Like all its predecessors, The Matrix 4 (i.e. The Matrix Resurrections) was confusing and layered at times. It was also a phenomenal movie, but quite a few moments are going to require some processing to really understand what was happening. One of those is the character Smith. Why is he even back? What was his purpose in the movie? Here’s what fans are saying and what we know so far.
This article has spoilers for the new movie.
Smith Was Defeated By Neo in the Trilogy
in case you're wondering
yes, jonathan groff was GOAT as agent smith in #TheMatrix
— anna lvs jimmy (@ispideytorch) December 23, 2021
Jonathan Groff was amazing in the role of Smith. But the character’s presence in the movie is confusing. In previous movies, Neo had overtaken Smith, but unwittingly also overlayed some of his “essence” onto Smith’s own code. In a sense, some of Neo became enmeshed with Smith. This allowed the former Agent Smith to become free, just like Neo. But Smith used his freedom to try to propagate like a virus, infecting both man and program, and try to take over the entire Matrix. In the third movie, Neo proposed to the very Matrix itself that if he could remove Smith, then the Matrix would grant humanity a truce and allow any humans to leave if they wanted. The Matrix agreed, since it could not remove Smith itself due to Smith consuming the Matrix’s “Core Network,” as the wiki explains. Smith even assimilated the Oracle herself.
Neo had a final battle with Smith and emerged victorious. So how is Smith possibly still alive?
Smith’s Existence Wasn’t Fully Explained in the New Movie
The new movie didn’t go to great pains to explain exactly how Smith is still alive, but in a different form. There’s a passing joke about how Neo is getting older while Smith is simply improving, but it doesn’t really explain anything.
We learn that Neo was physically resurrected by the Analyst, as was Trinity. But Smith’s resurrection isn’t explained. He worked with Neo in the new Matrix and he had amnesia until Neo also started to wake up. (As a side note: the company is Deux Machina, which immediately should clue us in to Smith’s new role.) They immediately start fighting again, and there’s some throw away line about how they’re connected. Smith mentions that they have more in common than the Analyst knew, and he is the one who ultimately ends up defeating the Analyst and making him disappear, not Neo and Trinity.
My personal theory has always been that the only way Neo and his previous iterations could serve as the “anomaly” is if there’s a bit of Matrix code within him. The movies never confirmed this, but my guess has been that he’s not 100% biological, but has some coding within him. This would also explain why part of him was able to overlay onto Smith, and why he could control machines outside the official Matrix. Anyway, my guess would be that when Neo was awakened, this simultaneously brought back Smith’s code since Neo’s own code is entangled within Smith’s.
On a more philosophical note, Redditor Maxatar theorized that Neo and Smith are inverses of one another, and one must always exist in order for the other to live. They wrote:
Reloaded explains that there’s no such thing as “The One”, it’s just some story invented to contain an ever growing anomaly. The anomaly is contained within a human until it grows to a certain size and then the Matrix is rebooted. The main difference in the trilogy is that at the end of the first movie Neo spreads the anomaly into Smith… Much like Smith is able to infect people and suck their powers, Neo does the opposite… In Resurrections, Neo spreads the anomaly into Trinity.
Smith can’t be defeated, he can only be contained. In Resurrections he’s contained just like Neo is with amnesia. It’s only during a violent encounter where Smith sees a gun and picks it up that he starts to remember his past, and then he slowly comes to remember who he is.
Some people on Reddit are unhappy with how Smith’s character was handled at the end. You can see one comment here or below.
What did you think about Smith’s role in the movie?
Note that a lot of things in the Matrix movie are confusing and may take some time to fully process. We’ll update this story as we get new theories and explanations.
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I think Smith is really interesting in Matrix Resurrections. He’s is because he can, because Lana can. I really like his role, pretty fascinating IMHO.