In the first movie, the agents are totally unstoppable. Morpheus gets his butt kicked by Smith pretty bad--stood no chance. However, in Reloaded, we see Morpheus holding his own against an upgraded Agent; Trinity, on the other hand, gets her butt properly kicked.

My best guess as to why this is is that it the Wachowski brothers simply needed Morpheus to be able to stand up to an Agent to enhance the action/plot, thereby breaking in-universe rules. We see this type of thing all the time, the Plot Armor in the anime Gundam Wing being the most offensive example. So, is there any kind of explanation as to why Morpheus didn't get killed instantly by the Agent? Or did the Wachowski siblings simply ignore a fact of the world they had already created?


I've created a very rough little statistics comparing fighting events between the Matrix fight and the Reloaded fight.

It lacks some very significant details but can give you a picture nevertheless. Also it's quite demanding even to watch these fights for analysis so there are some errors for sure, but they don't alter the "big picture". "M." means Morpheus

event/Movie:  TM    RL  change
M. attacks:   13 to 45, 346%
M. defends:   32 to 31, 100%
(combined:    45 to 76, 170%)
M. evades:     5 to  4,  80%
M. blocks:    12 to 13, 110%
M. hits:       8 to 22, 275%
M. gets hurt: 23 to 25, 110%
M. misses:     5 to 18, 360%, of attacks: 38% to 40%

Note: of course you shouldn't believe no pretty Matri tables! You need to see the thing for yourself!

What is interesting here is that, as you can see Morhpeus is not too much better in doing defense once he needs it. But he became so much more agressive and able in initiating attacks.

How? It can be that he is faster because of his mind and/or that he has learned important things, ways and skills about fighting Agents.

In terms (primarily*) of skill, it is natural I think that Neo tried to teach them as much as he can (shamelessly linking here my previous answer).

But for the mind, it is also very-very important what also A Pale Shadow is saying in his answer, that Morpheus is believing in himself here.

Morpheus is basing his life on the Prophecy. He is called crazy (by Zee) and all, he is totally into it. In The Matrix, Morpheus saw his purpose as to buy time for Neo. So his own life was not conflicting with the Prohephecy. He succeeded in buying time.

In Reloaded, Morpheus understands that if the keymaker dies Neo cannot fulfill the Prophecy. He believes that the Prophecy will be fulfilled and this gives him the strength to believe in himself. I think this "further" frees his mind, allowing him to be faster, just as it was the case with Neo's in The Matrix.

Also, I know from experience, it really means a lot if you've seen/experienced something done, contrasted with when you only think that it "should" or "may" be possible, like defeating Agents here; and thus also agree with A Pale Shadow in that this definietly puts Morpheus in a more confident situation than in The Matrix.


Previously what they were thinking about agents was to run. Now he may think that they can be beaten if they are not fast enough. Quite a difference.

Also, do not forget that Morpheus at this point is actually experienced with fighting Agents!

As for Trinity, she can actually keep up relatively well. She never fought Agents before! Actually, if you check it, she falls for the same tricks as Morpheus at the first time (with Smith) - quite interesting! But she is also doing a bit better than Morpheus for the first time.

The real problem for Trinity actually only starts when there are suddenly two Agents.

two agents is a problem

Until that, she can actually keep up. (Not totally well, but she stands a chance, she has meaningful options available for her.) Only then, she starts to lose instantly.

*:(As a matter of fact I believe Neo also helped/trained Morpheus (and Trinity), in their mind field, as much as he could in the time prior to Reloaded. It would be hard to verify this, but even without doing so, the other things already provide some explanation.)

  • you may notice that the top and the bottom part of the table has different numbers, that is because the top is counting "initiations" and the bottom is "results". Note I've counted some extra results somewhere when multiple things has happened.
    – n611x007
    Jun 10 '13 at 23:15
  • Impressive analysis!
    – user14002
    Jun 11 '13 at 8:12
  • I still believe the Wachowski siblings bent some rules in order to make for better film, but your numbers are impressive. Perhaps they didn't bend the rules as much as I thought they did. I'll mark this as the accepted answer unless someone comes by with a wildly convincing solution.
    – Megacannon
    Jun 11 '13 at 11:02
  • Wow... Thumbs up for the table...
    – I' Robot
    Jun 11 '13 at 16:30
  • @Megacannon if there will be a more wildly convincing solution, could you then comment what details did convince you, I'm always interested in stuff like this! :) Always fascinates me to see other's opinion and diff facts and preferences with myself.
    – n611x007
    Jun 13 '13 at 14:09

At the point where Morpheus stands up to the Agent on the freeway he has a number of forces guiding him:

First, Morpheus has the hope that he can defeat The Agent:

Trinity: You always told me to stay off the freeway.

Morpheus: Yes, that's true.

Trinity: You said it was suicide.

Morpheus: Then let us hope that I was wrong.

Secondly, he must do it, there is no alternative, Morpheus accepts this as his fate and is calm and courageous in the face of death.

Morpheus: Do you believe in fate Neo?

Neo: No.

Morpheus: Why not?

Lastly, Morpheus knows that the Agents can be defeated, he has seen Neo do it, thus he has the belief that he can do it too, and as we have seen, belief in what you can do in The Matrix is more important than anything else.

Morpheus: Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? Do you think that's air you're breathing now?

Morpheus, armed with hope, courage, and belief is a match for The Agent, and in some ways much more the hero than Neo at this point.

  • I disagree with you, here. I grant that an increase of belief could make Morpheus much stronger. Before Neo became The One, his belief made him strong enough to fight Agent Smith the first time. It's reasonable to believe that this type of strength would be obtainable by any of the others because it's not necessarily connected to the power of The One which came later. With that in mind, I still do not believe such belief would give Morpheus enough power to handle an upgraded Agent. Though, the reasons you mention make for great film!
    – Megacannon
    Jun 10 '13 at 14:14
  • 3
    Honestly, I can't say that Morpheus did actually beat the Agent, though he did win. The samurai sword that he picked up was helpful, but you see that without it, his chances were as good as his were against Agent Smith, or Neo's first fight against Smith. Morpheus won by circumstances, not by design.
    – Jersey
    Jun 10 '13 at 15:17
  • 4
    @Megacannon it looks like you're opinion is fixed regardless of argument, so why did you ask the question?
    – user14002
    Jun 10 '13 at 15:56
  • 1
    @Megacannon there are quite many other important ways to win other than by force only. "had the battle continued" - except it cannot since the Agent dies in a crash. Morpheus did win. By the means of help, trick, and luck, yes - but also with surprise, improvisation, defending long enough, attack spirit and upgraded technique. Morpheus believing in himself is a crucial factor for this to be possible. Of course the agent instantly resurrects, that's another story.
    – n611x007
    Jun 10 '13 at 17:56
  • 2
    I suspect Neo helped to train Morpheus to harness the force more fully and to better understand the programs he would be accessing for the fight sequences. Rubbing elbows with 'The One' doesn't hurt your chances to beat 'sentient' computer programs...
    – Morgan
    Jun 10 '13 at 22:49

Could it just be that Morpheus lasted longer against an agent because he is a better hand to hand fighter than Trinity?

I am not sure he did that much better on the truck top than in the building, although he did well in both cases considering he was fighting an agent.

The previous time he fought an agent he was trapped in a corner with no room to move and took a beating but still lasted a respectable amount of time (like when a boxer is trapped in the corner). There was also convenient walls etc for the agent to bounce him off.

On the truck top he had more room to move which makes fighting far easier. He also had a sword for part of the fight against an unarmed agent and he would also have been killed had he not landed on a friendly car when he fell off the truck.

I would say the reason the fight was more even was that for Morpheus this fight had a better environment (room to move etc), a handy good melee weapon (the sword) and blind luck (the car behind being there at the right time).

Here is a link to the fight scene:

It is 1.53 long. Notice how Morpheus almost dies (ie gets knocked off the truck which would probably be fatal) at 0:10, 0:43, 0:53, 0:58, 1.06 and 1:49.


I had a friend in college who was obsessed with this particular scene and we watched just this part over and over, almost on repeat. Obviously this scene had touched him. IN fact I had asked him about it, and he didn't really even like the rest of the movies after that. That being said he saw something of great significance in this scene out of all the movies.

I believed then that there is a shift in the matrix, especially in the thought about the matrix. Was there any mention of upgraded agents anywhere before the second movie? no, I don't think so. the matrix changed. The real world changed. There is an interplay between what is in the matrix and what is in the real world.

It may sound too simple, but Agents-> upgraded, Neo's allies: upgraded. Because and this is where the jump of logic takes place, when they are fighting in the matrix, (Morpheus, Trinity) are subject somewhat still to the laws of the matrix (Neo later being the only exception) the rules have changed for one side the rules have changed for the other. Agent Smith being the best example of this. It's very ying-yang, balance between good and evil, and the Wachowski brothers admitted to drawing a great amount from Eastern spirituality. Morpheus' upgraded form would be something like a religious zealot and that would cause him to consider his life less important, and he would be a better fighter.


Why are Neo and his crew while in the Matrix able to hold their own against Agents who previously wiped the floor with them? MOTIVATION.

You are overthinking the nature of the conflict within the Matrix. Until the proven existence of Neo, no anti-Matrix operative would dare confront even Agent 1.0 unless forced to because the BELIEF was, if you confront an Agent, you die.

  • The rule was "run away" so we can continue our quest to find "the One."

  • But once they found The One, they were forced to have to change the nature of their warfare from a covert war to an overt war. This entailed taking risks previously thought to be inconceivable in the past, such as FIGHTING AGENTS.

However, Neo's experience with the agents indicated while they were upgraded, they were still not really a match for him. So agent 2.0 was really no more effective than Agent 1.0 once Neo found his ground.

  • The rest of the crew rarely if ever fought against Agents so really had little to base their true capability on. All of them ran the same combat software and trained against each other regularly.

  • Since they were in the Matrix, injuries did happen but were not the life-threatening things they would have been in reality. Most of the strikes, blows and knockdowns would kill ordinary humans in the real world.

  • What was the difference in their fighting which made it possible to fight a single agent and not die instantly? THEIR BELIEF IN THE ONE.

Every time any of them are forced to fight an agent, they are fighting for something larger than themselves. Note Trinity fighting the single Agent 2.0. She held her own quite well for someone WHO NORMALLY RAN AWAY FROM AGENTS.

  • Morpheus' battle on top of the truck was an example of a man who had decided HE WASN'T RUNNING ANYMORE. Look at his face the entire fight. He does not fear the agent. He relishes the opportunity to fight him and takes the battle TO the agent wherever possible. He does not hesitate, he does not overthink the battle, he does not allow any circumstance to be dictated by the agent.

  • The sword was a balancing device because it had the potential to kill the body the agent was inhabiting and if you note, the agent began to dodge in the same way they use to avoid bullets.

Morpheus and crew were more effective not because of their training, because they all trained and used the same software upgrades delivered to them by their operators.

  • What was different were the stakes and their belief that Neo could really make a difference in their lives. They surrendered themselves to their cause, fought without a thought for tomorrow and placed themselves in a state of mushin, combat without thought.

  • Fighting purely from reflex, which made them able to fight against a machine with perfect reflexes and no thought to the body of the human they were co-opting.

If anything, Morpheus and his crew were approximating the same effectiveness the Matrix had as a machine. Combat without thought to the consequences of its actions.


I think the guy who said Morpheus needs room to move to fight at his best has the right idea. I haven't seen the first movie in forever but I remember Smith (well, all of the agents really) as like this wrecking machine with overwhelming strength and durability, whereas every fight scene I see Morpheus in (other than the one against Smith) he's bouncing around like Floyd Mayweather on the moon. In the enclosed space where he fought Smith he couldn't do that. He was forced to fight a stronger, tougher guy head on with no space to maneuver so naturally he got his ass handed to him. In a wide open space like on top of that truck we really got to see the best of what Morpheus has to offer. And as has been mentioned, the fact that he had a sword for part of the fight and a car that saved him from a potentially fatal fall makes up a fair bit of the difference as well.


To me, by this logic, the god awful 'Love' story in this series should push Trinity beyond everyone but Neo. You know, because lolove conquers allol.

In reality, Morpheus is better in RL because he had to be. And Trinity isn't because she had to die. She had to give Neo reason for what he did at end of TM and RL and end of RV.


Neo is the prime program(the one) he has power over the matrix and the code of the matrix. each individual who enters has a code over there residual self image that neo can see. since neo can alter the code its a logical conclusion that neo might have simply upgraded Morpheus and Trinity or maybe even upgraded all members of zion's soldiers. and that the only reason Morpheus didn't manhandle those agents because they too were upgrades

  • Interesting theory.
    – Molag Bal
    May 21 '16 at 19:17
  • 1
    This seems very speculative indeed. Can you offer any evidence for this theory?
    – Valorum
    May 21 '16 at 19:43
  • Neo is the one, this is not speculative its an irrefutable fact. the One is the Prime Program(stated right in the movies) so this two isn't speculative. Neo can alter the matrix, again not speculative stated right in the movies. so it would be a logical conclusion that He could upgrade those who are in the matrix. remember the human brain has a series of electrical signals and in real life scientists can store data on a human cell. or even in the brain.so it would be logical that Neo could simply give morpheus an upgrade May 22 '16 at 23:58

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