The Matrix franchise is a classic for every fan of the science fiction genre. From revolutionary special effects to the mind-bending plot, the movie is considered genre-bending, given that it was released in 1999. The story takes the popular idea of a hero chosen by a prophecy who will save the world and sets it in a simulated world run by machines. Neo is the protagonist and the plot sets him up as the hero of the story but is he really The One?
Even though the movies lead you to believe that Neo is The One, after looking over the prophecy it becomes obvious that the role is fulfilled by Agent Smith.
The movie will try to convince you that Neo is the one, but upon some thinking, a lot of people will start to question this idea. The article will analyze the prophecy and other clues scattered through the franchise in order to find out if Neo is truly The One.
Who is Neo?
Neo, born Thomas A. Anderson is the protagonist of the story. He was born as one of many people unaware of the reality they are living in. He works as a computer programmer for the software company MetaCortex.
The audience first meets Neo while he is waiting for his client Choi, and his girlfriend, Dujour to deliver two discs containing programming from his secret stash.
While waiting he is conducting an extensive on-line search for Morpheus and his computer is hijacked, displaying cryptic messages. After his client arrives and they complete the transaction he invites Neo to come with him to a nearby club.
There he met Trinity, a hacker who confirms his suspicions about the world. The following day he comes in contact with Morpheus, who warns him that that he is about to get arrested and he follows Morpheus’ instructions to escape but ultimately turns himself in.
Neo meets Morpheus after being interrogated by Agent Smith. Morpheus describes the reality to Neo and explains that his life is a simulation. The humanity has been enslaved by the machines forcing them to live in a sleep-like state inside pods that harvest their heat for machines to use it as energy.
During the conversation, Neo starts waking up in the real world. He finds himself inside the world Morpheus has described. He manages to disconnect himself from the pod and just as he passes out Morpheus welcomes him to the real world.
He wakes up on the Nebuchadnezzar, a hovercraft and apparent home of those on board, where he continues his conversation with Morpheus. He introduces Neo to the prophecy The Oracle made about The One, a man who is able to change the Matrix.
Neo starts training aboard Nebuchadnezzar and is introduced to the laws of physics within the Matrix and different forms of martial arts. Later on, the two of them duel and Neo is able to hold his own and even almost wins due to his speed.
The Oracle is a powerful figure portrayed as an old lady who smokes all the time and bakes cookies. She is revealed to be a sapient program integrated within the Matrix and has the power of foresight.
When he meets The Oracle she rejects him and tells him he is not The One as well as predicting that Morpheus believes so strongly that he is The One that he is willing to sacrifice his life. She tells Neo that one of them will have to die and that he is the one who will have to decide who.
“When the Matrix was first built, there was a man born inside who had the ability to change whatever he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was he who freed the first of us, taught us the truth – As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free. After he died, the Oracle prophesied his return and that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people. That is why there are those who have spent our entire lives searching the Matrix looking for him.”
From the way Morpheus describes the prophecy we know there are few important things The One needs to have and those are: he had to be born in The Matrix, he has to be able to change it and he ultimately has to destroy it.
Firstly, Neo was not born inside The Matrix. Just like all other humans, he was born in the real world. Many fans argue that he was reborn inside The Matrix, however, The Oracle specifies that The One had to be around when it was created and Neo was not as we learn from the conversation with the Architect, this is the 6th version of the Matrix.
As far as manipulating The Matrix goes, Neo presents some impressive feats of breaking the laws of the physic set within it but can not change The Matrix itself.
And finally, reloading The Matrix. Neo in fact does get uploaded into The Matrix, his final battle with agent Smith and it gets re-uploaded after his code is returned to the code.
Given all of this, concluding that Neo is The One is the most logical choice, but after rewatching the movies while paying attention to these 3 elements you may notice that there is another character who fulfills these criteria even better.
Agent Smith is a product of the system tasked with protecting The Matrix from any anomalies in the program that presents a treat to the stability.
As such, he was born inside The Matrix. At one point in the movie, he refers to The Oracle as mum, which supports this theory. By the way he describes it we can conclude that he was present during the Matrix’s beginning.
While Neo can transcend the laws set inside it, agent Smith can change The Matrix itself. Many people argue that he can do these things because Neo integrated a part of himself into Agent Smith when he destroyed him.
However, the defining characteristic of someone who can change The Matrix is that they can rebel against the system. Agent Smith shows a clear separation from The Matrix while interrogating Morpheus. He expresses his wish to escape The Matrix and be free.
His original purpose is to protect the Matrix but by taking off his earpiece he shows his ability to rebel against his primary program highlighting that he is the anomaly in the program and not Neo.
While no one destroys The Matrix in the end, agent Smith is the one working towards it. The only reason that Neo gets the chance to bargain with the machines is because agent Smith is so good at tearing down The Matrix and they can not control him anymore.
The final part concerns The Architect’s explanation regarding the prime program. He said that until the remaining code gets uploaded back to The Matrix it will descend into chaos.
Many people think that this part happens when Neo uploads himself into The Matrix to fight agent Smith. However, The Matrix does not get “destroyed” until Agent Smith infects Neo by inserting himself into him to make him a clone.
By doing this, he is inserting his code into Neo and because Neo is connected to the source, into the source as well as reinserting the prime program into it.
Why does everyone refer to Neo as The One if he is not?
So why is everyone convinced that Neo is the one? For many characters, it is understandable as they are just mistaking, but what about The Oracle and The Architect?
They are in fact two of the strongest programs in the system so it would not make sense for them to know who The One is.
We get a clue in the final moments in the franchise when The Oracle and The Architect meet in the reloaded Matrix and he tells her that she is playing a dangerous game, referring to the lie about The One.
We learned that she created The One so she should be the only one who truly knows who he is. She had to hide that truth about The One to protect him from the machines.
If she let everyone know that agent Smith is The One, the machines would just assimilate him to stop him from going rogue. By creating this elaborate lie and misleading everyone she allowed Smith to become as powerful as he did and fulfill the prophecy.