I have often wondered what artists feel when they are asked to do ‘that great thing’ they once did; over and over again? Do they sit up and take it as a challenge or do they just shift pieces of the bigger puzzle inside out and try to build something new? Generally speaking, we all know the answer to that question. If uniqueness was as unique as we all think it is, the ‘sequel’, ‘reboot’ and ‘franchise’ sub-culture would have long died inside a Hollywood simulation.
Since it hasn’t, we await each week to be driven by nostalgia. The greatest cinematic poison there is. We all enjoy the ‘Blue Pill’ so much that we have OD’ed on it multiple times. If movies were a computer simulation where they create a world within our heads, only a ‘Red Pill’ could unlock the mysteries of bold, idiocentric, and deranged stories.
In that accord, Lana Wachowski’s “The Matrix: Resurrections” stands alone in the clutter of countless sequels and reboots. It’s an audacious and angry continuation that somehow manages to cater to the legacy of the original trilogy, and at the same time closely looks at the trickery of being a film that is expected to drive you into a familiar world. Only to take you somewhere else entirely.
To clue you into the actual truth, the introduction to this new film is unlike anything you would expect. It took me a moment to register that director Lana Wachowski would dive straight into a meta takedown. But for the sake of hypothesis, the world that we see within the film features Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), who audiences know by the name Neo as a successful computer game developer.
His genius represents capturing the minds of countless geeks and individuals by hooking their minds with a trilogy of games that (surprise, surprise) are named after the three original films (sans The Matrix, The Matrix: Reloaded & The Matrix: Revolutions). However, Thomas isn’t right in the head. His mind often wanders off into memories that he can’t seem to figure out. His life feels too good to be true and he often fails to grasp ‘what’s real’ and ‘what’s not.’
Cat ‘Deja Vu’s’ and binary modal crashes aside, he can’t seem to fathom why a married woman named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), feels a lot like the character Trinity in his game. However, his therapist, played by an excellent Neil Patrick Harris, is constantly helping him keep a semblance of reality. He prescribes Thomas a good ol’ dosage of ‘blue pills’ that keep him within the confines of the defined parameters so that he can keep going about his soulless existence.
Other than his repressed emotional turmoils and losing a grasp on reality, the most pressing issue is the pressure he is under to develop a newer version of ‘The Matrix.’ His boss Smith played by Jonathan Groff pulls in the capitalistic dagger on him by saying that their company (gleefully named ‘Warner Bros’) will go on to make the 4th volume of his game with or without him. So if he can’t keep up, no one will remember Thomas as the one who created ‘The Matrix’ anymore. So he keeps at it – going day in, day out, chugging blue pills down his throat, until one-day reality gets twisted for him. Bugs (Jessica Henwick) – a young hacker we meet in the opening moments of the film, and her team (which also includes Morpheus, now played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) swoops in to give Thomas a reality check.
Thomas is confounded by the realization that his games are based on real happenings that took place in the previous films. But it’s not too easy to believe in strangers who claim to have transferred into an illusion that is his reality. Will Thomas be able to break this illusion? Will he be able to understand his true purpose? Is he really Neo or was all that transpired in the earlier versions a fiction that was created to help ease the pain of a weary mind? Who is this mystery woman Tiffany and why does it feel like he has known her for decades?
These are some questions that The Matrix: Resurrections lays bare in front of you. Whether all of them get answered is not the point. In fact, Lana Wachowski’s film will take you off guard if you expect it to only be a continuation and not do something truly original. To understand this, we need to go back.
20 years ago, The Wachowski’s took a huge swing with The Matrix. It’s not every day you see a mainstream film with the kind of wisdom you found in the cult phenomenon. While it abandoned a few casual viewers with its mind-boggling world-building, eccentric character motivation, and a wayward of simulating ideas that often jumped over some of our heads, it also gave birth to immaculate storytelling within the mainframes of blockbuster cinema.
It also taught a whole generation of young filmmakers to dream a little bigger. So, 20 years later and after some life-altering changes in their personal lives, The Matrix can’t just be about ‘knowing the truth,’ or ‘freeing your mind.’ So, Lana (who directs this alone without her sibling), makes The Matrix: Resurrections an antithesis to franchise-filmmaking and warmongering. It’s an angry film that defies expectation at every nook and corner. Every trigger and every turn leads to another gateway, but the underlying fact remains that only love can save the day.
Wachowski is more eager to capture the true romance that is at the center of her initial story. Since the film believes in the philosophy that ‘Love is the genesis of everything,’ and that gender inequality is not just a real-world problem but also a fictional one, handling the baton down is the only right choice.
In hindsight, the film also takes a dig at every single fan theory and spinoffs that used the world to concretely deliver their own agendas. In that process, it does get into some murky waters of self-awareness, occasionally canceling what it stands for, but mostly, Lana handles the agencies she gives her characters with compassion. Inturn, bestowing the new generation with ideas that allow their worlds to be full of rainbows in the sky.
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