Some people have vivid memories from high school of their first dance or triumphant sports achievement or a moment of mentorship that changed the entire course of their life but for me the key highlight was settling in front of a music-room computer to load up The Matrix Reloaded trailer on Apple Trailers and soaking up every drip of philosophical science fiction mumbo jumbo up in glorious Quicktime. Sorry to every trailer premiering in 1080p YouTube: those were the good old days.
The release of The Matrix Resurrections trailer zapped me back to the joy of that Matrix preview drop, and my heyday of frame-by-frame analysis and over-theorizing on message boards. While I am sure Lana Wachowski has crafted a heady and visually unique blockbuster, a new Matrix trailer is an event in itself, and I can’t help but pick it apart. The images demand it — Wachowski and her co-writers, authors Aleksandar Hemon (Nowhere Man) and David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), have cooked up a movie that seems to grapple not only with Neo’s place in the universe, but our modern Extremely Online existence and our relationship to the Matrix movies themselves. Can I promise each section of this breakdown will have absolute definitive intel on what’s going on in The Matrix Resurrection? No. Will each screencap renew your soul? I hope so. Let’s dive in and lose our minds a little.
The super-high-resolution opening shot of the trailer gives The Matrix Resurrection an even more daming tone than the original trilogy. Yes, the eye-popping color recalls the final shot of The Matrix Revolutions, after the Matrix had rebooted itself, but much like the green-wash of the original Matrix, the crisp, Apple-commercial-ness of the establishing shot reflects a modern screen life that seems to have missed the point of The Matrix. Is a new simulation created by robots or accidentally by humans? Either seems possible, considering our actual reality. The original trilogy leaned into simulation theory, the theory that powerful forces could trap humanity within a fabricated world we wouldn’t recognize as fake. The new movie seems conscious of the tech industry, ramping up the “metaverse” where customers consciously choose to live lives as digital avatars, not heeding the warning of the past.
At a panel streamed out of the Berlin International Literature Festival on Friday, Lana Wachowski relayed Keanu Reeves’ reaction to watching The Matrix Resurrections that sums up the movie’s theme:
When we showed the film to Keanu, he was really blown away by it. He was typical Keanu being incredibly insightful. His casual brilliance rolls off of Keanu. He was sitting there going, ‘Twenty years ago, you told a story ago about the coming 20 years of digital virtual life and how it was going to impact us and how we could think about it and gave us a frame to think about it. And then you took the same characters, the same stories, and you made it about the next 20 years.’
The relationship of the new sequel to the past Matrix movies feels summed up in this familiar-yet-unsettling image, and the theme presents itself in a number of on-the-nose ways later in the trailer.
Is this the cat from The Matrix? Whoa. Déjà vu.
Here’s the first key bit of visual information the trailer offers up on the cryptic sequel: At the end of The Matrix Revolutions (which may be a foggy memory, but we dig into all here) Neo has brokered peace between robots and humans and sacrificed himself for the cause. It’s unclear what really happened to “The One” in the end; The Matrix Resurrections appears to clear it up. That sure looks like a bunch of bots keeping our hero alive post-Revolutions.
No, that’s not Granny from Space Jam: A New Legacy — like many moments in the trailer, Lana Wachowski is echoing a key shot from the 1999 Matrix but in a new timeline. If memories — and lives previously lived — play a huge role in The Matrix Resurrections, it seems feasible we’d see our heroes barreling through their own consciousnesses in order to find answers. Like Eternal Sunshine with guns.
This shot of Neo with a rubber duck on his head made me giggle, but then someone over on the Resetera forums said it might be a reference to the rubber duck method of debugging code and now I’m just losing my damn mind.
The moment Neo and Trinity (re)meet in the new simulation is rather subdued — Trinity doesn’t recognize her former love at all — but it’s emphasized with an electric sound cue. This comes back later in the trailer when the two fend off a SWAT team by joining hands to create to create a psychic explosion of sorts. Between the “power of love” trope and anime’s history of fusion (Dragon Ball Z comes to mind) whatever cybermagic is at work here feels perfectly Matrix, a new evolution of what we know while being a throwback to all the Wachowskis’ touchstones.
Speaking of those touchstones, considering Neo and Trinity in this era leads me back to Keanu’s reaction to the film, and another point David Mitchell made at the same Berlin panel discussion. Later in the conversation, Mitchell explained a bit about what was going through his head when he joined Wachowski to co-write the movie. The relationships of the characters, and the meta idea of remaining creatively aware and alive, sound key to the movie:
Old novelists don’t die, they just write the same book again and again. We aren’t athletes, we don’t get too old for it, but we can become imaginatively sclerotic. We can get rheumatism, and nervous about taking risks. There were many more novels by people in their 30s than people in their 60s. This syndrome can kick in. The aging novelist syndrome. It behooves us to avoid this. The antidote is simple: working with other people, and learning what other people know about narrative. This might involve writing at a more philosophical level than I would normally write. It might involve thinking about consciousness or gender or sexuality that I might not happen if I was working alone — so thank you, Lana.
For years after the release of The Matrix, critics and scholars and even the Wachowskis reexamined it through the lens of gender politics and what it had to say about the trans experience. Do those themes become more explicit in a 2021 sequel? Does sexuality and connection play a greater role in the film than it did when Neo and Trinity were just hooking up like good-looking movie characters would in a late-’90s blockbuster? Really, as it aims to comment on technology today, how could it not?
Here we see Neo walk down a street without his sunglasses on, which is terrible for his eyes. He looks up to see some birds flying in a strange, pre-programmed pattern … and misses the sign for Corky’s Massage, a great reference to Lana and Lily Wachowski’s Bound. Go watch Bound so you’re in the know! It’s great, and streaming on Paramount Plus.
Damn. Owned. To quote Bo Burnham: “I used to make fun of the boomers / In retrospect, a bit too much / Now all these fucking zoomers / Are telling me that I’m out of touch? / Oh yeah? Well, your fucking phones are poisoning your minds, OK? So when you develop a dissociative mental disorder in your late 20s don’t come crawling back to—”
Indian movie star Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who’s had some crossover luck with Netflix’s The White Tiger, ABC’s Quantico, and her extremely high-profile marriage to Nick Jonas, is a newcomer to The Matrix franchise. Her character has not been revealed by Warner Bros., but many are guessing she plays a grown-up version of Sati, the first program created without a purpose who we saw smuggled into the Matrix and taken under the Oracle’s in The Matrix Revolutions. Well, that’s a great frickin’ theory. Between the Matrix trilogy and the Enter the Matrix video game, all signs point to Sati having immense power — maybe even being on the level of the Oracle. At the very least, Chopra Jonas’ character knows what Neo doesn’t: He’s The One.
Chopra Jonas’ unnamed character hands Neo a copy of Alice in Wonderland in a moment timed exactly to Grace Slick wailing “just ask Alice!” in Jefferson Airplanes’ “White Rabbit.” Very few blockbusters can be that blunt with a straight face and frankly this is why the Matrix rules.
And here’s a fun fact: “White Rabbit” was written by Slick before joining Jefferson Airplane, while she was still with her previous band, The Great Society. And years before the single was recorded for public consumption, she performed it live with Jefferson Airplane in the mid-1960s, at a time when the group was the house band at a San Francisco night club called … The Matrix.
Throughout the trailer, we see Neo aka Thomas Anderson appearing in front of screens of himself in The Matrix (1999). How does the movie exist in the world of the Resurrections? Either the movie takes places entirely without a new simulated world created by robots inspired by the movies or Neo’s memories of his past life have allowed him to produce The Matrix within his own reality. There’s a rumor that this version of Thomas Anderson could be a video game developer, so in theory, he may have funneled his “dreams” into a playable version of The Matrix (1999), which he can now appear beside. Whatever the case, trippy.
Neo took the red pill and started looking like Brad Dourif.
Hey it’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Not Morpheus! As we detail in our deep dive into the 2005 MMO The Matrix Online, Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus was actually killed in the aftermath of Neo’s sacrifice, and only the people who played the game know it. Assuming all the transmedia storytelling of the Matrix has stuck over the years, he’ll remain dead in The Matrix Resurrections. But that subtitle is plural for reason — and anyone we think is dead could easily return. Case in point: Neo. Abdul-Mateen may be playing literal Morpheus, imitation/reconstructed Morpheus or cosplay Morpheus, but with so much of the trailer footage existing through Neo’s perspective, I suspect it’s some variation of the Morpheus we once knew. Before that video game killed him.
Jessica Henwick, having survived Iron Fist, appears here as someone unplugged from the delusion of the Matrix. She guides Neo through the looking glass, proving this special effect never gets old.
At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, The Architect promises the Oracle that anyone who wants out of the Matrix will be freed. So, uh, that didn’t go great, I guess.
BRB going to watch Douglas Trumbull’s Brainstorm to try and make sense of how this image appears in The Matrix Resurrections.
- The tech industry in Neo’s reality must be even more craven than our own if he quit this hard
- We can’t quite see the sign behind Neo, but it appears to read “Deus Machina,” which could be a reference to Deus Ex Machina, the central “brain” of Machine City back in the original trilogy. Appearing as an explosive ball of light, Neo and Deus Ex Machina brokered peace for the humans. In Resurrections, it’s may have sold out and named a company after itself. Typical tech guy.
Abdul-Mateen posted this screencap on Instagram with the caption “MORPHEUS,” so…
Trinity died in The Matrix Revolutions. She’s definitely not dead here — and ostensibly not just a program running inside the Matrix. The robots must really like Neo if they offered to resurrect the love of his life.
OK maybe it’s not going so well for Trinity. Here we see her bursting at the seams, and if you look closely, we’re seeing more than one person appearing in her psychic breakdown. She might be They in the simulation.
Abdul-Mateen plays a number of roles in the trailer, from the confident Morpheus type to someone who clearly has his own awakening. First we see him experiencing the ripples of the Matrix with the kind of deer-in-headlight moment that feels like its his first time noticing what’s really going on, but then…
[Pause for dope-as-hell action moment that does not rely on bullet-time nostalgia.]
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
…we see Abdul-Mateen’s character dressed as an Agent, running down a hallway with Henwick’s character, jumping out a window like it’s The Matrix Reloaded, and shattering through the Matrix code. Have the sentinels recreated Morpheus to do Agent work and Abdul-Mateen’s character is breaking out or should we expect Neo’s second awakening to involve a bit of espionage?
Love this for these two.
The trailer wraps up with the introduction of Jonathan Groff’s … somebody. Our in-house theory: The New Architect? Or maybe just some chump CEO who oversees Thomas Anderson’s new work. Groff directly refers to “the Matrix” in this scene, which could be a red herring if Anderson’s turned his memories of the Matrix into marketable IP. OH MY GOD IS IT A MOVIE ABOUT REBOOTS AND SEQUELS THAT IS ALSO A REBOOTY SEQUEL.
If I stare at this screencap long enough, will I too decode the Matrix? Or have I already transcended to a higher plane of consciousness by going frame by frame through the trailer? Is there an ARG tipoff hiding in this frame? Please can there be? Need more Matrix, now.