WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections, now in theaters and on HBO Max.
Matrix resurrections builds on the best parts of the original trilogy while simultaneously celebrating nostalgia and fighting against its limits. The new movie features Neo (Keanu Reeves) as having been resurrected by the machines after his death and hooked up to the latest version of the Matrix simulation. He is given an identity as video game designer Tom Anderson who created a popular trilogy of Matrix games (containing the events of the original films). Fans approach him to praise the duality of these games, which battled themes of fate versus free will and man versus machines.
But duality has only ever been part of the story. Neo was “the One”, a messianic figure destined to challenge old dualistic divisions. More importantly, her love interest, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), gets her name from a pluralistic structure more complex than just binaries. Now, Trinity is defying expectations and completely shattering limited binaries – and redefining the whole idea of the One.
Tom / Neo’s video game company is developing a new game he created called Binary. When Neo’s business partner Smith (Jonathan Groff) calls him into his office, Neo says, “I know Binary is over budget. Smith replies that “it is not about Binary… It’s bigger than that. From the beginning, Matrix resurrections reject binaries as being too small, and therefore insufficient.
There are countless instances where overly simplistic dichotomies are overturned, including the latest portrayal of Smith himself. Once seen as the opposite of Neo, this new version of Smith split into multiple identities, one played by Groff and the other becoming an imitation of himself and Morpheus (played by Yahya Abdul-Marteen II ). Before the audience could even see Neo, Resurrections opens by recreating the beginning of the first film, centered on Trinity (whose very name invokes a greater plurality). Then it follows two new characters, the Smith / Morpheus hybrid and a new heroine, Bugs (Jessica Henwick), whose narrative role echoes both Morpheus and Trinity from the previous films.
Bugs and Morpheus extract Neo from The Matrix, hoping he will reprise his role as “The One”. The crew of the Bugs ship, the Mnemosyne, includes both humans and machines, a union that arose from Neo’s earlier sacrifice. Bugs notes that Neo’s old conception of “our side” is no longer relevant as the two sides of the conflict have become less clear. In keeping with this trend, many Biblical allusions from previous films are avoided in favor of Greek and Nordic polytheistic names like Freya, Cybebe, Io and even the Mnemosyne, replacing the Abrahamic struggle of good versus evil with one that examines complex systems. By extension, there is no room for a story about a single Messianic individual like one fighting an opposing enemy.
Neo’s main objective is to save Trinity, the woman he loves. When he returns to the Matrix to retrieve it, he fights Smith, who has now both embraced his role as a villain and become obsessed with binaries (thus presenting them as antagonists). When Neo finally reunites with Trinity, they are interrupted by the other major villain, the Analyst. He begins to monologize, explaining that Neo’s powers are only fully activated when he’s near Trinity. In fact, if they are too close, they surpass the attempts of the machines to contain them.
This shows that the powers of the One are not confined to one person but shared between Trinity and Neo through their mutual love, the two coming together to become something greater than their separate parts. In the end, Trinity ultimately surpasses Neo as the most powerful character, but remains inseparably connected to him.
Part of this new approach is a rejection of dated gender binaries. Director Lana Wachowski is a trans woman whose lived experiences show that conventional gender binaries are not as straightforward as many think. Trinity’s very name, much like her acquisition of the powers of the “One,” shows that things are not static, nor are they easily divided into sharp dichotomies. The world is much more complex. By working together, Trinity and Neo are able to create something new that responds to this complexity.
The Matrix Resurrections is now in theaters and on HBO Max.
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