The Matrix (franchise)
The Matrix is an American media franchise consisting of four feature films, beginning with The Matrix (1999) and continuing with three sequels, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003), and The Matrix Resurrections (2021). The first three films were written and directed by The Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. The screenplay for the fourth film was written by David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, was directed by Lana Wachowski, and was produced by Grant Hill, James McTeigue, and Lana Wachowski. The franchise is owned by Warner Bros., which distributed the films along with Village Roadshow Pictures. The latter, along with Silver Pictures, are the two production companies that worked on the first three films.
The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of humanity, in which the creation of artificial intelligence led the way to a race of self-aware machines that imprisoned mankind in a virtual reality system—the Matrix—to be farmed as a power source. Occasionally, some of the prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the artificial intelligence both inside and outside of it. The films focus on the plight of Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) trying to free humanity from the system while pursued by its guardians, such as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, Abdul-Mateen II, and Jonathan Groff). The story incorporates references to numerous philosophical, religious, or spiritual ideas, among others the dilemma of choice vs. control, the brain in a vat thought experiment, messianism, and the concepts of inter-dependency and love. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly “heroic bloodshed” and martial arts movies). The film series is notable for its use of heavily choreographed action sequences and “bullet time” slow motion effects, which revolutionized action films to come.
The characters and setting of the films are further explored in other media set in the same fictional universe, including animation, comics, and video games. The comic “Bits and Pieces of Information” and The Animatrix short film “The Second Renaissance” act as prequels to the films, explaining how the franchise’s setting came to be. The video game Enter the Matrix connects the story of the Animatrix short “Final Flight of the Osiris” with the events of Reloaded, while the online video game The Matrix Online was a direct sequel to Revolutions. These were typically written, commissioned, or approved by the Wachowskis.
The first film was an important critical and commercial success, winning four Academy Awards, introducing popular culture symbols such as the red pill and blue pill, and influencing action filmmaking. For those reasons, it has been added to the National Film Registry for preservation. Its first sequel was also a commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, until it was surpassed by Deadpool in 2016. As of 2006, the franchise has generated US$3 billion in revenue. A fourth film, The Matrix Resurrections, was released on December 22, 2021, with Lana Wachowski producing, co-writing and directing and Reeves and Moss reprising their roles.