The Matrix: Resurrections would have been better off remaining dead. Honestly, don’t bother watching it.
I was sceptical about whether a new Matrix movie could possibly be good. The previous trilogy had a completeness to it that wasn’t begging for a sequel. Only one half of the Wachowski siblings were directing and they had changed gender since the last movie, so a juvenile part of me wondered whether all the excessive leather might be replaced with pink tutus.
Most importantly, however, Hollywood has demonstrated a propensity for ruining good franchises lately (*cough* Star Wars: The Last Jedi *cough*) with overt identity-politics makeovers.
The first Matrix’s ‘Red Pill’ had been appropriated by the right as an analogy for political awakening, which must have been galling for the Wachowski siblings. When the trailer showed a cascade of blue pills, heavily leveraging a scene which was actually quite minor in the original movie, I wondered … were they going to reverse the original message, and take Cypher’s position that ‘ignorance is bliss’?
It turned out that it would be worse, much worse, than I expected.
The movie started with some shot-for-shot remakes of the original. Oh great, I would watch the original if I felt nostalgic; start telling a new story, guys.
Mr Anderson/Neo is once again a video game designer in a new version of the Matrix. Only this time, he is famous for having made three computer games called The Matrix 1, 2 and 3. He gets asked by the higher-ups at Warner Bros to make a fourth Matrix game. This leads to an agonising montage where a team of game designers begin workshopping the new Matrix 4. What should it be about? What is the essence of The Matrix? Why did people like the first three Matrix games? This goes on for an alarmingly long amount of time.
I guess the creators thought it was a clever joke, very ‘meta’, to bring the audience behind the curtain to see their own creative process. But what was the overall message? That they were only making The Matrix 4 because you chumps are guaranteed to spend your money watching it?
It’s bad enough they broke the fourth wall (which was entirely off-genre), but to break the fourth wall just so they could troll the audience?! It’s insane. It was boring, and only communicated a sense of futility and pointlessness.
The original Matrix Trilogy was incredibly clever. Every character had a philosophy of life, which they enunciated with clarity and poise, and consistently acted on. Morpheus ‘believed’, Neo was all about ‘choice’, agent Smith was all about ‘purpose’. The dialogue was memorable: who can forget ‘there is no spoon’, ‘old men like me never make points, there’s no point’, ‘choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without’, ‘my beliefs do not require them to’, ‘karma is a word, like love’ and so on…
I challenge anyone who just saw the Matrix 4 to remember a single line, or the name of any of the new characters. This was an infantilised and artless Matrix movie. Its self-assessment was on-point – it was born from a sense of obligation to make money and didn’t need to exist.
In this fourth movie, it transpires that both Neo and Trinity have been resurrected by the machines. Their relationship has a power all of its own akin to a bomb going off. If they don’t touch, but are merely ‘close’ to one another, they boost energy production. Remember the only stupid idea in the original movie that people ‘combined with a sort of fusion’ make a battery? Now they’ve discovered that people combined with a sort of fusion and unrequited love are a ‘super-battery’! But not all people, just these two.
The more you think about it, the less it makes sense.
And of course it has ‘powerful women’. That’s right, a compulsory tithe to the altar of wokeness turns Trinity into a primary heroine. Suddenly, she’s got all these special abilities. Unlike Neo, who takes a long time re-learning his abilities and recovering his confidence, Trinity just turns her superpowers on. Trinity was already awesome, but they had to make her better than Neo. Dang feminists.
It’s a shame, because there’s the kernel of a good idea under the mess.
The central concept in the previous Matrix Trilogy was the problem of ‘choice’. Everyone in the world of the matrix would not accept life in the simulation unless, even if only at a subconscious level, they were given a choice. Neo, the protagonist, was appointed to make that choice on everyone’s behalf. His choice consisted of either allowing the matrix to continue, or accepting the likely death of all mankind.
The plan went awry when Neo was given the choice of accepting the certain and imminent death of the woman he loved, Trinity, or the certain but distant death of mankind. He chose Trinity, which was the ‘wrong’ choice from the perspective of the machines. Why did he make the wrong choice? ‘Hope’. Or as the Architect called it, the ‘quintessential human delusion’.
It all worked out in the end because Neo had something the machines needed. He brokered ‘peace’ by giving every individual their own choice etc. (I’m assuming my readers have seen the films.)
After hope and love brought the previous matrix down, it makes sense to create a new one where hope and love, rather than choice, are the psychological needs at the heart of our human prison. Perhaps people would accept this new matrix if there’s ‘hope’ that ‘love’ will triumph?
Unfortunately, the makers were too cynical to elevate their premise into something interesting, so instead we got the most forgettable Matrix downgrade imaginable, with a dollop of identity politics and audience-deprecating ‘humour’ that wasn’t funny. These sort of depressing money-grabbing sequels are exactly what I had hoped that streaming services were starting to protect us from.
Really, don’t watch it.
Nick Kastelein is an engineer and writer. You can find more of his work on his blog.
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