It’s been nearly 20 years since we last entered The Matrix, with Revolutions bringing to a divisive close one of the most iconic and influential action series of all time… or so we thought. This winter, audiences will be jacked right back into the post-apocalyptic, tech-forward world of kung-fu revolutionaries raging against the machines in The Matrix Resurrections.
With Keanu Reeves set to return to the fight alongside original mastermind Lana Wachowski (working without longtime collaborator/sister Lilly), things have been kept pretty hush-hush since the project was announced in summer of 2019. That’s par for the course for a franchise whose mystique has been half the charm since it debuted in 1999, changing the cinematic landscape with its sleek digital-noir design and bullet-time action sequences. Here’s what we know so far.
Is there a trailer for The Matrix Resurrections?
In early September, the original site for the film, WhatistheMatrix.com, came back online for a bit of clever viral marketing giving a minute-by-minute countdown to the launch of the trailer, peppered with fleeting glimpses of footage and prompting users to either click a red pill or a blue pill.
Now, after a two-day wait, the trailer has finally dropped. Scored, appropriately enough, to Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic ‘White Rabbit,’ the trailer is loaded with mystique and action beats. We'll discuss the details and implications a bit more below, but rest assured that the eye-popping footage is loaded with mystery, gravity-defying parkour sequences, motorcycle chases, martial arts mayhem and an unexpected dose humour uncommon in the straight-faced franchise. And guns. Lots of guns.
When will The Matrix Resurrections release?
While originally slated for April of 2022, last year the release date was bumped up to December 22, 2021. The news came as a surprise, both because it revealed how far along the project was, but also because it came with the revelation that Matrix Resurrections – like all Warner Bros. properties this year – would debut on HBO Max the same day as its theatrical premiere. While there has been some speculation that HBO Max could backtrack on the release model now that theaters are open, so far it’s held fast that The Matrix will be viewable at home upon release.
What is The Matrix Resurrections about?
Like the secret world of machine-domination and human batteries introduced in the original film, details about The Matrix Resurrections are extremely hazy. However, the new trailer is loaded with breadcrumbs as to what, exactly, this revival is all about.
When we last plugged into The Matrix, Reeves’ prophetic ‘Chosen One’ was extremely dead, striking a Christlike pose for good measure after defeating Hugo Weaving’s destructive Agent Smith and granting salvation to both mankind and the machines that enslaved it. Carrie Anne-Moss’s Trinity, meanwhile, had also been slain before the big melee.
The new footage opens with a seemingly alive Neo back in his Thomas Anderson persona, living a somewhat normal life in modern-day San Francisco seemingly unaware of his pre-death adventures in the Matrix but thrown into an existential crisis by visions of the green digital grid of the Matrix. He's seemingly kept at bay by a steady diet of bright-blue pills provided by his therapist.
In the trailer, Neo reunites with an also-seemingly alive Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) at an indie bookstore, though neither can figure out their connection. Clearly, they figure this out, as the two are later shown fighting side-by-side, with Trinity sporting her signature leather combat duds. She is also shown glitching out, furthering speculation that she could be a digital recreation of Neo's soul mate. Speculation also surrounds whether Neo himself is a digital recreation.
Further down the rabbit hole, it seems that the film will also feature young Morpheus (or somebody who appears to be young Morpheus). Neo and this maybe-Morpheus are shown sparring in a dojo similar to the one that appears in the first film, recreating the iconic ‘I know kung fu’ training sequence that saw Neo fully realize his wuxia-enabled destiny... though this time, Neo appears to already be in God Mode and fully able to body his opponent while causing serious property damage to the ornate Japanese architecture around him.
We also glimpse Neo traversing various areas via mirror, furthering the Lewis Carroll vibes the franchise has long embraced, and bugging out in various small spaces before being pursued by nefarious agents.
Anyone worried that the franchise will reimagine the characters as traversing a memory-loss rom-com need not worry: Plenty of havoc is wreaked in the short tease. We see trench coat-clad heroes and villains ping-ponging off walls and across the skyline; a motorcycle chase; an explosive battle on a fast-moving train; tentacled sentinels and human batteries; characters dual-wielding submachine guns; and Neo unleashing the full force of his powers, at one point telekinetically chucking a missile at a helicopter.
There is no word on whether the events of The Matrix Online – the popular online game that immersed players in the film’s world from 2005-2009 – will inform the new movie, though the game did deal with the aftermath of the third film’s climactic sacrifice. Unlike other games based on the property, it was not written or supervised by the Wachowskis, but is often cited as canon.
As for those theorizing that the film will feature a time-travel element, Reeves himself has quashed that rumor, telling IndieWire there’s ‘no going into the past.’
Is this just a retelling of The Matrix?
Much of this seems very familiar. The trailer goes through many of the beats of the original film, including Neo's awakening to the world around him, plus the requisite red pills, kung-fu training montages and the appearance of a number of rabbit tattoos leading the hero on a path throughout the city.
But it's way, way too early to predict how the film will pivot away from what came before: This is a franchise that relishes in keeping people guessing and obsessed with repetition. Yes, the trailer is certain to give the feeling of déjà vu. It even comments on the repetitions in a rather meta way. But fans know that déjà vu means a glitch in the Matrix. And given the secrecy, it stands to reason that most of what's shown in the trailer comes from Act 1. Best to just buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Who is returning for The Matrix Resurrections
Reeves and Moss are the topline stars rising from the dead, though whether it will be as flesh-and-blood versions of themselves or new programs based on their personalities remains to be seen.
Jada Pinkett Smith’s Niobe – a character who appeared briefly in the sequels but factored heavily into the video-game spinoffs – will return alongside Lambert Wilson as French information-trafficking program The Merovingian and Daniel Bernhardt as the villainous Agent Johnson.
Just as interesting as the returning actors is the fact that two of the original series’ stars are not plugging back into the Matrix. In an interview with Time Out, Hugo Weaving said scheduling conflicts prevented him from donning his iconic black suit and sunglasses once again as Agent Smith. Meanwhile, Laurence Fishburne – whose Morpheus is one of the original series’ most memorable characters, and the lone survivor of the first-billed cast – was not asked back, saying in an interview with ReelBlend, ‘I’m not involved. The only thing I can tell you is that Lana Wachowski can answer those questions for you better than I can.’
All is not lost: Fishburne will still fight alongside Reeves in the upcoming John Wick 4.
Who is joining the cast?
While some fans are preemptively upset by casting omissions, the new roster of actors is generating enough excitement to all but guaranteed most will take the red pill.
Neil Patrick Harris will play Neo's San Francisco therapist, a role that has sinister implications given his ample supply of blue pills and his unsettling voiceover work in the film's viral marketing campaign. Mindhunter and Hamilton star Jonathan Groff is also on hand, shown in the trailer cracking jokes about the nature of the Matrix and leading many to speculate that the Frozen star is breaking bad in a villainous turn.
We also get a brief glimpse of Priyanka Chopra Jonas looking very Oracle-ish.
The new face with the most buzz is rising Watchmen and Candyman star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who many are speculating is playing an old face: Morpheus. Given he's glimpsed sparring with Neo, blasting away at agents, doling out red pills and philosophical asides and sporting Morpheus’ trademark round shades, this seems all but confirmed that Mateen is playing Morpheus... or a program based on him.
The cast also includes a meaty role for Jessica Yu Li Henwick, who previously appeared in Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Netflix’s defunct Marvel series Iron Fist and The Defenders. Though her role, like the whole film, is still a mystery, she recently told Empire that her action scenes required the type of intense training the original trilogy was famous for: ‘I haven’t seen a cut of the film, so I don’t know what’s in it and what isn’t, but I trained every day for months.’ Footage in the trailer fully backs this up: Henwick is shown in various action sequences executing some seriously gravity-defying stunts.
Christina Ricci and Ellen Hollman also co-star.
Is Lilly Wachowski involved?
The Wachowski sisters have become the Coen Brothers of the sci-fi world, working together across the Matrix trilogy, Jupiter Ascending, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas and more. However, Resurrections marks the debut of Lana as a blockbuster soloist.
In an interview with the Television Critics Association Summer Tour virtual panel pegged to her showtime series Work In Progress (carried by Entertainment Weekly), Lilly elaborated on her absence from the war against the machines:
‘I got out of my transition and was just completely exhausted because we had made Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, and the first season of Sense8 back-to-back-to-back. We were posting one, and prepping the other at the exact same time. So you're talking about three 100-plus days of shooting for each project, and so, coming out and just being completely exhausted, my world was like, falling apart to some extent even while I was like, you know, cracking out of my egg. So I needed this time away from this industry. I needed to reconnect with myself as an artist and I did that by going back to school and painting and stuff.’