This article contains spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections.
It’s been six months since the release of The Matrix Resurrections, the unexpected fourth entry in the cyberpunk saga that brings back Neo and Trinity for one last battle against the Machines. Since it bowed in December, diehard fans have continued to debate the film’s merits. Is it too beholden to nostalgia or is it too apathetic about the franchise’s storied past? Is it too meta or not self-aware enough? Does it earn its cathartic happy ending or is the third act too fan fiction-y? Your opinion of whether you think the film is good or not probably hinges on your answers to these questions. But one thing is for certain: it’s been very nice to have a new Matrix movie to debate about after all these years.
Say what you will about the film’s plot and action sequences, there’s no shortage of pretty and eye-catching things to look at in Resurrections, which is an absolute masterclass in art design, from our return to the Machine City and the introduction of Io to the look of many of the movie’s trippiest set pieces. And one of its most stunning sequences of all pertains to the film’s biggest mystery, the one fans sat down in the theater for in the first place: how are Neo and Trinity suddenly back after dying in Revolutions in 2003?
Director Lana Wachowski, of course, answers the film’s central question through Neil Patrick Harris’ character The Analyst, who turns out to be an even bigger villain in the movie than even the rebooted (and much more stylish) Smith played by Jonathan Groff. Simply put, the Analyst took Neo and Trinity’s bodies back to the Machine City and convinced his AI colleagues to let him resurrect them, arguing that keeping them alive but just far enough away from each other would create way more energy for the Machines to feed on in the Real World. We watch in a particularly gruesome flashback as little bug-like machines work to rebuild our heroes’ broken bodies, the thick red light of the resurrection chamber washing over the reanimated flesh. It’s a straightforward answer to the question, no doubt (we had way more complicated theories), but a no less shocking bit of body horror on the big screen.
But before Wachowski, Keanu Reeves, and Carrie-Anne Moss brought these scenes to life in cinemas, it was first up to a talented group of concept artists to visualize all of these sequences. Designer Emmanuel Shiu, whose work you’ve also seen on Game of Thrones, Ms. Marvel, and Thor: Love and Thunder, worked alongside Geof Darrow and George Hull to imagine what Neo and Trinity’s resurrection would look like, and now he’s taken to Twitter to shed light on this process.
Below, you can see several of Shiu, Darrow, and Hull’s concepts for the scenes where Neo and Trinity are rebuilt as well as designs for the Anamoleum, where our heroes’ real bodies are imprisoned.
“The Matrix hijacking scene. I was in heaven when Lana asked me to visualize this sequence,” Shiu wrote back in February of designing one of the pivotal scenes of the third act where the heroes stage a heist to free Trinity from the Anamoleum in the Real World. Already on display in these pieces is the film’s beautiful use of lighting, with shots flushed in red and hints of blue. The Matrix Resurrections certainly makes a good case for why modern CGI-heavy slugfests should emphasize color composition a bit more than they normally do these days.
You can check out more of Shiu’s excellent work here. And if you haven’t already, you can stream The Matrix Resurrections right now on HBO Max.