Analysis of the film "The Matrix"

Pre-University Paper, 2010

40 Pages, Grade: 14,0



1. Introduction

2. The Matrix
2.2.. About the film
2.3. Prehistory
2.4. Plot summary
2.5. Analysis
2.5.1. System Functionality
2.5.2. The Title
2.5.3. Number symbolism
2.5.4. Names in „The Matrix“
2.5.5. Philosophy in "The Matrix"

3. How realistic is the vision of the Matrix?
3.1. History of Computer Science
3.2. History of Artificial Intelligence

4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Is is only in the last decades of the twentieth century that technology gained an important place in western society, and its development is flourishing up to the present day.

Due to the rapid progress of high-tech computers and information technology the standard of living improved, and full scope can be given to our creativity, for mechanical tasks are now fulfiled by the machines.

The Technological Revolution has aroused several expectations and fantasies. The seemingly utopistic idea of artificial intelligence which has moved human beings since the antiquity appeared by the midth of the twentieth century more than ever realistic.

Such a promising future vision has otherwise led to anxiety and fear. What if we will, striving after power, lose it completely and get ourselves into bondage?

These thoughts gave birth to anti-utopian fiction where the worst of the fears are brought into reality – intelligent machines created by human beings have made people to their slaves and rule on Earth.

2. The Matrix

2. 2 About the film

An example for such a vision is “The Matrix”[1], an American science-fiction-action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving. It was released in March 1999 and has won four Oscars. Two sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” were released in 2003.

2. 3. Prehistory

At the beginning of the twenty first century people create intelligent robots and machines to exploit them as simple workers. Though working hard and tirelessly these ones are treated disrespectfully, until one day machine B1-66ER stands up to his master and murders him[2].

After that riots break out, and the machines protest for a better treatment. The human beings act with extreme violence even against peacefully demonstrating roboters, a machine genocide starts.

The escaped machines form a new nation they call “01” (Zero One), where technological development rapidly proceeds so that 01 soon occupies a leading economic position. Many nations boycott Zero One afraid of the power Zero One could gain and refuse their accession to the United Nations Organisation.

Five years after this inccident, in the year 2094, the humans commence a war against the machines which, having survived the bombing, counter-attack the human beings.

Inferior to the robots, the people decide to destroy the sun, the main source of energy for the machines.

The war ends in 2139 with the victory of the robots who kill the leaders of the human army with a nuclear bomb, the rebellion breaks up, people flee to Zion, a city in the Earth’s interior.

All people except the escaped ones are prisoners of the machines which exploit them as

“living batteries” and imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as “The Matrix”.

This is the prehistory of the film which is partly revealed in “The Matrix” and explained more detailed in “Animatrix”, a collection of seven animated short films about the conflict between machines and humans.

A group of humans can free their minds and release themselves from the simulated reality being subsequently able to unplug their physical bodies from the mechanical tower the “human batteries” are connected to. They live in ships located underground in former canalisation.

The story of “The Matrix” itself takes place in estimated 2199, the rebels themselves do not exactly know the date[iii].

There are some few ships and one of them is called Nebukadnezzar.

The leader of the rebellion on this ship and its commander, Morpheus, believes to have found the “saviour” who according to the prophecy will one day arrive and release the humans from the despoty of the machines.

The supposed saviour is a computer programmer Thomas A. Anderson who leads a secret life as a hacker under the alias “Neo”.

The underground hacker Morpheus stamped in the matrix as a dangerous terrorist intrigues Neo who is already for a long time searching for the truth.

2. 4. Plot Summary

“The Matrix” shows the transformation of a regular human being Thomas A. Anderson to the saviour Neo able to bend and break the rules of the computer generated reality, the Matrix, and his fight against the machines[iv].

2. 5. Analysis

2.5.1. System Functionality

The Matrix is the main computer which puts the Matrix of life, the simulated reality, in the individual computer, the human brain.

Perceptual consciousness contained in every individual computer provides the energy of life.

(See Figure 1)

2.5.2. The Title

The title of the film has several meanings and definitions. Some of them will be presented in the following.[v]

In Mathematics a matrix is “a rectangular array of elements set out in rows and columns, used to facilitate the solution of problems, such as the transformation of coordinates.”

Furthermore, the word “matrix” means “a substance, situation, or environment in which something has its origin, takes form, or is enclosed.”

Active matrix is moreover a “technology used in the flat and liquid crystal displays of notebooks and laptop computers." In cyberspace, the internet and other networks that flow into it are sometimes called "the matrix."

In William Gibson’s science-fiction novel “Neuromancer” the “matrix” refers to computing resources that can be visualised holographically by the user.

In the film the Matrix is, on the one hand, a holographic reality but it also refers to the secret cypher which is called “matrix”.

On the other hand, human beings are born in the Matrix, so is “an environment where something has its origin”.

2.5.3. Number Symbolism

Room number 101

The first number shown in „The Matrix“ is the number of Neo’s room – 101. There are various interpretations of the symbolic value of this number[vi].

The number 101 consists of two digits – one and zero.

Taking the Pythagorean doctrines of number into consideration [vii] , a distinction between odd and even numbers should be made. According to the Pythagoreans, odd numbers are perfect since they are not divisible into equal parts without remainder. The number one is an odd number and therefore a symbol for unity, it is the number of reason, the generator of numbers.

The number zero has an oval form, it is so to say a closed ring and stands therefore for endlessness which means perfection on the one hand and a vicious circle, a situation without any outcome, a perpetual recursion of actions on the other hand. Endlessness has no limits, and the one who dares to enter the endlessness risks to stir towards a distraction.

This number can also symbolise freedom, because freedom is closely linked with infinity.

Zero recalls associations with an embryo in the womb and can symbolise the regeneration circle, the transition from one life to another.

Besides, a further word for “womb” is “matrix”[viii].

When interpreting the symbolism of “zero” from this point of view, the “matrix” is the number one which is perfect and though static and rigid. Neo can be compared to an embryo caught in this “matrix”, blind and unaware.

A further hypothesis can be made if we take the number 101 as a whole into consideration.

Thus 101 is nothing but an element of a program, an element of the binary system used internally by all modern computers. It is rigid computer logic detecting nothing but the conditions signal/ no signal.

According to that, Neo, whom the room 101 belongs to, lives within a computer program, he is caught in this simulation amenable to binary computer logic.

Furthemore, “Neo” is the anagramm of “One”, thus the number 101 can represent Neo himself.

In George Orwell’s book “1984”, a famous anti-utopian novel, the “mysterious room 101” is the place where people are tortured and forced to believe in lies coming out with imprisoned minds.

As we know, Neo’s mind during his presence in the room 101 is not free, as well. He believes in a simulation, controled by the machines.

Room number 303

The second remarkable number is the hotel room number 303 appearing twice.

At the beginning of the film Trinity observes Neo from a computer in the hotel “Heart O’ the City” in room number 303. The song playing in the background is titled “Main theme/Trinity infinity”.

According to that, the number 303 may represent Trinity herself, for the number “3” stands for trinity, the number “0” is a circle and therefore represents infinity. In Christian theology there are three entities forming a single God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, this is the trinity of God. [ix]

Additionally, it is in the same location that Neo is killed by agent Smith and is finally ressurected.

The moment of Neo’s death is the apogee of the bondage of his mind – Neo dies in the Matrix because his “mind makes it real” as Morpheus says to him during his training. At that moment tha machines can yet control Neo and have the power of him.

But then Trinity, who is in the real world, talks to Neo and forces Neo’s mind, his beliefs, the rationalism, to gain power over the empirical knowledge, and Neo ressurects.

The cube of “101” when taking the digits separately amounts in “303” which would support the idea of the apogee of Neo’s belief in illusion. So the number 303 may represent both Trinity herself and Neo’s release of chains imprisonning his mind. Besides, it is in both cases Trinity who appears, mentally or physically, in this room.

2.5.4. Names in „The Matrix“

Choi and Dujour

The first people Neo encounters in the film are Choi and his girlfriend Dujour, probably an allusion on the french phrase „Choix du jour“ which means “Choice of the day”. Neo makes the crucial choice going with them to the club, following the “white rabbit”.


In Greek mythology, Morpheus is the God of dreams. In the film he is the resistance leader who awakens people from the “dream” , as their existance in the Matrix can be described. For Morpheus knows that this existence is a simulation, a dream, he has the power of it, “For knowledge is power“ (F. Bacon).

Morpheus’ hovercraft is called Nebudadnezzar. In the bible, Nebukadnezzar II was a Babylonian king and de facto the founder of later Babylon. He searched for the meaning of his dreams and ordered to call in the Chaldeans, the magicians and other wisemen. As nobody of them new the answer, Nebukadnezzar ordered to kill all the wisemen of Babylon. Thereafter God revealed the secret of Nebukadnezzar’s dreams to a wiseman, and the latter interpreted the dreams for Nebukadnezzar.

In the film, Morpheus seeks advice from the Oracle. By the way, the correct spelling of “Nebukadnezzar” is “Nabu-ku-dur-ri-u-su-ur”. Nabu is the Babylonian god of wisdom.

Thus, on the one hand, Morpheus represents wisdom, power and greatness.

Like all the other resistance leaders, Morpheus, the commander of Nebukadnezzar, knows the access codes to Zion’s mainframe computer. Zion in “The Matrix” is the last human city that exists after the destruction of the earth.

In the “Book of Revelation”, Zion is the holy city: “Kingdom of God in a New Heaven and New Earth” (21:5b-22:5) where the righteous will be saved after the destruction of the earth.

Morpheus can therefore be understood as the saviour of the “the rigtheous”, the members of his crew.

According to the Thesaurus, “morphing” means to “cause to change shape in a computer animation”.

Stephen Kobourov and Matthew Landis write in their article “Morphing planar graphs in spherical space” for the “Journal of Graph Algorithms and Applications” that “Morphing refers to the process of transforming one shape (the source) into another (the target)”.

It is due to Morpheus that Neo is transformed from Thomas Anderson into “The One”, the saviour Neo.

The root word “morph” is also contained in “morphine”. Morphine is an extremely addictive pain reliever. It furthermore induces sleep[xi].

Taking this fact into consideration, the figure of Morpheus can either mean danger, since Morpheus is both able to awaken and to induce sleep or, what seems rather reasonable, the meaning is ironically twisted.

Whereas the narcotic morphine soothes pain and triggers sleep, Morpheus awakens people, and the reality they see is painful. Making a deal with agent Smith Cypher says “Ignorance is bliss” and betrays the rebels because he is not able to endure the reality. Not Morpheus is addictive but the simulated world the rebels lived in before he released them.


Trinity stands for the number three which the Pythagoreans believed to be perfect.

The number three is found on many pillars throughout the subway scene.
The word "trinity" is used to represent the union of three people; the connection of the body, mind and spirit; birth, life and death; or past, present and future.
In Christian theology, "trinity" refers to the trifold personality of a single God, the union of the Father, the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

In “The Matrix” Neo represents the Son, for he is claimed to be The One, the saviour. Neo’s friend Choi calls Neo his “personal Jesus Christ”. According to Tank’s words, Morpheus is the Father for them all.
Trinity represents hence the Holy Spirit. This idea is supported by the fact that Neo hears and realises Trinity’s voice after his death, when she speaks to his physical body.


An anagram of Neo is One. According to the Wachowski brothers, "Neo is Thomas Anderson's potential self."

The name “Thomas” is Hebrew and means “twin”. Neo lives two lives – the ordinary life of a computer programmer and the secret life of a hacker. The word “Neo” is Latin and means “New”. It supports the role of Neo as the saviour – to defeat the machines and to change the world, bringing in a new order.
Thomas’ last name is “Anderson”, deriving from “Son of Andrew”. This name is Greek and means “Man” . Thomas surname means thus “Man’s Son” also referring to the Biblical Messiah.

Furthermore, Thomas appears in the Bible as the “Doubting Thomas”, one of the Disciples of Jesus.

According to the Bible, he did not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus until he saw the holes in his hands. Analogous to that, Thomas alias Neo does not realise that he is shut until he sees the bullet holes in his chest.

According to the principle of trinity, Neo represents the Son, as already discussed above.

The Oracle

In Christian Theology, the Delphic Oracle foretold the coming of the Messiah. In “The Matrix” the Oracle told Morpheus he would find The One.


Cypher is another form of the word, "Cipher." According to the American Heritage Dictionary “cipher” means “to be empty”. Furthermore, it stands for “zero” in the arithmetical system. It is thus something of no value or importance, a non-entity. Therefore, Cypher is a person of no influence and this is one of the reasons for his betrayal. Cypher prefers to be someone in the Matrix instead of being a “zero” in the reality.
Cypher also means a secret code, which corresponds with the code of the matrix in the film.


It is an abbreviation for “Apocalypse” which means, according the American Heritage Dictionary, “A prophetic disclosure; a revelation” or “an event of great importance”. This defintions correspond with the arrival of The One which was prophecised by the Oracle.

Tank and Dozer[xvi]

A tank and a bulldozer are mechanical machines that make a lot of noise. In “The Matrix” the two brothers are followers of Morpheus. This exhibits parallels to the Apostles of Christ, brothers James and John who are referred to in the Bible as “sons of thunder


[1] [IS:59]; Internet Source.

[2] [FS:02]; Film Source.

[iii] [FS:01]

[iv] [Bab:10.3]

[v] [AHD:00]; [THE:06]

[vi] [IS:36;40;41]

[vii] [IS:41]

[viii] [AHD:00]

[ix] [Hem:95]

[x] [IS:55;59]

[xi] [IS:55]

[xii] [Hem:95]

[xiii] [NAB:95]

[xiv] [IS:52]

[xv] [AHD:00];[THE:06]

[xvi] [AHD:00];[THE:06]

Excerpt out of 40 pages


Analysis of the film "The Matrix"
technological progress and ethics
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Es handelt sich um eine Facharbeit in English Grundkurs zum Thema utopia/dystopia
skilled work, Facharbeit, utopia, Abitur, Matrix, Artificial Intelligence, English Abitur
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Yelyzaveta Babenko (Author), 2010, Analysis of the film "The Matrix", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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