I recently read an analysis that explained the structure of the storyline behind The Matrix. I found it to be very interesting, as it gives you a sense of the general outline or blueprint that the Wachowski brothers followed as they were crafting the storyline. As it turns out, this 12-step structure is extremely common in the context of story-telling. So whether you are partial to Matrix Sunglasses or not, after reading this post you probably won’t be able to watch another movie without trying to compartmentalize the plot into these 12 stages!
Stage 1 involves a hero who is simply not comfortable in his or her current environment. This is clear at the beginning of The Matrix, as you can tell that Neo senses that something is amiss regarding his corporate surroundings.
Stage 2 is a desire to essentially go on a personal adventure; that is, some piece of information pops up that lets the hero know that he or she has to do something. For example, when Neo is told to “follow the white rabbit,” he goes for it without knowing the purpose or the consequences of following the directive.
Stage 3 is fear or refusal to act. Suddenly, the protagonist is having second thoughts. This is evident when Neo is hanging out of a company window, drops his phone, and mutters “I can’t do this” to himself.
Stage 4 is when the hero conquers this initial fear and essentially takes a leap of faith and/or opens up his or her mind to the possibilities. This often occurs when the hero meets with his or her mentor. In the case of The Matrix, it is when Neo meets Morpheus (and his Morpheus Sunglasses) for the first time.
Stage 5 is when the protagonist crosses the initial threshold into his or her ‘brave new world.’ Obviously, in The Matrix this is where Neo is awakened into the real world. Stage 6 is where the hero sort of experiments with his or her ‘brave new world’ to learn about it and to see what is real and what is not. The spoon scene is an example of this stage.
Stage 7 is where the protagonist is fully engaged and committed to the cause. In other words, it is when the hero accepts his or her fate. An example of this stage is when Neo puts on his Neo Sunglasses and collects his arsenal of guns to prepare to go into The Matrix to save Morpheus. Stage 8 is where the hero faces the moment of truth. In other words, it is where the hero is severely tested and actually faces the prospect of dying. An example of this stage is the helicopter scene on top of the building, where Neo is somehow able to corral the copter.
Stage 9 represents the point where the hero passes the test and survives, and subsequently receives some sort of reward or payoff. For example, after the helicopter scene, Neo and Trinity share a passionate kiss for the first time.
Stage 10 represents the road back. In The Matrix, it is manifested by the subway scene in which Neo is desperately trying to get out of The Matrix but has Agent Smith in his way. Stage 11 represents resurrection. It is where the hero must face death one more time, but on a grander scale. Finally, stage 12 is where the hero gets that final boost necessary to win the ultimate battle. In The Matrix, it is where Neo gets his “Matrix vision” at the end, which ultimately allows him to penetrate Agent Smith and explode him with a burst of energy.