Decoding a transmedia classic, Enter the Matrix
by Ana Vasile, published on 17.05.2011
Acknowledging its massive success, The Matrix is often cited as a reference example of transmedia. We invite you to go deeper into The Matrix’s universe and to take a closer look at its construction.
Even if the narrative arch of all three films directed by Wachowski brothers is linear, the global Matrix story world is enriched with each piece forming its multiplatform mechanism:
- The film’s trilogy : « The Matrix », « Matrix Reloaded » and « Matrix Revolutions »
- A series of animated shorts : « Animatrix »
- Two video games : « Enter the Matrix » and « The Matrix : Path of Neo »
- A MMORPG game: « The Matrix Online »
- An anthological graphic novel: « The Art of the Matrix »
- A series of comics : « The Matrix Comics »
Neo, the main character of the Matrix trilogy, is a young computer scientist contacted by a group of hackers. These characters make him discover that his real world is actually a virtual world created to keep the humans under control. From now on, Neo starts an epic battle against the system’s administrators.
The Animatrix : a series of animated shorts
The Animatrix, released in June 2003, is a series of 9 animated short films set in the world of The Matrix. The creators of The Matrix Trilogy collaborated on each one of them to varying degrees. Four of the stories were written by the Wachowski Brothers, with the other five written by the directors themselves. Each short adds depth to the Matrix Trilogy, from backstory on characters and events from the movies, to introducing new characters from the sequels.
Four of the films were released completely free-of-charge on the Internet in the months leading up to the release of film The Matrix Reloaded. They remain freely available, and you can still download them. A fifth film (Final Flight of the Osiris) was as well shown in theatres to allow viewers to enter the Reloaded setup before its release. All 9 animes were available as well on a single , creating a double path of distribution: online and in stores.
The Matrix Comics : a univers extended as well as Comics
The Matrix Comics is a collection of short comic book stories set in the fictional universe of The Matrix.
Originally released on The Matrix official website, most of the stories were published in two volumes printed in 2003 and 2004 by the Wachowski Brothers’ company Burlyman Entertainment. Quite interesting to note that the printed edition brought to light three more stories never released online.
The comics’ editor was Spencer Lamm. The Wachowski Brothers wrote one script “Bits and Pieces of Information”, narration that was later related to The Animatrix short animated film “The Second Renaissance“.
Les jeux vidéo : how to become The One…
Enter the Matrix is a third person action game launched in 2003. Developed by Shiny Entertainment, the game was written by Andy and Larry Wachowski. The player can pick his character (Niobe, Logos’ captain or Ghost, his lieutenant) appearing as secondary characters in the trilogy. This game was vividly critiqued by the press and the cybernauts for its technical mediocrity.
The game is graphically outdated and its game action is quite mediocre. One of the reasons invoked was the time pressure, knowing that the game was meant to be released between the last two movies.
From a narrative point of view, the game allows certain clarifications on the relation between its characters and retraces the Matrix Reloaded story, from a different point of view: that of the Logos’ team (Niobe, Ghost and Sparks). Only these secondary characters are playable: the game was conceived as a narrative extension of the global story world, that’s why it shows very few recreations of scenes in the film trilogy
The Matrix Online is the second game released in 2005 and picks up the storyline from where Revolutions ends. Conceived as an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) it will support thousands of simultaneous players and it’s said to feature cutting-edge graphics and real-time martial arts combat.
The game’s storyline focuses on the outcome of Neo’s truce made in Revolutions, emphasizing the war between human factions, some that support Neo and some that support the Matrix.
The Matrix: Path of Neo is the third video game based on the Matrix series and the second developed by Shiny Entertainment. Players control the character Neo, participating in scenes from the films. Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, the game was released in 2005 in North America. The game proposes a unique point of view: Neo’s with additional missions that extend the storyline of the films. Nevertheless, the game retraces the trilogy’s narrative.
This time around, it received good critiques: from a technological point of view as well as narrative. The press proclaimed that the game had one of the best uses of a license they’d seen in quite some time. It’s the first game all about Neo.
The anthology « The Art of the Matrix »
The Art of the Matrix is a huge storyboard book. The book does not bring any new narratives to the franchise but instead it’s telling the creators’ story: how they managed to convince Warner Bros to produce the movie and the full-version of Matrix storyboards. Designated to hardcore fans and to graphic professionals, the book
More than 20 books were published using the Matrix name, but they bring nothing new to the story world. Most of them are essays that discuss the ideas presented in the movie or the philosophical and religious symbolism in the movie.
In the Matrix franchise, it’s more than important to take notice of the implication of the Wachowski brothers in the development of almost the entire transmedia mechanism. They become the gatekeepers of their universe’s coherence by creating bridges between the narratives of each of their works. That seems the way to make sure that the extensions are more than just spin-offs.
By creating some storytelling juxtapositions between Medias, the universe gets richer; the emerging audience is rewarded with a deeper experience.
For example, in the short « The Final flight of the Osiris » one of the secondary characters tries to send a letter to Nebuchadnezzar’s team. In the game « Enter the Matrix » the first mission is to pick up the exact same letter from the post bureau. In the end, the movie « Matrix Reloaded » brings up a wink to this story: the characters are discussing the last « message of Osiris », as in the letter we all been chasing through the storytelling universe.
You can also read the article by David Peyron highlighting the concept of cultural convergence introduced by Heny Jenkins, which refers to the universe of The Matrix transmedia.
If you do think of other examples of storytelling juxtapositions, share them with us, in the comment section or on our page.