Even within its spectacle and spirituality, philosophy, grand, good vs evil stakes, and machinations of man against machine, The Matrix is, at its core, centered in love.
In this, the golden age of geekdom, Sounds Geek To Me is a column that seeks to discuss and dissect the latest from the various fandom universes, new and old. From Marvel to Middle Earth to The Matrix, sci-fi sensations to superheroes, galaxies far far away to wizarding worlds, the column aims to inform, opine and take fantasy storytelling far too seriously.Z
“Will we ever see him again?” asks Sati, a young program staring into the rising sun of a new day. “I suspect so…someday,” replies The Oracle. The final moments of the visionary Matrix trilogy offered us the potential for more. And now, almost 20 years later, with the impending fourth chapter, it would appear that promise has been kept.
The Matrix Resurrections sees The One return in all his mind-bending, messianic, martial arts glory, ready to have us once again question our reality.
While Hollywood has taught us time and again that the reboot-sequel-after-ages movie is a mostly painful, creatively bankrupt exercise in capitalising on something beloved, in this case, I remain cautiously optimistic. Between much of the original cast reprising their roles, and the return of director Lana Wachowski (one-half of the Wachowki siblings responsible for the iconic first three movies), you cannot help but remain hopeful.
But before we throw ourselves back into what Resurrections has in store, we must revisit the legacy of the original trilogy, which remains among the most celebrated and influential sci-fi films ever made. Of its many enduring, game-changing achievements, perhaps my favourite thing about The Matrix is the freedom it gives you (pun intended), to choose how deeply to engage with it. Abstract, heady philosophy packaged within spoon-bending bullet-dodging badassery. Stunning action spectacles were equally a spiritual, cerebral meditation on technology, free will, and gender identity (the Wachowskis who have since transitioned have famously said the films are an allegory for transitioning).
While much of the discourse and legacy of the Matrix movies seem to be an enduring love of the first film and much disappointment at the two sequels, I remain a staunch defender of the trilogy as a whole. Though I maintain there is an artistic specificity that was lost in the leap from the first to Reloaded and Revolutions with a distinct sense of Hollywood bloated blockbuster-ness setting in, to me, they still stayed true to the essence of the first, and furthered the story of the One to a satisfying conclusion. Not to mention, upping the action and giving us some of the most iconic set pieces of all time. (Find me a car chase sequence more thrilling than the riveting highway takedown in Reloaded, I dare you).
Through its electric world-building, The Matrix introduced us to Thomas Anderson, who goes by the hacker name Neo. (How many years did it take me to realise ‘Neo’ is an anagram for ‘One’? I would rather not say). In a world where he can feel something is not quite right, he is found by Morpheus and Trinity who show him the truth. Their world is a computer simulation. Humanity lost a war with the very machines they created long ago, and their bodies are now harvested for power while keeping their minds active inside a fake reality known as the Matrix. That is an ugly truth Neo learns after opting to take the Red pill, allowing him (and encouraging us) to question the constructs around us. Morpheus believes Neo is The One, a promised saviour with the ability to bend the Matrix to his will, prophesied to bring an end to the war with the machines, and finally set humanity free.
While the first movie served as the origin story of The One, Reloaded was about subverting that very notion, and undermining everything we believed we knew about The One, exploring the nature of choice, fate, and predetermined purpose. As the machine army is bearing down on Zion, the last free human stronghold, all hope lies with The One to find a way to win the war and fulfill the prophecy. That is a path that leads him to one of the trilogy’s most divisive scenes — meeting the Architect.
The Architect describes himself as the father of the Matrix, and The Oracle as its mother. She was the program designed to better understand humanity who, in the process, discovered her own. The Architect goes on to reveal that The One is nothing but an anomaly in the Matrix which the machines are not only aware of, but have accounted for. Neo is not the first One. He is the sixth, and he also has a purpose in a grand design.
After various failed iterations, the Architect devised a Matrix that worked to keep humans subjugated. Despite that, a small fraction of humans still would not fully accept the programming, and knew something was not quite right. An increasing number of those individuals would learn the truth, and eventually, escape the Matrix, which the machines allowed. They were permitted to grow and gather and collect in Zion, and each time their numbers grew strong enough to be a threat, Zion would be systematically destroyed in one fell swoop. What better way to control and oppress than to offer people the illusion of freedom and choice?
Within that design, the role of The One was simple. When Zion was destroyed, he was to reboot the Matrix, and select a small group of people to begin rebuilding it. His role was never to end the war, merely to reset the cycle. The Architect scene is widely criticised for being an eight-minute long exposition dump that achieves little, but it is a sequence I maintain is magnetic, and essential to the story. While it is Neo and us finding out yet another ugly truth that it was all a lie, it is equally about The Architect realising that Neo is not like those that came before him. “Interesting… that was quicker than the others”, he says within the first minute of meeting Neo.
The scene ends with Neo given the choice to reboot the Matrix, and save humanity or save Trinity. But the choice is irrelevant because as The Oracle has told us in one of the most memorable moments in a series of movies filled with them, “You’ve already made the choice. Now, you have to understand it.”
What we thought was the final chapter, Revolutions serves as the final battle, and the end of the journey of The One. As the battle for Zion rages on in a massive set piece of robotic carnage, Neo and Trinity travel to the machine mainframe to end the war once and for all. A journey that costs Trinity her life (how she returns in Resurrections remains to be seen). At the mainframe, Neo offers them a deal to save Zion in exchange for him saving the machines from their own impending threat — Agent Smith. Once freed from the system at the end of the first film, Smith evolved into a virus of sorts that threatens both the machine and human worlds alike.
In a suitably exhilarating final battle, Neo defeats Smith at the cost of his own life. Humanity is saved, and the machines agree to spare Zion and offer humanity a choice to leave the Matrix. The promise of an uncertain peace. Thus concludes three phenomenal pieces of storytelling. Above all, we can only hope that Resurrections stays true to the essence of these movies rather than being nothing more than mere deja vu — a glitch in the Matrix. Till then, all we can really do is the only thing that these movies have ever asked us to do. Believe.
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