In our modern consumption-driven and ego-driven society, there has been significant progress in mankind as we are developing machines with bigger brains and more intellect. However, is this progress borne of our free-will or is this pre-destined long before? The Matrix and The Adjustment Bureau each gave their own answers in remarkably similar ways. Whereas one movie signified our world is purely mechanized in the larger scope, the other movie signified it as an institution. In fact, both movies gave similar speeches about the modern world and human development in general.
Now to examine their similarities:
Agents, Agents Everywhere
Whether in the Matrix or within the world governed by the Adjustment Bureau, there are Agents that monitor human existence and essentially manipulate human fate as needed. The Agents of the Adjustment Bureau usually resort to brainwashing or lobotomizing deviants within their system whereas in the Matrix, the Agents resort to killing theirs. The last scene of the Adjustment Bureau bears remarkable similarity to the Test Program given to Neo where anyone and everyone could potentially be one of the Agents. The Agent Harry Mitchell further reinforced that fact in his discussion with David Norris before the final pursuit by Thompson.
What is God?
In the world of The Adjustment Bureau, it was the Chairman. However, unlike the Matrix, David Norris never encounters the Chairman directly. Neo did encounter the Engineer, the equivalent to the Chairman in the world of the Matrix. However, unlike David Norris, he could not change Fate. Fate beat him ultimately in the end in Matrix: Revolutions as he finally defeated Agent Smith but at the cost of his own life.
No Fate But What We Make
Within the world of the Adjustment Bureau, one could be ultimately granted reprieve from the Plan, if one wanted it enough and the Chairman grants it. Thompson, played by Terence Stamp, explained that when the Chairman granted free will during the height of the Roman Empire, humanity ultimately fell into depravity and the Dark Ages. Free will was given again early in the twentieth century and it led to two world wars and nearly the cost of humanity from the nuclear bomb. The perception of Time within the Adjustment Bureau is linear but still strictly governed by the Chairman. Within the world of the Matrix, similar events happened as well. The Matrix, in one of its earlier cycles, was essentially Paradise, but humanity could not take advantage of it as they became slovenly. So the Agents took themselves to make it a harsher world, governed by them, enforced by them, dictated by them. Neo did challenge the present World developed by the Engineer, but in the last few moments of the Matrix trilogy, he ultimately could not defeat Fate. He did defeat Agent Smith but at the cost of his own life. The Engineer commented, as the sun rose, that the cycle will begin anew to the Oracle.
The Worlds of the Matrix and the Adjustment Bureau
Although the world of the Matrix does grant one the appearance to change their Fate, only within the world of the Adjustment Bureau, can one actually change it. There is also no impending threat of death as a result of attempting to change one’s own Fate, although one could potentially have their existence erased from their memory. The Chairman is far more lenient than the Engineer. I would much rather live in the world of the Adjustment Bureau where my memories may be erased but not my life. Lastly, the Chairman is much more appreciative of the attempts to change Fate much more than the Engineer.