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In The Matrix Revolutions, when Neo and Trinity are trying to get to the Machine City, when the Machines launch weapons against them, Neo is able to destroy some of the incoming weapons.

This is in the real world at this point, not in the Matrix. How does Neo have any powers against the machines outside of the Matrix?

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What makes you so sure it's the real world, and not just one level closer to the real world? ;) – Izkata Feb 19 '12 at 20:02
@Izkata: If that's what you think, why not make a good case for it and make it your answer? – Tango Feb 19 '12 at 20:26
It's turtles all the way down! :) – Dima Feb 19 '12 at 21:08
Wi-fi, the one is someone who's implants can connect wirelessly. – Tyson of the Northwest Feb 19 '12 at 21:15
Didn't Neo first stop the machine weapons in The Matrix Reloaded, even before Revolutions? ("Something's different. I can feel them.") – Kidburla Oct 27 '14 at 20:05

14 Answers 14

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The explanation given within the films is that Neo (as the One) has a special connection to the Source which allows him to control machines in the real world. Neo asked the Oracle how he was able to stop Sentinels in the real world and she gave him the answer:

Neo: Tell me how I separated my mind from my body without jacking in. Tell me how I stopped four sentinels by thinking it. Tell me just what the hell is happening to me.

Oracle: The power of the One extends beyond this world. It reaches from here all the way back to where it came from.

Neo: Where?

Oracle: The Source. That's what you felt when you touched those Sentinels. But you weren't ready for it. You should be dead, but apparently you weren't ready for that, either.

The Matrix Revolutions

Neo was able to destroy the machines' weapons in The Matrix Revolutions in the same way. The films never explain exactly how Neo was able to control the machines in the real world, but it's worth noting that Neo was designed by the machines to carry machine code that enabled him to perform the function of the One. As explained by the Architect:

The function of the One is now to return to the Source, allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program.


Your 5 predecessors were, by design, based on a similar predication - a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the One.

The Matrix Reloaded

We know machine code carried within a human body can affect the real world because of Smith's control over Bane in the real world. Thus, the code carried by the One undoubtedly gave Neo a connection with the Source in the real world as well.

The biggest question is how Neo manages to communicate orders via the Source in the real world, and the films don't explain how. Presumably he communicates wirelessly using his head jack. Zion's use of EMPs should disable the head jack, but the EMPs apparently only disable head jacks temporarily: humans can't be connected to the Matrix during an EMP blast but they can re-enter the Matrix after the blast, and Smith/Bane is put in a coma by his EMP blast in The Matrix Reloaded but eventually regains consciousness. Machines like Sentinels are permanently disabled by EMPs, but evidently the human body acts as a "battery" to re-start the head jack.

As an aside, the Matrix-within-a-Matrix (MWAM) theory is an understandably popular fan theory which easily explains how Neo controlled the machines in the real world. However, it suffers from several notable inconsistencies with known facts. For example:

  1. Neo's powers in the real world are much more limited than his powers in the Matrix. In the Matrix he can fly, stop bullets, endure incredible acceleration, bring Trinity back from death, etc. But in the real world he can only affect machines, he can't fly (otherwise why would he need Niobe's ship to get to the Machine City?), he is easily and permanently injured (blinded) in his fight against Smith, and -- most notably -- he is unable to save Trinity from death. If the "real world" is just another Matrix there's no reason why Neo wouldn't be just as powerful in it.
  2. The Zion Archives depict the history of the Machine War and the creation of the Matrix. If MWAM is true then the machines would have deliberately provided the Zion Archives to Zion. But the story told in the Zion Archives portrays the machines in a very bad light and includes some very graphic scenes of human suffering caused by the machines and the seemingly pointless detonation of a nuclear weapon by the machines after the humans had already surrendered. If the machines deliberately provided the Archives to Zion, they would have omitted those scenes and portrayed a story in which it was all the humans' fault for pre-emptively attacking the Machine City and scorching the sky.
  3. In the final scene of The Matrix Revolutions, the Architect tells the Oracle that she played a "dangerous game" by breaking the cycles of the Ones and bringing about peace with Zion. But if MWAM is true, there was no danger nor purpose to the Oracle's plan -- the humans are no closer to escaping the outer Matrix of the "real world". And there would have been no reason for the Oracle and the Architect to have that conversation amongst themselves in the first place.
  4. The machines cooperate with Neo to defeat Smith and as a result end the war with Zion. They act as if they are really threatened by the loss of their one power source. But if the "real world" was another Matrix the machines wouldn't care if Smith took over the Matrix -- the humans in the "real world" would still be providing power for the machines in the "really real world" regardless of the status of the Matrix.
  5. Humans appear as green code in the Matrix but only the machines have gold code in the real world. If the "real world" was just another Matrix with gold instead of green code then humans and the surroundings should also look like gold code. What we see is exactly consistent with what we would expect if everything machine-generated appears as code and the real world is reality -- everything in the Matrix as appears as code but only the machines themselves appear as code in the real world.
  6. Scenes in the Matrix have a green tint but scenes in the real world do not.
  7. (Out of universe) If MWAM is true, all the events in the entire Matrix franchise are ultimately meaningless. The story starts with the humans imprisoned in multiple Matrix levels, a lot of things happen, and the story ends with the humans imprisoned in multiple Matrix levels.
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One of Morpheus's first lines references Alice in Wonderland. But, just how deep does the rabbit hole go?

I am of the opinion that Zion and the rest of the real world isn't actually the real world. Humans are rebellious by nature, so what the Architect said about Zion needing to exist makes sense. But as long as the humans believe they escaped from the Matrix, why does it need to be real?

Remember what Cypher said in the first movie? As I recall, it was quite a popular quote for a while:

Well you have to. The image translators work for the construct program. But there's way too much information to decode the Matrix. You get used to it. I...I don't even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, red-head. Hey, you uh... want a drink?

Why does that matter? Well, remember this scene from the end of Matrix Revolutions, Neo walking through Machine City with his eyes wrapped up? At that point, Neo had also learned/figured out how to see the code, and no longer needed his eyes:

("Real" world) real world

(Seeing the underlying code/structure) underlying code

So while Neo may have gotten one level closer to reality, he wasn't there yet.

Image source

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I'd be quite interested to learn why I got a downvote for this... – Izkata Feb 21 '12 at 0:04
@Izkata The Architect is trying to discredit your work. – TLP Mar 4 '12 at 11:27
+1: I thought this was where the movies were going, and the third movie would be Noe leading the lads out of the Zion VR, leaving the tantalizing question "Are they really out now?". Man was I ever disappointed by the last one, it managed to ruin the 2nd one for me too. Too bad they never made any sequels – Binary Worrier Feb 12 '13 at 13:12
@Izkata - I did not DV, but the MWAM (Matrix Within a Matrix) isn't anywhere near a confirmed correct truth, merely one popular fan theory. So perhaps that's why you were DVed. – DVK Feb 25 '13 at 12:20
@MarkRogers: Well, what he does in the "real" world isn't really compatible with any natural law I ever encountered. However, it is indeed a strong indicator, that by the end of Revolutions he could see past the façade of the so-called "real" world just as he could see past the one of the Matrix in the first film. You might even go out on a limb and claim that when he appears to have died, he finally got one layer up --- alone. – bitmask Nov 5 '13 at 20:50

There are a couple of in-universe theories that have been written about before (see #4 here).

We've previously told you about a popular interpretation which holds that the "real" world of Zion is still part of the Matrix; Keanu had just moved up to another level of simulation, like in Inception.

But this more elaborate theory is more interesting in my opinion.

Zion is a Matrix-like simulation, but one made by humans for the purpose of creating better machines. In this scenario, Neo and his "enlightened" fellow humans were actually machines all along, and the baffling, recursive fight scenes they experienced in Matrix Reloaded were software implanted by the humans designed to teach them to understand human pain.

The movie canon doesn't hint at either of theories; although they aren't directly refuted. Unfortunately, the real answer is probably out-of-universe: the Wachowskis brothers made a Lucasian blunder and wrote in something into the plot that doesn't make sense within the universe they'd previously created.

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-1 I'm sure it cannot be more far from being a blunder. Let alone a "Lucasian" one. If you think about it, it's totally not necessary to include Neo stopping machines like bullets, neither is the whole Architect thing, the whole trilogy could do just fine without them; but the idea is pursued consequentially. – n611x007 Jun 10 '13 at 5:48
What exactly is a "Lucasian blunder"? This answer is basically the only Google result that includes this phrase. – Kenny Evitt May 21 '14 at 15:33
It’s not a term with any prior usage I know of. I intended it to mean in later works (e.g. the second two Matrix movies or Star Wars prequels) adding things that don't make sense. The SW example would be the demystification of the force. Basically creating a situation where you want to add something in a new film that contradicts your previous work but putting it in anyway and either trying to retcon it in or ignoring the issue. – Adam Wuerl May 21 '14 at 16:52
Strangely enough, I found another instance of "Lucasian", but in that case I think it refers to Robert Lucas, not George. – Kenny Evitt May 22 '14 at 17:35

Ok... to me this seems pretty simple. Neo is able to affect things in the matrix that normal people can't - he has escalated privileges, superuser access even above that of the Agents. Why shouldn't he be able to affect other parts of the machine infrastructure beyond the matrix simulators?

Then the only question is how are his wishes communicated to the machines? Well, he still has a machine-implanted jack in his skull - who knows whether it contains some kind of wireless backup link?

Yeah there's no evidence I know of in the movies for this, but it's certainly a simpler explanation than a whole nother level of simulated reality.

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This feels most right to me. It even neatly explains why Neo could see the real world as code, given that the machines themselves would have code based information on all of the real world (Google Earth, Maps and Street View are already nicely accomplishing this). – Xantec Feb 22 '12 at 16:45
Great answer. Note that the writers originally intended the machines to be using humans as processing power; the power of the One is the ability to see and use the parts of the machine OS running in his own brain. – Tynam Mar 8 '12 at 23:52
This suits my interpretation that as the movies go, Neo becomes more machine, and Smith becomes more human. Smith gets emotions, free will, steps into the real world. Neo gets wifi (can get in and out of the Matrix without a hard line). – MPelletier Mar 23 '12 at 14:41
+1 for Occam's razor. – Brian Ortiz Aug 20 '12 at 19:58
An additional argument for this is that in the Matrix Neo could use his "telekinetic" powers on just about anything, but in the real world he could only stop machines like the squiddies. Likewise, in the Matrix he could see everything as code, in the real world he could only see machines and A.I.s (including Bane, because Agent Smith had taken over his brain). And he couldn't fly in the real world, which would have been enormously useful in reaching the machine city; nor could he do crazy gravity-defying kung fu movies, the fight with Bane was presented as a much more realistic brawl. – Hypnosifl Jul 12 '14 at 22:47

This is a lot easier than what you guys have articulated. Think of Neo as a machine's version of A.I.

Neo is a pod human. All pod humans are created by the machines. Since he's the one, the way he was created by the machines allows him to do things (i.e. fly and stopping bullets) in the Matrix that no other human can do.

The only way he can do the ^ isn't because his RSI in the Matrix grants him "master user status," it's because his physical body was uniquely created when the machines made him. Therefore, the reason he can do things in the Matrix that others can't is because the machines made his physical body differently from those of other humans and that physical distinction allows him to also do things outside of the Matrix (i.e., in the real world) that others can't do (i.e., the ability to see the energy machines have and stop them, presumably through wireless powers).

Think of Neo as a machine's version of A.I.:

Lastly, to analogize it, think of Neo as a machine with A.I., the machines are humans, and the pod humans are thoughtless machines (like a dish-washing machine or a lamp).

The machines use humans to help them live (similar to why humans, generally, created machines) and the machines created A.I. (in this case, Neo) as another means to survive (in this case, to make sure the Matrix is fail-proof). Though humans created A.I. to allow them to survive, but screwed them over in the end, the same happened when the machines created Neo. Just like A.I. f@@@ed humans over, Neo f@@@ed the machines over because he's not like every pod human they created; he's got self-control, just like A.I. Hence Neo used his "outside the Matrix" powers, which were granted to him by the machines, against his creators, just like the A.I. machines used their powers (in this case, intelligence), which were granted to them by humans, to rebel against their human creators.

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But his genetic material is still human. Even though his physical means of conception where carried out by the machines, there still would have had to have been donor sperm and egg from a human, making him created the same as you or I. – Monty129 Sep 29 '13 at 12:14

I would say it may be something telepathic. From the scene where he got kicked back into the matrix and had to get out. He developed the ability to affect the machines. It even goes back further to when he jumps into Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith later says something along the lines of I became a part of you and vice versa. It first showed itself when he killed the squids but it is more impressive when he blows up all the missles

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Yeah. Perhaps being in the real matrix helped to develop his abilities. Now developed, they work out of the Matrix too. – please delete me Jul 17 '14 at 17:56

It is simpler than Inception kind of stuff. As shown in movie somehow he remained connected with Matrix even in the real world unlike others. He felt the machines because they were a part of Matrix as well.

His indirect connection with machines allowed him to interact with them. He stopped them by thinking about it (just like he did in simulation) and was able to sense them (see them without eyes) because of his connection.

When Smith occupied the brain of Ben, he would have been able to do the same.

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Another theory, based on the expanded universe of the Matrix Online game: just like when he was in "digital" coma, his consciousness was held in the digital world and the body in the physical world, when he's awaken some part of himself may still be in the matrix at all time.

This would explain why he would still retain some degree of power, only on machines of course, while being disconnected: he may not be able to directly communicate with his "digital counterpart", but the digital counterpart may well be aware of everything about his physical counterpart via the machines (eg, when the missiles are launched towards Neo in his flying ship towards Deus Ex Machina, the digital counterpart is already informed and can work to take down the missiles).

This is kind of confirmed by Matrix Online, where the corrupted RSI (residual self image) of Neo re-appeared even through Neo was dead (since the events of the game happen after the movies), and it was in the process of being repaired before the game ended, thus implying that the digital counterpart could be separated and even survive the physical counterpart.

However, this does not explain how Neo could "feel" the machines, but it may well be just a residual feeling from his sentiment that some part of him has been detached to stay inside the Matrix, just like a phantom limb.

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Neo is a cyborg, he was created by machines - as the chosen one. Or maybe he's just genetically modified, as he has no parents (they were machines). There is no facts behind that, though, but remember that he almost doesn't have life in the matrix - no family or friends, it seems as he was reset and plugged into the matrix a while ago .

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Zion has a power source and by the looks of it, Zion produces as much power as the machine would require to survive if Zion could do it then obviously the machines could too so there is only two possible explanations for this, either the Wachowski brothers made a mistake OR Zion and it's power source is not real BUT the second explanation fits into the puzzle more elegantly explaining Neo's ability to control and see without eyes the machines in the "real world" and his sudden jump back in between the "real world" and the matrix in the Revolutions and then into the Matrix without being plugged in.

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why can't Neo see anything else besides machines in the Real world, assuming the Real is also a "Matrix" then everyone else would also be code/program and would be visible the same as the machines and the Rogue Smith Program. – Malachi Jan 30 at 14:26

You could actually already ask this question about the way he shut down the Sentinels at the end of Reloaded, and the answer is probably the same. While one explanation surely is the uber-Matrix mentioned in another answer, a much simpler explanation comes to my mind:

As the Architect revealed, Neo's being The One (or at least, someone becoming the One every now and then) is part of the Matrix programme. Therefore it is not unlikely that the machines actually still have a weak wireless connection to the Redpills and thus know what Neo is attempting to achieve - and his purpose is

to betray those who trusted him by selecting 23 others to rebuild Zion instead of saving everyone (of course, he refused to do so)

so it is conceivable the machines actively helped him, even his meeting the Architect especially once

Smith wrecked havoc,

which would also explain why he suddenly could "see" again after having being blinded.

Of course, you could even manage without a wireless connection, when you assume that in order to be The One, Neo had a slightly different Physiology (maybe something about Delta Brainwaves) that allowed him to actually first emit and later detect electromagnetic waves independently of his eyes...

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I have to say - Tinch's argument is the one I've seen here which differs from my own, but shows a lot of originality in its analysis and I think it's interesting.

The machines use humans to help them live (similar to why humans, generally, created machines) and the machines created A.I. (in this case, Neo) as another means to survive (in this case, to make sure the Matrix is fail-proof).

While I could see this being justified in-part due to canon, where the Architect explains that the "one" is a systemic-anomaly that basically embodies all the leftover subconscious rebellion from the Human psyche, and a depository for incompatible algorithms. Which must be re-inserted into the Matrix so that people will be able to "choose," once again, if even on an unconscious level (as he explained about the Oracle, or "Jesus'" idea). The answer was simple to me even from the first time I saw the conclusion to the Trilogy. Remember, Agent Smith was able to supersede the matrix by taking that phone call - thus using the digital-translation mechanism of the telephone, in order to get into that other character's mind - becoming his consciousness. This brought Agent Smith out of the Matrix, since while inside the matrix a consciousness is virtual, anyway (whether you're Human OR machine). So why couldn't it work the other way around? It's not coincidental that at roughly this same time in the second installment, Neo has grown so accustomed to the "sense" of how the Matrix operates (after-all, being able to see in code and everything), that in a way dualistic to how Smith escaped, he is actually able to use Matrix-like powers against them from OUTSIDE the virtual-construct.

Keep in mind, the Matrix was constructed by these very machines - so it's not surprising that while Smith has the ability to transcend the "virtual world" into the real, but the flip-side of that is Neo being able to transcend the "real" world's limitations directly through his accumulated interface with the nature of these same machines. Remember, when he entered Smith's avatar in the dramatic conclusion of the 1st movie? Well, I believe that's a CLUE to what the Architect would ultimately confirm in the second movie, and that is Neo is somehow integral to the survival of the Matrix. So there's no reason to object to the possibility that this fundamental connection couldn't supersede that virtual form - after-all, the minds behind the Matrix have a physical basis OUTSIDE of it as much as the actors jacking into the Matrix do as well. It's the opposite of bleeding in your chair when you get punched too many times while connected to the program, basically.

It's no coincidence, therefore, that Smith in Bane's body ends up lying in the medical-bay directly (and oppositely-positioned) from Neo, after this manifestation of his intrinsic connection to the Machines outside in reality actually drains him of all his energy - hey, I'd be exhausted too after something like that.

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I can't believe you have not got it yet. Everything is what it looks like! The matrix is matrix and the real world is absolutely real! The thing is, when your mind believes it can do anything, then this is valid for the real world too. That's the message ! p.s. Read some quantum physics and holographic universe theory!

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are you a Wachowski or their fellow? :) caring for quantum physics. it can be felt so much that the movie is telling you this, on one level. – n611x007 Jun 10 '13 at 6:02
So quantum physics implies that "when your mind believe it can do anything"? I must have missed that part in my studies. – Keith Thompson Sep 29 '13 at 21:24

Well you guys remember when Morpheus explained the machines liquefying human remains to feed to the living? And Neo stopped hin and said that's ridiculous because of thermo whatever. Morpheus then shut him up by asking where he went to school? Yeah IN THE MATRIX (the universe doesn't run on mathematics alone) So the physics in the matrix are made up and are elegant lies that the machines made up. The physics in the real world are most likely completely different from the matrix and Neo figured that out. He could've just figured out that since humans are the creators of machines, we have dominion over them and can "shut them off" aka control like the consellor said in reloaded.

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-1 because Neo and Morpheus never had that conversation outside fanfic – Richard Oct 21 '14 at 9:09

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