines and humans. The One therefore struck a deal with the machines to destroy Smith in return for peace. The machines accepted this proposal, fearing that they could no longer control or terminate the renegade viral Smith, who had grown incalculably strong. Smith had a growing hatred for humanity, and the crushing weight of "purpose" of The Matrix, and desired to destroy both. Neo and Smith battled, but eventually Neo submitted and allowed Smith to imprint over him, causing Smith to be destroyed and Neo to die. The Matrix Revolutions leaves the cause of Smith's defeat fairly ambiguous. One interpretation concludes that Smith destroyed himself: In a display of irony, Smith's purpose was to destroy the One, and after having done so, became purposeless, and is destroyed as a result. Another interpretation is that once Smith infected Neo, the Machines used Neo - repeatedly described as possessing unique powers over the Matrix - to destroy Smith. A third possible explanation, based on the Oracle's claim that Smith is Neo's negative, is that the imprinting of Smith over Neo created a program so unstable that it ultimately destroyed itself. Another theory is that, Neo retained some of his personality (as The Oracle did, delivering a line she had said to Neo in her original form, through the Oracle/Smith clone) and after becoming a clone, was linked to them and used that link to destroy them.
- Official site for the series
- The Matrix multiple screenplays by Andy & Larry Wachowski
- The Matrix Reloaded October 27, 2001 draft screenplay by Andy & Larry Wachowski
- The Matrix Revolution October 27, 2000 draft screenplay by Andy & Larry Wachowski
- The Many Meanings of The Matrix, Larry Wachowski in a dialogue with Ken Wilber.
- The Matrix Narrative Chronology
- Essay: Understanding the Matrix Trilogy from a Man-machine Interface Perspective
- The Matrix has you...
- The Matrix Wiki
- Joanne Morra and Marquard Smith The Matrix: Morpheus in Exile
- The Matrix Trilogy Andy and Larry Wachowski