Rated R for violence and some sci-fi body horror. I never really thought about it before, but it is pretty body horrific. We always think of The Matrix as bullet-time Kung-Fu, but that is only the one element we focus on. There's that whole "real world" machine human harvest farm that we kind of forget about. I can't ignore that there's just constant language. But in a world where people are punching each other through walls, language seems like the silliest things to have qualms about.
DIRECTOR: Lana Wachowski
Thank goodness for HBO Max. I've always stated that The Matrix didn't need sequels. If any franchise has been damaged more by sequels, it's been The Matrix. The end of the first movie ends with Neo giving the machines an ultimatum. He was going to go after them and destroy them all. I suppose that's more of a threat than an ultimatum, but I rarely get to throw around "ultimatum" anymore. He flies towards the camera and the assumption is, "Yeah, he's got this." But the sequel immediately had to nerf him. He had to learn how to fly all over again. Then, the sequels got to this convoluted place where I couldn't tell you what the heck happened outside of lots of fighting and flying and goofiness. I remember that there were twins at one point and a freeway chase. I also remember a really CG Neo fight with a billion Agents Smith.
But Lana Wachowski remembers the sequels quite fondly. If anything, she views The Matrix trilogy as one of those hallowed trilogies that few, if any, franchise has actually accomplished. The majority of us view the first movie as something pretty great and the sequels as "meh" at best. I'm going to go even further and say that the sequels were so bad that it made me dislike the first movie. That's pretty damning and it feels like I'm being pretty hard on those movies. But I kept returning to them, hoping to find nuggets of genius in the sequels. Instead, I discovered as sense of boredom at something that is based in absolute coolness.
Because, for all of its Freshman Year Philosophy, most of us can use The Matrix as a reminder of how cyberpunk we all wanted to be in the early 2000s. The Matrix, and to some extent all of the Wachowskis oeuvre, want to be somehow more grandiose than they actually are. It's prettiness and violence and all of the things that Michael Bay screams about day and night. There is very little substance. Okay, I'm being really hurtful now and I think it is because it is personal. I discovered The Matrix by accident in high school. My buddy Derek wanted to see this movie that I hadn't even heard of and we saw it opening night. It blew our minds. It was nothing like the action blockbusters we had seen before. When it caught on like wildfire, it made sense because that movie was boss. So when I say that the sequels are beyond a disappointment, it is because it tarnished something that I thought was absolutely rad and turned it into something else.
I'm talking with a wide scope right now about the Matrix franchise in general. But I should probably start talking about Resurrections. The Matrix Resurrections is the second best movie in the franchise. That's not a compliment. That's more of a commentary on how rough the other Matrix sequels are. Before I go on this long rant about how this movie probably shouldn't exist, I do have to give it some props. The completely superficial thing is that I have a different relationship with Keanu Reeves than I did in 2000. He isn't the guy from Bill and Ted, although he kind of is. He's bearded and John Wick now, despite the fact that I don't even like John Wick all that much. But instead of feeling like Keanu Reeves is this young upstart trying to make a name for him, it feels like The Matrix is working for him now. That's pretty superficial, but it goes a long way. Also, it's nice seeing Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss together.
But I also appreciate that it is slightly different from the rest of the movies. This is where it gets a little trippy because it highlights its uniqueness through its sameness. The film, opening with a recreation of the original film's Trinity fight sequence, has this meta narrative running through it. That meta narrative allows the film to be something besides a natural continuation of an already convoluted plot. Frankly, I don't really care about Neo versus the machines anymore. While that's definitely in the film, it somehow feels less attached to canon than the previous two entries and I can get behind that. Sure, Wachowski will drop references to her previous incarnations left and right, but that is almost fan service. Perhaps it comes across like a bit of a clip show at times, but it helped be get just enough context to get through sequences without being completely lost and borderline angry.
But the movie is...not good? I know. There are people out there who love it. I almost lashed out at them, but I always want to encourage people to like what they like. I get that Lana Wachowski uses a portion of the movie to vent her frustrations about having to make another Matrix movie. There's been this code running in the background of the Wachowskis careers (pun intended) that have felt like they've been trying to market on the fact that they have made one modern classic but haven't seemed to find that lightning in a bottle again. They've made a lot of movie and those movies are convoluted and kind of bad. I don't hate all of them, but I can't say that the banner "A Wachowskis Film" does anything for me. So the fact that Lana Wachowski came back to the Matrix without her sibling is saying something about her frustrations as a filmmaker. This movie is salty as heck about it. The opening is just a slam against Warner Brothers (in a non-allegorical way) stating that this movie was going to be made with or without her participation, so she chose with. If you think I'm overreading that, it is straight up a line in the film. That's a thing.
And I don't hate Meta Narratives. Okay, sure, I'm a little cold on the whole Wes Craven's New Nightmare thing. But that movie kind of did it better. Instead, Wachowski decides to both lament that her hand has been forced into making this, yet try to make this a labor of love and somehow attempt to make it the best of the franchise. I mean, I don't think that necessarily works. There's a lot of "who cares" moments in the movie and elements that feel like a retread. We see this kind of stuff with the recasting of both Morpheus and Smith. It's not like either actor does a bad job, but the movie spends a lot of time trying to convince us that this is the natural way to progress in the film.
It also tries dealing with one of the bigger criticisms of "The One" archetype. It always tends to be a white male. I know that I've heard enough saying that Trinity is far more compelling as a One character, so the movie decides to give it to her. Listen, I think that Trinity should be way more important in the franchise and making her The One in this one is pretty neat trick. It's just that I'm very confused about who Trinity is in this movie. There are people talking about Trinity throughout the film, especially the Analyst. (Note: I have no idea how the Analyst just got depowered at one point. I'm just putting that out there.) But Trinity is barely a character. She's both a Macguffin and an archetype without actually being a character.
I'm one of those guys who really can't get behind The Awakening by Kate Chopin. As an English teacher and a guy working to become a better feminist, it's a bummer that I don't wholly embrace that book. But Trinity is relegated to the role of mother. Because the movie is from Neo's point of view, we can only view Trinity from his perspective. She is a mother and a biker. Why a biker? Because it makes her a strong woman. But one of the major problems that I have with The Awakening is the notion that women shouldn't be defined by parenthood. It's not that all women have to be defined by parenthood. But you know who should be defined by parenthood? Parents. Parents absolutely need to be defined by parenthood. Trinity is put in this situation where she has to choose between an absurd notion that she's a character in a video game or a mother who loves her kids. And she chooses this video game persona. That's a really odd decision. It could be because people keep calling her Tiffany. But if she's wrong, she's just accepting mental illness.
That's the choice that I wish that Wachowski left up in the air. I really wish that she kept playing up the Matrix as a euphemism for mental illness. But no, we get a definitive answer: The Matrix is real and everything we're doing fake. It's a bummer because the Red Pill / Blue Pill thing has been co-opted by conservative social media and it seems like this movie is still playing up the lack of acceptance to facts presented to you. I don't see The Matrix as something that we should have at a time like this. It all kind of feels gross. Saying that we need to stand strong against facts and evidence is not the story we need right now. Wachowski really rides that Blue Pill imagery throughout and that's gotta muddy the waters. If Wachowski wants to be taken seriously as a filmmaker, she has to realize the political implications that her films take. Even when the message is stolen by the audience, the sequel has to address that. It's all very gross.
Also, the Catrix was the dumbest way to end this movie. An after-credits sequence can be funny if the film was tonally ready for it. But this was a dumb joke that shouldn't have been thought of for more than a second.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.