Free your mind. It’s not a remake, reboot, or reimagining. It’s a resurrection. After 18 years, The Matrix is back, though not the same as we left it. Shifting release dates cast some doubt over whether the film is actually coming out this year, but the first full-length trailer is finally here. And it suggests that The Matrix Resurrections will live up to the original trilogy’s legacy of entertaining and challenging science fiction.
The new trailer leans hard into nostalgia (hello, “White Rabbit”), but once-familiar characters are now seemingly strangers to themselves and to each other. Of course, these mind games wouldn’t pack nearly the same punch without glorious Wachowski-stylized action, which now looks inspired in part by the Keanu Reeves–starring John Wick films (ironically, the work of fight choreographer Chad Stahelski, who doubled as Neo and served as stunt coordinator for the original trilogy). Even with all there is to see in the new trailer, so many questions still remain. Let’s see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The First Wachowski Solo Act
Lana Wachowski returns to the director’s chair but this time without her sister, Lilly. This marks the first time in the filmmakers’ careers that they are going their separate ways creatively. The Matrix films have always been the singular works of two minds, so what shape this resurrection takes with half the previous equation missing remains to be seen. The trailer, at least, doesn’t betray any reason to worry about whether Lana can deliver on the series’s stylish sensibilities. And she’s brought authors David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and Aleksandar Hemon (Nowhere Man) on as co-writers, who will undoubtedly deliver a heady and philosophical story that keeps audiences talking.
So why didn’t Lilly return? The filmmaker is currently the showrunner, executive producer, writer, and director of the Showtime series Work in Progress. She recently told Entertainment Weekly that she spent a lot of time reconnecting with herself after her transition and the death of her parents. “There was something about the idea of going backward and being a part of something that I had done before that was expressly unappealing,” she said. While the notion of doing another Matrix didn’t suit Lilly, other key players in the franchise had no problem plugging back in again.
It wouldn’t be The Matrix without Keanu Reeves. The beloved actor returns as Neo, this time rocking his signature John Wick look. Carrie-Anne Moss also returns as Trinity, and Jada Pinkett Smith is back as Niobe, though she isn’t in the trailer. A couple of smaller supporting characters will also return: Daniel Bernhardt reprises his role as Agent Johnson from The Matrix Reloaded, and Lambert Wilson returns as the trafficker of information, the Merovingian, from Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
While there is speculation that other familiar faces might appear, they’ve yet to be announced. The most obvious omissions from the line-up so far are Hugo Weaving’s iconic baddie, Agent Smith, and Laurence Fishburne’s equally inimitable Morpheus. In Weaving’s case, scheduling conflicts prevented him from appearing, which raises a few questions about Neo’s role in the film without his opposite. As for Fishburne, the actor, surprisingly, was never approached for the new movie. Fishburne told Collider this year, “I am not in the next Matrix movie, and you’d have to ask Lana Wachowski why, because I don’t have an answer for that.” As hard as it is to imagine a Matrix film without Fishburne, the answer may lie in the plot of Resurrections. But first …
The Matrix Resurrections is adding plenty of new faces to the franchise. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen, Candyman) and Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick appear to be the new co-leads, working with a delightful set of new skills and heavy artillery. Neil Patrick Harris appears as Thomas Anderson’s psychologist, who just has to be a program. And Jonathan Groff, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Eréndira Ibarra, Priyanka Chopra, Andrew Caldwell, Brian J. Smith, Ellen Hollman, and Christina Ricci round out the rest of the cast.
What’s the Story?
That question is still tricky; the trailer keeps most of the actual plot hidden. What we do know is that Neo, once again going by Thomas Anderson, and Trinity appear to be back in the Matrix program, but they don’t remember each other or any of their past lives. Anderson’s being prescribed a steady supply of blue pills, presumably by his psychiatrist — whose blue-rimmed glasses are a sinister giveaway. Neo stops taking the pills and begins to notice things are not what they seem. The Alice in Wonderland metaphor makes an aggressive comeback here, not only through the trailer’s Jefferson Airplane song choice, but also in the actual Lewis Carroll book, given to Anderson by a woman in glasses (Priyanka Chopra) who may be the latest update of the Oracle (so memorably played by Gloria Foster and Mary Alice in the trilogy).
We see plenty of action, but there’s no clear sense of the threat. The familiar black-suited agents aren’t running around; instead, we see a SWAT team-esque militia facing off against Anderson, Trinity, and several of the film’s new characters. There are also new powers showcased in the film, as the characters manage to bend the rules of the Matrix. But to what end? There are quick glimpses of the Sentinel or “Squidy” machines and the Power Plant where humans are still being used as batteries. It all suggests the truce between humans and machines has ended, unless …
At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix is rebooted and humans are given the opportunity to leave the Matrix or stay within its confines. It wouldn’t be too far a stretch to see vast numbers of people willingly subjecting themselves to the Matrix, especially considering the desolation of the real world. The alarm on Anderson’s face in the elevator at seeing everyone glued to their devices and gadgets, except for him, seems to point a finger at the technology-addled brain of the modern world. The Matrix is arguably just the next step, a means to provide humanity with comfort rather than fighting to make the world better.
What’s the Deal With Morpheus?
We know Fishburne isn’t returning, but that doesn’t mean Morpheus is entirely out of the picture. Some speculate that Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is playing a younger version of Morpheus, or a reboot, in other terms. He certainly has his look and cadence. When the idea of a fourth Matrix film first began percolating in 2017, without the Wachowskis’ involvement and under the purview screenwriter Zak Penn, Michael B. Jordan was reportedly being looked at to play either a younger version of Morpheus or his descendant. It’s unclear if any of those concepts remained and carried over to Lana’s film.
There were rumors that this new Morpheus would take the role Neo had in the original film, with Neo guiding and ushering him to wake up in the real world. But it seems Abdul-Mateen II’s character will once again serve as something of a mentor to Anderson, who must learn to become Neo once more.
Further complicating the matter of Morpheus is the video game The Matrix Online (2005), which depicted the death of Morpheus in a move that proved controversial among fans. While billed as the official continuation of the film series, the game received mixed reviews and went offline in 2009. Would Lana bank on a video game that never really hit it big? The game’s story beats are still archived online, but that seems like a big ask for a general audience that likely never knew the game existed at all.
Lana Wachowski has long advocated for a mixed-media approach to the franchise, with comics, The Animatrix, and another video game, Enter the Matrix (2003), all established as canon under the umbrella of “The Continuing Story.” It’s an interesting experiment, not entirely unlike what Star Wars has achieved through the previous Expanded Universe (née Legends), and the current Disney-operated line. But unlike Star Wars, The Matrix franchise hasn’t been consistent with its output of additional media. The only installments that feel certain to still be considered canon are the three Matrix films and The Animatrix. The rest remains a mystery.
Is This an Ending … Or a New Beginning?
The Matrix trilogy changed the language of cinema. It even changed the language of our social discourse, with “red pill” and “blue pill” now carrying loaded meanings. Does Resurrections stand a chance of doing it again, especially after so many films, television series, video games, books, and comics have borrowed from the language and aesthetic of The Matrix? Probably not, because this world is no longer new. But there’s still meaning to be found, especially given the advancements in technology since the Wachowskis first conceived their idea for the film. Mankind’s relationship with machines and their own belief systems will always be relevant.
The trailer also suggests that The Matrix Resurrections may be the start of a new trilogy, rather than a coda to the existing one. We can’t know for sure just yet, but it does seem that Neo and Trinity’s reawakening will make up a substantial part of this film. And with the bevy of new characters and an unknown threat looming, it feels as if audiences are on the cusp of a much bigger story. The Matrix Resurrections may or may not end with Neo once again taking to the sky, but we’re starting to believe.