When The Matrix came out, it wowed audiences with its awe-inducing blend of incredible visuals and a concept the likes of which we hadn’t seen done quite that way before. Christopher Nolan’s Inception had a similar effect on audiences in 2010, baking our noodles with its intelligent premise that also delivered stunning action sequences. As a result, the two are frequently compared, with many citing Inception as “this decade’s The Matrix”, a somewhat reductive statement that nevertheless has seen the two competing for fanfare over the last two years.
Running through every category of each film’s construction, we look to finally decide once and for all which of the two prime sci-fi actioners of the last 15 years is King.
The Matrix depicts a dystopian future in which the world that most humans believe to be “reality” is in fact a fabricated computer space called The Matrix, constructed by sentient machines to keep the humans under their control. These sentinels use the human beings as batteries, but this isn’t something that occurs unopposed; a small grass-roots group of resistance fighters have “awoken” from The Matrix and exist in the real, desolate world of Zion, where they aim to stop the machines once and for all. Neo (Keanu Reeves), the latest to wake up, is thought by key resistance figure Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to be “The One”, the stabilising force who can bring The Matrix to its knees.
Inception, meanwhile, is about a thief named Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) who makes a living infiltrating the subconscious of people – usually business magnates – to obtain corporate secrets and information. Cobb, however, has been on the run, which means that he’s unable to see his young children, but when an energy tycoon, Saito (Ken Watanabe) offers him a mission – not to steal information, but to implant it in a target’s mind, a task long-thought impossible – that would mean his record would be expunged, he is all too keen to give it a go.
The Matrix has an excellent concept for a mainstream movie, rooted in some prevailing archetypes of philosophy, which means it’s a tad derivative, but it attaches itself to the action movie aesthetic extremely well. Inception, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be so clearly pulling from anything other than the mind of Christopher Nolan; therefore it’s that fiendish originality and the sheer insanity of the concept that gives it a slight edge over The Matrix’s more familiar dystopian narrative.
We are currently seeking Film contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Film contributor, click here.