The Matrix Resurrections (Review)

How do you make a sequel to the Matrix? Well, it was always going to happen. In our current and consistent culture of everything old is new again, the time would always come when the 1999 gamechanger would be trotted out for a bold re-imagining. Therefore, why not get ahead of it. The Matrix Resurrections does just that: it’s Lana Wachowski returning to the Matrix and making it her own, yet again. In response to the initial question, well, you make it about that. And that is what Resurrections does, playing itself as a meta-sequel totally aware of current culture and what the Matrix means both as a film and a phenomenon. Few films have been as impactful; few films have been as re-appropriated, and in so many disturbing ways. One need only look at how the alt-right, and wider irritants, have taken the term ‘red pill’ and what they’ve done to it.

The Matrix Resurrections knows this. Hell, it gets close to just grabbing the camera and shouting its messages at you (gleefully so). Where the first Matrix existed as an allegory for trans identity, the subtext here is similarly progressive and Queer, though diverges intelligently. In this film, we deal with how privileged people (coded very specifically) have created a false and rigid reality, one built upon oppressive binaries and strict dichotomies. The waking up in this film is the realisation that the real world is not this way, that the real world is one of fluidity, one not bound by binaries and one full of wider co-operation and collectivism. It is punk, it is Queer, it is radical and it is here to stay. It is a point sold aesthetically but also coded into the world building itself, into foundational lore.

Our opening act is the film at its most playful. In it, the filmmakers deploy a number of meta-devices that entertain on a surface level while all have intelligent implications. None of it is subtle, but none of it is trying to be. Anyway, subtlety is not the definition of intelligence; sometimes, you need to really wake somebody up and confront them with reality. The politics of the Matrix, and its approach to them, are so cleverly interlinked with its premise, making this a film that will not be re-appropriated, misunderstood or bastardised. Lana is clearly oh-so-aware of this, making specific reference to a toxic legacy in really smart ways. In this opening segment, we run a gauntlet of concepts and ideas. The film expresses, very nicely, how art is a reflection of life but also how that is a slippery slope. It also deals with how the things we create end up escaping us, how they get owned by the world around us and misused. Later plot points mean that some of these smart observations come from suspect places, but Resurrections is more interested, primarily, in saying things than in how they are said. And, fundamentally, the ideas in the film are all worth saying. It is often a very blunt film, a film that literalises, vocalises and lampshades. But it does this with such glee. It is having its cake and eating it but is endearingly doing so; the ideas and the concepts, and their presentation, come across as show-and-tell. There’s a lot going on and they don’t want anybody not to keep up or grab on, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t all worth taking in.

This is much more forgivable (not that it really needs to be forgiven) due to context. When a thing grows beyond your grasp and is misunderstood by many, you’re definitely going to make something that evades that. This is better still because it does that while confronting that legacy. A later reveal tells us the new nature of the Matrix in this filmic reality, presenting it as a fascistic system of control in which people are tricked into defending it, or made to do so against their will. It evokes mob mentality and the want for ignorance. It also shows how this system ultimately sees all as disposable. If the original Matrix was a mind-fuck meant to wake you up to the realities of subjectivity and sensory perception, how our internal understanding defines our external understanding, this wants you to realise that capitalism forges fantasies and sells them as realities just to centralise power. And it tells you all of this while people do back-flips and wear amazing outfits.

As an action movie, it lacks the all out spectacle of Reloaded (and of the original film) but still offers consistent thrills. There are a few sequences that lose readability, and the set-pieces are never quite iconic. But, it all moves at a breakneck pace and is never not exciting and entertaining. The fast moving blockbuster pacing is a vehicle here, more than it is the focus, it is a smart way to have good conversations happen, or to present interesting plot points. Unlike the previous sequels, it doesn’t get bogged down by this. It retains the pulpy dialogue of the first film, re-embracing its origin as a genre film and going so far as to mock the pomposity of Reloaded, especially in one key scene. To this extent, it really is the Matrix again. But, it also isn’t this at all.

The Matrix Resurrections is very much about how we shouldn’t push towards these singular icons, be they messianic white men or cultural objects. This doesn’t push itself as a defining, iconic text. It knowingly takes risks and knowingly ostracises. It is a more daring film, and one that will definitively divide opinion, and it is evidently very proud of this. Joy is a motivator here, positivity and inclusion. The Matrix was a thing and it was a singular thing, for good and for ill. This film cares more about the collective; it cares more about the world outside of the film and its dialogue with that. Resurrections is not a gamechanger, it is a pointer. It is Lana Wachowski showing us the reality of the game, how it has always been and how it will always grow and progress. It’s not about the One, it’s about cooperation and collective action. It is not about the Matrix, it is about what the Matrix means to people. And, in the end, what could be better than that?

3 thoughts on “The Matrix Resurrections (Review)

  1. Well I don’t ‘make much of it’ would have to be my response to the question in your review. I myself have yet to Review the film, It’s my 120th or so, so far this year. Keanu has his long hair but I thought he looked much better without hair in the film, when he is bald in the movie. With all Matrix films except for the first one there isn’t much going on… Too, Way too much Talk is the Matrix films from 2 to what 5 now. Incest is not always a good thing, but the so called Entertainment Industry thrives upon that word. Here the two makers of the first film are letting their Sister get in on it. It’s not a terrible movie just very dull. I realized immediately that Reeve’s must have been paid over 25 million to do this and that’s the only reason he’s in it. Laurence Fishburne and Agent Smith obviously were not offered enough money. The two guys in the film playing them are NOT them. Agent Smith looks nothing like him. And young “Morpheus” (in huge quotes there) is black and smiles a lot but isn’t Fishburne. Now I realize most Americans are not big on details, but I happen to be. I’d say it sucked through and through. Boring! There’s the review!


    1. Ummm….
      This is directed by the same person who directed all the others, just missing the co-director.

      Fishburne was never offered a role, and has talked about being upset about this. They didn’t include him because the film follows the canon established in the Matrix MMO game from years back, in which Morpheus dies.


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