The Matrix Resurrections Looks As Wild As The Sequels...Which Are Actually Good, Sorry

Have you recovered from that pulse-pounding "The Matrix Resurrections" trailer yet? No? Same here. Many of us thought this day would never come, but filmmaker Lana Wachowski is officially following the white rabbit and returning to the world of the original mind-bending classic. The three minutes of brand-new footage are full of hints and teases that demand thematic speculation and deep-dive breakdowns suggesting what's to come, but the particular blend of imagery, visuals, and tone on display also hearken back to the past; specifically, the unfairly maligned sequels that both released in 2003, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions." In short, "The Matrix Resurrections" appears intent on propelling the franchise in bold new directions by taking its cues from what came before — and we couldn't be more thrilled.

Free Your Mind

Most everyone can agree that 1999's "The Matrix" was a gamechanger, using a combination of cutting-edge tech and a razor-sharp script to tap into our collective fears and leave an indelible mark on pop culture. It's when the discussion strays to the unconventional sequels that opinions begin to diverge and appreciation for what the Wachowskis attempted to accomplish wanes ... but (extremely Morpheus voice) what if I told you that Neo's (Keanu Reeves) story in "The Matrix" simply isn't complete without both "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" in all their subversive, rug-pulling glory? More to the point, what if acknowledging the integral role both sequels may very well have in "The Matrix Resurrections" is simply our own version of waking up from the Matrix and finally embracing reality? Trust me and take the red pill on this one, folks.

In a twist wholly fitting of the franchise, looks could be deceiving. On the surface, the "Matrix Resurrections" trailer works overtime to remind viewers of the iconography of the beloved original: black cats; white rabbits; liquid mirrors; and a handful of familiar-looking locations ranging from a Matrix-set training ground that may or may not confirm the presence of a certain original character, a distinctive hallway full of enemy Agents, and a rooftop set piece complete with a looming helicopter. But consider what effect the very existence of this fourth film will have on the overall franchise.

Like "Reloaded," "Resurrections" has every indication of shattering the previous status quo of its predecessors and upending all our expectations in a very provocative way, denying us a happy and (seemingly) complete ending for the sake of more. The hype for "Resurrections" is at an all-time high at the moment, but it's very easy to imagine a scenario where that excitement becomes replaced with grumbling once the movie comes and goes, likely without adhering to the lofty expectations and fan-theories any given viewer has thrust upon it. After all, isn't that a big reason why so many rejected both "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" in the first place? Unmet expectations are typically a death knell for blockbusters these days, so it's only fitting that Lana Wachowski would return to free our minds from the shackles of what we want in favor of what the story needs.

(Re)mixing and Matching

By the end of "The Matrix," audiences understandably thought that they had figured everything out. Neo's triumph over Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith and his power over the Matrix itself surely meant that he was the unambiguous Chosen One, after all. He'd saved his fellow real-world characters from a nasty end at the hands (tentacles?) of the villainous AI-controlled Sentinels, he and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) finally kissed (remember when blockbusters used to include that?), and that very Superman-esque final sequence of him stepping out from a phone booth after telling the Machines off and blasting off into the sky set certain expectations for any future sequel. That's as definitive as a definitive ending gets!

Then came "Reloaded" and "Revolutions," both of which promptly forced viewers to reevaluate everything we thought we knew. Neo's supposed destiny as the Chosen One was little more than a carefully planned lie all along, which the (actually good) monologue by the long-winded Architect lays out for us to shocking effect. Neo never transcended the system in "The Matrix," he was unwittingly playing his part in it all along. That ... didn't go over very well, to say the absolute least. "Revolutions" similarly refused to capitulate to the easy and predictable path, killing off both Neo and Trinity (yes, again) and leaving the fate of Zion relatively open-ended (humanity merely reaches an uneasy truce with the Machines, after all) with only the mysterious Oracle and the orphaned computer program Sati a witness to what Neo accomplished. And now "Resurrections" features Neo and Trinity inexplicably alive, neither of whom seem to remember much about their previous experiences. How wild is that?

But leave it to Lana Wachowski to double down even further on the storytelling instincts that many audiences rejected the first time around. Check out the repurposed iconography ripped straight from the sequels in the "Resurrections" trailer. That above shot of Neo at gunpoint in the pouring rain seems to purposefully echo the rain-soaked final duel between Neo and Smith in "Revolutions." Along the same lines, the very first thing many noticed in the trailer is that the overall color palette of the trailer is far brighter, more vibrant, and less washed-out than the trilogy — which feels of a piece with the ending of "Revolutions" and the intentionally jarring sense of color on display as the Matrix experiences a never-before-seen sunrise. And at the risk of falling prey to the fan-theory industrial complex, would it be a step too far to suggest that Priyanka Chopra's character, who we seem to get a brief glimpse of as she reads a copy of "Alice in Wonderland," might actually be a grown-up version of Sati herself who has returned and still retains her knowledge of the sacrifices Neo made for them?

The bottom line is that, as much as some may want to forget them, both "Reloaded" and "Revolutions" save "The Matrix" from being a straightforward and unquestioning rehash of the Hero's Journey. It's an exceedingly well-told and satisfying one, no doubt, but it can't help but feel incomplete without the added nuance and complexities of its challenging, frustrating, and sometimes off-putting companion pieces. For better or worse, the sequels are an integral part of Neo's journey and I'd bet anything that "The Matrix Resurrections" will follow that rabbit hole all the way down to the bottom, as well.