It seems like only yesterday that Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus swept us off our feet in 1999 with their cool, cool spectacles, tight, tight leather leggings, light, light kung fu poses, slow, slow action scenes, and deep, deep declamation. We’d never seen or heard anything quite like that, at least not done with such panache. We were struck by the concept of free will vs. fate even before we were faced with those choices.
Elon Musk asks us to wonder about our realities, while Mark Zuckerberg tells us to live multiple ones, twenty years later, Elon Musk encourages us to ponder about our realities, while Mark Zuckerberg tells us to live several ones, The Matrix appears as fresh in its outstanding digital slickness, and much more pertinent in the questions it presented. That leaves The Matrix Resurrections in the centre — the cutting-edge technology that allowed Neo to fly back then is now practically mundane, and while it still understands how to ask the correct questions, it’s not the only one.
However, for a brief period in the beginning, Resurrections surprises us with how meta it is in recognising its place both in the current zeitgeist and in the midst of a hugely successful franchise. It’s some time after the final Matrix, and Neo (Keanu Reeves) has reverted to his former identity as Thomas Anderson. Unlike the reclusive, criminal hacker of 1999, his skills are now valuable. As a result, he is a world-famous video game producer working for Warner Bros. (wink, wink). The game Matrix is Anderson’s most famous work, and his followers can recite its principles (choice, illusion, authoritarian regimes, fascist governments), yet they’re largely used as hit ideas for a “sequel” (wink, wink).
So, did the Matrix world from the previous movie, which Neo recalls in flashes, truly exist? Or, as his analyst (Harris, admirably murdering it) reminds him, has his mind conceived fiction from a video game to be fact. Then why does Neo keep having strong feelings for a woman named Tiffany, and why does she resemble Trinity from the video game/old films (Carrie-Anne Moss)?
Is truth concealed inside a video game’s very ordinary world, or is truth crouching behind a video game’s very commonplace world? Resurrections invites you to consider this, once again posing those ominous concerns about the world and who we are in it. Unfortunately, it swiftly abandons this goal, and a series that was once as much about the intellect as it was about the machine now leans heavily toward the latter. There are no fresh things to fight for in the war shown in the film, and there are no new milestones to cross in the fights.
Perhaps Lana Wachowski (one half of the trilogy’s directors) realises that the grandeur sought by Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is just temporary. As a result, the film raises some concerns about the futility of battles, even those waged for humanity’s freedom, and who they truly serve. It also admits the evident comfort of consistency over the uncertainty of change. This, too, is a concept that has received little attention.
Groff can’t channel the frightening cynicism of the “System” as depicted by actor Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith, even if Mateen is a poor replacement for Laurence Fishburne. Resurrections also does a disservice to Merovingian, the smooth operator of yore who once purred, “Speaking French was like wiping your ass with silk,” he said, and argued for leisurely good dining, saying, “How can we ever have time if we don’t make time?” as French slipped from his elegant lips. Merovingian yells out some half-intelligible drivel about Zuckerberg and climate warriors, which is somehow tied to Neo’s insurrection, in ripped tatters.
While the rest of the Neo team is equally unattractive (Priyanka Chopra does have a great, substantial role), Wachowski’s faith in ‘The One’ and Trinity, as well as their joy of being able to move movies, if not mountains, provides some gratification. This idea indicates that former Reeves and Moss (and Weaving) could be older, slower, and wrinkled, despite the fact that they were foils and near-copies of each other at the time.
The Matrix invites us to ponder whether choice is really an illusion. Studio demands undoubtedly influenced the choice to relaunch Neo. When Wachowski presents us a Neo and Trinity who are far too weathered to bounce off walls or hang in the air, it’s decision that triumphs over illusion. This is a very welcome return to reality, sir.