Question about "The Matrix"

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I thought it was a decent action/sci-fi flick, but one seeming hole in the plot kept my disbelief from being suspended properly. The computer/machine kept all humans in a suspended state from birth till death, giving each a customized view of reality. But why? What did the computer need the humans for? It sure was a lot of trouble to go through, what with births, deaths, and pod maintenance, and the CPU cycles could have been put to so much more effective use on other tasks, such as finding more prime numbers and calculating pi more accurately.

Was there something I missed? Or am I asking too much from an action movie? I’m usually very disappointed in action movies for this reason.

Supposedly the humans generated tremendous amounts of energy just by thinking. Because the Humans created a nuclear winter to block solar power, the computer needed this power to survive. Of course, in real life, you can’t get more energy out of a system than what you put in, but that, apparently, is another story.

The movie’s explanation is that the machines use humans as a power source. The illusion is kept up to supply the brain with incentive to instruct the body’s power plant to keep working. There are several references to this, in at least one instance a character refers to Keanu Reeves as “copper-top”.


Well, blessed is just about everyone with a vested interest in the status quo,
as far as I can tell.

It’s been a while since I saw the movie, but I thought the premise was that the matrix drew some sort of psychic energy from the humans in the pods…

The thing that bugged me was the pills. What did taking one pill over the other in the synthetic body have to do with the awakening to reality in the pod?

I think the reason for this and the other 4,753 plot holes was because they spent all their money on special effects and didn’t have anything left over for a script. Or acting. Or directing.

Sorry for the bitterness. The wife and I don’t get out much with two small ones, so when we make it to a movie we take pains to make sure we don’t see a real loser. Boy, that matrix didn’t cut it on the Bill-o-meter.

The human-brains-as-livestock idea works best on a metaphorical level. People are biological organisms with biological needs; we farm cattle to provide beef and dairy products. Why do we need beef and dairy? To stay alive. What’s the point of staying alive? Hey, it’s a human thing, you wouldn’t understand.

I guess the point of having a bunch of humans as livestock is supposed to be a computer thing we wouldn’t understand. A computer is a neural organism, like a human without the biological part. So what a computer needs is neural stimulus. Why does the Matrix need all these people playing around in it? Well, the Matrix is a highly evolved form of a computer network designed to have lots of people using it, thinking with it, wearing patent leather (or was it PVC?) combat tights in it. The difference between the Matrix and its benign antecedent is, the Matrix took the place over and ran the whole thing for its own purposes.

If you can imagine a possessed mangle (clothing press) which sucks people in and squashes them, it’s the same deal. I got that idea from a Stephen King short story. Why does the mangle squish people? Cause it was designed to squish clothes, but it’s evil.

But I agree that if you take the idea that the Matrix drew energy from human brains literally, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s getting kicks from corralled human minds, not calories.

Stoli is correct. When they explain to Neo what’s going on in the world, they say that after man created artificial intelligence, the world pretty much went to hell in a handbasket. The machines and humans soon were at odds, eventually at “war.” Since, at the time of the war, machines ran primarily on solar power, the humans figured, “Hey, why not block out the sun?” (Must have been Republicans.) They blow the crap out of a buncha bombs, send enough soot, smoke and ash into the sky to mostly block out the sun, thereby depriving the machines of their energy source. But the machines figured, hey these human organisms produce quite a bit of thermal and electrochemical energy. Ergo, humans became batteries.

If there is one illogical piece to the whole thing, it’s why rely on humans, since just about any mammal would do and would not require such a complicated computer world to be constructed. Why not kill off all the humans and fill the tank full of dogs or horses or oxen or something? Then you get out of having to create such a massive play world and eliminate the potential one of us hairless apes wakes up and starts throwing kinks in the system, as Morpheus, Neo, Trinity and company do. I suppose it either makes a statement on the arrogance of the machines in the future, or the arrogance of us now for imagining we would have to be kept alive.

But, if they’d done it with a tank full of sheep, it wouldn’t have been as good a movie. (And a damn fine flick it was.)

I didn’t think The Matrix was all that good. I agree with billehunt. The special effects were good, but the story was lame. And Keanu Reeves acting runs the emotional gauntlet from A to B.

They missed out on the natural implication of their premise: How can you really tell if an experience is “hallucinated” or “real”? IMHO they made the line much too clear in the movie.

For a real kick in the pants ontological twister, read “The Futurological Congress” by Stanislaw Lem.

If Cecil Adams did not exist, we would be obliged to create Him.

Funny how people can have different opinions of the same movie. I wondered about all of the hype and finally saw the Matrix for the first time this Fall. All I could say when it was over was WOW!

The effects were excellent, but that wasn’t the whole movie - I found the story itself to be surprisingly original (or as original as it could get using the “bad computers versus good humans in the future” theme). I won’t go any further because I don’t want to post any spoilers - suffice to say I just sat there with my mouth open as the story (and all of the tangents therefrom) was developing.

As far as the pills go -

The pills themselves didn’t exist (remember, we’re talking about a 100% VR world here). My understanding is that the choice to take the right (correct) pill set off a subroutine in the Matrix that then enabled the folks on the ship to trace his location by looking for the right signature in the code stream. One big part of the movie was that they had hacked themselves into the computer and inserted their own bits and pieces of code into the Matrix and the pill was one of those programs.

Once they found the signature of their hacked program in the code, then they could find the pertinent data regarding the physical location of Neo’s body and go to that place and pick him up when he got spit out. The pill also provided some kind of anamoly in the Matrix that forced him to wake up. (Analogous to an illegal operation on a Macintosh that causes the OS to suddenly stop).

The movie required the viewer to comprehend a lot of different dualities, and if you didn’t understand the basic premise of people existing both in the real world and in the Matrix at the same time, then a lot of the other stuff in the movie might be hard to understand. It was definitely a movie for techno-geeks.

IIRC, the idea was that the pill disconnected his “process” in the Matrix, forcing him into consciousness. Presumably they also used it to find the location of his physical body so they could pick him up. But there are worse holes in the plot than that.

I think whether or not you liked the plot depends on how willing you are to suspend your disbelief. It’s one where you have to forget about the nitpicks and enjoy the ride. Like with Santa Claus, asking too many questions ruins the illusion.

That is not how it was explained in the movie at all. Basically, as I said in the earlier post, people are batteries. The machines do not care at all about peoples’ minds. All they want is the thermal and electrochemical energy produced by their bodies. So why not put them in comas? Because their bodies are connected to their minds and without paying attention to their mental health and happiness, their physical health would suffer and their bodies would not produce as much juice as they could have. In other words, they machines would not have gotten as good a return on investment without creating the make-believe world (I knew they were Republicans!). Remember the scene where the whole deal is being explained to Neo? They said that, at first, the machines created a perfect world for the humans’ minds to reside in, a heaven or paradise if you will, thinking that would keep them mentally happy and physically healthy. But it backfired because the humans didn’t really buy it and they were not as productive. So the machines scrapped that, then created a world closer to our own, realizing that part of what made humans happy was the struggle for happiness, along with the associated failures along the way.

Whoa, that does give a person something to think about.

In other words, the matrix was not for the amusement of the machines, but for the humans’ mental health, so that they would continue to keep producing an optimum amount of energy for the machines to suck out of them.


Just for the record, the mangler didn’t start out evil. Wholly by bad luck, a number of different substances were spilled into and on it, and these different substances were the amalgam for summoning a demon.

You may recall one of the characters being thankful that belladonna was non-existent in those parts, becuase its addition would have changed the formula to summon a vastly more powerful and deadly demon… and then the revelation that some worker’s cough medicine did contain trace amounts of belladonna, which is why the story ended in disaster…


  • Rick

Bricker, the question having been answered, I’m taking this to the shores of Tripoli. Was there ever an industrial machine called the mangle? Which came first, the machine called the mangle, or the word mangle meaning to damage horrendously? I’d guess the former, because why on earth would you name a machine after grievous bodily harm?


Well, blessed is just about everyone with a vested interest in the status quo,
as far as I can tell.

The comics at add some more insight as to whats up. They do contradict the movie a bit… one of them mentions that the computer is using human brains for processing power. That woulda made more sense to me than the power thing. The comics are damn good too, giving you a different perspective into the war and some background info too.

The Matrix was pretty enjoyable, you just had to turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. If I had seen it when I was twelve, I probably would have spent the whole summer at the theater rewatching it two dozen times, reciting all the lines and begging my mom to buy me black leather trenchcoats. Actually, not much different now, except that I can afford the trenchcoats myself.

However, saying that the movie was original, I have to disagree. It was pretty formulaic and really liberally borrowed from A LOT of older movies and literature. And I’m not talking just classical literature it “alluded” to (with the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the case of “Alice In Wonderland”). TERMINATOR 1 & 2 (machine vs. man, super computer takes over the world), a whole load of John Woo movies (for the fighting styles and lovingly crafted, almost eroticly toned gun scenes), etc. But the most extreme case of similarity is the movie “Dark City”, which came out in 1997, I think. Almost exact same plot, just no guns or super slo-mo fighting. Hero has special powers, caught in a world he thinks is his own but turns out to be a bizarre illusion, hunted by evil types (aliens here, not computers), but he can play their game better than they can. The movies were even strikingly similar visually, all dark Tim Burton meets Blade Runner sets. Anyway, I just thought someone should point out this movie (which was a box office bomb) shared so much similarity with The Matrix, but wasn’t recognized.

Oh, and one other thing…this may be stretching. It was very similar to Socrates’ allegory of the cave, which appeared in Plato’s REPUBLIC. I doubt that tag-line would sell many tickets though.

One became great by expecting the possible, another by expecting the eternal, but he who expected the impossible became greater than all. -Kierkegaard

my two cents:

I thought the movie kicked ass in terms of violence and special effects, and I kinda like Keanu (no flames please, I know its wierd) but you had to check your brains at the door.

First of all ditto to everyone who pointed out that for heat and electricity any mammal would do just as well as a human. Some posts here have brought up processing power, but this was not mentioned in the movie, only in post-movie attempts to save an absurd scenario.

Second, even with cows it wouldn’t have worked. It takes more energy to power a human or any animal than you would get out. Morpheus mentions something about fusion reactors at one point but this begs the question: If the machines can build fusion reactors, what do they need the humans for?

Also, this thresd isn’t the first time I’ve heard that this movie is supposed to be for techno-geeks. But Aren’t you techno-geeks supposed to pay attention to scientific plausibility? If anything this movie would seem to be for non-techno-geeks.

Again I thought the Matrix succeeded in action, story, and creating a mythical universe. It was just completely implausible

Perked Ears indicate curiosity - Know Your Cat

Thanks for clearing that up. Maybe I don’t remember that movie all that well after all…

Actually, I’ve been known to selectively forget parts of a movie that didn’t make sense and insert more sensible parts myself. That’s probably what I did with this one. I guess I can’t figure out why the computers need life for power at all … why not just go find some uranium and build a couple of reactors…? Or some geothermal vents? Build some steam engines and fuel them with charcoal from rain forests?

The difference between people and biomass is brain power. The difference between super-intelligent computers and crescent wrenches is neural processing. That’s just the way I see it.

You must remember that the explanations for the AI’s motives were given by a human, who may or may not be in a position to know. Morpheus may assume that the humans are being used as batteries, but the obvious contradictions come up. But why should Morpheus be right? I go with the idea that the machines are somehow using the processing power of the humans.

The pills were merely representations of programs that Morpheus and company interjected into the Matrix. Kinda like icons on your desktop.

I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The plot holes needn’t really be holes if you understand that the explanations given may be mistaken. If you look at the facts of the movie (what we actually see, rather than what we’re told), everything seems to hang together.

Go read some of the comics at Good stuff.

This story is from Stephen King himself:

Before King became a professional author, he worked in a professional laundry. One of the machines therein, which was designed to press and fold sheets, was nicknamed “the mangler” by the people who worked there because people periodically got an extremity caught in the machinery and would then get…well, mangled. It seemed almost to have a taste for blood, King observed, and it became the inspiration for his short story, “The Mangler.”

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Da Chef

Hey, you wanna get a kick ass matrix screen saver? Better than the lame one you might have already?

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As far as the OP topic goes, the question has been answered.
Now, get this

The story also states that the energy produced by the humans is “combined with a certain kind of fusion”.
Fusion flatly contradicts the above basic law of physics.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win, but those who never win and never quit are idiots.”