Zombie Apocalypse: The Matrix

The Matrix broke all the rules. It was the most successful March debut ever to hit the screen at the time. It also introduced Bullet Time, where the audience walked out of the theater thinking anyone can dodge bullets. The premise of the franchise was clear, the machines create an alternate reality where humans can live while the machine harvest the humans for their own nefarious reasons.

The Matrix
The Matrix

Since I’m expecting everyone to be a holiday mood, for Monday Mayhem, let’s have a look at The Matrix and how the machines represent a form of zombie apocalypse.

If you haven’t seen any of The Matrix movies, I won’t spoil it for you. I’ll try to keep the examples as high level as I can. But I won’t lie. I can’t talk about it without describing a few points that may reveal certain parts of the plot. In that case, you may want to read on to the last paragraph for the summary.

The idea of the Matrix is that of a group of machines linked together to serve the purpose of self-preservation—preservation of themselves. The resource is human, rather, what humans possess to make them a resource. In the world of the Matrix, humans function as sacks of energy the Matrix readily consumes for keeping it alive. Without human beings, the Matrix would not exist.

How on earth would the Matrix typify a zombie apocalypse of all things? Much like the Matrix, a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be a zombie apocalypse without one thing—human. The undead could not exist without humans a) to keep them alive and b) to keep reproducing themselves. In the movie, the Matrix maintains control of the human population in order to maximize its returns by executing a slow depletion of the species.

Red pill or blue pill. Which?
Red pill or blue pill. Which?

It sounds like science, doesn’t it? And I’ll have to agree with those who will quickly point out the Matrix is smarter than any zombie apocalypse. But the fact of the matter is, zombies, on a whole, are stupid as individual entities. Multiply them over by the hundreds, though, you have yourself a formidable enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve its goal—consume human.

Not much different from the Matrix, is it? Both vie for self-preservation. Both desire human as their resource. They even go so far as to act as a single entity when threatened.

A zombie apocalypse seems disorganized when one of the undead stands on their own. But the horde mentality—the hive—lives as a single unit when many stand together as one. The Matrix is a film that brings the zombie apocalypse to life. Instead of zombies, however, computers make the bulk of the hive.

Who’s to say today we’re not living in a world controlled by a Matrix making us all part of a typified zombie apocalypse?


Have you seen any of the The Matrix movies? What do you think of the analogy of The Matrix being a type of zombie apocalypse?


16 thoughts on “Zombie Apocalypse: The Matrix

  1. Sounds less like a zombie, exactly, and more of the fear of the hive mind. Which I totally understand as making for a good “enemy” to humanity, since that idea of being so connected–like the Buggers in Ender’s Game, or the Borg in Star Trek–is so completely alien to us as humans, and especially those of us from cultures where the individual is prized over the group.

  2. One thing that always bugged me about the series is that the Matrix bugs harvested energy from the humans to run the Matrix, right? Physiologically, humans are lousy batteries, especially in a comatose state. So beyond the horror-movie aspect of the movies — which is not even remotely plausible — the movies for me are little more than ridiculous special effects spectacles. Except for Keanu Reeves — no amount of special effects in the world can make him any less than a block of wood.

    Snarking off now. Merry Christmas.

  3. Whoa, Jack, I love your phrasing, for a concept that is inherently “ugly”: that is, when you say humans are “sacks of energy.” I never thought of the Matrix as body-harvesting or mind-harvesting, per se, seeing it as a connection to the whole zombie genre, but you are so spot-on. As others rightfully point out above, this is a recurrent theme in the speculative genre writ (or filmed, as the case may be) large: the Borg, the ‘harvesting’ of a Soylent Green situation or even the livestock feel of the humans (other than Taylor and his companions, at the beginning) in the Planet of the Apes, or a hundred other robot movies, too. Come to think of it, how about the idea of any machines as zombies (in an Asimovian robot scenario, defying the three supposed laws of robotics). Bravo, Jack . . . One of my absolute favorite episodes of ST: TNG, which I saw as a teen and blew my mind thinking about, was the Sherlock Holmes/Moriarty episode that ends with, I think, Picard musing about how perhaps we are all acting out certain routines, unbeknownst to us, in some cosmic maze/machine/experiment/computer program–that’s one of the eternal questions, too, isn’t it? (And, underlying all the gore, what is the heart of the zombie genre, I think . . as well as much of high-falutin’ literature, too, in repeating “Everyman” and “Other” motifs). It’s about the borderline[s] of what demarcates humanity from “nonhuman,” whether that be called robot, zombie, Borg (or Klingon, Ferengi, or any other of the ST-introduced species), monster, vampire, werewolf, satyr, shape-shifter, bacteria, blob, or otherwise. Fantastic discussion!

  4. Are we controlled? If so then what I write is manipulated and the internet is just a quick fix which really goes no where. The hits I get are set up by a computer and the comments are orchestrated by bytes. The very computer, my bff, is really not real but maintaining me in a zombie world where the pressure of my fingers on the keys is the pleasure for an entity out there in cyberspace. I am messaging it now, I feel it purring in the monitor. It breathes and it is out there. A force with no measure in shape and pulsating with thousands like me pushing the keys.

  5. You can take it a step further with the sequels, in the person of Smith; his actions in the third film are almost a “zombie apocalypse for zombies”, a situation where the “cure” may be worse than the disease.
    Even the near-climactic scene, when Neo is surrounded, has that zombie-movie vibe: our hero, surrounded by near identical enemies numbering in the hundreds, driven only by the desire to consume and assimiliate.

  6. One could argue that we are even now building the basis for a ” Matrix ” by our need and desire for devices that connect us to the infosphere, databanks as well as other people.

    & my knowledge of basic Latin & Indo – European is somewhat rusty, putting it mildly, but wouldn’t the term ” matrix ” have a relation to the word for ” mother ” ?

    • Excellent, insightful train of thought (as always!) there, zathra. Matrix, is indeed, from “mater,” or mother. Here’s a neat mini-history etymological look at the word: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=matrix&allowed_in_frame=0 // I would again point to a favorite, especially now that you mention a similar theme; I haven’t read the book or screenplay (presuming there is a book), but I think “They Live” is an awesome ‘example’ of this idea of a ‘matrix’ where ‘ignorant’ humans are being misled to a truth (namely, consumerism in that movie) by the “Other,” thereby enabling the Other to rule them blindly. I believe Alien Nation is another of our shared favorites, and it’s made even more remarkable by the fact that–I feel, at least; and this is amplified in the series, over the movie, simply because of the length of the series–it turns this idea of the Other on its ear. To me, in that movie and those shows, my empathies are directed toward the newcomers many times, rather than toward the humans and the definitely against the slaveowners among the newcomers. Obvious parallels with human and, in particular, American Southern history in the “peculiar institution,” which wasn’t lost on me as a kid growing up in the South in the (mostly) 80s.

      • Thanks.

        I haven’t seen ” They Live ” in quite a while. I loved ” Alien Nation ” ! – The series spawned by it more than the movie. They constructed an entire culture. The Newcomers were like the ultimate ” boat – people “. I wish Fox hadn’t been so quick to cancel it, even though they did produce 2 – 3 made – for – Fox TV movies. It was somewhat ahead of its time.

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