When The Matrix arrived in cinemas back in 1999, it blew audiences away with its unique blend of martial arts spectacle, high-brow philosophizing, and dazzling visual effects. Indeed, the film influenced the action genre for years to come, with subsequent filmmakers trying (and failing) to emulate the Hong Kong cinema/Japanese anime vibe of its stylized fight choreography.
Admittedly, series creators The Wachowskis themselves struggled to deliver a satisfying follow-up to their initial outing, with both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions receiving a tepid response from viewers and critics alike. Nonetheless, the story of digital messiah Neo and fellow freedom fighters Trinity and Morpheus remains popular with fans who still admire the franchise’s pioneering “bullet time” aesthetic and rich, underlying subtext.
Yet even The Matrix’s devoted followers – those who consider the first Matrix a masterpiece and its sequels underrated gems – probably realize that there’s plenty wrong with all three flicks. That’s right, even the original movie has quite a few things that either don’t quite stack up or flat-out make no sense. So what doesn't add up?
Here are 15 Things Wrong With The Matrix Trilogy We All Choose To Ignore.
One of the major concepts underpinning The Matrix universe is that the real world and the artificial reality of the title are totally separate. What happens to the digital avatar of someone “jacked in” to the simulated environment has no effect on their flesh-and-blood body – unless they die, which effectively renders them braindead.
So why then do Redpills – the slang name for those who, like Morpheus’ crew, escaped the Matrix and fight against their machine oppressors – cough up blood after a particularly serious virtual injury? Now, the obvious answer for this one is that it’s a case of the Wachowskis bending the rules in order to make things more dramatic and to create a greater connection between the two realities.
But taken on face value? There’s no real in-universe explanation for this one – it just shouldn’t happen!
Both Neo and audiences had the rug pulled out from under their feet late in Reloaded, when the Matrix-creating program the Architect reveals the existence of multiple previous versions of the artificial reality. Even more shocking, the so-called “Path of the One” – the quasi-spiritual journey our hero has undertaken – plays an integral part in perpetuating this cycle.
The key ingredient that makes the Matrix possible is choice: the humans plugged into it must subconsciously accept their virtual reality. This is why Redpills occasionally break free, and why an uber-powerful anomaly like Neo can exist. In order to manage this, the Machines devised the Path of the One, designed to push these anomalies along a road which concludes with their death, and more importantly, a return to the status quo.
It’s a nifty plot device, but as an in-universe conceit, it’s a bit of a stretch. Are the Wachowskis really telling us that the Machines couldn’t have found a more efficient workaround to their unbalanced equation by now? Surely they could just kill the anomaly every time it emerges, before it grows in strength and jeopardizes everything.
Agents – the AI enforcers tasked by the Machines with eliminating redpills and preserving the Matrix’s status quo – have plenty of impressive abilities at their disposal. They’re strong enough to dent steel with their bare hands, fast enough to dodge bullets, and tough enough shrug off blunt force trauma that would kill an ordinary person. These superhuman skills make Agents nearly impossible to defeat (unless you’re Neo, of course) – but they’d be even more unstoppable if they used one of their other, less prominent powers more effectively!
Think about it: Agents also have the ability to possess the body of any Bluepill (someone still plugged into the Matrix) in the nearby vicinity, and they can “hop” between bodies instantaneously. This means that they can essentially teleport – which, as you can imagine, would come in handy! Yet, there are several occasions – like when Trinity is cornered by police in the first Matrix – when Agents seem to forget they have this power at their disposal. C’mon, guys: get it together!
In one of the trilogy’s most stomach-turning scenes, baddie Agent Smith inserts a gross-looking cybernetic “bug” into Neo’s navel, enabling his Machine bosses to track our guy and hopefully lead them to Morpheus. Makes sense, right? Well, not really, no.
The issue here is that Morpheus and his crew are already able to keep tabs on Neo in the Matrix simply by viewing the system’s iconic green code. So if a bunch of hackers are able to monitor Neo’s movements without any additional effort, why then can’t the Machines themselves do the same? It’s their system, for crying out loud!
This isn’t the only time when the Machines seem to forget they have access to the Matrix source code, either. Whilst they do occasionally (and in all fairness, rather effectively) modify the code to suit their ends – for instance, bricking up a building to make escaping it impossible – by and large, the Machines (and their Agent enforcers) tend to forget they’re the ones in charge here.
It’s admittedly a bit churlish to take a sci-fi movie – especially one as entertaining as The Matrix – to task for featuring science that doesn’t really work. But even so, there’s no getting around the fact that the Machines using their human prisoners as living batteries makes zero sense. Without getting too technical – because frankly, we’re not scientists – human beings are a rubbish power source, at least compared to other potential flesh-and-blood alternatives.
This raises another question surrounding the logic behind the process: why use humans at all? As many an online commentator has already pointed out, other large mammals – for instance, cows – are capable of generating considerably more energy, for a lot less hassle. With cows, you don’t need to bother with the Matrix itself (it’s only there to keep to the human crops pacified), and by extension, there’s no need for “The Path of the One” either.
Seriously: unless the Machines get off on the idea of subjugating their former masters, they majorly screwed up this aspect of their operations!
Casual viewers might not have noticed that the entire Matrix environment really consists of one colossal metropolis, known as Mega City. A mishmash of different late '90s urban locales – it has a Chinatown, a Downtown and a slum area, to name a few – Mega City represents the ultimate expression of the concrete jungle concept. At the same time, it’s intentionally generic in certain respects – for example, all of the utilities companies carry the “City” prefix, such as “City Power” – to underscore its artificial nature.
This is interesting stuff from a conceptual point of view, but it raises more than a handful of questions. For starters, we’d like to know how the history of the Mega City works – did the Machines rewrite events to explain its existence in an otherwise accurate recreation of the period? What about locations outside of Mega City? Do other cities exist and can they be accessed?
After all, a newspaper headline places Morpheus at Heathrow airport, and one Animatrix animated short revolves around an international sporting event. Now, we don’t really have enough information available to definitely argue against the feasibility of the Mega City concept – but on face value, we’re far from convinced.
In The Matrix trilogy, Redpills are able to bend – and even break – the laws of physics by recognizing the world around them isn’t real. Even better, they can shrug off physical damage that would kill an ordinary person. There are limits, of course: while a Redpill can walk away from a multi-storey fall or survive a few power-packed punches from an Agent, a gunshot wound or stabbing means “game over.”
On one level, we get it: humans are conditioned to accept that these types of wounds are usually fatal, and it’s probably extremely difficult to ignore the effects of their virtual equivalents. Even Neo – the most powerful Redpill on the block – stops bullets with telekinesis, rather than letting them hit him.
At the same time, this vulnerability to only certain types of injury seems a little nonsensical. You’re trying to tell us that Neo can hit the street so hard he leaves a crater and still survive, yet blocking a sword results in a bloody gash? Or that Trinity can go several rounds with an Agent – getting thrown through an office wall along the way – only to go down to a single bullet? Please.
As soon as a Redpill is unplugged from the Matrix, they are unceremoniously flushed from their containment pod into the sewers. Presumably, the Machines see this as an efficient way of disposing of what amounts to defective batteries. Considering these newly awakened rebels are about as helpless as actual newborns, assuming that they won’t survive this nightmare water slide ordeal is understandable.
But why bother leaving things to chance? Especially when there are ships piloted by resistance fighters like Morpheus, who trawl around the sewers scooping up these castaways to fill out their crew – an “out of sight, out of mind” approach seems downright reckless.
Instead, the Machines would be far better off if they simply murdered the Redpills – a fatal electric charge to the relevant pod would do it – the moment they became aware. It would solve a lot of their problems – and represents another way to make The Path of the One routine redundant, too.
One of the many cool moments in the first Matrix film comes at the conclusion of Neo and Trinity’s daring rescue mission to save Morpheus. Here, the pair commandeer a helicopter and pull up alongside the high-rise where their mentor is being held, allowing Neo to pepper the building with chain gun fire.
Doing so not only shatters the glass – providing Morpheus with a convenient exit point – but also takes Smith and his fellow Agents (temporarily) out of action. It’s a near-perfect play, but it strains credulity to breaking point, as well!
Our main gripe is this: how does Neo avoid hitting Morpheus while he’s indiscriminately shooting up the place? You could argue he was using his burgeoning powers to precisely aim the chain gun – and really, that’s the only way he could have done it. Yet we’re not shown this, and given that Neo had only barely begun to gain control over his god-like abilities, we’re calling shenanigans.
We get our first glimpse of Zion – the hidden refuge where humanity takes sanctuary from their Machine oppressors in the real world – in The Matrix Reloaded, and it’s pretty breathtaking. Zion is a sprawling, subterranean, multi-level city that draws its heat from the Earth’s core and is entirely self-sufficient. A place like this would have taken considerable time and resources to build, an undertaking made even more difficult due to its covert nature.
What we’re getting at here is that there’s no way humanity ever could have built Zion – not with the dwindling resources at their disposal, and certainly not without the Machines being aware of it. While we’re at it, it’s also worth pointing out that Earth’s molten centre is incredibly hot, so constructing a city close to it isn’t particularly feasible – not to mention insanely dangerous.
The in-universe rationale for the all-seeing Oracle’s precognitive powers is ostensibly solid. As a program created to examine and document the human psyche, she’s able to calculate an individual’s most likely actions and thus “predict” the future. But subject this explanation of the Oracle’s powers to even the mildest scrutiny, and – based on what’s shown onscreen – things start to fall apart.
At the end of the day, the Oracle’s powers go beyond mere calculation and come much closer to actual (non-bogus) fortune telling. Not only can she accurately predict virtually everything that’s going to go down in the immediate future, she apparently witnesses this in the form of visions. '
On the plus side, overlooking this discrepancy opens the door to a whole raft of interesting discussions relating to pre-destination and free will.
The Matrix Revolutions was the least critically successful entry in the trilogy, and a large part of this was down to the film’s murky plotting. Although there’s something admirable about the Wachowskis’ ambition to tell an open-ended, thought-provoking story within the confines of a blockbuster epic, the end result was more confusing than anything else. Fans arrived at cinemas expecting at least some answers from Revolutions, but left with more questions than when they entered.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the subplot involving little girl Sati, an exiled program harbored in the Matrix by the Oracle. The poster child for the many superfluous characters that plague both sequels, Sati’s role in the overall narrative is a real head-scratcher.
Sure, she’s used to (obliquely) explain the change in actresses who played the Oracle – apparently, the cost of Sati’s freedom was the soothsayer’s original “shell” – and introduces the concept of artificial constructs feeling love. There’s also a bunch of stuff about her being able to manipulate the weather, but by the time the end credits roll, most people had stopped caring how exactly Sati fit into things.
As we learn in The Matrix, the Oracle once advised Morpheus that it was his destiny to find The One – and zealot that he is, he subsequently devoted his whole life to the search. We’re not told exactly what was said, but it must have been highly informative because based on what we do know, the odds of Morpheus ultimately finding Neo were unbelievably slim.
Seriously: how did Morpheus determine Neo was The One? When we meet him, our guy isn’t anything special. He’s just another hacker (albeit a talented one), and despite Neo’s efforts to track down more information about Morpheus and the Matrix itself – distinguishing him as prospective Redpill material – he hardly stands out from the crowd. Honestly, the Oracle must have given Morpheus more to go on, because otherwise, he’d still be on the hunt.
Across the entire Matrix trilogy, our heroes rack up an impressive body count thanks to their gravity-defying material arts skills and mind-bending gunplay. While several of their victims are Agents or other nefarious programs, most of the enemies taken down by Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are “average Joe” cops, security guards, and military personnel. And what’s worse, they mow these poor guys down without shedding a single tear!
Yes, Morpheus makes it clear that Bluepills will subconsciously fight to preserve the artificial reality they need to believe in. But let’s be real: these aren’t evil guys – they’re dedicated servicemen and women, who are just doing their jobs! So self-serving excuses aside, it seems more than a tad callous the way they get blown away without a second thought.
This one is a biggie. Even die-hard fans admit that Cypher’s treacherous dinner date with Agent Smith in The Matrix is a massive plot hole! As is clearly established earlier in the movie, jacking into the system is at least a two-person job: in addition to the subject, you need an Operator to man the controls and supervise proceedings.
Yet somehow, Cypher was able to gain access to the Matrix all on his lonesome, in order to meet with Smith and agree to betray his teammates. To be fair, it’s actually fairly easy to miss this gargantuan flub the first time around. You’re so engrossed in the story up until that point, that you’re not paying attention to minor technicalities like this one – especially given how much this scene ratchets up the tension!
What are some other things about The Matrix trilogy that you choose to ignore? Let us know in the comments!