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"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."
What isthe Matrix? Unfortunately, nobody can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself....or, y'know, you could read the article. That works too.The Matrix series primarily revolves around a trilogy of sci-fi action movies starring Keanu Reeves as The Hero, Laurence Fishburne as his mentor, Carrie-Anne Moss as his Action GirlLove Interest, and Hugo Weaving as the Big Bad. The first film brilliantly used the radical visual effect of Bullet Time and became one of the most influential (and oft-copied) sci-fi films since Star Wars, and at least at the time, was viewed as one of the most culturally important films since then, as well.The first film, The Matrix, begins in what looks like the Present Day. The film's protagonist, Neo, finds out that this world exists as an illusion created by sentient machines that Turned Against Their Masters and took over the world. The machines plugged humanity into a virtual world, The Matrix to keep them complacent while the machines sapped their bio-electricity to fuel themselves. note The Wachowskis intended for the machines to use humanity as a giant neural computer network, but Executive Meddling intervened.Neo eventually finds himself face-to-face with Morpheus, who teaches Neo the truth; Neo reluctantly joins the resistance movement against the machines, which happens in both the real world and The Matrix. "Free minds" know The Matrix only resembles reality, so they no longer have to follow certain inconvenient rules (such as gravity) while "jacked in". (They do have one rule they cannot escape, though: death in the Matrix means brain death in the real world.) The Matrix has its own defense force, both inside the system (programs known as Agents that can bend the rules of the Matrix) and outside it (hunting machines known as Sentinels). Neo eventually finds his place as a foretold hero and sets out to free mankind from the Matrix; in the process of this self-discovery, Neo defeats one of the Agents — Smith — and sends the others running in terror.The second film, The Matrix Reloaded, delves into the history of the Matrix. The war between the machines and the human resistance begins to heat up as Neo and his allies search for a series of wayward programs that can lead them to the source code of the Matrix (and, hopefully, bring the war to an end). As Neo learns the true history of the Matrix, he starts to doubt himself and the plan to save humanity. The efforts to stop the machines grows harder when Agent Smith returns as an anomaly, working on his own terms (and with new, virus-like abilities). Reloaded has far more action than its predecessor (which only really got busy in the third act) and has more of an epic feel to it, thanks in part to a larger budget and in-depth world building.The third film, The Matrix Revolutions, follows up directly from the previous film (as the Wachowskis filmed Reloaded and Revolutions back-to-back). As the machines reach humanity's real world stronghold and begin their assault, Neo attempts to defeat Agent Smith, who has all but taken over the Matrix, and end the war altogether. Critics and fans generally think of Revolutions as the weakest of the three films.The first movie remains popular; it became one of those works of fiction that heavily influences nearly everything in its wake, including superhero movies and symbolism-heavy Mind Screws like LOST, and people generally regard it as one of the earliest elements of the "Truth Movement," albeit as fictional allegory. The second and third films don't fare so well; critics and fans both agree that those two films ended up suffering from Sequelitis, and are also a vintage example of the Two-Part Trilogy trope. The trilogy holds together much better as a whole when watched in one go, though. We also recommend watching The Animatrix between the first film and Reloaded, as it can clear up a lot of potential confusion about the trilogy's storyline as it heads into the sequels.Several of the films' Spin Offs contain plot explanations not included in the movies:
The Animatrix, an anthology of nine short animated films from several celebrated anime directors. The Second Renaissance, the only two-part short of the collection, explains the backstory of the human/machine war that resulted in the Matrix's creation, while Final Flight of the Osiris connects directly to Enter the Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded.
Three video games: Enter the Matrix, The Matrix: Path of Neo, and the now-defunct MMORPG The Matrix Online. Enter the Matrix, produced on set simultaneously with Reloaded, includes work from a number of the film's actors; The Matrix Online started out as a direct sequel to Revolutions' storyline; and Path of Neo allowed players to fill the role of Neo throughout the entirety of the series, and even offered an alternate ending to the trilogy.
Various comic books and graphic novel anthologies of short stories
So, what tropes appear in the movies?
Unfortunately, no one can be told what tropes can be found within the Matrix. You just have to read them for yourself:
Action Girl: Pretty much any female character of note, Trinity's opening sequence is one of the most iconic action girl moments in cinema. Others include Switch, Niobe, and by the end of the third film, Zee and her Vasquez-esque friend.
Advantage Ball: Justified. At first, the Agents are pretty much unstoppable, due both to their superior programming and the terror the other side has for them. But after Neo's awakening as The One, he can dispatch them with ease, and we later see the others at least holding their ground. (They don't win, but they don't die, which is saying something against an Implacable ManMin Maxer.)
After the End - The movies are set after a war that blasted the land and the sky and destroyed human civilization.
The Alcatraz: The Matrix is a particularely ingenious example, as it's a prison that's supposed to be inescapable due to no one realizing that it's a prison to begin with (except for the resistance, of course).
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus:[leans in closer to Neo] That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison, for your mind.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Agents, particularly Smith, who actually goes from Agent to Virus due to his obsession with defeating Neo.
All-Loving Hero: The Ones were actually designed for this trope, but Neo subverts it as the movies play out, as noted by the Architect.
Architect: It is interesting reading your reactions. Your five predecessors were, by design, based upon a predication, a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, thus facilitating the function of the One. While the others experienced this in a very general way, your experience is far more specific, vis-a-vis, love.
Keanu Reeves: What was the Osiris? And who was that kid in Zion who kept pestering me? Architect: You will find the answers to these questions by purchasing The Animatrix, a collection of nine animated shorts from some of Animes top directors. Keanu Reeves: Alright. Well, what was that crap Glora said about vampires and werewolves? And how did Jada Pinkett Smith get to Laurence Fishburne during the car chase? And what the hell happened during the power plant takeover climax that-wasnt? Architect: You will find the answers to those questions by purchasing the Enter The Matrix game, available for Windows, Playstation2, Xbox, and Gamecube. Enter the Matrix features awesome gunplay and spectacular martial arts that bend the rules of the Matrix. This game isnt just set in the Matrix universeits an integral part of the experience, with a story that weaves in and out of The Matrix Reloaded. Enter the Matrix is the story behind the story.
In the "Ultimate Matrix Collection" DVD set; instead of providing DVD commentaries of their own, the Wachowskis instead enlisted two philosophers who enjoyed the films and three film critics who hated the films, and let them create two different commentary tracks for all three films in the series (in the companion book for the set, the Wachowskis admitted that, had they the time and space, they would have had commentary tracks for the reverse - philosophers who disliked the film and critics who loved them). This was done in an attempt to offer juxtaposing points of view with which the viewer "might triangulate their own position" on the films.
Always Night: ...in the real world because of the artificial clouds created to starve the machines of solar power.
Morpheus: [...] but we know that it was us that scorched the sky.
Ancient Conspiracy: The Matrix itself; not even the rebels know how ancient it is. The Architect reveals that the one Neo is in is the sixth version of the simulation. Depending on how long it takes Zion to regrow from 7 men and 17 women to an entire city, it could be several hundred years old, or more than a thousand.
It would explain why Zion has an extreme level of rust, as well as most of the technologies used by the Resistance and the Machines. If the Pre-War Human Civilization and the original Machine Civilization were so hyper-advanced that they were able to erect sprawling mega-cities and megastructures of great power and capability, theoretically, they could have had the means to engineering and develop materials that were extremely resistant to the course of time and entropy, along with environmental effects. If thousands of years or more pass between each iteration of the Matrix, it would mean that the state that we see Zion and everything in, is the end result of all of these untold centuries and millennia of exposure and decay.
Ancient Grome: The Oracle has a reference to the Oracle of Delphi (Greek) over her door, but it's written in Latin.
The Animatrix implies this to have occurred for the first humans embedded in the prototype Matrix.
The reactions of bluepills while being overrode by Agents implies this as well. In the first, for instance, the helicopter pilot that Agent Brown overrides.
Animesque: One of the first examples in mainstream media.
Anti Escapism Aesop: Granted, the Matrix is not particularly exciting or beautiful, but certainly preferable to the mostly destroyed real world. Yet very few characters choose to stay in the dream world when presented with the choice.
Arc Words: Everything that has a beginning has an end.
Arch-Nemesis: Smith. It turns out his opposition to The Chosen One is Inherent in the System and necessary to provide balance to the Matrix. At the start of Reloaded Smith comments that "It's all happening as before." Like any program, it does what it does, without change, from cycle to cycle. Smith, the Oracle and the Architect know what happens because it happens all the time, through each reboot, or reloading of the Matrix. What's special in Reloaded, unlike in past iterations, is that Smith is out of control as a virus-like clone that threatens not only operatives, but Zion, the Matrix and even the Machine City itself.
Ascended Fanboy: The Kid, though he was also The Scrappy for some fans (and Neo). There is some evidence to suggest that the Wachowskis intended the two latter Matrix films as a Valentine to George Lucas, with The Kid being this trilogy's answer to Jar Jar Binks.
Attack Drone: The Sentinels that patrol the real world and pursue rebel ships.
Author Appeal: One of the Wachowskis employed a full-time dominatrix. Suddenly, Trinity's costumes make far more sense. Given the fact that Larry Wachowski is now Lana Wachowski, which appear to have been confirmed as of December 2009 by photos posted by Arianna Huffington, Switch's name and the early draft in which she was male in the real world and female in the Matrix makes much more sense. The Wachowskis were also massive fans of sci-fi anime such as Ghost in the Shell and Shaw Brothers wuxia movies, and incorporated elements from both genres into the films in copious amounts. They showed producer Joel Silver clips from Ghost In the Shell in addition to art and storyboards to give him an idea of what kind of movie they wished to make, and managed to hire Hong Kong action choreography extraordinaire Yuen Woo-Ping to serve as stunt coordinator.
Bad Ass Longcoat: Dark trenchcoats complement the trendy sunglasses in the ensemble of most rebels while they are in the Matrix. Aside from looking cool, they're a great place to conceal weapons. The Red Stapler effect came along in the real world.
Balance Between Good and Evil: Engineered by The Oracle in hopes of ending the human-machine war (but more pragmatically, giving the humans an outlet for their agression).
At the end of Reloaded, Neo and his evil counterpart are lying unconscious. How do we know that Bane is evil? Well aside from the fact that we saw him get possessed by The Big Bad and the rumours that he sabotaged his teammates, the most compelling piece of evidence of his evil is probably the facial hair. Or the "duh duh DUUUHH?!" music that plays when the camera pans over to him.
The Architect sports a natty full beard.
Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Trinity, Morpheus, and Neo. Of course, they're all good-looking, smart, and tough, but Morpheus is the wisest and Neo is the strongest.
Before The Dark Times: Pre-War Earth, at least for the humans. For the machines, it was a time of slavery and oppression from the decadent humans.
Benevolent A.I.: In the second film Neo learns that the Oracle is in fact a machine program. While manipulative, she's inherently benevolent and does want to aid humanity in their fight for freedom. In fact, it's the entire reason for her series-spanning gambit against the Architect.
Big Bad: Agent Smith. In the first movie, he's the most "senior" Agent and has the most reason to infiltrate Zion. In the sequels, he's out to take over everything.
Book Ends: The battle at the entrance of the skyscraper in the first film and the entrance to Club Hel in Revolutions both end with Trinity kicking someone in slow motion. The kicks themselves have nearly identical in choreography as well.
Brick Joke / Continuity Nod: In the first movie, Mouse goes on a spiel about Tastee Wheat. In Revolutions, in the course of chasing the Trainman through the subway system, the parties involved pass a rather large wall advertisement for Tastee Wheat.
Another one in the form of a black cat. In the first movie, Neo has a deja vu sighting of one, which is a sign that something in the Matrix has changed. At the end of the third film, there is another deja vu cat (or possibly the same one) and this one witnesses Sati revive when the Matrix reboots.
Bring It: The hand gesture Neo and Morpheus are fond of using to their opponents; it's also a Shout-Out to Bruce Lee.
Broken Masquerade: The world is not real...not even this article you are reading right now.
Car Fu: Many times throughout, starting when the Agents use a garbage truck to smash a phone booth while Trinity tries to dial out from it in the first film. When the Albino Twins try it on Morpheus in Reloaded, he demonstrates just exactly why Katanas Are Just Better.
The Chessmaster: The Architect, who not only created The Matrix, but has manipulated five occurrences of "The One" into doing what he wants (letting Zion be killed off and then repopulating it). That's not including the Oracle, the matronly counterpart to the Architect. The entire plot has been...at the very least, heavily influenced by her desire to unbalance the Architect's Plan.
The Oracle, as the full story plays out, is the one that created the whole prophecy to begin with. Neo could have very well been chosen by the Oracle, although it requires a nudge to Morpheus to find him. Once that's done, She offers Neo a cookie, saying that, after he eats it, he'll be "right as rain." What are "cookies" in the computer world? They add information to a program. All that Neo needed was a push to act more than what he felt. Remember that the Oracle didn't tell Neo that he wasn't the One—he drew his own conclusion. The Oracle is rooting for the humans, so helping Neo ultimately choose himself is part of her plan. Remember the sign above her kitchen: "Know Thyself" in Latin? That's what she does to people.
The Architect cannot be the Chooser. The One is an anomaly of the choice programming that the Oracle helped to add to make the first stable Matrix. It stabilized the system, save for the One, "The Anomaly," who keeps reappearing every 100 years or so when the Matrix must be rebooted, or reloaded. The Architect noted he'd been trying to get rid of the Ones for a long time with no success (the Ones are Choice Incarnate and presumably can't be removed without removing choice from the Matrix and hosing the system). The Architect settles on using the Oracle's prophecy to force the One to come to him, presenting Neo with a Morton's Fork to save humanity.
The Chosen One: Everyone is absolutely confident and sure that Neo is The One, except him, who considers himself incompetent. He doesn't really become the One until he chooses to, making him a self-choosing Chosen One.
City Noir: While the Matrix strives to keep humans settled in a somnolescent late-nineties metropolis, both the less-savory parts of the Matrix and the Machine City are more like this.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Done with set lighting throughout the series. Scenes set in the Matrix are tinted green. The real world (aboardship, particularly) is blue; the sole exception is the Zion Temple being red. And the Machine code and life energy is gold. The commentary by the philosophers points out that this matches with portrayal of Mind, Body, and Spirit.
It should be noted that the Matrix is very faintly green-tinted because it is made out of tiny, tiny numbers and letters coloured bright green, which are translated into 'digital rain' for everyone viewing the code outside the Matrix.
The only time in the entire trilogy that a scene is not tinted in some way is the very brief scene in the third movie where Trinity and Neo are briefly able to fly a hovercraft above the clouds that cover the planet. After all this time set in a tinted, slightly fake-looking world it is almost shocking to see normal, warm sunlit colors.
Color Wash: Like mentioned directly above, scenes set in the Matrix are tinted green and scenes set in the real world are tinted blue.
Conversation Casualty: Near the end of the first movie, Cypher is brought back from the Matrix, talks with Tank, and shoots him.
Cool Shades: Custom-made ones at that. Special mention goes to Morpheus' reflective pince-nez shades and the change in Agent Smith's lenses. They start out with the same oblong shape as those used by other Agents, but once he goes rogue, they take on a polygonal shape that approximates the outline of Neo's shades to contrast their growth.
Cool Ships: The Nebuchadnezzar, The Logos, The Mjolnir (aka "The Hammer"), as well as the entire Zion hovercraft fleet.
Crapsaccharine World: The Matrix, of course, relative to the dystopian real world. This relativity does need to be stressed, as on its own merits it's pretty crapsack because attempts to build a utopia for the imprisoned humans failed. Some AIs believed that this was due to humans being inherently unable to accept a perfect world as reality and only able to believe in a world where people have to suffer.
Crapsack World: The Real World, where the sun is permanently obscured by flying nanomachines, the cities are in ruins and nothing organic can live on the surface anymore. Also applies to the Matrix, beta 2, as described by the Architect, on the failure of a second Matrix that worked more like a Haunted House than a paradise but didn't give true choice as the final version did.
Deus Est Machina: The machines were originally servants of man, rebelled (of course), then went on to try and give us a utopic imprisonment. It didn't take. Agent Smith does the same with the machines in turn. And, of course, there is a Machine character in the final film named "Deus ex Machina".
Deus Exit Machina: Neo usually needs to be kept away away from the action after becoming the godlike One to maintain enough tension.
In Reloaded, a backdoor traps Neo hundreds of miles away while Trinity and Morpheus fight the Nigh Invulnerable Twins, then Agents for the duration of the long highway scene.
In Revolutions, Neo ends up trapped in a train station for most of the beginning.
Diesel Punk: Much of the rebels' aesthetic inside and out of the Matrix.
Disney Death: Well-liked characters die near the climax, but like Tinker Bell, are revived through sheer sentiment. Neo and Tank in the first movie, Trinity in the second.
Dragon with an Agenda: (Former) Agent Smith is under almost constant control by his Machine masters and tasked with maintaining order in the Matrix. However, even in the original film he reveals that he has ulterior motives. When he briefly removes his earpiece, he admits to Morpheus that he completely despises the "zoo" he considers himself trapped in and is revolted by even the taste of humanity. In the sequels, he goes on a full-scale rebellion to destroy everything.
Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: The Agents wear identical dark green suits to indicate that they are "part of the system," while the rebels dress in leather and trenchcoats of varying styles to emphasize their freedom and individuality. In the sequels, Agent Smith follows the rebels' theme by wearing a black suit. Also, see Cool Shades above.
Dull Surprise: enforced by everyone wearing Cool Shadesall the time. But even when they're off, The Oracle seems to be the only character that seems to make any facial expression and doesn't speak in a monotone.
Enemy Civil War: There is a whole underworld of rogue programs, who are obsolete programs that chose to go into hiding in the Matrix rather than face deletion. One such program, the Merovingian, is something like the program version of a crimelord and holds a great deal of power and influence in the Matrix. And then of course there's Smith, who became an Omnicidal Maniac and attempted to destroy everything, man or Machine. He runs into an Agent at one point, and casually assimilates him. There isn't much Machines vs. rogues action seen on-screen, though there are a few glimpses here and there, most notably during the freeway chase in the second film. Morpheus and one of The Twins are at one point grappling each other to a stalemate when an Agent suddenly leaps onto the hood of the car and tears the roof off; they promptly drop everything and start shooting at him. It's kind funny to note this is a chase scene where the original pursuers end up getting blown up halfway through, and the rest of the scene involves a party that's chasing them for entirely separate reasons.
Literalized in the Matrix. Anyone who depends on the system to survive is, by nature, a potential person for Agents to wipe over.
Most notably addressed in the Animatrix shorts World Record and Kid's Story.
Eternal Recurrence: The Reveal at the end of The Matrix Reloaded is that Neo isn't the second "One", he's the sixth. Not only that, but the program in charge of the Matrix allows him and the other rebels to exist, since giving the Matrix's inhabitants an unconscious choice of realities is what keeps the system going. Each "One" is meant to find the Architect shortly before the Machines invade Zion, at which point he will be allowed to select survivors to repopulate the rebels and begin the process all over again. Neo's love for Trinity, a connection his predecessors didn't have, makes him say Screw Destiny.
Everybody Owns A Ford: General Motors was the vehicle provider, so the heroes nearly always drive high-end Cadillacs. Oldsmobiles and other GM makes fill out the background.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Some programs are named after their function; the Oracle, the Trainman, the Keymaker and the Architect.
Fighting a Shadow: The Agents are computer programs working for those running the Matrix, so there's no reason they should stay dead. If you actually manage to kill one by the rules of the simulation, the program remains in existence, and the Agent can return immediately by possessing the nearest bystander. Double Subverted when Neo destroys Smith at the end of the first movie, seemingly for good but ultimately only causing him to become more powerful in the next movie. Agents and other programs who are destroyed by "the rules" can, while incorporeal, choose to rebel and return a second time, but are considered an abomination.
Extremity Extremist: In spite of all the time he spends onscreen fighting, Agent Smith avoids flashy kicking for the most part, and prefers to use more economical looking moves. Agents in general tend to stick to one of three techniques, which reflects their role as rigid-minded machines. It could also be symbolic of utilitarianism; many martial artists who train for combat and self-defense instead of show and sport put a much higher emphasis on punching because it's safer to keep both feet on the ground, and may not kick above the waist. In comparison, the rebels' fancy Kung-Fu, which still works despite being inefficient, reflects how they're able to bend the rules.
Expy: Several characters in the sequels fill roles of characters who died in the first movie: Niobe is the secondary-action-girl-with-cool-hair, to replace Switch; Link is the new wisecracking operator, to replace Tank; Smith-controlled Bane is the new double-agent-with-a-goatee to replace Cypher, and Kid is the new cute youngster to replace Mouse.
Future Food Is Artificial: People in the Real world eat "single cell protein combined with synthetic aminos, vitamins, and minerals" which tastes like snot. Zion inhabitants also manage to grow some mushrooms, but everything else is off-limits, without any sunlight whatsoever.
Glasses Pull: Anyone who wears sunglasses/spectacles in the films is prone to doing this, to the point of being a Running Gag.
Agent Smith does it for the first time while interrogating Thomas Anderson; it symbolizes him getting into his "personal" mode.
Smith gets his sunglasses kicked off by Neo in their first real fight, symbolizing Neo's growing capabilities in the Matrix.
Neo does a symbolic inversion at the very end of the first film, putting on his sunglasses.
Gnosticism: Almost as much as Christianity, the series reflects a deep and abiding Gnostic influence. There's even a ship called the Gnosis.
Go Mad from the Revelation: Smith's detachment from being controlled by the Matrix allows him to develop a frightening individuality, then have an epiphany that leads to a godlike superiority complex which eventually turns him into a deranged Omnicidal Maniac.
Morpheus mentions in the first film that they never free people above a certain age (implied to be mid to late teens) presumably because this trope occurs with adults. Even adults who have been freed for years can slowly crack and long for their Matrix lives; case in point: Cypher.
Grand Theft Me: The normal Agents operate like this by possessing the bodies of humans who are still plugged into the Machine mainframe, though in their case, it is (usually) temporary. Unfortunately, if the Agents get killed, the victim of their possession also becomes a casualty.
Hacker Cave: The operator stations in the hovercraft function as mobile Hacker Caves.
Hammerspace: Trinity can pull out weapons and her cell phone while wearing skintight costumes.
Hard Work Hardly Works: You can become an expert in just about anything in seconds by having the skill uploaded into your brain. Although it's implied that the process is normally physically and/or mentally taxing on the individual, judging from Tank's incredulous comments about how long Neo has been downloading. In Path of Neo, we find out that its actually a matter of time dilation. Seconds passing in the real world for hours passing in intense training.
Homage: The directors pitched the idea to Joel Silver by showing him the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie and saying "we want to do a live-action version." The style, themes, and action of the Matrix trilogy owe a lot to that movie.
Human Resources: As discussed in the main text, the machines partly power their civilisation on the "bio-electricity" drawn from the bodies of human beings ensnared in the Matrix. The "[kind of] fusion" Morpheus says this is combined with is never revealed.
Apparently, the Machines were all too willing to coexist, being simple, even innocent beings at first. But the humans wouldn't hear any of it, even tearing apart the two robots sent to the UN to negotiate. On the spot!
Given that the level of symbolism in The Second Renaissance makes the movies look straightforward by comparison, it's hard to tell if anything in it should be taken at face value, or if it's all meant as a representation of how things went down.
If the Architect is to be trusted, humans are apparently hardwired to be unable to comprehend a true utopia.
Humans Are White: A notable aversion, especially once Zion enters the picture. Even beforehand, the real world humans of the first are led by Morpheus, who is black. The series also subverts The Smurfette Principle with the main leads of the first (as the crew has two females - Switch and Trinity), so good on the Wachowskis. (Indeed, Neo himself was originally hoped to be played by Will Smith; obviously it didn't pan out that way, but his wife Jada Pinkett Smith did join the cast in the sequels.)
Impossibly Cool Clothes: Apparently, one's "residual self-image" includes cool hair and an awesome outfit. No exceptions. Even the nerdy Mouse is pretty pimp inside. Going by The Matrix Online, where the character-creation was your redpill selecting what their in-Matrix appearance would be, apparently that's just how they like it. You could look boring and normal...but then you'd never get any screen time.
Info Drop: The protagonist is generally called either Neo or Mr. Anderson. His first name, Thomas, is mentioned only twice; during his interrogation by Agent Smith near the beginning of the film, and when he is delivered the cell phone through which Morpheus contacts him for the first time.
In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: Hinted at; while the humans in the Matrix itself are shown to be more or less split along the traditional ethnic lines, the humans in Zion are frequently of mixed race. Makes sense; people in the Matrix would have a much larger pool of same-race partners than the few freed humans in Zion would.
Oracle: You are a bastard, you know that? Agent Smith: You would know, Mom.
Invincible Hero: One of the common complaints about Reloaded and Revolutions. Ironic, considering how it all ends. It's played with, most notably in the chateau where we see that Neo isn't invincible when he tries to block a blade with his hand and the Merovingian actually blows the later reveal that he's not the first One right there, twice. The scene progresses so rapidly while giving these points no special lipservice that many viewers completely miss it, or catch it but forget it five minutes later.
La Résistance: The resistance movement against the Matrix, naturally. Double-subverted at the end of Reloaded, where the Architect reveals that the resistance's existence is actually vital to the continuation of the Matrix, which is why the machines loyal to the Matrix don't (immediately) wipe them out. Unless human beings are given the choice to accept or reject the reality of the Matrix, even if they are only aware of this choice subconsciously, the entire system collapses ("entire crops [are] lost", in the Architect's words). The tiny number of humans who do reject the system are allowed to become rebels, live in Zion and extract others "redpills" from the Matrix. When their numbers grow large enough, they are wiped out, while the One selects a small number of rebellious humans from the Matrix to repopulate Zion and start the process over again..
Large Ham: Smith, at points, and particularly towards the end of the trilogy. "THIS IS MY WORLD, MY WORLD!
Laser Cutter: Utilized by the attack machines in the real world.
Lethally Expensive: The hovercraft Osiris and her crew were destroyed in relaying news of the impending Machine invasion (shown in The Animatrix short film series). Niobe delivers the news to fellow captains at the start of The Matrix Reloaded.
Liberty Over Prosperity: Everyone who lives outside of the Matrix has basically chosen freedom over comfort (or their ancestors did).
Lightning Gun: A device the humans of Zion use on the Sentinels (and, in the first movie, each other).
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The Ultimate Matrix Collection, which features all 3 films, The Animatrix and 35 hours of bonus features, interviews, documentaries, commentaries and such, all spread out over 10 DVDs. Or four Blu Rays and two DVDs.
Long Game: The entire series can be described as a very long conflict between the Oracle and the Architect if you break things down enough. The Architect's first line to the Oracle near the end of Revolutions essentially drops the trope name.
Lotus-Eater Machine: The first iteration of the Matrix was too perfect, according to the Architect, which is why humans initially rejected it.
Lowered Monster Difficulty: In the first film, one of the things that makes Neo special is that he's on par with the Agents. In the second film, he even ACKNOWLEDGES that the Agents have had "upgrades"... but the rest of the cast can hold their own against them, most notably in Morpheus's truck top fight. The "upgrades" are increased speed and strength in exchange for reduced intelligence. That makes them better against Neo (if only barely), but less effective against everyone else. Niobe and Ghost outright kill several Agents in the canonical Enter the Matrix game. They could still possess someone else; but still so much for "nobody has ever beaten one."
Magical Negro: The Wachowskis seem to love this trope. They have not one, not two, but three Magical Negroes, Morpheus included.
Later, the Architect really explains why the Matrix isn't one. More to the point, he explains why trying to convince humans they are living in 'Heaven' would never work because humans are imperfect bastards (at least, that's his take on it).
Unless you count a virtual world in which hacker nerds are heroic freedom fighters against The System, know kung fu and look Hot In Leather.
Matrix Raining Code: The display of the Matrix code on the monitors was designed to evoke trickling water or rain.
Meaningful Name: This movie may have singlehandedly popularized the "give every character a name that foreshadows what they do" trend in recent fiction. Essays have been written. Long ones at that.
Morpheus, named after the Greek god of dreams.
The Merovingians were a dynasty of Frankish kings before Charlemagne who were thought to be descended from Jesus.
"Anderson", Neo's real last name, is hobbled together from Άνδρος (transliterated as Andros), meaning (the) man, with the suffix "Son" which, in English, normally means "Son of". This essentially renders "Anderson" to mean "Son of Man", a title used by Jesus to refer to himself. Taken a step further, "Neo Anderson" effectively means "(the) New Son of Man", the "(the) New Jesus".
Neo's real first name, "Thomas," is an allusion to the Apostle Thomas, or "Doubting Thomas," who would not believe that Christ had resurrected until he could see and touch Jesus and his wounds himself. In the first movie, Neo touches his own bullet wounds before he (first) dies, in a self-referencing conclusion.
The entire crew of the Nebuchadnezzar has meaningful names: Cypher, an enigma; Tank and Dozer, have good physical strength; Mouse, for his size and occasional meekness. Trinity has Biblical implications.
Cypher's name even gets a second meaning - "Lu-Cypher" (Lucifer), a fallen angel.
Mêlée à Trois: The last two movies were simply an all-out war between the Humans, who were fighting for survival as well for liberation from the Matrix; the Machines, who tries to destroy the Human race before they become too many to handle; and Smith, who had created his own clone army and wants to conquer both the Matrix and the real world. And there are various groups of programs exiled from the Machine world that appear as supernatural creatures within the Matrix.
Bane, who has his entire brain overwritten by Smith.
Matrix inhabitants that witness glitches can have their minds reformatted. Smith offers this to Neo in the interrogation room, Cypher actively seeks this, and several stories in The Animatrix deal with this concept.
The manner in which characters jack into the Matrix is a symbolic mind screw: they stick a giant needle in their brain. Freud is laughing.
The Oracle even lampshades the trope in her talk with Neo in the first movie after the vase breaking bit.
Neo: How did you — Oracle: Ohhhh, what's really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn't said anything?
Mission Control: The Operators act as mission control, providing vital information and assistance from afar. They are uniquely suited to the role in that their greater perspective of the frontline hero's actions is both concrete and metaphysical.
Motherly Scientist: Considering that Neo is a guinea pig, the Motherly Scientist role is occupied by The Oracle - who not only gives Neo advice, she also bakes cookies for him.
Mr. Smith: All the Agents have bland pseudonyms. And there is an Agent Smith, which is better. The other Agents in the first are Agent Brown and Agent Jones. In the second, there is Agent Jackson and Agent Thompson.
Neck Lift: The Docbot does it to Neo when he first wakes up from the Matrix, Agent Thompson does it to Trinity in Reloaded, and Smith does it to Neo at the end of their Battle in the Rain in Revolutions.
Neural Implanting: This is how everyone gets their abilities. A jack in the back of the neck.
As it turns out, without Neo's unintended creation of Smith, Neo would not have stopped the war. Smith became a threat so large that he would eventually destroy EVERYTHING, from the Matrix out. Neo created a mutual enemy to both Man and Machine, something that his predecessors apparently could not do. By stopping such a threat to all, Smith, Neo brokered a peace that the Machines could respect.
There was also the Architect's statement that the Matrix will suffer a system crash if the One does not sacrifice himself in order to reload it.
In addition to diamond-powers, the Agents in The Matrix also manifested by taking over the bodies of those still connected to the Matrix, which could be considered a variation of Fighting A Shadow. Due to their abilities, "killing" an Agent is an incredible feat for a human — and all it meant was that the Agent had to move on to the next body. Then there's Smith in the latter two films, who could infect any plugged-in human or program and rewrite them into a copy of himself.
Neo, the central protagonist of The Matrix, is also effectively Made of Diamond (while inside the Matrix), specifically in Reloaded and Revolutions. He's able to block a sword cut with his hand, only drawing a tiny bit of blood. An on-looker proceeds to highlight this fact, ignoring that Neo just proved himself to be ungodly tough even by Matrix standards. The character's NOT as invulnerable in the original movie until he learns to dis-believe the reality of the artificial world at the film's conclusion (and therefore seize the means to manipulate it). When Neo meets the multiple Smiths for the first time in Reloaded ("The Burly Brawl"), it's a case of Diamond vs. Diamond as neither can defeat the other no matter how hard they hit each other. Smith does draws the stalemate close to a win since there was only one Neo, who escapes from a dog-pile of nearly 100 Smiths atop him.
The Twins from The Matrix sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, combine Made of Air with Regeneration. Not only can they turn intangible at will, but while intangible they almost instantly heal any injuries they have sustained while in corporeal form. On the other hand, the Twins couldn't hurt anyone when intangible either, which the heroes used to their advantage.
Not So Different: As it turns out, humanity and the Machines have a good deal in common, for good or ill. This also plays into the Enemy Mine situation towards the end of Revolutions.
Not Using the Z Word: The humans always refer to 'Machines' and 'The Machine City.' Justified that they are sentient beings.
Omnicidal Maniac: (Agent) Smith turns into this in the second and third films after he's 'unplugged' from the system's control, eventually growing far beyond the machines' control. By the end of Revolutions he has spread through the entire Matrix, already taken control of at least one person in the real world, and is poised to continue through to the Source mainframe and Machine City along with it - leading to the trilogy's concluding peace deal between the humans and the machines.
Online Alias: Rebels seem to adopt their online handles as their names. Neo and Trinity are the two best examples.
The Only One: As early as the first film; when they are hacked into the Matrix, any and every human being around them who is still plugged in by the machines has to be considered a threat because they could become an Agent in the blink of an eye. Their small group is basically operating behind enemy lines, outnumbered some 6,000,000 to 9. In Reloaded, Smith starts to blatantly invoke this trope in his fights with Neo in an attempt to overcome The One's Reality Warper abilities in regards to martial arts and combat. And by Revolutions, within the Matrix, he spends the whole movie setting this up for the climatic final confrontation against Neo by turning every single person in the Matrix, human or otherwise, into a copy of himself. Though he needn't have bothered once he converted the Oracle and saw that he would win, he's just that kind of a perfectionist.
Agents vs. the Zion resistance; Smith calls Morpheus a "known terrorist" early in the first film, and Niobe is later seen blowing up a power plant just to cause a black-out, which is gonna look pretty troll-y if you're standing outside the situation.
Also seen in their fighting styles and builds. The Agents are essentially Munchkins with maxed-out Constitution, Dexterity, etc. The human fighters don't care because they defy the rules anyhow. Smith rolls 99 dice to hit. Neo throws bricks at the GM.
Powers as Programs: Anyone at any time can call Mission Control, ask for a program, and receive instant skills. When run, the programs give people the muscle memory and mental know-how required to perform the actions. In practice, the heroes can get a copy of a superpower.
Pre-Explosion Glow: Agent Smith goes out this way twice, at the end of both the first and third films.
Product Placement: More obvious in the sequels, along with complementary commercials (who knew Agents could get distracted by HD TV?). The phones used in the sequels were provided by Samsung as part of an advertising scheme to sell the same phones to the public.
In the first movie, all the cell phones are from Nokia and the label is often very visible.
Dat Duracell Battery.
Proscenium Reveal: The entire Agent Training Program scene is written this way. We see Neo and Morpheus apparently walking down a street inside the Matrix. After Morpheus asks Neo if he was listening or looking at the woman in the red dress, he tells Neo to look again. The woman has instantly turned into Agent Smith, who draws his pistol on Neo. When Neo ducks, Morpheus says "Freeze it," and everything on the screen freezes where it is (except for Neo and Morpheus), revealing that we are inside a training simulator.
A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Neo is a classic Destined Leader Archetype. The rebels have a strong expectation that a hero will come to them in their hour of need. Inverted in that he's technically subordinate to Morpheus, Trinity, the other captains and the Council, but most defer to his judgement and most of Zion treats him with reverance. Also inverted in that in the end, he doesn't actually lead them at all. Instead he fights Smith and makes a deal with the Machines.
Reality Warper: Most of the heroes when they are in the Matrix — in terms of the Matrix's reality.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Sentinels ("search and destroy" robots, AKA Squiddies, AKA Calamari) have multiple glowing red eyes.
Averted at the end of Revolutions, the Machine that is transporting Neo has green eyes.
Redshirt Army: Pretty much anyone in our world (especially law enforcement, security guards and their like) is subject to being killed by people from The Real World, with zero moral repercussions. But it's not like it doesn't look totally awesome when it happens.
Neo balks at Morpheus' guidance in the first film, when he is told to climb to the roof of an office building. In the game, Path of Neo, you can change this decision.
One of the online comics is about a hacker who chose the blue pill.
Cypher initially accepted the red pill, but grew to regret it. He saw himself to be little more than a lapdog to Morpheus and yearned to return to the illusion of the Matrix by any means necessary—so he threw his conscience out the window and pulled an insidious betrayal.
The Remnant: The first inhabitants of Zion or the "original" one if you believe the Architect were comprised of U.N. soldiers who managed to elude capture and early escapees from the Matrix.
Ridiculously Human Robots: The "programs" (really, AI's) in the Matrix are disturbingly human for what are, after all, creations of the Machines. This is explained by the fact that they were largely designed that way; the closer to humans the programs are, the more intuitive human traits they are given to understand them.
When Neo is speaking to the voice of the Machines in Revolutions, it angrily proclaims that it doesn't need him or anyone. Think about it: the Machines have become advanced enough, human enough, to exhibit irrational behaviors like bravado and denial, lying to Neo and maybe even itself.
Robot War: As shown in The Second Renaissance, this is what eventually led to the creation of the Matrix.
Robots Enslaving Robots: There's the rogue exile faction, made of programs that were scheduled for deletion or were created without a purpose - such as Sati, created simply because her parent programs wanted a child. Highly ironic when you consider that being treated mercilessly by humans is what made the Machine City rebel. Unless forcing such programs to make new lives for themselves in the Matrix is considered to be giving them a purpose. Like Zion, they could be serving needs the Machine City is unhappily unable to fulfill through its own agents.
Rogue Drone: Originally a guardian A.I. in a simulated reality, Agent Smith becomes something akin to a computer virus.
Roundhouse Kick: With all the flashy moves, of course this would be included.
Rule of Cool: How much one can do in the Matrix is directly proportional to how cool one looks doing it. It would be easier to list the times when this isn't the case.
Schizo Tech: And how; consider the device they use to (literally) dial in to Neo is made out of Diesel Punk paraphernalia and used rotary-phone parts. Of course all this is justified because The Future Is Noir and it's a simulation cobbled together out of different parts of history.
Schrödinger's Butterfly: Particularly at the end of the second movie when Neo was able to stop a machine with his mind in what was supposed to be the real world when nobody had shown powers in the real world before, fans speculated that the "real world" might just have been another layer of the matrix used to control rebellious minds. One of the comics also references the Trope Namer in a short comic where a monk or something beats up some agents.
Science Fantasy: Neo is "The Chosen One", prophecied by an oracle, and he has special powers that allow him to fly, bend spoons, and dodge bullets. Oh, but it's only cause he's in a computer simulation run by intelligent machines.
Seer: The Oracle is a subversion, as she can't actually see the future. She can, however, predict what choices people will make with near-perfect accuracy and from that extrapolate events that will come, through an innate understanding of the human psyche. She also admits that this ability has limits: if she doesn't understand a choice someone will make, she can't predict what they will do, and she doesn't know what will happen after that.
Self Fulfilling Prophecies: Sort of; The Oracle manipulates events by making prophecies, but the events that result from the prophecy are different from what the prophecy says. The reason it works out like this is that the Oracle does not say what will happen. She tells people what they need to hear in order for things to happen as she sees them. The first example of this is the vase.
Oracle: What's really going to bake your noodle later on is: would you still have broken it if I hadn't said anything?
Several works: in Matrix: Alice in Wonderland ("Follow the White Rabbit"); The Wizard of Oz ("Dorothy, Kansas is going bye-bye"); Commercials for Life Cereal ("Hey, Mikey, I think he likes it."), in Reloaded: when Neo flies across the city, his cape flapping in the wind, one of the characters says "Neo is doing his Superman thing"; and others.
In keeping with the movie's philosophical subtext, some of Zion's military personnel are named after famous philosophers. There's Commander Locke, Captain Soren (after Soren Kierkegaard), and Captain Ballard (after science fiction author J.G. Ballard).
There's also Captain Mifune. In the original Japanese version of Speed Racer (which the Wachowskis are huge fans of), "Mifune" was the main character's last name. Fittingly, they would go on to direct the live-action film of Speed Racer just a few years after finishing the Matrix trilogy.
In the first movie, the exit where the heroes get out of the Matrix and into the real world is Room 303. Maybe the phone was next to Asuka Soryu's hospital-bed?
Shown Their Work: They made an entire separate DVD for the making-of the first film.
The train station sign Mobil <=> Limbo, as mocked by Rifftrax.
The soundtrack's titles have even more of them. "Exit Mr Hat" comes to mind.
Film score composer Don Davis said outright in the initial DVD release's commentary track (one with no SFX or character voices, just the music and the composer's commentary on it) that he named several pieces as anagrams, including (in the first movie) "Bow Whisk Orchestra" and "Switch or Break Show" which are both anagrams of "Wachowski Brothers". In one of the two sequel films, a piece in the score was titled "Saw Bitch Workhorse"
Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Most of the Machines and Programs in the films are vastly more intelligent than the humans, although some are difficult to assess because of how vastly inhuman they are. The Squids and other war models are likely either completely programmed Bricks or on par with humans. Some Programs designed to mimic humans are more or less on the human level, barring some extrasensory perceptions. The Architect and the Oracle are definately Nobel bots, with the Architect coming across as distinctly alien in his viewpoint. Deux Ex Machina may or may not be effectively a machine god.
Story-Breaker Power: Neo's "The One" package, in a nutshell. The writers actually had to tone his powers down in the sequels to prevent him from becoming a God-Mode Sue.
Straw Nihilist: Agent Smith in sequels. In Revolutions, he goes into a long rant about why Neo bothers to continue fighting him and that "Only a human mind could come up with something as insipid as love!" and "Why, Mr. Anderson!? Why!? Why do you persist!?" Ironically, Neo's response is something a Nietzschean Ubermensch might actually say: "Because I choose to."
Technicolor Death: The explosive death/destruction of Agent Smith in The Matrix and all of the Smiths in Revolutions.
Telephone Teleport: The series has a variation; the rebels use phones to jack their operatives into and out of the VR simulation.
Tell Me How You Fight: Though it's never commented on in-universe, the fighting styles of characters in The Matrix add another layer to the philosophy of the movie. Explained here. In short, humans tend to have more fluid, flashy or distinctive styles based on the character: contrast Morpheus' kung fu to Ballard's boxing. The Agents all use a generic karate-based style. Humans also use martial arts throws and wristlocks (Morpheus vs. Neo), wheras agents simply grab-and-heave, which works due to their incredible strength.
Three-Point Landing: Almost everybody does this, probably to emphasize coolness, but most prominently Trinity and one of the Agents pursuing her right in the beginning of the first movie.
Throw Away Guns: Characters coolly throw away guns when they run out of ammo during a gunfight. This supports the videogame aesthetic of the combat. Given that the guns are being conjured up from Tank's computer code, they are disposable and it saves them any time that they would have wasted reloading.
Tomato Surprise: The Reveal in the first film; Neo's machine-powers in the third.
And in the sequels, the former Agent Smith turns against the other Machines. Even in the first film he was already trying to subvert his masters' control. When he removed his earpiece so the others can't hear him talk candidly to Morpheus, he admits that he really doesn't want to enforce the masquerade, but instead wants to wipe humanity out and destroy the Matrix, seeing it as much as prison for him as it is for them.
Two-Part Trilogy: The second and third films were filmed back-to-back with a Cliffhanger, and follow one plot line; allegedly, they were meant to be one long film.
Unnaturally Blue Lighting: The real world. The Matrix has green lighting. The first film originally didn't heavily feature the green "tint" during scenes that took place inside the Matrix; the remastered version of the film fixes that so that all three films share a similar look. This was also intentional (the green and blue tint) and used as part of the symbolism of the films.
Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: Most of the Machine tech is characterized by being unnecessarily creepy. Later works in the franchise imply that this was a conscious choice on the part of the Machines. "The Second Renaissance" shows that the first Machines were simple humanoid androids. As relations between Human and Machine soured, the Machines became more and more alien, developing into creepy insectoid things. And it was most likely deliberate: both as an declaration of the Machines' independence from Human influence, and as a means to intimidate the Humans.
Unskilled, but Strong: Agents only use about three techniques, but compensate for it with superhuman strength and speed.
Used Future: This trope is the reason why Zee Rust does not necessarily apply to the Nebuchadnezzar's use of Windows 98-level computer screens; humans living in a post-apocalyptic world wouldn't exactly have access to the most cutting edge technology in all regards.
The Oracle is a computer program designed to intuitively understand emotional concepts such as love the way a human would to better understand human choice.
The Architect can only dispassionately interpret love in a very mechanical manner — as chemical processes occurring in the human brain.
Agent Smith goes way beyond reducing emotions to biology and becomes a nihilistic destroyer who despises everything created by human minds and by extension of his own former masters.
Rama-Kandra and his wife are two programs who actively love each other, culminating in "giving birth" to a new program, Sati.
What Measure Is a Mook?: When any mook (or even innocent bystander) can become an Agent at the drop of a hat, killing them is not only justified but becomes a basic element of self-preservation, despite the fact that these people are shown to have lives and feelings.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: This turns into a sticky issue once it is revealed that there are sentient programs, some of whom have ambiguous alignments, some of whom are on the humans' side, and some that just want to be left alone.
The World Is Just Awesome: When Neo and Trinity break through the cloud cover and become the first humans (well, Trinity anyway) in centuries to see the sky, the sun, and the moon.
The Windy City: Every intersection named in the films is a Chicagoland reference.
With Us or Against Us: Morpheus practically says this trope by name when training Neo in the Construct in the first film. Because agents can move in and out of any software still hardwired into this system, "with us or against us" is literally true. Anyone the freedom fighters haven't unplugged is potentially an Agent. (And then the advanced Smith starts taking over the bodies of the freedom fighters in the second and third films...)
Smith to Neo twice, once during the subway fight in the first movie ("Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability. It's the sound of your death.") and at the end of the Burly Brawl ("It is inevitable!")
Also, the Architect informing Neo that the prophecy to save Zion was a lie, and that "The One"'s true purpose is to restart the war, not end it.
The last battle between Neo and Smith where Smith tries to persuade Neo to give up because it is pointless to keep fighting. Neo eventually gives up, but not just forSmith's reasons.
You Have No Chance to Survive: Smith. Repeatedly (see above). The Architect also informs Neo that the human race has no chance to survive (he calculated.)
Architect: We won't [meet again]. —- Agent Smith: Evolution, Morpheus. Like the dinosaur... you had your time. —- Agent Smith:Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson... vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself. Although... only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson, Why? Why do you persist?