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Reloaded is filled with information, ideas, and amazing visuals that all have a reason for being there. Some ideas are new, some conflict with information from The Matrix, and some are just confusing as hell. We've seen it a bunch of times (and on IMAX - wow!), and there's still plenty of room for multiple interpretations of what's on the screen. Though these interpretations are still fairly fresh, we wanted to start publishing some of our ideas ASAP. If we wait until we completely understand everything, we'll never get anything done. We'll also share some theories from other fans that we may or may not agree with.
For a lot of people one of the most confusing scenes in Reloaded is Neo's discussion with The Architect. Coincidentally, this is probably the most critical scene in the movie. Everything that's come before is put into question by what the Architect says, and everything yet to come in Revolutions will be influenced by his message. Keep in mind that The Architect may be deliberately misleading Neo. We don't buy that. We're assuming he has no reason to mislead Neo, and are taking what he says as truth.
The Architect is the 'father' of the Matrix. He's an entity from the machine world and he designed the original 'failed' Matrix and the current 'successful' one. The first Matrix failed because it was too perfect. It was a virtual paradise, a utopia for humanity. Unfortunately, humans are not accustomed to living in a perfect world, and the test subjects rejected the simulation because it just wasn't right. The second Matrix he designed more closely resembled the 'real world' of 1999: it was hard, it was dirty, it had death, violence, war, atrocities, and everything else a flawed species would likely create for itself. This one also failed, but for reasons that the Architect couldn't figure out. Another machine program (one created to investigate aspects of the human psyche) stumbled upon the reason for the second failure: a lack of choice. If humans were offered a choice, even one felt at an unconscious level, then over 99% would accept the Matrix and live in the virtual world, unknowingly powering the machines. The remaining percentage would choose the other option, becoming a 'free mind' destined to become part of the human resistance based in Zion.
Neo is understandably floored by this revelation. Zion is another level of control by the machines over humanity. It was designed by the machines as a destination for the malcontents that reject the Matrix - a place for them to believe they are free, and deceive them into thinking they have an opportunity to free the world. In fact, the machines have a necessary cycle, one that's been played out five previous times: Zion is built up by those who free themselves from the Matrix, the war intensifies, the One is located, trained, and directed by the prophecy to the Source, the machines destroy Zion, the One picks 23 people to free from the Matrix to begin rebuilding Zion (with no prior knowledge that Zion ever existed), and the cycle begins anew. This is the sixth time this has happened. Neo is the sixth One. The machines have destroyed Zion five times before. This cycle is likely what the movie's title refers to - each time the cycle begins again, the Matrix is reloaded. It's also a necessary evil for the Matrix - until the Architect can achieve 100% acceptance of the Matrix and eliminate the need for the One, this cycle must play out as described or the system will become unstable and crash.
The Architect offers each One a choice: behind door number one is the continued existence of humanity. Behind this door the current version of Zion is destroyed, but the One selects 23 people to build the next version. Humanity lives on in a cycle of controlled futility as the machines allow them their 'rebellion'. Prior Ones were chosen because of their deep connection to humanity - this connection ensures that they choose the door that leads to the continued existence of humanity. The other door leads to continued resistance, which ensures a massive system crash of the Matrix killing everyone in it. Since Zion is about to be destroyed either way, this choice results in the extermination of mankind.
The key difference this time around is that Neo loves Trinity - his connection to fellow humans is there, but its intensity and focus is stronger than any previous One. This leads Neo to an unexpected (by the machines) choice - he doesn't choose the door to 'save' Zion, he chooses the other door and he's the first to do so. In making this choice, all bets are off. Everything changes. This is not a path the machines expect, and it may not be one they are fully prepared for. Ultimately, making this choice to reject the cycle of machine control is likely the one chance humanity actually has to break free of the machines and overthrow their masters.
These revelations throw into question everything we (and Neo) learned in the first movie. The prophecy isn't true: the One is not meant to free mankind, just to further ensure their servitude to the machines. This will have a profound impact on Morpheus, as his whole existence is based on the prophecy. His entire purpose is to find and train the One. We'll have to see how he handles it in Revolutions.
Also, it's very likely that the path of the One is meant to end with him/her becoming the beginning of the prophecy in each version of the Matrix. The end IS the beginning. Consider what Morpheus tells Neo in the first Matrix: "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." It seems likely that this "man born inside" is simply the previous One, fulfilling his last duty to the cycle, before it begins anew.
Some side notes regarding The Architect: his wall of video monitors actually appears briefly in the first movie! Immediately after Neo is apprehended at MetaCorTechs, and before he is interrogated by Agent Smith, the camera slowly zooms in on several video monitors showing Neo sitting in the interrogation room. The Architect was watching Neo even before he was awakened by Morpheus and his crew. Also, I believe the encounter with The Architect, or the close proximity to the Source, produced a change in Neo - I believe this encounter is responsible for Neo's newfound ability in the 'real world' when he stops the sentinels near the end of Reloaded. But not all believe as I do...
A popular fan theory making the rounds is that Zion, while definitely another level of control as the Architect claims, is not actually the 'real world' as the rebels believe - that it is actually another level of the Matrix simulation, or actually a Matrix-Within-a-Matrix (MWAM). There are two main events in Reloaded that are used to support this theory: Agent Smith's unexpected manifestation in Zion (when he turns Bane into a duplicate just before Bane jacks out), and Neo's apparent ability to sense and stop the Sentinels just before the end of the movie. As the theory has grown, more and more details have been pulled out of Reloaded to support it, but I'm only going to address the main two here.
Smith existing in the 'real world': Smith is a program, so how can he actually exist in Zion? How can he be made real, when he's just a pile of bits in the first place? Zion must be part of the Matrix for Smith to exist in it, and the humans have no idea they're still in the Matrix. This seems like a possible explanation, but it's by no means the only explanation. ersonally, I think it's entirely possible for a rogue program to copy itself onto someone's mind. Look at it this way: when Bane is jacked in, he's basically a floating mind, a bunch of brainwaves occupying an 'avatar' in a computer simulation. Essentially, he's temporarily a program running in the Matrix OS. Smith comes along and copies himself over this Bane program, overwriting the previous code. When Bane jacks out, the rewritten code of his brain now contains Smith's programming, not his own. He's still Bane, but Smith has taken control of his body by overwriting his mind. Far-fetched? A little, sure, but what we have to remember is we haven't been given all the rules of this universe. We really don't know for sure what the machines are capable of, or what Smith has become. Additionally, Smith has a little bit of Neo in him now, as he says "there's a connection". Could this little bit of humanity aid in his ability to control a mind in the real world?
Neo stopping the Sentinels: Similar to the above argument, supporters of MWAM believe the only way for Neo to have powers like that in the 'real world' is if it's not real, if it's just another level of the Matrix. Again I have to point out, we don't know all the rules of this universe. We only know what we've been given, so I think there could be a million explanations (ok, maybe not quite that many) for what Neo is suddenly capable of. The one I like is that Neo is not quite himself after his encounter with the Architect. That conversation is supposed to pretty much be the endpoint of the path of the One. He returns to the source, makes the expected choice, and his path ends soon after. I like to think that as soon as he passes through the glowing door, something changes. He's so close to the machines at this point, does he end up taking something back to the 'real world' with him? Neo's path involves constant change, constant evolution. As he enters that room, he's still evolving, still changing as he gets closer to his purpose, and in making the unexpected choice and leaving the Source, Neo has gained a closer relationship to the machine world, but can now use it for his own purposes, rather than theirs.
Bottom line, the MWAM theory is a lot of fun to dissect, and the longer it's around, the more details you can pull out of the movies to support it. But I think any good theory can fit in that category. These movies are so dense with information, so layered with meaning, that there are a ton of reasonable theories one could concoct to explain a lot of the (currently) unexplainable. I don't believe the MWAM theory, but many knowledgeable fans do. And I don't believe it because it just doesn't feel right - not a very scientific basis to dismiss it, I know! Once Revolutions comes out, we'll probably find out we're all wrong, or maybe we're all right, or maybe it will still be open to interpretation, just the way the Wachowskis like it!
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Did You Know?
There are trailers and behind-the-scenes documentaries for the "Enter The Matrix" and "The Matrix Online" games. Download them here.