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Film

Is 'John Wick' a 'Matrix' training programme?

@Russellisation

Many roads have led to the success of the modern action movie franchise John Wick, with the series having grasped ahold of a particular mood in the zeitgeist of popular entertainment. Creating a bombastic action series with a peculiar scent of science fiction, John Wick tapped into the success of the Wachowski sisters’ influential Matrix trilogy that sparked a flurry of cultural change at the start of the new millennium. 

Sparking two sequels and a fourth film currently in production, John Wick is quickly becoming Keanu Reeves’ most successful franchise, following the actor as an ex-hit-man who becomes embroiled with gang warfare after someone steals his dog. Eliciting the same energy as the roles of his own ‘90s action heroes, Reeves creates a compelling character for fans of the films to latch onto. 

Though, many fans have pointed to the fact that the titular John Wick has a lot in common with Reeves’ Matrix hero, Neo, with several references to each other being traded by both franchises. This has simply only fueled the wild minds of film fans worldwide, with many suggesting that the world of John Wick is a Matrix training programme, alongside many other more crazy theories. So, let’s look into some evidence.

Is John Wick a Matrix training programme?

The world of John Wick is happening in virtual reality 

The John Wick and Matrix movies have come to define Keanu Reeves as an actor, and he’s not the only one, with the John Wick director Chad Stahelski having worked as a stuntman on the Wachowski sisters’ series. Clearly inspired by the tone of the movies, as well as the art direction and fighting sequences, quite how far does the rabbit hole of similarities between the two movies go?

“I think that Chad was influenced by the way in which Wachowskis created the Matrix world, mythology and I think he has done a really good job taking those influences and making it Wick!” Reeves stated in a recent interview, bringing light to several of the creative choices made throughout the John Wick movies.

Throughout the Matrix universe, and particularly in the latest movie, The Matrix Resurrections, the whole idea of a fake universe is explored in great detail, with the concept of ‘the Matrix’ itself making reference to a giant virtual reality system that imprisons humans in blissful ignorance. This setup helps to facilitate the film’s video game-like action, featuring high-flying kicks, bullet-time and much more.

The John Wick universe isn’t far off this virtual fantasy, however, with the second film in the current trilogy taking the action to bombastic new heights as the titular character takes on hundreds of waves of assassins in the maze-like catacombs. Surviving iron-fisted punches and silver bullets, John Wick seems like a one-man army, similar to how Neo can take on such a vast array of agents. 

The movie’s high-octane action isn’t the only aspect to hold all the clues to the film’s virtual reality secret, however, with one scene even making direct reference to how ‘the Matrix’ in the Wachowski story can be paused on demand by higher powers. 

Such is directly referenced in one scene in John Wick: Chapter 2 when Ian McShane’s villainous character ‘pauses’ hundreds of people walking around a park, a scene that draws direct comparisons to several moments in The Matrix such as when the woman in the red dress is walking down the street in the first film. To bolster this idea, the residents of John Wick’s New York don’t seem all that bothered by the horrors that are occurring around them, reminding film fans of how the people of ‘The Matrix’ remain oblivious to the terror of Neo, the Agents and co. 

The universe’s curious currency system is worth referencing too, with the shady businessmen of John Wick using gold coins instead of cash or ticking bank accounts, an idea that is highly reminiscent of countless video games that create fake currencies.

Interconnected worlds

John Wick clearly contains some strange, outlandish aspects, but what has this got to do with The Matrix?

In addition to sharing some curious virtual reality features, there are several references to both franchises in both The Matrix and John Wick universes, suggesting that both could indeed be one in the same.  

The most recent reference came in The Matrix Resurrections where the John Wick director Chad Stahelski appears as a key character in the role of Trinity’s fake husband. Speaking to Collider about the crossover collaboration, Reeves told Collider, “I think that [Stahelski and Wachowski] have a real affection for each other, and I know that Chad always describes going to Wachowski film school. Chad was my stunt double on the trilogy and I think that Lana, the director and writer, appreciates Chad and his filmmaking”. 

These references also occurred throughout John Wick, with the third film in the trilogy including a line where Reeves’ character says “Guns…Lots of guns,” making a direct callback to The Matrix. With interconnected lives and godlike omnipotence, what we could really be seeing at this moment is Neo recalling something he said a long time ago, or perhaps something yet to happen. 

If this wasn’t enough, the inclusion of Laurence Fishburne in both sets of movies also brings up several interesting questions, particularly in that he repeatedly plays a wise old mentor who prefers to keep himself secret rather than flaunt his intelligence in public. Perhaps The Matrix’s Morpheus and John Wick’s Bowery are merely the same person, helping to guide the protagonist through the world of The Matrix.

Not convinced? Consider the moment in John Wick: Chapter 3 when a montage of Fishburne’s character getting changed is shown, putting on his clothes, at one point he reaches out to containers, one red, one blue. Referencing the red and blue pills that Morpheus possesses in The Matrix movies, this suggests some serious similarities between the two characters, and he’s not the only one.

Neo and John Wick are the same person

This may be the hardest part of the fan theory to digest, but it is an aspect that does hold weight if you let your imagination run riot. 

The most blatant similarity between the Matrix and John Wick is quite obviously the lead actor being the American film star Keanu Reeves, now a permanent fixture of both franchises.  

There is no film that launched Reeves more into the cultural mainstream than the groundbreaking filmmaking feat of Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s The Matrix, where the actor plays a normal man turned godlike martial artist. Similarly, though not totally identical, John Wick is a former assassin who is forced to return to life as one of the most deadly men on the planet after someone steals his dog.

The characters vary in many ways but they also share in having a remarkable physical capability and an explosive energy that can change the momentum of any fight. 

In an interview for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Reeves recently stated, “I mean that experience (The Matrix) changed our lives both personally and creatively. As Chad would say ‘if you are going to steal, steal from the best’! Cinema is a lot like painting, in the way that it inspires traditions of what has come before”.

John Wick could merely be one of the many iterations of ‘The One’ as described throughout the Matrix franchise, a rogue and dangerous member of society, wishing to change its very structure.