The first thing that strikes the eye in the multitude of reviews of Matrix Resurrections is how easily the movie’s plot (especially its ending) has been interpreted as a metaphor for our socio-economic situation. Leftist pessimists read it as an insight into how, to put it bluntly, there is no hope for humanity: we cannot survive outside the Matrix (the network of corporate capital that controls us), freedom is impossible. Then there are social-democratic pragmatic ‘realists’ who see in the movie a vision of some kind of progressive alliance between humans and machines, sixty years after the destructive Machine Wars. In these wars ‘scarcity among the Machines led to a civil war that saw a faction of Machines and programs defect and join human society.’ The humans also change tack: Io (a human city in reality outside the Matrix led by General Niobe) is a much better place to live than Zion, their previous city in reality (there are clear hints of destructive revolutionary fanaticism in Zion in previous Matrix movies).
The scarcity among the Machines refers not just to the devastating effects of the war but above all to the lack of energy produced by humans for the Matrix. Remember the basic premise of the Matrix series: what we experience as the reality we live in is an artificial virtual reality generated by the ‘Matrix’, the mega-computer directly attached to all our minds; it is in place so that we can be effectively reduced to a passive state of living batteries providing the Matrix with energy. However, the unique impact of the film thus resides not so much in this premise, its central thesis, but in its central image of the millions of human beings leading a claustrophobic life in water-filled cocoons, kept alive in order to generate the energy for the Matrix.