is the difference between an homage and plagiarism?
Well, its a fine line, but take this analogy: when
you write a paper and want to reference something
someone else wrote, you place a footnote. Most
readers gloss over the footnotes without ever
looking at them. But they are still necessary to the
integrity of the paper. Similarly, the Wachowski brothers knew they would be derided as having copied aspects of other films. To counter this, they actually put in obscure allusions to those films as their offering of an
homage, a sort of 'footnote'.
First, to poke fun at the contrivances of all
formulaic movies, the Source in Revolutions
is named 'Deus Ex Machina' in the credits. This is the
term used to refer to any resolution to a story which does not pay due regard to the story's internal logic and is so unlikely it challenges suspension of disbelief, and presumably allows the author to end it in the way he or she wanted.
The term also is Latin for "god from the
Superman - Neo's last scene is in a phonebooth at end of
The Matrix, after which he emerges to fly
away, just as Clark Kent goes in a phone booth to
fly away as Superman. More explicit is Link's line
in Reloaded: "He's doing his Superman thing".
Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo and Psycho - The Matrix references
Vertigo, while Reloaded references Psycho. Both the opening shot of the Alfred Hitchcock classic
Vertigo and The Matrix open with a chase across rooftops by cops after a suspect, and some of the same camera angles are used in both. A shot of Neo's own case of vertigo is seen when he steps out on the ledge of his office but then backs away, and then when he must complete the "Jump" program.
Also, when the Architect is talking about all the people that will die in Zion, there are clips from TV commercials and other movies on the screens
behind him. Among them is a famous black and white clip from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film
While Hitchcock's movies are obviously completely
different in terms of plot and genre, they are referenced by the Wachowskis because they often share similar
- Paranoia about the police. Throughout
the movies, there is a pervasive fear of the Agents
as the antagonists. Watch Psycho and compare
the cop that follows Marion around to the Agents in The
- The guilt of the ordinary person trapped in a criminal situation.
Hitchcock employed this theme throughout most of his
movies. It is also seen in the Matrix trilogy, but
mainly in the first film (i.e. when Neo is
confronted by the Agents in the beginning).
- The integration of the audience into the movie.
When Psycho was released, for example, the ads said "Do not reveal the surprises!" "I was directing the viewers," Hitchcock said. "You might say I was playing them, like an organ."
Hitchcock loved to make the audience an active
participant in his movies. Similarly, the matrix
movies attempt that same effect, even filming things
like Neo flying into the audience at the end of The
- Substituting protagonists. Starting a character as the hero, and then removing them from the picture. Like Morpheus,
Hitchcock did this (more adeptly) in Psycho. Marion Crane, the apparent protagonist of the movie, is killed only a third of the way in. Similarly, Morpheus is relegated to sidekick after
The Matrix, the first third of the trilogy.
- And of course, the fear of disappointing
one's mother. This fear drives and paralyzes Norman
Bates, causing his insanity. It is also found
somewhat in the relationships of Neo and Smith to
Terminator - the red eye of the spider pulled out of Neo's
stomach in The Matrix fades as it is turns
off, just like the eyes of cyborgs in the Terminator
Star Wars - The scene where the sentinels come for the first time
in The Matrix is a reference to The Empire Strikes
Back. It's a combination of the scenes where Lando and Chewie fly the
Falcon after getting Luke's hand fixed, and the asteroid field scene. Luke, having just gotten a new hand, limps in the cockpit with Leia; in
The Matrix, Neo just woke up and hobbles in with Trinity. The cockpit is almost identical, and Morpheus says
Star Wars lines from the asteroid field scene, "Set her down there" and "Here they
come." Also, in Revolutions,
Niobe flies through the tunnel like Han Solo with the
The Prisoner - As Neo runs through the old lady's apartment (near the end
of The Matrix) we see an image on the TV of a menacing man in a black suit coat. The image is that of
"#2", a character from this TV series.
Also, like the main character "#6" of the
series, Neo is the 6th version of the One.
The Avenging Fist - this is a Hong Kong
action film that has a similar fight scene to the
final one between Smith and Neo in Revolutions,
in that both take place in the skyline of a city
during heavy rain, etc. Personally, this
feels to me like more of a rip-off than an homage.
Judge for yourself.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - If you have seen
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, pay attention to the fight between Neo and
Seraph, the Oracle's Chinese bodyguard. It has the same exact hits, shots and music of the first fight of
CTHD (it is especially obvious when we see both men's legs almost
dancing rather than fighting). As the fight
choreographer for both films is Yuen Wo-Ping, this
may be a tribute to him from the directors.
Baraka - The Architect shows Neo images of the humans that will die if Neo chooses not to go into
the right door. Many of those images are from the movie
Baraka. A study of comparative religion, Baraka contrasts the purity and beauty of nature and religion with the ugliness and misery of modern technological society.
Interestingly, some of the images that Neo sees are of people who were killed in Nazi and Pol Pot concentration camps, as
Baraka seems to suggest.