I didn’t understand why I connected so strongly with The Matrix in 1999, but just like the original, The Matrix Resurrections is giving me something I need in this moment in 2021.
Now, I know that not everyone has the same experience with the genius franchise that launched the Wachowskis’ distinctive style and prompted many of us to question the world. But as a soon-to-realise queer kid in the late-90s, The Matrix posed a question that I didn’t understand I was grappling with at the time: do you want to live your true life or stay ‘safe’ in the lie? Of course I wasn’t some prodigy who realised this when I first saw the film when I was 11, but I connected with the message all the same. As I rewatched the films over the years, the realisation of why this film mattered – why I connected so deeply with that life-changing realisation – became apparent.
Acknowledging that Lana Wachowski has explained in detail her reasons for creating this film, I thought it would be best to focus this review on what it is for me.
The Matrix Resurrections represents that hindsight that I have whenever I revisit the franchise. While Wachowski does this much more elegantly than I could ever hope, there is a clear reflective tone of what The Matrix represents. This perspective of hindsight is called out when Bugs (Jessica Henwick) is offering the red and blue pills and outwardly states that it was never a choice. Further, this replaying of the choice offers a rebuttal to those who use the red pill metaphor to justify embracing discrimination (anyone familiar with the franchise will likely be aware of how it has been used by those who seek to control those of us who don’t conform to hegemonic ideals). The red pill might be a metaphor, but the choice is real. The choice is about doing what’s right for you and this is what Resurrections has clarified for me.
Of course, there is an obvious meta-commentary at the centre of the film – one that has been a bug-bear for some – however I think the self-awareness is handled well. Importantly, the meta elements don’t exist for gimmick alone (or at all in my opinion), but are core to the story. These elements provide an insight into how Wachowski wanted to approach this, as well as the conflicting creative forces at play when tackling a sequel of this magnitude. That group of creatives could be the parts of Wachowski herself or perhaps the audience expectations of what the film is meant to be. That it is not so in-your-face to suggest it is either of these, or even something else, helps the whole piece come together. I can see why some might baulk at this approach, it gets done a lot and rarely is it done well. But when meta-commentary is well conceived and well executed, as it is in this case, then it is excellent and engaging.
We can’t talk about a Lana Wachowski film without briefly touching on the art of filmmaking. Her work – the work of the team she brings together – is stunning. One of my favourite things to see is when in-camera effects are done well, and Resurrections delivers this in spades. Special mention to the transitions between doors which are equal parts disorienting and impressive (you’ll know it when you see it). And of course to the distinctive mise-en-scéne that captures that sense of the world with something a bit off. I saw one Twitter user waxing lyrical about how the film was missing the green hue and leather that made it iconic, and I couldn’t disagree more. It is more than 20 years later and everything has evolved. The hints were there, just enough for any fan to connect. But Resurrections is for a contemporary world, it is a standalone masterpiece, and I can’t wait to see it again.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (five stars)