The trailer for The Matrix Resurrections begins with a black cat. In the lore of The Matrix, black cats are unofficial symbols of déjà vu — which happens, supposedly, “when change something.” That sensation that many of us have experienced of feeling like you are reliving a moment in time you’ve already experienced is just “a glitch in the Matrix.”
Clearly, the Matrix is glitching pretty hard right now. Because in The Matrix Resurrections, we see Keanu Reeves’ Neo back in the Matrix even though he sacrificed his life at the end of the last film, 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions. He’s got a prescription for ominous blue pills, and when he meets Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity somewhere, they don’t recognize one another. It’s déjà vu all over again.
That concept has been baked into The Matrix since the franchise’s beginning. When Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus first explained why he was so fascinated by Neo he said that when the Matrix was first built “there was a man born inside who had the ability to change whatever he wanted” within its computer world. This man freed many people from enslavement within the Matrix and then died. Afterwards, the prophetic Oracle predicted this man would return, bring about the destruction of the Matrix, end the war between mankind and machine, and free the world. Morpheus believed Neo was the reincarnation of this fabled hero referred to as “The One,” and so he pulled him out of the Matrix, trained him in kung fu, and set him on a path of enlightenment. At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, Neo’s sacrificial act ended the war between man and machine and proved that he really was “The One.”
Or did it? While Neo did save Zion from an army of machines, he didn’t actually destroy the Matrix. Instead, the simulation was rebooted while the humans and machines reached a tentative armistice. Those who want to leave the Matrix supposedly could, but the logistics of that exodus — and how long the peace would last — remained an open question in The Matrix Revolutions’ final scene.
With The Matrix Resurrections on everyone’s minds, it’s interesting to go back and revisit The Matrix today. (The original trilogy is currently streaming on HBO Max.) The first Matrix sequels made it clear that Neo’s journey as “The One” was, in fact, a scripted part of the machine’s plan. Supposedly, if the Matrix’s simulation of life is too idyllic, the human mind refuses to accept it. By adding imperfections and the illusion of choice, 99 percent of humanity would accept their slavery, leaving just one percent to reject the Matrix and join the human resistance. The Matrix of the original trilogy is the sixth iteration of this system; Neo is the sixth version of “The One.”
All of that backstory will likely come back into play in The Matrix Resurrections, but the trailer doesn’t address it, and it barely even alludes to the material in the sequels. Instead, it seems to really focus on visuals and concepts from the first Matrix, which was set much more heavily inside the Matrix itself. (The Resurrections teaser features a few glimpses of the machine world, but they are very brief.) When you go back and look at The Matrix will all that in mind, one scene in particular really stands out.
It’s the one where Neo finally meets the Oracle, who is supposed to tell him whether or not he is “The One.” The Oracle (played by Gloria Foster) is kind; she offers Neo cookies and doesn’t get upset when he accidentally breaks her vase. But she also tells him that despite Morpheus’ insistence, he is not The One.
“Sorry kid,” she says, “You got the gift. But it looks like you’re waiting for something.”
“What?” Neo replies.
“Your next life, maybe.”
Later, Neo performs a series of heroic deeds, rescues Morpheus, saves Trinity from certain death during a helicopter crash, figures out how to stop bullets and fly, and is accepted as “The One.” The is-he-or-is-he-not-the-One question is mostly abandoned by The Matrix Reloaded, where Neo has become an almost spiritual leader among the human resistance, and that’s before he gives his life to save Zion.
But that Matrix Resurrections trailer, with Keanu chugging blue pills and struggling with terrible nightmares, makes you wonder: What if the Oracle was telling him the truth in the first place? What if he didn’t quite get it right last time? He definitely didn’t full the Oracle’s entire prophecy, at least as Morpheus described it. The Matrix still exists. Millions or perhaps billions of people remain enslaved.
In that case, the “something” the Oracle says Neo’s “waiting for” could be… The Matrix Resurrections. The movie opens in theaters and premieres on HBO Max on December 22, 2021.
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