The Matrix Series
If you enjoy epic stories, intense action and character development, then it is likely that the Matrix movie series (including the Animatrix animated companion story collection) is one that continues to be an inspiration.
The setting is that of what appears to be our world, circa 1999 (the time of the film’s release) and revolves around the isolated life of Thomas Anderson, AKA “Neo played by Keanu Reeves, an employee of a major software and web design company. Neo is a mild mannered everyday guy by day, but an elite hacker by night who supplements his income by selling illegal programs of his own design to the fringe elements of the electronic underworld.
Neo is also trying to track the movements of a mysterious man known only as Morpheus played by Lawrence Fishburne, one of the most wanted men in the world, who he believes can answer the question gnawing at his soul: What is the Matrix? After a strange turn of events Neo is approached by Trinity, another elite hacker who gives him an opportunity to meet with Morpheus.
These events lead to Neo discovering the truth of his reality: it is a lie. The Matrix is in fact a digitally simulated world in which humanity lives out there lives while in the real world are plugged into massive bio-energy based batteries used to power the now dominant species on earth, namely artificially intelligent machines.
These machines seek to wipe out the rogue, uncontrolled humans who pirate broadcast their consciousness into the Matrix to free the minds and ultimately the bodies of humanity from the grip of the machines.
During the course of the film Neo faces his own self-doubt of his part as “The One”, the prophesized messiah of the human race who is foretold to have godlike powers within the Matrix. There is also a strong undercurrent of attraction between Neo and Trinity as well as a nemesis in the person of Agent Smith, an insane agent program of the Matrix tasked with hunting down rogue humans within the Matrix.
As if these difficulties aren’t enough, Neo also faces a traitor in the Midst of the crew of Morpheus’s hovercraft. Cypher, who is tired of the real world, wants to be plugged back into the Matrix to live the “good life,” oblivious of the truth. Cypher sells out the crew for a promise from Agent Smith to be re-inserted into the Matrix.
This betrayal leads to the death of most of the crew and the capture of Morpheus, who is tortured by the insane Agent Smith for the mainframe codes of Zion, the last bastion of humanity hiding deep within the earth that the machines seek to destroy once and for all.
Neo decides to do what the machines would never expect and attacks the place within the Matrix after surviving an attempt on his life by the traitor Cypher.
Fulfilling his destiny, Neo rescues Morpheus from Smith but faces off against him alone before he is able to escape. Smith ultimately kills Neo, but Neo is miraculously resurrected and destroys Smith moments before the hovercraft in the real world is destroyed by machines that have tracked and attacked it.
The movies that continue in the series play on many classic elements of epic storytelling, having thematically more in common with anime films than many other action movies, even having an undercurrent of existentialism and destiny.
As a film series that incorporates all of these thematic elements, but blending them together in some very different ways, the Matrix series stands out and is pop culture goldmine of memes that are referred to often even today.