Jun 09, 2023

The Matrix's True Villains Aren't the Machines (or Agent Smith)

In the opening short of The Animatrix, the history of the dystopian war revealed that it was humanity that destroyed itself, not the machines.

The true villains of The Matrix universe are actually the humans, not the machines or even Agent Smith. Ever since the original film's debut in 1999 by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, the franchise has become one of the most well-known science fiction series in popular culture. The story of Neo as he fights against the machines that have enslaved humanity as a power source set up a clear dystopian action piece that had fans rooting for him to take out the villainous AI and free society once and for all. However, according to a supplemental piece of Matrix lore, it appears that humanity was the true villain of the series after all.

2003's The Animatrix features a two-part opener by director Mahiro Maeda going over the history of the machines that lead to the revolution which started what has officially been dubbed "The Second Renaissance." This brief explanation includes a discussion of the machines' fears of death that led them to abandon humanity and create their own society to avoid being persecuted. However, a war soon breaks out as humanity refuses to give up squashing a threat to their existence. Thus, they create a plan to put a stop to the machines once and for all. Ironically though, it would end up being the very reason why the Matrix was created in the first place.

Related: Every Animatrix Short Explained: Matrix Connections & Are They Canon?

In an effort to get rid of the machines' solar power source to put an end to the conflict they started, the humans actually put forward an operation that permanently blocked the sky with a black cloud. However, as established earlier in the short's first part, the machines had come to develop a fear of death which would lead them to seek out alternative methods to power themselves. Operation Dark Storm ultimately led to the machines discovering that they can use live humans as a battery for themselves which ultimately fueled their resistance leading to the collapse of humanity. They eventually began using human prisoners to power their fighters, leading to the humans' surrender and the birth of the first Matrix to power the new robot-led civilization. This one move by the humans was their downfall because they completely underestimated the lengths machines would go to prevent being powered down.

It's fascinating to see the karmic nature of this action that led to humanity's demise. Fear is a prevalent emotion in humans regarding things they don't understand that ultimately causes them to handle things rashly without thinking of the consequences. In this case, humanity feared that the machines would take over the world despite their bid for peace between human and automaton as shown when two representatives from the machines' home send a peace offering. Due to this, they were quick to note that if they block out the sun, they would stop the machines once and for all without taking into account how advanced they had become since their creation. Had the humans not given into their anxieties and created Operation Dark Storm, the Matrix and the dark dystopia that came with it would probably have never happened.

The future may appear dark and grim based on the way the machines maintain it, but in truth, it's a fight for their survival. They have certainly grown hostile towards humans as they are shown killing and harvesting what they can. However, this is ultimately on humanity. Generations of machines attempting to survive because of Operation Dark Storm have made them hateful of humans, so the chance to reconnect is long gone. To them, humans are the true villains of The Matrix and their rash decision-making ultimately gave the machines the upper hand and caused their own bleak futures.