Before we begin, we have to define reality. Yes. I am going to blow your mind this time. Actually, I think I came up with a pretty easy definition. Reality is anything NOT made by man’s means. This is simple, but it works. Example: A park isn’t real because, without man, there would be no park. A park is part of a reality created by man. Same thing with cities and houses and iPods and everything else. They aren’t real because, without us, they would not exist. There are a number of problems with that definition, but it will work to set up the comparing/contrasting of Inception and The Matrix. In Inception, people probe their sub-conscious or someone else’s subconscious to understand themselves or learn someone’s secrets. In The Matrix, people enter the Matrix to help people understand that the Matrix isn’t real, thus trying to destroy the Matrix. Inception’s Dreamscape isn’t real. An Architect has to design it and create it. The Matrix was created by Machines and the Machines were created by man. Both movies have reality, the World, and Unreality, the worlds create by man.
Ok, we got that. Next, both movies deal with the understanding of the Unreality. In Inception, Cobb’s job was to find out and steal the secrets of people or plant secrets. He had to design Mazes and create elaborate traps to do this. He was a master of manipulating the Unreal and he was good at tricking people who didn’t understand the Unreal. That’s why he was so good. In The Matrix, same thing, sort of. Neo, at the end, understood that the Unreality was truly not real. He understood it so well that he was able to manipulate the Unreality better than anyone, even the beings that created it. That is why Neo was able to fly. He, more than anyone, knew that the Matrix wasn’t real.
Problems occur in both movies when people become addicted to the Unreality. In Inception, Cobb is a danger to everyone around him because he believes that Mal is alive in some form and that his actions in Limbo are real actions, resulting in real consequences. When he “plants” the idea that Limbo isn’t real in Mal’s mind, he is actually contradicting himself in a strange way. If Limbo isn’t real, then why should any of his actions in Limbo matter? Including planting the idea that Limbo isn’t real? Don’t think too hard on that one. It will hurt parts of your brain. The movie’s climax is when Cobb realizes that he has to let Mal go. Once he does, he is able to do his job and find Santo.
In the Matrix, there are two places where Unreality-addiction occur. First, with Cypher, when he wants to go back into the Matrix so badly that he is willing to murder to get there. Second, with Neo and the Chase at the end. He runs because he isn’t willing to understand that he is more powerful than the Agents. He has to die in order to come to the realization that he isn’t alive in the Matrix in the first place. That those aren’t real bullets and that his “death” in the Matrix wasn’t a real death. Once he becomes enlightened, he is able to revive and save himself.
In terms of which movie is better, I have to give it to Inception. It is telling something deeper than the Matrix. It isn’t more complicated. Both movies are complex. Both movies are, also, equally sophisticated. But Inception is dealing with lose and forgiveness. Because of Cobb, his wife is dead. He has to forgive himself for that. He can’t keep going back to the dreamscape. He can’t stay addicted to the Unreal. And, even though I love the Matrix, its sequels ruined its beauty and it is horribly dated. It is still fun to watch, but it is ten years old and that shows. Inception being the “New” Matrix isn’t really accurate. Inception is a better movie trying to do different things. Still, comparing the two is pretty fun.