Back when most blockbuster movie franchises became standalone trilogies and not cinematic universes, The Matrix Revolutions seemed like a definitive end to Neo’s story. He’d struck a deal to save Zion from the Machines and deleted Hugo Weaving’s infinite Smiths once and for all. But what had it cost him? His sight, his life, and losing the woman he loved. It was a bittersweet end to The Wachowski’s magnum opus, but a conclusion nonetheless.
Until now. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss will reprise their respective roles as Neo and Trinity for The Matrix Resurrections, which is directed by Lana Wachowski, who wrote the script with novelists David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon. The unlikely sequel is billed as a revival, not a reboot, and will also bring back Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian, and Daniel Bernhardt as Agent Johnson. Conspicuously absent from the list of returners is Laurence Fishburne, who also doesn’t know why he wasn’t asked to bring back Morpheus. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Eréndira Ibarra, Priyanka Chopra, Andrew Caldwell, Brian J. Smith, Ellen Hollman, and Christina Ricci round out the movie’s sizable cast.
Even before Warner Bros. finally revealed the title of the movie at CinemaCon this week, “Resurrections” was long rumored to be the verb that would accompany “The Matrix” this time around. It makes sense: a new movie starring Neo and Trinity will have to explain how the hell they’re alive almost 20 years later when they very clearly died in Revolutions. You could maybe argue that Neo’s death in the original trilogy-closer isn’t quite so clear cut: at the end of the film, we watch as the Machines carry the One’s body away, presumably to be liquefied but maybe not. Perhaps the Machines really do have the ability to plug people back into the Matrix, even dead ones (Cypher seemed to believe this). But even this doesn’t explain what’s going on with Trinity, who was straight up impaled in the real world when she and Neo crash landed in the Machine City. Sure, Neo revived her once in Reloaded but even Trinity said “not this time” in her final scene in Revolutions.
Needless to say, “Resurrections” isn’t just a cute way to say “revival” or “we’re back.” It means that the mystery behind Neo and Trinity coming back from the dead is central to the new movie’s plot. Just like “Reloaded” was really nodding to that movie’s big third-act revelation that Neo’s journey is on an endless loop that reloads itself each time he completes his purpose, and “Revolutions” was referencing the fight to break from that cycle once and for all, “Resurrections” is a clue.
This seems especially true now that some members of the press have watched a trailer for the movie. Also screened at CinemaCon, the trailer gave the audience their first look at a surreal return to the Matrix where an older Thomas Anderson never became Neo or met Trinity. io9 posted a shot-for-shot trailer description that reveals a few other intriguing details about the new status quo: Thomas Anderson is going to therapy (his psychiatrist is played by Neil Patrick Harris) because he’s having dreams that almost feel real. He’s prescribed mysterious blue pills that may explain his current state of mind — ignorant to the truth about the Matrix and his role within it.
At one point in the trailer, he runs into Trinity at a coffee shop and she asks him, “Have we met?” Later, Thomas meets Abdul-Mateen’s character, “who looks just like Morpheus (shaved head, tiny sunglasses),” according to io9. He offers Thomas a red pill…and then all hell breaks loose. Thomas and Abdul-Mateen are fighting in a dojo, Thomas and a blue-haired woman with a tattoo of a rabbit (a recurring symbol in The Matrix trilogy) get shot at by a sniper from inside a train, and then Thomas goes Peak Neo, stopping bullets and missiles in mid-air while doing other cool Matrix stuff with Trinity, all accompanied by Jefferson Airplane’s trippy tune “White Rabbit.”
“You’re going back to where it all started,” a businessman played by Groff says to Thomas at the end of the trailer. “Back to the Matrix.”
It sounds like 1999 all over again! But what else is the movie hiding behind the veil of nostalgia? The trailer makes a point to show that the things that happened in the first Matrix movie are happening again, but Neo isn’t in the same place. This could be a version of the story where Thomas chose the blue pill instead of the true understanding offered to him by Morpheus in 1999 and is still haunted by the choice he doesn’t remember making all these years later. But if Thomas’ purpose is to become Neo and resolve the anomaly within the Matrix, he can’t so easily escape his destiny.
Or perhaps the Neo we know has truly been “resurrected” inside the Matrix but doesn’t remember who he is. This could be a side effect of being plugged back into the simulation (again, Cypher hoped to forget all about humanity’s miserable reality) but he’s slowly starting to remember his past now.
Another possibility is that the Thomas in the trailer isn’t Neo the human at all but something else, perhaps a program created from the snippets of code left behind by the One’s residual self-image after his death, a new kind of anomaly that is becoming self-aware and must be corrected. The Matrix Reloaded introduced the idea of programs within the simulation that refused deletion, such as Smith or the Merovingian’s werewolf and vampire henchmen, so it’s possible that something similar has happened with Neo. Maybe the only way to correct this glitch is for the Machines to jump start the events of the first three movies.
The fact that Trinity is back too after dying in the real-world and not in the Matrix lends itself to the theory that Resurrections simply follows a new cycle of war between Zion and the Machines in a new version of the Matrix. Despite Neo’s victory at the end of Revolutions, the cycle is inevitable and events are simply repeating themselves anyway — it’s a bleak reading to be sure. But if it’s a new cycle, shouldn’t that mean that it should be a new group of humans fulfilling the roles played by Neo and Trinity in the last cycle since time continues to flow uninterrupted in the real world? Can Machines clone humans, too? Are these Neo and Trinity clones being grown in one of those fetus fields?!
One thing Resurrections could be setting up is a passing of the torch, with Neo and Trinity guiding a new generation of heroes (Jessica Henwick has long been rumored to play a pivotal role in this movie) who must fight for Zion. Perhaps Neo and Trinity have only returning long enough to show the new heroes the way as the Oracle once did for them.
I could be overthinking all this, but it’s hard to believe The Matrix Resurrections is simply peddling nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake as other revivals have, not with a storyteller as gifted as Lana Wachowski back at the helm. Ultimately, we’ll learn how deep the rabbit hole goes when the movie his theaters and HBO Max on Dec. 22.