ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I know this story. This is how it all began."
"Maybe this isn't the story we think it is."
If the original Matrix trilogy was about (among many things) the paradox of choice, about the decision to choose your fate/destiny even though it is already your fate/destiny, about how a choice can be simultaneously free and predetermined ("inevitable" in Smith’s words), then Resurrections looks at this equation from the other direction, at the effects of that choice, from the perspective of purpose.
A predetermined choice nonetheless freely chosen can bring purpose, and as Smith says it’s purpose that guides us, drives us, defines us, etc., but purpose can also blind us, it can also entrap us. We find Morpheus enshrined in the new human city of Io, no longer a living, breathing human being but a statue, a monument to his own legacy. Niobe explains how people believed too much in Morpheus and his messianist gospel, how once the Machine War was over they became complacent. They had already won their war, so they let their world stagnate. They had served their purpose.
But while Niobe has moved on from the past and become a prominent figure in the community and government of Io, she has also been blinded by purpose in her own way: she has become so attached to her new peace that she clings to it as desperately as Morpheus clung to his prophecy. These are purposes that serve benevolent ends — choosing them was the right decision — but now they have languished in their own inertia. They have lost their connection with humanity, detached from the people they once served.
All of which bring us, inexorably, to Neo. He hasn't so much been blinded by his purpose the way Morpheus and Niobe have, but his entrapment within the rippling pool of butterfly effects created by his chosen purpose has entrapped him in a similar way. After all these years, his boss wants him to go "back to where it started... back to the Matrix." But he swore he'd never go back; he sees a therapist now to work through the psychological damage caused by the Matrix. Neo lives within the traumatic afterbirth of his own creation, haunted by the causal chain of his chosen purpose, doomed forever to be the Matrix Guy.
This entrapment is not his fault, of course, just as it's not Morpheus or Niobe's fault that they've been blinded by their own purposes. They are all victims of purposes that have grown old, purposes that have festered and infected their champions. The Matrix: Resurrections shows us purpose in its most solipsistic dimension. Many of the people Neo sees in his everyday life are not, strictly speaking, real. But this is not a conundrum that Neo can choose his way out of, as he did in the original trilogy. Now Neo needs his own savior, his own messiah, but just as he once did, that new savior must choose their path for themself.
This is where these themes of choice and purpose circle back to perhaps the central Wachowski theme: love. While the original trilogy focused on the choice of the self, the definitive moment here becomes the choice of the other. In order to escape the solipsism of our own chosen purpose, after all, we need other people, we need a world that exists outside our own mind. Purpose is nothing if we merely choose it for ourselves. The ultimate empowerment is thus not for the self but for the other. The ultimate act of love is letting the other choose for us.
"At this time, the most important choice in Neo’s life isn’t his to make."