A bitter blue pill

matrixr1The Matrix Resurrections, 2021, 148 mins, 4K UHD

Cor blimey, where do I start? Well, this is a strange one. It doesn’t look like a Matrix film (it has a vastly different colour palette and lighting style), doesn’t sound like a Matrix film (composer Don Davis not invited to this project) and lacks both the iconic fight choreography (the fight sequences are shockingly badly shot and edited) and ground-breaking effects sequences that the Matrix films are so famous for (the sheer crazy ambition of the earlier films trying stuff that the technology could barely manage is entirely missing here). So is it really a Matrix film?

Well, its certainly not the Matrix film many fans were possibly looking forward to- but then again, the same could be said regards the original sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions. So perhaps one shouldn’t be surprised by this strange beast.

I could almost describe this films as a $60 million arthouse film cleverly deconstructing the Matrix films with a narrative that is almost entirely Meta. Except that this thing cost $190 million and is clearly a tentpole, blockbuster movie- perhaps one of the oddest and most confounding blockbusters of all. Its almost like the whole thing’s existence is some kind of commentary (or ironic joke) on sequels, reboots, remakes and how they seem to dominate studio thinking and the industry as a whole. In a strange way its almost the perfect Matrix film- what is real, what is narrative, what is art and what is product? Its clever and incredibly stupid at the same time, utterly bizarre. I enjoyed it and I was infuriated by it. On the one hand it feels like a cynical cash-grab, and yet, on the other, if it was a cash-grab it simply wouldn’t be this movie, it’d instead be more what the fans wanted/expected.

We saw characters die in Revolutions. They are back in Resurrections, hence the title, but they don’t ‘know’ they are back (essentially, stuck in a ‘new’ Matrix, they don’t know who they really are and the main narrative is, similarly to the first film, revealing the ‘lie’ of their lives). But how exactly are they back? Are we expected to believe that renegade machines found Trinity’s dead body and brought her back from the dead? Surely her intellect is a simulacra even if they could reconstruct/repair her body? And did they similarly bring Neo back from the dead and create a copy of his personality too? Resurrections shows us this being done, but… I’m expected to just accept this Frankenstein nonsense? I almost feel like clapping to applaud the bare-arsed cheek of it. The Matrix films purport to being so smart and they try to pull this smoke and mirrors on me?

Oddly enough, I quite enjoyed this anyway, but then again, I’m possibly in the minority -well, I know I am- when I say I enjoy all three Matrix films that came before it, yes, even those derided sequels. So I guess I enjoy all the philosophising and counter-intuitive twists, the self-important writing that in its sheer audacity tries to outdo the crazy stunts and effects that wows audiences. The most disappointing thing about this film really is the clumsy fight and stunt choreography, and how mundane the visual spectacle/effects work really is -it seldom looks like a $190 million movie. This entry in the franchise is really the one where that pompous writing takes centre-stage over what really ‘makes’ a Matrix film. Maybe that’s the point. Or maybe what its really telling us is to never trust your analyst.

It doesn’t feel ground-breaking. We’ve seen too many Christopher Nolan films since Revolutions. Maybe The Matrix films are suffering a generational gap in a similar way to how the Disney Star Wars have; or even the Bond films; all these franchises really belong to another generation, their time is really done, but nobody in the film industry knows what to do instead (what? Avatar?).

Having only seen it once, I’m cautious about writing much more here. I really need to watch the film again. When I watched it last night, other than having seen a trailer several months back, I really didn’t know what to expect, managing to stay spoiler-free up to now. So I’m especially curious how a second viewing plays. Does it improve, knowing what’s going on and why, or does it just seem dumber and lazier second time around? Well, another post will likely reveal all.

I will just say that the 4K UHD looks fantastic; it really is a beautiful film in 4K watched on an OLED screen. Utterly different to how the other Matrix films look, I guess, which reinforces how odd the experience watching it feels but then again, I really need to watch that 4K boxset of the earlier films that has been gathering dust on my shelf for far too long now. I had idly considered a watching the first three films prior to this one being released but life is getting in the way of watching much of anything these days, but maybe, if I can, I should watch them before getting to this one again…

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3 thoughts on “A bitter blue pill

  1. Based on what I’ve read about how this came about, I think it was a cynical cash grab by the studio, but they made the ‘mistake’ of hiring an original creator who wasn’t interested in just making a cynical cash grab, and so they accidentally funded a much more interesting movie. It’s a shame the wider audience hasn’t been open-minded enough to embrace that.

    1. I thought the first half was brilliant – the ‘lost’ past that haunts Thomas, the drink he shares with ‘Tiffany’, the callbacks to the first film- but the film became less interesting/more formulaic when the adventure to save Trinity progressed. On the whole though it was a pretty fine movie. I’ve since watched that first hour again and it works so well, there’s some really good stuff, subtle glimpses, for instance of what people in the Matrix see (an older Thomas, a blonde ‘Tiffany’ in reflections etc.).

      Thinking about it, I think its a bit of a shame that, rather than literally resurrecting Neo and Trinity the way they do (which bugs me no end), they perhaps would have been wiser had the fourth film revealed that what we thought was the ‘real’ world outside the Matrix was infact a simulation within another simulation: that the Architect himself was a construct of the Analyst, if you will. At the risk of overdoing the paranoia aspect, everything within the original trilogy could have been inside another simulation/hologram, so Neo/Trinity never really died, only their simulated doppelgangers. Rabbit holes within rabbit holes.

      For all I know, perhaps everyone could be in cryosleep in a colony ship on a 10,000 journey to another star, and everything we have ever seen in any Matrix film/book etc is actually a simulation to stop the sleeping colonists going batshit crazy during the journey. Its a poor grand reveal, but audiences seem to like everything getting explained to them.

  2. Pingback: Recent Additions/ Capsule reviews – the ghost of 82

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