Well, it looks like we’re all going back. Back to where it first began. Back… to The Matrix.
It’s been over 20 years since Keanu Reeves first donned his black trench coat and tiny sunglasses and told us all to wake up to the digital systems that are controlling every aspect of our lives and in that time… not a lot has changed.
Mark Zuckerberg appears to be well underway trying to create his own virtual reality to (presumably) enslave humanity and harvest our life force for advertising revenue and, depressingly, for anyone alive to remember it the first time around, late 90s fashion is back in style.
Now, with a new Matrix film about to drop, the feeling of being trapped in a digital prison is more apt than ever and we are very much here to watch Neo shoot endless guns in slow-motion to free us all from it.
If it’s been a while since you last watched the films and can’t quite remember exactly who did what and why – and even if you have, they’re infamously confusing films – we’re here to get you up to speed and ready for when The Matrix Resurrections drops on Boxing Day.
However, in the words of Morpheus, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Who’s In Matrix Resurrections
The Matrix Resurrections is a sequel to 2009’s The Matrix Revolutions, the final film in the original Matrix trilogy which started with The Matrix in 1999.
Neo is alive (whaaaat) and living, apparently, back in the Matrix in his old life as computer programmer Thomas A. Anderson. In the trailers, we’ve seen Anderson visiting a therapist and being offered blue pills to counter the effects of the strange visions he keeps having.
Reeves is, of course, back in the role of Neo/Anderson and will be joined by Carrie-Anne Moss, also returning as Trinity. Laurence Fishburne won’t be reprising his role as Morpheus sadly, but Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who you might recognise from Aquaman (2018) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), is taking on the character. Hugo Weaving is unfortunately also not returning as the villainous Agent Smith but Jonathan Groff of Glee fame will be filling the role instead.
Also returning is Jada Pinkett Smith as Captain Niobe, Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian, and Daniel Bernhardt as Agent Johnson.
New additions include Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Henwick, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
Interestingly, it’s only Lana Wachowski who is returning to direct the film. She directed the previous trilogy along with her sister Lilly, who has said that she didn’t feel emotionally able to “walk over old paths” after the death of their parents in 2019. Lana has said that while she couldn’t have her mum and dad, she could bring Neo and Trinity back to life and that this process helped her in grieving the loss of her parents.
What Happened In the Previous Matrix Trilogy
If you haven’t seen the first Matrix film we highly, highly recommend watching it. It’s one of the greatest films of all time, with stunning action sequences, mind-bending plot twists, and a deeply philosophical script that will have you questioning everything for days afterwards. Plus that 90s soundtrack is pure fire.
The Matrix could easily have been a one-off however it was such a massive success that the Wachowskis were almost immediately pressed to make additional films. They spent five years developing The Matrix and a subsequent two years coming up with Reloaded and Revolutions which were filmed back to back and released as almost one continuous narrative. We’re not about it say “it shows” as, while many have critiqued the latter two films as not having quite the same weight as the original, they’re still solid action films and worthy of re-watching.
The premise of The Matrix is that humans are all living in a simulated late-90s reality that shares the same name as the film. In actual fact, it’s really closer to the year 2199 and all of humanity has been enslaved by machines. We get a quick rundown of this history from Morpheus, the leader of a group of rebel humans who have managed to ‘wake up’ and escape The Matrix, who tells our hero Anderson or, as he’s better known, Neo, that humans and hyper-intelligent machines have been at war since the early 21st century.
“We don’t know who struck first, us or them,” Morpheus says. “But we do know it was us that scorched the sky. At the time, they were dependent on solar power. It was believed they would be unable to survive without an energy source as abundant as the sun”.
That plan backfired massively, as the machines started using humans as a power source, keeping them in artificial amniotic sacks to harvest their energy to use as a power source. Ignore the fact that humans need more energy input than they produce and it’s a pretty cool premise.
Neo, it’s revealed, is actually part of the machines plan to perfect artificial reality. In The Matrix Reloaded, we meet The Architect, the programme that built The Matrix, who tells Neo that he is just one of several iterations of “the one,” a designed failsafe switch to release those humans who reject their artificial reality. Coupled with “the mother” of The Matrix, known as The Oracle, Neo and The Architect make up the trinity of human control.
The Oracle is another programme, representing intuition, who is designed to help the machines understand human needs and desires beyond rationality. However, after several runs of The Matrix programme, she becomes more and more sympathetic to their needs, helping them escape and attempting to stop the war between them and the machines.
The humans who do escape The Matrix exist in a subterranean city in the real world known as Zion. Here is where they attempt to overthrow the machines physically, but, as The Architect tells Neo, the city is wiped out by the machines every few generations and rebuilt as The Matrix programme re-runs and improves. Not everyone knows this, and it’s pretty much just Neo who understands this plan.
Neo’s, and, as it turns out, the machine’s arch-nemesis is Smith. Smith is an agent, kind of like the machines anti-virus software. These are super-powered programmes that seek to hunt down and destroy non-conforming humans like Neo and the rebels who reject The Matrix. However, at the end of The Matrix, Neo throws himself into Smith, obliterating him yet imprinting some of his code onto the programme. This makes Smith reject his directives and go rogue, essentially becoming the anti-Neo, bent on the destruction of everything. Some of the best fight scenes in the original trilogy are between Neo and Smith, who is able to replicate himself by taking over other programmes and even humans, creating an army of clones that threaten to destabilise the whole programme.
The other key character of note is The Merovingian. He’s an older programme of The Matrix, self-described as a “trafficker of information,” who runs a criminal syndicate within The Matrix made up of old programmes who refuse to be deleted, kind of like the machine-world version of Zion. Neo and the team often rely on him for help however he is ultimately hostile and tries to kill them several times. Some fans think that he is the original One programme, an early version of Neo who sees everything in terms of cause and effect. We don’t know much about his role in Resurrections but the fact that Wilson is reprising his role suggests that he will be important in the film.
There’s a lot to process here and, for the most part, most people finish the original trilogy with more questions than answers. Knowing that humans and the machines are at war in the future and fight on both physical and virtual planes is probably enough to get you by.
The Matrix Ending Explained
At the end of Revolutions, Neo takes a ship and heads to The Source, the centre of machine power that controls The Matrix, while hundreds of thousands of sentinel robots bear down on Zion, almost certainly about to destroy it once again.
Neo, whose powers as The One allow him to bend reality in The Matrix, has gained the ability to interfere with the machines in the real world, kind of through the source’s Wi-Fi-like network that links them together. He uses this to battle his way to The Source, losing his sight in the process, where he makes a deal with the machines. He will destroy the Smith programme, who he says has become too powerful for even the machines to control, in order to broker peace with the machines. Neo is able to defeat Smith by allowing Smith to assimilate him, ultimately sacrificing himself and letting his programming overload Smith, also destroying him. With this, the machines say that humans will be allowed to leave The Matrix at will and Zion will be left to flourish without further attacks.
There are huge Neo-is-Jesus vibes going on here, which is why it’s not unexpected that he has come again. At the very end of the film we see The Oracle sitting on a bench in The Matrix, enjoying a brilliant sunrise that is supposed to represent peace. She explains to a rogue programme, known as Sati, that she “suspects” we will see Neo again. This could be a hint to the theory that Neo, as The One, is an integral part of The Matrix programme and that Neo himself, having gone further than any other One programme in bringing harmony between humans and the machines, will be resurrected to continue his evolution if discord ever arises again.
Also in the final scene, we see The Architect ask The Oracle “just how long do you think this peace is going to last?”
“As long as it can,” she replies.
Well, it looks like this peace is being threatened, and that both humans, and the machines, need Neo once again to save the world.
The Matrix Resurrections is out Boxing Day, 26 December, in HOYTS cinemas nationwide. Catch it in refined HOTYS LUX style here.