Thomas Althouse has filed a lawsuit claiming that the idea for The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions was stolen from his script for “The Immortals”, which he submitted to Warner Bros. in 1993. He is suing the Wachowskis for $300 million plus a percentage of the over $1.6 billion that the franchise has earned from the box office. Upon viewing The Matrix Trilogy in 2010 for the first time he noticed similarities between his work and The Matrix such as plugs in the back of the head and robot-like Agents. However, the Wachowskis are fighting back by filing a counter-suit to have the case dismissed and for Althouse to pay for their legal fees.
This isn’t the first such lawsuit over the original authorship of The Matrix. Sophia Stewart filed a similar claim back in 2004 claiming that the idea was stolen from her manuscript, “The Third Eye”. This case was dismissed in 2005 due to Sophia Stewart not showing up to a preliminary hearing and with the Judge stating that her lawyers had not shown any striking resemblance between her work and The Matrix.
After having followed many cases like this in the past I doubt this will go very far even if the claim is true. To prove that an idea was stolen it has to be nearly exact. An example would be the case brought again Michael Bay’s “The Island” due to it being a near perfect rip-off of a film from the late 70’s called Parts: The Clonus Horror. There the filmmakers had to show a multitude of similarities in both plot and theme to get anywhere and it was eventually settled out of court. The fact that the Wachowskis are fighting back and not settling makes me think Althouse doesn’t have much to go on, although with such little information I am far from an expert.
Update: Apparently the Wachowskis have been more busy than usual with these claims. Another lawsuit was filed recently by Richard Bey claiming that the idea for the entire trilogy was stolen from his dissertation, which was written between 1993 and 1996. Despite the fact that Andy and Lana Wachowski are fully credited as the writers of “The Matrix” Mr. Bey claimed that there was some mystery surrounding who wrote the screenplay for the film. He used this to claim that Warner Bros. was hiding the fact that they stole the script from his student dissertation. Mr. Bey somehow felt there was a strong enough connection between his paper and the films despite stating that he had only seen one of the films on “an airplane. I think it was the second one.”
As has been the case in the past with such claims against the Wachowskis and Warner Bros. the case has been dismissed due to lack of evidence. The judge stated “The dissertation concerns semiotics and race – there is nothing in it that I have been able to identity that tells a story like the story concerned in the Matrix films.”