Remember that scene in The Matrix where Neo could have made everything so much easier if he’d just done what Morpheus told him to do? We should hate Neo’s failure. Instead, it proves he’s the hero we need.
So just as a refresher, Neo is The One, prophesied to free all of humanity from the oppressive control of The Matrix. But before he can do that, he has to break free of The Matrix himself.
Fortunately, he has many allies on his journey, most of all Morpheus, who guides him every step of the way.
ESCAPING THE MATRIX
This is it. The moment of truth! Morpheus has led Neo to a guaranteed escape.
The instructions are simple. Evade the agents.
Get to the scaffolding.
If he will just do what Morpheus says, he’ll be home free. But guess what? Neo doesn’t do what Morpheus says.
It’s hard not to be mad at Neo for refusing to make the jump, particularly on repeat viewings when we know what he’s fully capable of. The thing is, though, that as frustrating as him going back inside is, it actually makes the audience like him more.
Why? Don’t we dislike things that frustrate us? Don’t we want to see heroes doing heroic things?
Sure. But we don't want to see heroes being heroic because someone told them what to do. We want to see heroes being heroes for one reason.
Wait. How can Neo choosing not to make the jump be a GOOD thing? Doesn’t it prove he’s, you know…kind of a coward?
Sometimes, the character first needs to prove that they deserve to be a hero. Like when Neo chooses not to follow Morpheus’s orders.
Neo frustrates us, but that frustration also sparks our intuition that this is the guy we want as our hero. Neo doesn’t simply follow orders. He assesses the situation. He evaluates the danger. He takes calculated risks. He disobeys. You see, you can’t look for the one person who can break everyone out of the system and then get mad when he rebels against your system, too.
That’s, well, kind of the reason why he proves he is The One.
Morpheus ordered him to make the jump, but Neo is supposed to be the leader who will free all of humanity from the Matrix. We need him to be willing to say no when it’s not the popular decision.
This taps into the vital power of making your characters proactive. When Neo is simply following the orders of Morpheus, he’s a passive character caught up in chaos. Like everyone else, he is trapped in the system.
But when he chooses not to follow Morpheus’s direction, he evolves from passenger to participant. He becomes proactive. He embraces failure, because even if he fails, at least he made his own choice.