• Joseph Morganti

The Antagonists of THE MATRIX: An Analysis

The Matrix changed cinema for the better since its release in 1999. Though the franchise hasn’t necessarily lived up to the original’s success critic-wise, there is a lot to love and admire with Matrix. More specifically, the franchise's antagonists are some of its biggest strengths, reining in iconic characters left and right.


Like any other Sci-Fi franchise, antagonists can make or break the franchise's success. We need a common enemy to root against, and although Agent Smith is the most obvious answer, there is a lot more antagonist-wise in the films. Thus, below will highlight the antagonists of Matrix, discussing the vital characters and what they mean to the franchise.

Still from 'The Matrix'. Photo credit: Collider


Agent Smith


Besides the central three of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus, Agent Smith is an iconic face of the franchise. In the first film, Agent Smith is one of the three Agents shipped off to manage Morpheus. After Neo is effectively taken out of the Matrix, Smith pursues the crew by paying off Cypher.


Agent Smith is introduced initially as an authority and the leading agent to keep control within the Matrix. Though Smith changes into a “free man” (aka a virus) in the later films, the initial introduction makes us think of Smith as the central force against Neo. Though there are more significant threats to humanity, we see Smith as the face of that antagonism.


It’s a reminder that no matter how vast a concept might be, you need a primary foe for the audience to recognize. There are a lot of forces from an antagonistic point of view, ranging from day jobs and authority to the specific characters of the agents, the sentinels, the matrix, and more.


Other Agents


While Smith essentially takes over the agents as a rogue agent in the later films, all of the agents are a force to be reckoned with in the first film. As Morpheus said: “their strength, and their speed, are still based in a world built on rules.”


Though the notion of their ability being based on rules centers around the theme of authority, they’re still compelling. These smoothly dressed, sunglass-wearing men are the guardians and remove any human or program that looks to break free must in some way.


The Sentinels


Besides the evident force of the agents, the antagonists, in reality, are the Sentinels. The Sentinels are essentially the agents of the natural world, preventing the resistance from making any progress. Every person who watched The Matrix as a kid can remember how terrified they were of The Sentinels.


These creatures are the last force of keeping order from the external factors trying to free the minds within The Matrix. Though the later films allow you to understand the purpose of The Architect and the Matrix, the Sentinels are still recognized as a prominent foe against the resistance.


Cypher


Cypher plays the critical role of being an internal foe within the Nebuchadnezzar. Cypher’s entire character is based on selfishness and no hope. As a character, Cypher is sick of the resistance plan and being in the real world. In simple terms, he wants to forget everything and be set up well within the Matrix (even though it’s not technically real).


When it's all said and done, Cypher was simply a pawn in a bigger game. He was a mole to help the agents track down Morpheus and the codes to the Zion central computer. The degree of his power finished with his scheming, insidious ways and his capacity to occasionally break out a joke.


Deus Ex Machina


Though this article primarily focuses on the original film's antagonists, the later force known as Deus Ex Machina is helpful to know about. It’s an antagonist that helps you understand the original film better and gives an answer to the Sentinels and their primary purpose against the resistance and with the matrix.


While the Architect may be the fashioner of the Matrix, there is a substance that outperforms him. The enormous indication of a human head (framed by many bug-like machines) known as Deus Ex Machina is undoubtedly the most remarkable antagonist in the franchise.


Deeper Themes Related to its Antagonists


As great as the antagonists of the Matrix are, it all revolves around its deeper themes. The Matrix has a lot to say, so much so that it might’ve hindered the franchise moving forward (who can explain exactly what happens in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions?).


Regardless, the themes of the danger of technology, authority, following rules, propaganda, and balance make it such a powerful film from multiple antagonistic perspectives. Furthermore, what would’ve happened if Neo had taken the blue bill? Would we have met with these adversarial factors later in the franchise? Or would fate drive Neo back?


Themes


● Danger of Technology

● Fate

● Choices

● Humanity

● Love

● Authority

● Hope and Fear

● Propaganda

● Collectivism vs. Individuality

● Balance