Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Agent Smith

Agent Smith is a fictional character featured in the Matrix film series, played by actor Hugo Weaving. The struggle between Neo and Smith is an integral subplot that perpetuates the story of The Matrix.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers.

Table of contents
1 Smith, Agent Smith
2 An Agent of The System
3 A Departure from the Norm
4 Revelation of Purpose
5 Against the Anomaly
6 Stylistic Genealogy

Smith, Agent Smith

Following the naming pattern for Agents within the Matrix, Smith can be seen as a template for the everyman (or perhaps an antithesis thereof). The name is thought by some to imply the square, "whitebread" connotations of propping up The Man's (or in this case The Machine's) Establishment. Other Agents have names like Brown, Johnson and Thompson - very solid-citizen, Anglo-Saxon names.

In addition, the name "Smith" is explicitly attributed (on the license plate of Smith's car in Reloaded) to in the Book of Isaiah 54:16 from the Old Testament: "Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy." In creating such a program to carry out menial tasks, the machines have laid the foundations for their own destruction - a direct parallel to the creation of AI by humankind.

An Agent of The System

According to Morpheus, the tutor of the protagonist Neo, Smith is an artificial intelligence manifested in the artificial world - and thus has extraordinary powers to manipulate its surroundings, although he is still limited by being "based on a world that is built on rules." Like all Agents in the Matrix, he was originally programmed to keep order within the system by terminating troublesome programs and human avatars which would otherwise bring instability to the simulated reality. To expedite such tasks, he and other Agents have the ability to take over the simulated body of any human that is a part of the Matrix, converting it into a copy of their own. If that body is killed, or an Agent needs to change his location quickly, he can assume the shell of any other human hard-wired to The Matrix in a matter of seconds.

A Departure from the Norm

Agent Smith complains at one point that humans smell bad - an odd observation for an artificial entity. It is perhaps a metaphorical statement. He has a strong hatred of humans and their weakness of the flesh, comparing them to a virus, a disease organism that would replicate uncontrollably to destroy their environment were it not for the machine intelligences keeping them in check. It is perhaps this sentiment that later drives him to possess an immense desire for the destruction of mankind and machines alike. Agent Smith also appears to be the leader of other Agents in that he has the authority to launch sentinel attacks in the real world. It is unclear whether or not sentience was a part of his initial programming or developed through experience in dealing with Zion rebels. Unlike other Agents, Smith does not approach problems through a pragmatic point-of-view, but rather with brute-force and questionable rage. He also refers to The Matrix as a prison, which (if interpreted as a reference to his own condition) could be an indication that he had become self-aware, a mind existing outside of the machines' control.

Revelation of Purpose

Agent Smith appears to have been destroyed by Neo at the end of the first movie in the Matrix trilogy, but he makes a calculated return in the The Matrix Reloaded with somewhat altered abilities and motivations, and dropping the title "Agent". He can now take over new human bodies and programs alike (including Agents) without leaving the one he was in previously, replicating himself much like a computer virus might (though, presumably, he loses the ability to phase into any body at will).

As a result of being partially overwritten by "The One", Smith also begins to exhibit stronger, more virulent humanlike behaviors and emotions such as unpredictability and wry humor (this is a clear departure from his stern demeanor in the original movie). He makes the claim that Neo has set him free, indicating that he now has not only the vision but also the ability to break free of the machines' control and exist as a singular being. He is now allied with none but himself, rendering him a outlaw to both the Matrix and the human minds which populate it. Being free of burden, however, Smith is also compelled to feel that he is still crushed by the weight of purpose. He essentially correlates purpose with imprisonment, and because he still exists within The Matrix, there is an unseen purpose which binds together Neo and himself.

Against the Anomaly

In The Matrix Revolutions, Smith's presence in The Matrix has consumed nearly the entirety of the "Core Network" (the underlying foundation of the inner workings of The Matrix), thus rendering him immutable by even the machines themselves. The Oracle explains to Neo that he and Smith have become equal in power, and that for Smith to be eliminated the "equation must be balanced". Towards the end of the movie, Neo engages Smith in the final showdown between superhero and supervillain, a seemingly endless struggle between two forces of equal might.

After an arduous and stunning battle in midair, Neo is smashed into the ground by an enraged Smith. At this point, he questions Neo as to his motives for continued fighting. Although Neo vows to never surrender, he begins to realize what Smith had stated before: that purpose had ultimately brought them here, and that the end is inevitable. Smith, who although senses with the "Eyes of The Oracle" that copying himself into Neo will result in his demise, is no less bound to the will of determinism than any other program. At this point in time, Neo allows Smith to plunge his hand into his tired but undying frame. This was the ultimate goal of Smith, his labors coming to fruition. In the "real" world, however, a mysterious force (explained by some to be the machines surging energy through Neo, enabled due to thier direct link to neo which they have lost from Smith.) causes Neo's body to radiate in a blinding light of ascension, which subsequently causes all Smiths to overload and thereby be destroyed. Order then, had been restored to both worlds.

Stylistic Genealogy

The look and manner of Smith and his fellow Agents seem to be drawn from the common pool of paranoia and pop culture. Obvious influences are the ruthless CIA or NSA agents of fiction who carry out their duties with cold precision and midwestern accents. It is suggested that the Secret Service is more appropriate, as they are the ones who actually investigate hackers and computer crime. Some may suggest a more explicit allusion to the Men in Black of UFO and conspiracy lore.

The Blues Brothers, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction also demonstrate the popularity and success of the "black suit and shades" aesthetic in film.