I have seen both movies from Warner Brothers, and both explore similar topics and in fact have similar quotes. Both explore the idea of reality, whether it lives in the dream or the Matrix or both, and how separate reality is from our consciousness. Do we govern our reality, or does it govern us?
Now to explore the content of both movies:
People are Viruses vs. Ideas are Viruses
With both movies, both Inception and The Matrix commented on viruses. With The Matrix, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) said to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) that “people are viruses.” He indicated that people consume resources and move on to the next area without a second thought. With Inception, Dominic Cobb (Leonardo ) constantly reiterated that “ideas are viruses.” Cobb repeated that several times throughout the movie, and for this movie, he meant that one idea spreads into others, essentially creating a bleeding effect. In terms of the chicken or the egg, people are necessary to conceive viable ideas for dreams. People are necessary to conceive reality. Ideas serve as an extension of humanity, for the reality to happen, not a reality within itself (although this may not necessarily be true for those in a coma or those with mental illnesses.)
Trains, Trains Everywhere
Quite interesting that both movies incorporated trains. In both movies, the train served as engine of destruction. In The Matrix, while Neo confronted Agent Smith in the subway, Neo threw Smith in front of an incoming train to ultimately end to fight, but Smith stopped the train and continued his chase. In Inception, the train was created by Cobb to obstruct himself. The train destroyed the landscape of his mind. The train in the Matrix served as transport and a destructive device, but Neo never had direct control of the trains, unlike with Cobb.
The Top (The Totem) vs. The Red and Blue Pills
In my opinion, the top does serve as a function to determine reality. But for Cobb, the dream is his reality, and he never escaped the dream state during the entire movie. When the top spins, it means that Cobb is in his dream (that is, his reality.) When it doesn’t, which was never determined at the end of the movie or during the bathroom incident, it meant that he’s in real reality, not in a dream state. The Matrix had similar in the red and blue pills offered by Morpheus. However, choosing one or the other determines that person’s reality, and it is fixed for the most part. The top is the more personal device, but the pills are more effective device for determining reality.
The Architect of Inception vs. The Architect of The Matrix
For both of these movies, the Architect is a primary figure and ultimately control the reality’s existence. The Architect of the Matrix is more of a God in that he creates the Matrix and its history. He has known in the past that glitches in the system creates a Neo-like figure, and history repeats itself in a continuous cycle. Neo’s destiny was fixed, regardless of his decisions, according to the Architect of the Matrix. The cycle was bound to make adjustments, should Neo choose to make an “unexpected” decision. On the other hand, the Architect of Inception is similar yet different. She knows about the history, but she never directly interfered with Cobb’s dream. She merely created a stable framework for Cobb to work with, but it was Cobb who repeated his dream.
The Dream vs. The Matrix
The Dream or the Matrix? Which is more preferable? Both can be changed by the will of the individual, although in the Matrix, Agents keep rebels who want to confront reality in check. Meanwhile, an individual can lose himself or herself in the Dream and lose his or her will to it. Additionally, the Dream, as demonstrated by Dominick Cobb has shown, is not without its vulnerabilities. It exploits one’s weaknesses and furthermore, it repeats the injuries, like rubbing salt in the wound. Whereas the Dream has the sheen of being more preferable, the Matrix may be more stable of the two.
Death in Inception vs. The Matrix
Death is either the Matrix or the Dream is not preferable. Whereas in the Matrix, once one dies in the Matrix, one dies in reality permantly, but it is instant. In the Dream, one is dropped into core person’s Limbo, whereby they die a slow, painful death and essentially become a vegetable. Of the two, an instant death in the Matrix would be far easier to deal with.
What is Real?
Reality is ultimately the function of what humans create. Creating something physical and tangible determines reality. Much like when you type on the keyboard, you are creating something that can be seen and read. Therefore, you can experience what you and others have created what is real. The Matrix shown that in both reality and in the Matrix. With the Dream, your subconscious will always find a way to fight back. No matter how much anesthetic is in your body, once the Dream becomes reality, you can never experience what real reality is.