The Matrix (franchise) - Influences and Interpretations

Influences and Interpretations

The Matrix is arguably the ultimate "cyberpunk" artifact.

William Gibson, 2003-01-28

The Matrix makes numerous references to recent films and literature, and to historical myths and philosophy including Buddhism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Christianity, Messianism, Judaism, Gnosticism, Existentialism, Nihilism. The film's premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, René Descartes's evil demon, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, Zhuangzi's "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly", Marx's social theory and the brain in a vat thought experiment. Many references to Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation appear in the film, although Baudrillard himself considered this a misrepresentation. There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence. Producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowski brothers first described their intentions for The Matrix by showing him that anime and saying, "We wanna do that for real". Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, which produced Ghost in the Shell, noted that the anime's high-quality visuals were a strong source of inspiration for the Wachowski brothers. He also commented, "... cyberpunk films are very difficult to describe to a third person. I'd imagine that The Matrix is the kind of film that was very difficult to draw up a written proposal for to take to film studios." He stated that since Ghost in the Shell had gained recognition in America, the Wachowski brothers used it as a "promotional tool". Besides Ghost in the Shell, another Japanese anime which influenced The Matrix was the 1985 film Megazone 23, directed by Noboru Ishiguro and Shinji Aramaki. An American adaptation of Megazone 23 was released in 1986 as Robotech: The Movie. There are also several more Japanese anime and manga that can be found as sources of influence.

Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show. Comparisons have also been made to Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles; Morrison believes that the Wachowski brothers essentially plagiarized his work to create the film. In addition, the similarity of the film's central concept to a device in the long-running series Doctor Who has also been noted. As in the film, the Matrix of that series (introduced in the 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin) is a massive computer system which one enters using a device connecting to the head, allowing users to see representations of the real world and change its laws of physics; but if killed there, they will die in reality. There is also a similar "Matrix" used by the Travellers in Paul Cornell's 1992 Doctor Who spin-off novel Love and War, in which a socket at the top of the spine is used to plug into the Matrix.

The first Matrix film features numerous references to the "White Rabbit", the "Rabbit Hole" and mirrors, referencing Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Biblical and historical references are found in the names of places and vehicles in the trilogy, such as the "hovercraft" Nebuchadnezzar (pronounced ne-bah-cahn-ez-zer, /nɛbəkənɛzəɹ/). Another notable name is the City of Zion, often used as a synecdoche for the City of Jerusalem or the land of Israel in Abrahamic religious texts and in the Latter Day Saint movement, or to refer to a "promised land" or utopia. There are significant overtones from Hinduism and Vedanta text. The final screen credits to the final of the three matrix movies include chants directly picked up from the Vedas. The concept of balance needed in the universe is also a core component on Hindu philosophy.

There are still numerous other influences from diverse sources such as Harlan Ellison (I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream), Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49), and William Gibson (Neuromancer).

Matrixism is a new religious movement inspired by the trilogy. The sociologist of religion Adam Possamai describes these types of religions/spiritualities as hyper-real religions due to their eclectic mix of religion/spirituality with elements of popular culture and their connection to the fluid social structures of late capitalism. There is some debate about whether followers of Matrixism are indeed serious about their practice; however, the religion (real or otherwise) has received attention in the media.

See also: The Wachowskis. Personal life

In 2003 Gothamist.com has suggested that "the Matrix films could be read with a whole new subtext with the news of the dominatrix ": Temet Nosce.

Read more about this topic:  The Matrix (franchise)

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