In my previous post, theories were used to gain clarity of a character’s past and possibly predict his future, but some theories try to disprove everything you thought you knew about the story. These theories make you question parts of the plot you’ve always accepted as fact, so they are meant to leave you with more confusion than clarity. The Matrix, for example, is an amazing science fiction movie that already makes you question your reality, but there are still elements of the movie that you accept without a doubt. In the same way Morpheus asks Neo to question his reality, these theories ask you to question what you think you know about this story.
Believability: This theory shouldn’t be too difficult to believe since the Oracle told Neo he wasn’t The One, but the prophecy itself can reveal who is truly meant to destroy the Matrix. The prophecy provides three determining factors to identify The One: A man who is born inside the Matrix, has the ability to change the Matrix as he sees fit, and will bring about the destruction of the Matrix. While an argument could be made for Neo, Agent Smith clearly meets each aspect of the prophecy.
When the Matrix was first built there was a man born inside that had the ability to change what he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was this man who freed the first of us and taught us the truth. When he died, the Oracle prophesied his return and envisioned that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix and the war, bring freedom to our people.
Although Neo’s consciousness was connected to the Matrix since birth, he was essentially a human who was born in the real world and kept in a pod. One could argue that he was reborn after Smith killed him, but the prophecy specifies that his birth took place “when the Matrix was first built.” Since the Architect revealed that Neo was living in the sixth installment of the Matrix, he couldn’t possibly have been the man who has existed since the beginning. Agent Smith, however, proves he has existed since the beginning of the Matrix by describing its original program. Even though he was just a series of codes, he was created inside the system, and he even referred to the Oracle as his mom (which creates an aspect of birth inside the Matrix). After he died, Smith returned as rogue program, so he appears to be both the original man who was born in the system and the One who returned.
Both Neo and Agent Smith could alter the Matrix at their own free will, so they were equals in that regard; however, Agent Smith arguably did more to alter the Matrix than Neo did. Neo was capable of jumping into Agent Smith to destroy him and reviving Trinity inside the Matrix, but he really only used his ability to fight and fly. Agent Smith, on the other hand, replaced everyone’s avatar with a clone of his own consciousness, and he actively tried to change the entire Matrix. His power advanced to a point where not even the Machines can control him, which is why they work with Neo to destroy Smith in the end. In the first movie, Agent Smith revealed that this drive to manipulate the Matrix was driven by his hatred for it, which ultimately sounds like the aspirations of a chosen one.
Even though the series ends with the reboot of the Matrix, the final battle between Neo and Agent Smith essentially caused its destruction before it was reborn. The movie gives the impression that Neo’s sacrifice led to end of the war and welcomed in an era of peace, but he might have just been a part of the end as opposed to being the cause. Agent Smith was constantly threatening to destroy the Matrix, and he became enough of a threat to encourage Neo and the machines to work together. Smith was the reason why the machines couldn’t simply destroy Zion move on with the program, so he was responsible for preserving humanity’s freedom. Still, fans from Reddit believe Agent Smith’s drive to destroy the Matrix came from Neo reprogramming his code. They also insist Neo was The One because Smith failed to successfully control Neo’s avatar. While Neo’s reprogramming gave Agent Smith what he needed to break from his original purpose, his desire to rebel against the Matrix and leave it is present before Neo jumped inside him. This is highlighted when he removed his earpiece (the thing that connects him to the system) while interrogating Morpheus. Furthermore, the Matrix could not reboot until The One entered the code into the Source, and the destruction and reboot of the Matrix did not happen until Agent Smith inserted his code into Neo, who was connected to the source. Neo played a role in freeing humanity, but Agent Smith was The One who actually fulfilled the prophecy.
This deception is so great that not even Agent Smith realized who he really was. The man to save humanity was arguably the man who hated humanity most. Because we are so accustomed to seeing the hero save the day, we were completely blind to the real cause of peace– the antagonist.
But why did everyone call Neo The One? Because he showed immense potential and was so involved in the downfall of the Matrix, it could have just been an honest mistake on everyone’s part. The only character in the movie who knew the true identity of The One was the Oracle, and she was by no means required to tell the truth; she simply told each character what they needed to hear to fulfill their fate. Even though she told Neo he wasn’t The One in the first movie (and this could have been the truth), she could have started referring to him as The One to ensure he played his part in ending the war. This would leave Agent Smith in the dark about his own identity and for good reason since he wouldn’t have actively tried to free the human race.
Some may argue that Neo’s ability to manipulate the Sentinels in the real world reinforced his role as The One, but this ability might reveal another surprise in the story.
Theory: Zion is still part of the Matrix.
Believability: During his conversation with the Architect, Neo learned that 99% of humanity would accept the Matrix if they were given the illusion of choice, even if it was at the most basic, subconscious level. The Machines still needed to take in account the 1% of the population that would choose to free their minds and rebel against the system; so, Zion was created to serve as an escape for the 1% of the human population who chose to reject the Matrix while allowing the Machines to maintain 100% control. But would the Machines allow people to physically escape the Matrix and form their own community? Even if the odds were in their favor, the possibility that humans could overcome them would still exist, and that possibility, however small it may be, might have been too big of a risk. So Zion, humanity’s last hope for reality and freedom, might actually be another layer in the Matrix.
The dystopian world in this story would actually make more sense if it were another layer in the Matrix. While harvesting the bodies of the enemy to create another source of energy seems like a productive use of resources, the Machines could have found various power sources that were easier to sustain. So why go through the trouble of creating millions of crops of people? If the humans were to “wake up” in such a horrible, dystopian society, they would be more likely to accept it as their reality, believe they escaped the Matrix, and find a purpose in the “real world.” The Architect already admitted to having the ability of creating an various worlds, so how would creating Zion be any different? This second layer in the Matrix would also explain why the Machines allowed Zion to exist at all. Considering the amount of trouble Zion was capable of causing, the Machines would have realistically destroyed the civilization the second they discovered it. Instead, they allowed it to exist until the Matrix rebooted, then they closely monitored and allowed its repopulation. If you really take a closer look at the world Neo wakes up in, it is simply a clever distraction to keep the 1% from realizing they are still in the Matrix.
This distraction kept the people of Zion from seeing the inconsistencies in their new reality. The distinction between the real world and the Matrix are made clear early on in the series, but Neo’s abilities defied the logic of both these worlds. If he really was The One, Neo would only have been capable of manipulating the world inside the Matrix, and he would have just been an average person in the real world. Yet Neo was capable of destroying the Sentinels and even sensing the Machines in the real world. A fan from Reddit suggests that Neo’s abilities in the real world were the result of a genetic mutation that made him more sensitive to the Machines, but this theory seems more unrealistic than the idea that Zion is in the Matrix. The Machines pay very close attention to humans and do their best to calculate as much as they can. If a group of people were genetically modified to be more sensitive to the Machines, the Machines would have noticed and recognized this as a threat. They were the ones creating the people, so they would prevent those genetic mutations from forming to begin with.
Furthermore, Neo was capable of entering the Matrix without being plugged in. The headjacks in the back of their heads were the only way humans were capable of connecting to the Matrix, and Neo was the only acception to this rule. Even if he was The One, his powers wouldn’t have extended that far into reality. If, however, Zion was part of the Matrix, then the “real world” would simply be another layer of codes for Neo to manipulate. Instead of gaining new, inexplicable abilities, Neo would simply be using the same skills of manipulation in another nonexistent world.
This theory forces us to recognize that the characters in this story are not the best judges of reality. Even in the end when everything appeared to be resolved, Morpheus found himself asking “Is this real?” Everyone in Zion was capable of questioning their reality at least once, but they are not capable of knowing what reality looked like because they have never seen it. This implies that regardless of whether or not one takes the red or blue pill, thereby accepting or rejecting the Matrix as a conscious choice in their mind, the individual is still a slave inside the Matrix with no hope of escape.
Believability: Morpheus explained to Neo that the development of A.I. and the Machines took place early in the 21st century, so the events of the trilogy would be taking place in a not so distant future from today. That being said, countless science fiction stories about artificial intelligence surpassing us and trying to kill us have already been told by this point in time. Instead of impulsively building something we cannot control, us humans are more likely to enter this domain with caution because of this instilled fear. So how would we prevent the Machines from trying to conquer us? This theory believes humans approached to this problem by installing a program in the Machines with the memories of the Matrix Trilogy. They would be occupied in a world where they believe they came up with this concept and and imprisoned humans in a false reality. This would allow us to monitor how the Machines would play out this scenario without putting our species at risk.
The trilogy even gives us little hints of a reality that’s based on our world. The Machines all follow Deus Ex Machina, the center of the Machine City, but the ruler of the Machines takes on the appearance of a human. This would make sense if the god of all machines was actually a representation of the programmer who is controlling the whole thing from our reality. The concept of three different realities also bleeds into the characters and the references they make. Kid, a character who escaped the Matrix, was actually named Michael Karl Popper, so he is a reference to the philosopher who believed in three spheres of existence instead of two. Meanwhile, Morpheus and Trinity made constant references to Alice in Wonderland, a fictional story in our world about a girl who travels to a world within her world. Everything from subtle references to unexplained plot holes would make sense in a program of our own making.
Still, fans from Cracked pointed out that the flaw in this theory is the fact that we would be wasting time keeping the Machines on the program. Similar to the Machines and their fetus fields, humans would be putting in way too much energy trying to maintain the program, so the benefits would hardly be worth the cost. Why have artificial intelligence if they are too preoccupied with the world inside their own heads? One fan from the same site offered the idea that the Matrix would serve as an educational socialization program for the Machines. By going through the simulation and watching Neo work with Deus Ex Machina, the Machines can slowly develop a better perception of humans, so they would have an easier time integrating into the real world. If you could have artificial intelligence without the fear of being conquered, then the whole process would be worth it.
This theory is the most difficult to believe based on the story that is presented, but it is also the most optimistic view of the movie. Instead of questioning their existence, viewers would gain reassurance that humanity wouldn’t lose a battle against technology. Even if this theory complicates the entire premise of the story, it definitely beats the idea of waking up in a pod with wires all over your body.
Even though a confusing plot is normally the source of frustration, in some cases it can actually lead to some perspectives on the story. At the very least, you can re-watch the early 2000s trilogy and question more than just your own reality. If, however, you want to keep looking for a new way to watch memorable stories, keep an eye out for my next post!