The Matrix Resurrections is a sequel we deserved, not necessarily the one we wanted. Or is it? It’s getting mixed reviews, disappointment from fans hoping for revelation, innovation, and surprises in how action movies are made ever since the first movie introduced Bullet Time and Chinese martial arts to Hollywood blockbusters. Its gnostic theme of reality being a computer-generated façade, something out of Philip K. Dick, the Red Pill-Blue Pill choice, has been taken up by both the Right and the Left.
The Matrix Resurrections is Lana Wachowski’s satirical metacommentary on the impact the trilogy had on culture and the toxicity of what internet culture has become ever since. It’s all allegory and metaphor about how toxic the internet and social media have become after the idealism of the 90s, where the internet was seen as freedom. It points out early on that both the red and blue pills are placebos and metaphors, not literal. The Matrix Resurrections is also about the commodification of the original trilogy’s message of breaking through to the truth into another comforting lie.
Jessica Henwick is the breakthrough star here. She and Yaya Abdul-Mateen II ground the movie with a geeky energy that gives the film more of a beating heart than the original trilogy, which was mostly cold. Henwick is visually coded as the Manic Pixie Nonbinary Tomboy, out and proud and doing whatever she wants without needing anyone’s permission.
Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff, both openly gay men in real life, play characters who hide their real identities as they manipulate and gaslight Neo to hide his real identity from him is a multilayered gay allegory. The trans community has adopted the series as an allegory of dual identities and transitioning, a reading the Wachowskis have since endorsed. This sequel is even more LGBTQ-coded than ever.
The Matrix Resurrections also becomes an unofficial sequel to the Wachowskis’ cult TV series Sens8. Three of the eight stars of the show are in this movie, appearing as Bugs’ crew on the Mnemosyne who join Neo on his mission. Freema Agyeman, who also starred in Sens8, has a cameo.
The action is deliberately shot less perfectly and rougher to feel more spontaneous. The imperfection also makes it feel more grounded. The train fight is lifted from/ an homage to Train to Busan. Biomechanical imagery taken from Tetsuo. There’s no new way to do action, so Wachowski lets it look chaotic, like it could go out of control at any moment, breaking down the pristine perfection of the shots in the original trilogy. The movie feels intensely personal, made on Lana Wachowski’s terms rather than a cookie-cutter blockbuster like just about every big Hollywood movie has become.
There are those of us who hated The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions for their stiff portentousness, their interminable speeches about the nature reality that felt cut-and-pasted from texts by French poststructuralists like Baudrillard and Derrida. Those theories have since mercifully become irrelevant. We had fun with The Matrix Resurrections. Its characters had humour and personality. It’s a “You can’t go home again” sequel. Keanu Reeves as an older, tired, disillusioned, and disappointed Neo who no longer dressed in Cyberpunk Goth or carried guns, bewildered at how chaotic everything has become, a hacker who thought he liberated the world only to find it now as enslaved and deluded as ever is the perfect stand-in for everyone who thought the internet offered limitless freedom 20 years ago. The Matrix Resurrections might not be the sequel anyone wanted, but it might be the one we deserve and need.