An engine consists of many parts which work together to transform energy into mechanical force. With the absence of any of those parts, the collection is no longer an engine, but an assembly of parts with no purpose. Similar to this is the archetype of the hero. A hero must have all the parts necessary to complete a journey or else he or she is just like every other collection of human matter. The protagonist of The Matrix, Neo, is in every sense a hero as he possesses all the characteristics of a hero and undertakes an archetypal heroic journey. According to Joseph Cambell's research on the hero, Neo identifies with both the seeker and sage hero archetype and follows the five steps which are entailed in all hero journeys.
Although Neo does appear to fit the hero archetype, freeing the human race from mental oppression cannot be the job of a coward. When a character exhibits certain characteristics, an audience will interpret these characteristics and identify that character as a hero. The first clue to Neo's heroic character is that he is separated from a place of comfort and taken to new surroundings. That is the first step in a hero journey and this happens to Neo when he is taken out of the Matrix. Neo is then initiated and faces unfamiliar circumstances which begin to teach him about himself and his task. It is then when Neo begins to fall into the seeker and sage archetypes as his quest and fear are revealed.
A seeker's quest is to search for a better life and that is evident in Neo's situation as he dislikes the Matrix and signed on to change it. The sage's quest is to find the truth and that quest is clear from the beginning because Neo was first led away from the Matrix due to his desire to understand it. Neo also fears conformity and deception as a sage would. His fear of conformity was brought to light by his office supervisor. A hero must confr on his enemy and Neo does this twice. As a seeker, he will flee from it and that is what he does at the subway station.
But as a sage, he transcends his enemy. Finding enlightenment in his deeper self, Neo was able to control his own world and destroyed his enemy. As all hero's must do, he returns to his original home with the reward that he is able to free his people. The character of Neo in The Matrix fulfilled the hero archetype in every sense as he proceeded through a standard hero journey and possessed the characteristics of a hero.
Not only did Neo accomplish his journey, but his actions were identical to those expected of a hero. Neo's individual actions may make him appear to be anything but a hero but the big picture tells a different story. A hero's actions will never be judged as good thing by everyone because there is always an enemy, but the character is a hero none the less.