Welcome to Shot by Shot, our ongoing series of movie and TV trailer breakdowns. We’re constantly scouring for perfect shots, and in this column, we share our favorites and discuss them. In this entry, we upload The Matrix Resurrections trailer for a shot-by-shot breakdown.
There are eighteen years between The Matrix Resurrections and The Matrix Revolutions. That’s plenty of time to free your mind of the previous film’s lackluster antics and psyche yourself up for a comeback. Despite what we were led to believe, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is Thomas Anderson once more. He’s trapped in a digitized universe designed to distract humanity while the machines drain their lifeforce from their bodies, fueling their post-apocalyptic mechanical paradise.
In the newly released trailer, director Lana Wachowski offers several winks and nods referencing the original trilogy but showcases the gargantuan leaps and bounds we’ve made technologically and cinematographically. The story beats and the imagery are familiar – The Matrix Resurrections is a legacyquel for sure – but a reboot such as this works exceptionally for the franchise concept. And there is nothing stagnant about Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll‘s cinematography.
Mr. Anderson, you need some help. The answers lay within, but that internal digging only ignites with a little help from his friends. Laurence Fishburne is nowhere to be seen, but Carrie–Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Lambert Wilson are definitely back. And Fishburne’s glasses find their way onto Yahya Abdul–Mateen II‘s all-knowing face.
If The Matrix Resurrections is anything, it’s pretty. And dense. There’s a lot to inspect and celebrate. Let’s do so by splicing this trailer into eleven delectable frames, breaking it down shot-by-shot. Ditch those blue pills, and grab the red.
Neo is fighting to bust his way outta Thomas. His dreams are infected with imagery from the first film, as well as flashes from things yet to come. When he sleeps, Thomas sees the code in everything around him. The fabrication can’t stand. Although, Neil Patrick Harris‘ good doctor will do his mighty best to keep Thomas in his place…their place.
Thomas asks if he’s “crazy.” The doc says, “We don’t use that word in here.” No, duh. It’s all part of the plan. You gotta wonder if Harris is the new Agent Smith. There’s aggressive darkness bubbling from his soothing lilt.
Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” begins to thrum, and we follow.
Our relationship with screens has changed drastically since 2003. We’re jacked into the Matrix more than ever, and it looks like Lana Wachowski will lean heavily into our phone/tablet addiction. As Thomas takes notice, his is the only face not glued to a device. A laugh from a stranger stirs dread in Thomas’ soul. He’s already cutting the strings, slowly pulling himself free from the wretched illusion. Sadly, we remain the fools who are staring down continuously, happily pacified.
Thomas stares into a mirror and sees someone else staring back. His true self steps forward; Neo is ready to reappear. And Yahya Abdul-Mateen II makes the same proposition Morpheous once offered. “Time to fly.” You’re damn right.
After decades of gobbling Neil Patrick Harris’ blue pill prescription, Thomas reaches for the red pill. As we understand from the first film, the metaphorical gesture symbolizes Thomas’ willingness to open his mind to reality. Once swallowed, there is no going back. Unless the machines get their hooks in you again, as they seem to have done here in The Matrix Resurrections. The repetition certainly transforms our hope for humanity into a tiny speck. But specks are all we sometimes need.
Neo still knows Kung Fu. Inside the same training program where Neo brought the pain to Morpheus, Neo now spars with Abdul-Mateen. Neo’s skills, however, are not back at square zero. The force he attacks Abdul-Mateen with is nearly catastrophic, not just bending the program around him but shattering it in places. Will Neo reach his Superman status sooner in The Matrix Resurrections than he did in the first flick? Definitely.
Outside the Matrix, it’s business as usual for the machines. They’re harvesting a seemingly endless field of humanity, reducing our flesh and bones into bioelectric power. We’re their Energizer Bunny, keeping them going and going and going. We’re helping them maintain their grip on our planet, happily eating pretend steaks while our toes slip into their meat grinder.
A shot that could have been lifted directly from The Matrix. Inside a machine-controlled office building, the sprinkler system rains atmosphere upon the frame. An agent jams his Desert Eagle into the camera, teasing our bloodlust. It’s about to go off, a hellfire of bullets. We can’t deny our cinematic attraction to guns, guns, guns.
Where Neo originally saved Morpheus from a torture-happy Agent Smith, it might be Abdul-Mateen’s time to rescue Neo here. He enters the fray packing plenty of heat but never dropping his stylish facade during the crossfire. The trailer fills its back half with explosions, selling us on nonstop action. As enjoyable as the franchise’s contemplative ideology is, let’s not pretend we’re here to listen to characters wax poetically about nature’s existence. We want the punchy-fighty and the boom-boom.
As Neo must reawaken, so too must Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity. Her return to the real world is not as startling as Neo’s first activation. As she re-engages with life, she carries a look of calm on her face. Reality is hell, but at least she’s back in it.
Over the next few shots Trinity demolishes several goons. With knowledge comes strength, and it’s a strength the machines need to suppress. We see her scream out in what appears to be a mental takeover from another entity, possibly another Agent? Hidden within the reverberating screams is a face that certainly does not belong to Carrie-Anne Moss. As the Agents have been known to hijack a body, they could be attempting the same thing here with Trinity.
The Matrix Resurrections trailer concludes with Jonathan Groff proclaiming his surprise at being “back in the Matrix.” He’s gotta be a baddie, right? King George ain’t to be trusted. But before we end on his mocking face, we take in the awe that is Neo and Trinity together – on a rooftop.
That’s where they always belong; high above the city, dodging machine-gun fire and missiles. As the sun sets, they are one with each other, with the universe. Their purpose on this planet and in this program is back. They take the plunge. That’s what they do. That’s what they were born to do. They’re prophecy, baby.
The Matrix Resurrections downloads into theaters and on HBO Max on 12/22/21 – oh hey, that’s a palindrome. Neat!