Feld Notes

Feb 2022

The Matrix Resurrections: a Counter-review in Bullet Points

This post was originally a very long reply that I inflicted upon poor Fabio Russo, so I’ve posted it here as a separate piece of content to be linked in the thread that follows his initial review. It corresponds with the headings and numbered points that Fabio made.


With spoilers. (Intro)

Yes, I believe that you are too harsh on the film. See why below.

The good

  • I agree that the actors were chosen well and that Neil Patrick Harris was a fun and appropriate choice for The Analyst. He lends a certain humour and humanity, which are great contrasts with the logic and coldness of the Architect.

  • I agree that the sets and costumes are great, as they show consistency with the earlier three films, however there are enough changes here and there in the real world to show gradual progress over 60 years (e.g. new city of IO co-constructed with Synthients and a newer Matrix with a different hue, which isn’t green).

  • The line ‘built in the EU’ is more likely to be based on humanity’s closer proximity to the Machines’ city, 01, which was located in the Middle East, close to Mesopotamia (i.e. ’the cradle of human civilisation’, as displayed in ‘The Second Renaissance Parts I and II’ in The Animatrix). Most actors in the films have American accents, but that’s a reflection of their upbringing in the Matrix and its simulation of the ‘peak of human civilisation’, as Smith says in the first movie, with the US as the then-superpower.

The very bad

The story

  1. The thing to remember here is that Neo and Trinity are two key things: (i) not humans as we know them today; and (ii) both sides of the same systemic anomaly of the older version of the Matrix. On my point (i), to view the pod-born humans as regular humans with the same energy output or physiology as regular humans today (or born of the real world in the story) would be a mistake, as they are manufactured for Machine/Synthient needs—that being maximum efficiency. The machines could have chosen a different energy source, but as they became increasingly advanced, they ironically became more similar to humans, in their drive for revenge or spite. They may tell themselves that they follow logic, which humans do not, but they are just as driven by emotion and irrationality as humans. Why not clear the sky of Operation Dark Storm and restore the sunshine? They’d rather subjugate humans as a means for revenge. On point (ii), it is accepted that the anomaly (i.e. ‘The One’) is the result of a need to balance the less-than-utopian design of the Matrix for human acceptance of the reality, as the original utopian Matrix failed. These humans are manufactured and have an intrinsic connection to the Machines, with different physiology and digital interfaces, so it is reasonable to argue that they are superhuman not only in the Matrix, but also as physical beings in the real world (see Neo’s direct interface with sentinels at the end of Reloaded, and while flying in the Logos and perceiving 01 while blind in Revolutions). The Machines’ design of the Matrix may be built on rules for human acceptance of the reality/program, but they have technically gone beyond the rules with their own technological advancement.

  2. How would resurrection work? If machines have worked out how to manufacture humans and therefore treat brains and human feelings and impulses like devices and data, it is reasonable to say that they can treat humans the way that we treat computers now: objects that can be programmed, rebooted and redesigned. You ask a great question as to whether these people are actually Neo and Trinity: I would say ‘yes’ in the same way that we regard successive versions of Windows and macOS to be the same system, much like the Ship of Theseus: there’s an original codebase or version, upon which there are changes and iterations, and we accept the newest version as falling under the same branded moniker. The reason they don’t just redesign Neo and Trinity or overwrite them is that the Analyst wishes to profit (energy-wise) from their bond in real life and in the program; they need to retain their original identity and relationship (albeit kept apart and masked), otherwise the whole enterprise is pointless. The Machines would also lose the source code to reboot the prime program that would facilitate the reinstatement of the earlier version of the Matrix in case of emergency, which Sati explains that the Analyst and ‘the suits’ are close to doing in the second half of Resurrections if they can’t plug Neo back into the Anomaleum.

  3. The humans explain their inability to reach Neo in the Matrix in the first half of Resurrections, when they say that his digital self image (DSI) was altered repeatedly to avoid detection. Neo saw his own RSI, but everyone saw an altered DSI. Also Neo, with his suppressed memories, feelings and suspicions, felt that something was up and made the modal as an experiment, which acted as breadcrumbs that the humans of the Mnemosyne were able to detect. Humans can still hack the Matrix, but their search was futile for 60 years as the Machines obscured their two people of interest.

  4. Agents and hacking are also explained in Resurrections. On your point about Agents, The Analyst explains that they are no longer a feature of his new Matrix; instead, he uses bots to saturate a population more efficiently, which is what justifies the messy swarm sequences. The hackers are still wanted and do indeed hide themselves, contrary to what you suggested, hence their decision in different parts of the film to use secluded or empty spaces (e.g. the empty hotel room prior to the warehouse fight scene). The newer portals/mirrors that they use are simply more efficient, versatile and widespread than phone booths in the original trilogy (consider it a metaphor or reflection of our upgrade here in real life from wired to wireless connections, as they shift from landline phone booths to more convenient locations).

  5. Morpheus’s identity and make-up are also explained in Resurrections: he is not a creation of the machines, but a video-game character created by Neo within his modal (linking to the characters of his own Matrix-themed game within the Matrix). This also explains why he and the representation of Trinity at the beginning of the film look different. As new Morpheus explains to Neo within the Construct on the Mnemosyne, he was a program within a modal by Neo, which did not understand that he himself was a program; this is fascinating, because as we learn that humans are unaware of their reality in the first film, in Resurrections we discover that a program can be made within a program and not even realise that they’re a program—different layers or versions of sentient life can be unaware of the bounds of their own existence, connecting to ideas like Plato’s Cave. He was stuck in a modal and didn’t even know the bounds or nature of his own existence, until his mind was also freed.

  6. Bugs trusts this ‘Agent Smith/Morpheus’ quickly because she has the following knowledge that he does not: they’re not in a regular part of the Matrix; agents are no longer used in the newer version of the Matrix; and the one with whom she’s speaking both saves her from the key shop and expresses doubt and uncertainty in his own purpose/being after welcoming her into Neo’s apartment. She doesn’t fully understand who this ‘Morpheus’ is at this point, but given his expressed desire to find Neo and the original Morpheus’s critical role in the history of the resistance, she is relieved to at least find what she perceives to be some fragment of him.

  7. Referring back to my earlier point (i) in bullet-point no. 1, Neo and Trinity are both two sides of the superhuman anomaly of the sixth rebooted version of the original Matrix. For maximum efficiency and balance, the Analyst requires both of them, however as Sati explains in the second half of Resurrections, they are powerful enough that the Machines can draw their energy from only one to maintain stability for a time. It’s worse to lose both of them because the Anomaleum and this newer version of the Matrix are predicated on their combination as an energy source. Consider having only one to be like running on a back-up generator, or relying too long on a spare tyre while driving. It works, but not forever.

  8. The answer to Trinity’s shared status as the One is that Trinity isn’t just also the One ‘now’; they’ve always been the anomaly together, which has been a consistent theme or motif since the first film, such as Trinity’s power to save Neo with a kiss in the first film (restoring his consciousness and proving a life and possibilities beyond the ‘rules’ of the Matrix), and Neo’s ability to save Trinity at the end of Reloaded by actually moving beyond her flesh to remove the bullet and restart her heart. (In The Matrix Online, which was canon following the trilogy, there were storyline hints that both Neo and Trinity’s DSIs remained and that they were in fact Machine-designed superhumans, beyond most pod-born copper-tops, so this isn’t a new idea that they conveniently devised for the new film.) The reason that Trinity was never able to fully realise her power was that she never believed—a key word from Morpheus in the earlier trilogy. Neo was constantly promoted as the One and encouraged to open and free his mind; he didn’t do this until moments such as Trinity’s kiss, which helped him to realise that resurrection was possible. (Resurrections isn’t the only Matrix film in which resurrection takes place.) Trinity achieves this epiphany when jumping off the building, seeing reality for what it is on the rooftop before their leap. It can be argued that in the earlier films, her mind was never truly freed. She finally realises her identity and power in Resurrections.

The special effects

  1. The need to plug Bugs into Trinity’s pod is also explained in Resurrections. As they are under time pressure and held (somewhat) captive by the crowd at Simulatte, they are unable to follow the regular process of extraction with the choice of the red or blue pills. Instead, they need a free mind with somewhat closer physiology in the real world to act as a kind of interface for the data transfer, so that she does not lose her connection to (and consciousness within) the Matrix. It only took a few seconds because it marries up with the swapping of plugs in the Anomaleum; the visual effect is a brilliant representation of and reminder that what we’re seeing constantly in the films are digital representations that are in fact fluid, not physical beings as we know them in the real world.

  2. I think it’s unfair to say that the creators do not care about the visual representation of the Analyst’s sequences (or others); I would assert that this look was very deliberate. The feeling and speed of these sequences are representations of time slowed down, with someone moving unnaturally through them at many times the speed of everyone else. It can’t look the same as regular bullet-time (e.g. agents or Neo dodging things), as we have to understand his dialogue at normal speed while everyone else is slower, while also seeing that he can move quickly enough to reach his next point of physical acting or dialogue. It’s jolty because it is representing two different speeds at the simultaneously.

The stylistic choices

  1. The shakiness is more of a subjective point, so I can’t really argue if you don’t like it. I would just put this down to changes in cinema and action-movie styles since the earlier trilogy was made, and while I appreciate that it makes things less visible in certain scenes, I think it works well in communicating the chaos of bot swarms and desperate fighting in this newer version of the Matrix. The early versions followed rules and elegance; this one is about maximum human-energy extraction, manipulation and chaos, reflecting our own society’s current unhealthy relationship with technology, data and social media—think of the swarms of people battling it out online every day! 🙂

  2. Again, the reasons for Neo’s limited abilities are hinted in the movie through the others humans’ concern (and even Smith’s taunts) that Neo has lost something. He might have been resurrected and rebooted, but his powers as the One have been suppressed by an endless prescription of blue pills. He is still powerful and retains some abilities, but they are mostly defensive. He’s holding back because his mind has not fully opened yet (i.e. jumping at the end and flying again).

  3. The footage inserts of the original trilogy are not intended to be reminders for the audience; they correspond to moments that trigger Neo’s (or other characters’) memories, showing how beyond even the first five versions of the original Matrix, everything that happened in the sixth version can happen all over again in the Analyst’s take on the Matrix. The machines have humanity on a loop. These shots also do a nice job of highlighting the contrast in colour between the earlier versions and new version.

The characters

  1. I agree that Bugs is an important character, although I disagree that she fades in prominence as the movie progresses. She’s instrumental to the rescue of both Neo and later on, Trinity, as she acts as the data interface that’s the only way of getting her out. She also acts as as the symbol of resistance to Niobe’s desire to maintain the new status quo. Bugs was hell-bent on saving Neo not only because he ‘changed her life’, but once she was freed, she came to understand his legacy and importance in saving humanity during the Siege of Zion, which led to the establishment of IO and subsequent studies by Neo-ologists. Neo may be old and from a different time, but he has become a mythical figure for humanity, whom they feel they must respect and now rescue. I agree that the red pill is forced on Neo in Resurrections, but this was also the case in the first film, as Morpheus deliberately withholds information from Neo about the true nature of reality—pure psychological manipulation. Whether you look at the first film or Resurrections, Neo makes his decision with incomplete information but with a ‘splinter in his mind’ that something is not right. He does not understand yet, but he is curious and motivated. If anything, Neo has even greater justification in the fourth film to leave the Matrix, even if forced hurriedly by Bugs and others, as he has whole life of repressed memories and justifications that are trying to bubble to the surface (i.e. the quick, flickering shots of his experiences that appear from the first trilogy).

  2. Niobe also gives more of a justification for imprisoning Neo than what you suggest. She explains that Zion was obsessed with ‘war’—her words are: ‘Zion was stuck in a matrix of its own’—and she wants to preserve peace at IO rather than supporting foolhardy rescue missions in the Matrix, which could attract further attention from the Machines. She also admits that she doesn’t fully understand how he could be back and look only slightly older than he once did (after 60 years), so it’s justifiable that she would have her doubts about and even fear his return, wishing to keep him locked away until she understands what’s happening. How does she know that he’s not technically someone else or a tool of the Machines? It takes a mental leap to accept his return, and she’s only human.

  3. You don’t have to like the new representation of Smith as much as the old one—Hugo Weaving is awesome in the original trilogy and truly defines the character—however I like what they did with Smith here as a sentient program, as it exposes us to further ideas about the function, purpose and evolution of programs in the world of the Matrix. As the Oracle explains to Neo about Smith in their last meeting in Revolutions: ‘[He is] Your opposite, your negative, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out’. One of the major reasons that everything went so differently in the sixth version of the Matrix of which Neo (and Trinity) is the anomaly, is that Neo actually entered/inflitrated the program of Agent Smith at the end of the first film. We can assume that in earlier versions by the Architect, no anomaly ever fused with another program in this manner. In doing so, Neo and Smith have their code cross-contaminated, leading Smith to become a viral reboot in Reloaded and Revolutions, as well as an exile of sorts. Most importantly, in sharing this code, Smith becomes yet another side of the anomaly that is shared between Neo and Trinity, meaning that he and Neo (in all the sequels) are essentially two sides of the same coin. Consider it a bond like that of Elliott and E.T. from E.T.; in the Analyst’s new version of the Matrix, he has subdued Smith after his viral destruction at the end of Revolutions, but he survives the purge (which the Architect and the Oracle suffered) because of his direct connection to Neo’s source code of the anomaly (i.e. Smith’s reference in Resurrections to ‘not wishing to be on his [the Analyst’s] leash again’). As Neo begins to wake up gradually to his virtual reality in Resurrections, Smith, as the opposite side of the equation, also begins to wake up from his slumber and grow in power (the first moment being Morpheus’s attempted rescue in the Deus Machina office and Smith’s observation of the situation and the gun on the floor). The warping of reality in this moment is also represented by Déjà vu’s presence in the scene—the glitch—as the Analyst opens a portal to bring Neo into his clinic. The true nature of the world opened up for a moment to both Neo and Smith, and from here, Smith continues his reawakening alongside Neo, finally realising his true power beyond the Analyst, as he outsmarts him and manages to outpace him even in his own brand of bullet-time at the Simulatte brawl.

  4. Yes, you’re right that Neo is a shell of his former self, but that’s a part of what makes the film interesting. It’s yet another piece of evidence that the prophecy of the One was a fallacy and that humans need to work together. You can’t pin all of your hopes on one man. Neo feels the need to save Trinity not only for his own selfish love, but to challenge the newer version of the Matrix that has imprisoned him and her, and to bring yet another hero back to the human population of the real world and realise the true superhuman ability that enables them to reshape the Matrix, hence the final scene with the Analyst.


Regarding your question as to whether Resurrections was made purely for pay cheques at Warner Bros., Lana Wachowki openly explained that for years she didn’t want to go beyond the original trilogy, but she changed her mind after the loss of her parents. Resurrecting two key characters was akin (emotionally and mentally) to resurrecting people in her life. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss have also said in a couple of interviews that they were called personally by Lana Wachowski to join the new film, so I think it’s unfair to call it a pure cash-grab. Of course, it rakes in money for Warner Bros., so they would definitely have a profit motive, so I think this is also a good way of linking to the comment by @ohBananaJoe: the mention of Warner Bros. in Resurrections is a nice way at jabbing at the general corporate interference of parent companies and studios, as they surely would have exerted pressure on the creators of the film. But for the actual director and writers of Resurrections, it has been communicated that it was a passion project to extend the universe and its characters—something that they wanted to do and which is consistent with their earlier pioneering moves in creating a unique transmedia experience.