Review: The Matrix Resurrections

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)

Why am I doing a PhD?

The most consistent advice I received when I set out to apply for a PhD was ‘Don’t do it!’

It stood out to me that successful academics, all of whom completed a PhD and are now working in various capacities in academia were so quick to discourage someone from pursuing the same path. And honestly, it got my back up a bit – it felt like gatekeeping from a sector that had been designed to keep someone like me out (not wealthy, grew up in regional Australia, not from an academic family – my dad being a first in family to get an undergraduate qualification and many of my siblings not having the opportunity to move to a city where university study was possible).

There were a few very encouraging people who helped me decipher and demystify the research degree.

As I persisted the discussion shifted: ‘Why do you want to do a PhD?’

It’s a good question. I’m under no illusion that I’ve made an easy career decision. I’ve left a successful communications career, where I was getting every opportunity I could have hoped for to take a big step down and into a new field. Add to that, I’m moving into arts and humanities education and research, a discipline that is under consistent and increasing pressure due to government funding cuts and universities that are suffering from a lack of support through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

So why am I studying a PhD.

There’s not just one reason and it’s impossible to say that one reason is more of a driving force than another. Instead, I’m outlining three reasons that I come back to consistently when I need motivation.

Passion

First up, passion. It seems pretty obvious, but I’m passionate about my own queer identity and how it is represented in media of all forms.

The world is changing and we are seeing LGBTIQ+ representation hit our screens in new and abundant ways. This is exciting – and I still get excited when I find a new show that provides another queer character for me to see, understand, connect with, critique, discuss with friends, challenge, celebrate – the list goes on.

When you get past the initial cry of ‘Don’t do it!’ from those already holding this form of cultural capital things quickly shift to the importance of passion. Even a few months in I have felt the loss of constant contact with colleagues and peers, to what is a lonely process of research. Passion has been something to hold on to when I’m frustrated or overwhelmed.

My passion has already been a driving force and I can see it will play a crucial role as I get deeper into the research process.

Making a difference

Second, any queer person will likely be able to tell you about a time when they were young and saw someone that resembled themselves on screen.

I know I’m not alone in sitting up late at night with the TV on the lowest possible volume and one finger hovering over the channel change button on the remote while I watched Queer As Folk on SBS. We can critique the monocultural and stereotyped representations – and we should. But as a terrified queer teen in a unwelcoming country town, I was able to recognise something of myself in the characters on screen for the first time.

This is why I think my research can make a difference. Because television has a relationship with, and influence within culture. In academia theorists such as John Fiske, Stuart Hall and Tom O’Regan have written extensively on this topic.

I want to continue delving into this for LGBTIQ+ people and help identify and empower representation on our screens. I believe I can do this through research.

Continue teaching and teaching more

Third, I’ve been so lucky to get to teach media studies, screen studies and communications through Swinburne Online Learning since 2017.

It has been an awesome component of my mix of work, while I’ve developed myself as a communications professional. Similar to students in the units I teach, I completed both my degrees online. As someone who’s supported themselves since they were 17, an online degree was the best option for me.

At first this started out as a way of giving something back. I understand what it’s like to study online and I could bring that understanding and my professional experience to give others a great online learning experience. What I found is that teaching is hugely rewarding. I love finding new and creative ways to help students engage with and understand concepts they’ll need for their future careers.

I want teaching to be a bigger part of my career. And I want to be able to contribute to the system in a way that will open it up to more people like me. A PhD will help me to make teaching a bigger part of my career and will be essential to being part of the solution.

I don’t know what the next three years will hold, but I’ll endeavour to share my journey whenever I get the chance.

And I hope that if an aspiring PhD candidate contacts me years down the track, that my response won’t be ‘Don’t do it!’ Though perhaps it will be about passion.

Episode 4: Host (2020)

“What if we’re not lucky?”

For many years I was the friend who loved horror, but then I met someone who loved horror even more than me!

Damien O’Meara is joined by Horror Maven, Lisa Rufus to talk all about Host (2020). This is going to ruin Zoom meetings for work on Monday.

While 2020 has delivered its fair share of crappy times, Director, Rob Savage found a great opportunity, a 56 minute long horror movie, filmed over Zoom… Host (2020) is a beacon of innovation and terror that we needed to survive this bleak excuse for a year.

Movies and television shows named in this episode:

Follow Camp, Scary and Squee on Instagram and Twitter: @campscarypod.

Introduction music from the Youtube Audio LibraryGroove Tube by Audio Hertz.

Episode 3: Scream (1996)

“What’s your favourite scary movie?”

You know that feeling when you love a movie, and you find out your friend has never seen it? The level of anxiety and anticipation as you get them to watch it for the first time, praying that they love it.

Well, Link has never seen Scream (1996)! And continuing our theme of love letters to the horror genre, it seemed like the perfect film to introduce him to the genre. Will he love it? Or will I be bitterly disappointed?

Damien O’Meara is joined by Lincoln Law to find out if Scream (1996) really is that good, or perhaps teenage Damo has blinded grown-up Damo to what this really is. Does it hold up?

You can hear more fabulous quips from Link on Twitter: @Link_Law.

Podcast Mascot Stella the Staffy makes a noisy appearance towards the end.

Movies and television shows named in this episode:

Listen to the Camp, Scary and Squee horror podcast

Follow Camp, Scary and Squee on Instagram and Twitter: @campscarypod.

Introduction music from the Youtube Audio LibraryGroove Tube by Audio Hertz

Episode 2: The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

“Ok, I’m drawing a line in the fucking sand. Do NOT read the Latin!”

This is the horror fan’s horror movie, because it’s a love letter to and a critique of the genre. Does that make it good though? Well that’s the question, because this is a genre ripe with people who say that if it doesn’t follow the rules, then it’s just not cricket… I mean horror.

Damien O’Meara is joined by the always insightful Dave Gaukroger to talk all about The Cabin in the Woods (2011). Because when it comes to horror, we want to see the most self-aware, self-referential, up it’s own ass horror movie – and you know what.. we love it!

Check out Dave’s podcast, the Brewery Street Playground.

Movies and television shows named in this episode:

Follow Camp, Scary and Squee on Instagram and Twitter: @campscarypod.

Introduction music from the Youtube Audio LibraryGroove Tube by Audio Hertz.

Episode 1: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

“Admit it, Buffy. Aren’t there times when you just feel… less than fresh?”

Were you ever obsessed by a movie when you were a teenager? We were. But is all that nostalgia clouding our vision of this camp-horror classic? And was it really as good as we remember?

Damien O’Meara is joined by fabulous friend, Emma O’Connor to talk all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). And these two Aussies try to unpick if this movie gave them unrealistic expectations about life as an American high-schooler, cheerleading and the role of handkerchiefs in dramatic death scenes. Most importantly, Sarah Michelle Gellar will always be Buffy Summers (sorry Kristy Swanson).

Movies and television shows named in this episode:

Note: It turns out that teaching yourself to record and edit a podcast is a journey. This episode is Day 1 of that journey and I promise it gets better.

Follow Camp, Scary and Squee on Instagram and Twitter: @campscarypod.

Introduction music from the Youtube Audio LibraryGroove Tube by Audio Hertz.