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The EMP Question of The Matrix Series

Matrix Revolutions, the third installment of the Matrix trilogy was disappointing to many including me. Many people didn’t like the ending of the series with Neo “dying” and the humans making a pact with the hated, evil machines who were keeping human beings as power-generating batteries for a thousand years. But I was fine with that because I could not really understand the ending of the movie, what it implied and how this movie tied in with the previous two. What really bugged me was that the Matrix Revolutions departed from the path-breaking postmodern cyberpunk and philosophical gedanken-experiment epicness the first two movies set forward and degenerated into a messy crash-boom-pow Michael Bay-esque explosion fest, though when it comes to the battle scenes it was far far awesome compared to any contemporary or even present sci-fi film.

Though it told a futuristic sci-fi story, the Matrix Trilogy revolved around the Philosophical question of the nature of the human existence, at least so in the first part. It was carried forward by the Matrix Reloaded in some measure. However, by the time it got to The Matrix Revolutions, everything had unraveled and not only did it not answer or take forward any of the philosophical questions germinated in the first two movies, but it also left many threads started by the previous movies hanging in space, unanswered. The biggest flaw of the Matrix Revolutions was how the movie lost the strong plot started by the first movie, where reasons for everything, however unnatural it might seem was properly explained and put forward as how things “happen for a reason with consequence”. In the Matrix Revolutions however, everything just falls apart and things happen senselessly like they w0uld do in any other action flick. The movie offers no logical explanation about things happening in it, not even in the Matrix Universe.

Matrix Neo Deus Ex Machina
Mr. Machine, This Movie has gone too far to make any more sense.

The EMP Weapon of Mass Destruction

As we all know, all the ships of the humans (hovercrafts) of the City of Zion are fitted with a device that fires a highly powerful Electro Magnetic Pulse or EMP, a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic radiation generated by rapidly changing electrical and magnetic fields so powerful that the high charge it generates will “fry” or disable all electronic circuits within its blast radius (including the ship’s own electronics) but will have no effect on humans. Since the machines who are enemies of the humans are made up of electronic circuits, an EMP blast will obviously fry their behinds back to the junkyard and save the humans’ pathetic skins. The EMPs were considered the last line of defense of the ships and the city and were supposed to be used only when there was no other way out. We see this at the end of the first movie when Morpheus fires the EMP of the Nebuchadnezzar while it was reeling and coming apart under attack from the sentinels and in the last movie when Link, on command from Morpheus, detonates the EMP of the Mjolnir which crash-lands into the city while the battle between Zion and the machines was raging. In the first instance the EMP killed all the attacking sentinels but disabled the ship also. In the last movie, the EMP destroyed all the hoards of attacking machines including Sentinels and Diggers present in Zion but took down all of the city’s defenses as well, electronic and otherwise. Though not included in the movies, the Matrix storyline also presents an incident where Agent Smith using Bane’s body kills the crew and triggers the EMP of the Caduceus which disables itself and at least five other ships along with it. Bane is later rescued and shown along with Neo at the end of the Matrix Revolutions.

All this makes sense but the prevalence of the all-powerful EMP that can just wipe out any machine raises a basic question: If the humans were in possession of such an awesomely powerful weapon of mass destruction, why didn’t the humans of Zion just build and use EMPs in large numbers to destroy all the machines and claim the World back or at least to stop the attack on Zion?

The Matrix Ship EMP Activator
Cyberpunk Weapon of Mass Destruction

Some Points about the Matrix and the EMPs that do not add up.

  • Why did they limit EMPs to ships, that too just one each? Why didn’t they fit a number of them along the perimeter of the city and in various locations along the sewers and the surface which could be remotely detonated from Zion? Forget any advancing army, not even a stray sentinel would’ve reached Zion!
  • They did not install any EMPs on the docks and in the city because the city didn’t have radiation (EMP) shielding. Fair enough. But as we see in the end, it did not matter as the battle would completely destroy the dock and the Mjolnir fired it’s EMP inside the dock anyway.
  • Wait, they did have radiation shielding technology? Then why wasn’t that used on the ships to protect them from their own EMP bursts?
  • When the crew of the Osiris discovered the Sentinel army digging down from the surface towards Zion, why didn’t they fire the EMP of the ship to destroy said sentinel army, thus preventing the invasion altogether? It would’ve been a suicide attack but the Sentinels later destroyed the ship and killed its crew anyway.
  • The Nebuchadnezzar takes help from the Logos to “jump-start” its systems after they were taken out by its own EMP. Why didn’t they jump-start the ships damaged by the EMP from the Caduceus fired by Bane-Smith the same way?
  • Hell, they could have just fitted high-powered EMPs onto warheads and drones and sent them to the machine city in large squadrons! Boom! War over!!

Coming to think of it, the humans of Zion should have been just producing only EMPs as their major, minor and cottage industries! I can’t imagine the Wachowskis overlooking something as obvious as this. Or did they?

The Unviability of the EMP Apocalypse

Since Zion itself was part of the grander master plan of the machines to control humans, they would have prevented the EMP apocalypse some way or the other. Also, just imagine that the machines were defeated and the millions of humans housed in the pods in the farms were rescued. Most of them would not even want to be “rescued” in the first place as the Matrix was much a better place for them compared to the “real” world. Also, how could the rescued humans be fed, clothed and housed in the scorched, dark and ice cold Earth surface undergoing a nuclear winter, where sunlight couldn’t reach the surface and even a blade of grass wouldn’t grow? Zion obviously cannot accommodate everyone.

Well if they did conquer the machines simply using the EMPs, it wouldn’t be much of even one movie, forget a trilogy. Anyway, all these questions arise not because one thinks too much, but because

One Does Not Simply Watch the Matrix Meme
Go Nuts.

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Kevin A. Miller

I've also had a difficult time accepting plot holes in the Matrix, Animatrix, and other Matrix related canon regarding EMP. In the Animatrix the storyline goes that humans decided to wipe out the machine city with nuclear weapons and that the machines survived because their had metal bodies unlike human flesh. Nuclear weapons produce intense EMP! So then I read the Matrix Wikia which states, quite conveniently, that the machines hid in EMP shielded bunkers to protect themselves. So apparently the machines survived the massive EMP produced by the nuclear onslaught, but what about the fact that nuclear weapons create widespread destruction not limited to EMP? There are many things wrong with the Matrix storyline and EMP is only one of them, I've given up on this unredemptive series.

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