THE MATRIX: REFLECTIONS
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
THE MATRIX: REFLECTIONS
***SPOILERS ALERT AHEAD***
If you haven’t seen MATRIX:RESURRECTIONS yet, SKIP THIS POST. Yes, this is the moment you get to choose the Red or the Blue pill...
That being said, here are a couple quick things I offer on the new movie.
One. This is the most profound sequel few people under 35 will see or get. Two. Instead of refreshing yourselves on the previous MATRICES, brush up on the Wachowski Siblings’ Netflix series, #SENSE8.
To my first point; I gleaned Millennials will skip this film a quarter way through the movie. By the end of the flick, I turned to my friend, Kasim and said as much. Then I said we should stay for the after credit scene. He said this wasn’t a Marvel Studios production. I told him he didn’t see how meta this movie was and how, like an algorithm of the Matrix, this franchise would have evolved with the times.
Akin to how Neo's slow-mo, bullet dodge in the original movie influenced a generation of subsequent films, I knew there was going to be an after credit scene. So we stayed. And there was. And the absolute banality of that scene supported my point that Millennials will either skip MATRIX: RESURRECTIONS or be bored by the end of the first scene. Regardless, there is a point to that scene. So STAY for the after credit scene.
To point two. SENSE8 is a more updated version of the Wachowski's creative mission statement. "REFLECTIONS" does a fine job of reminding you of the previous MATRIX franchise as it goes along. So I urge you to better invest your time on their more evolved message to humanity, which has two and a quarter seasons on Netflix. Also, before my actual thoughts on why this sequel is so special, a bit of backstory on my love of the MATRIX franchise.
I saw the original movie in my senior year of college alone in a theater in 1999, and instantaneously got Neo. I'm sure outside of the "Bullet Time" of these movies, so many of us feel we've never belonged. That there’s an itch behind our brain, subtly inferring something’s awry with reality. Later on in life, I discovered Arthur Schopenhauer and his “World-As-Appearance” philosophy on why we're attracted to ego-centric reality posits like THE MATRIX.
But Schopenhauer didn’t stop me from loving this, frenetic, dystopic, stiff-acted, action vehicle at all. I have always loved the ability to escape into sci-fi worlds where someone's deep thoughts have to be customarily convoluted by the Hollywood machine. Neither did the rumors that Sophia Stewart’s screenplay was plagiarized to make both THE MATRIX and THE TERMINATOR (which could be seen as a loose prequel to THE MATRIX). It all just added to the mythos of these movies.
The philosophical quandaries I enjoyed about the themes, coupled with appreciation for the appreciatively complex fight and action sequences, have made me a fan for life. And I was content. I didn’t need anymore MATRIX-ing after “REVOLUTIONS.” And here, as I was watching “RESURRECTIONS,” I could see that Lana Wachowski agreed with me. But rather than allow someone else to debase the legacy of the previous movies, they set out to do this sequel, I perceive, forced upon them by Warner Brothers.
Why is it forced you ask? Well why else would we need an opening “modal” scene concept to rehash the start of the original movie? Other than to bring up to speed any new, younger, audience members who didn’t want to invest time away from social media on a twenty-two-year-old movie? Why else would there be a bullpen scene with the gamer company characters trying to find a way to recreate the success of a hit game called… THE MATRIX? They’re literally telling us how it went in the real, real world meetings with Warner Brothers.
Why else would the Merovingian be yelling at the top of his lungs in a heavily French-accented rant, his distaste for franchise sequels? If you’re watching on HBO MAX put on the subtitles. I saw it in the theater. But hopefully they transcribe it. You can absolutely hear him say such at the end of his spiel.
And why are we hearing for the first time in all the MATRIX movies, that the programs that control the real world of the Matrix are being referred to by the Analyst as “suits”? It’s all there if you choose to see it.
And why after all of my observations on this being a forced sequel do I still think it was a great movie? Because of the way the creative team handled the constraints and converted it into high art.
Revisiting my idea that this isn’t going to sell to younger audience demographics, I for one, felt very appreciative of how much Lana and their team leaned into the passing of time. As it’s now customary to de-age maturing actors using CGI, it was refreshing that the storyline embraces temporal progression, making me feel the twenty-two years I was seeing on Keanu’s face- reflecting my own life’s journey. I mean, this is my generation’s STAR WARS (And yes, STAR WARS will always be STAR WARS, but you get my meaning fan-people). We will continue to see green coding tramp stamps and dark leather cosplay dusters into our seventies. Writing into the story why Neo had aged, slowly but surely, was gratifying.
Another reason why “RESURRECTIONS” resonated with me dealt with the juxtaposing of the Neo’s new Matrix life as a famous game creator, with the plot of the previous movies (as told in flashbacks and flash-asides). It helped not only to keep viewers mindful of the original plot points, but also to keep us cognizant again, of how all the O.G. fans are aging with these movies, the actors and the senior stunt people. And why all are understandably, a wee slower.
Further praise of how well the paralleling lives device worked in “RESURRECTIONS.” I thoroughly enjoyed Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s upgraded version of Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus. It goes without saying that there would be no MATRIX without the grounded albeit pseudo-melodramatic delivery of Fishburne’s sagacious Morpheus. But I can only imagine what a relief and pleasure it must have been for Yahya to step into those funky duds and bring so much irreverent, referential humor to the character. It also aided in distancing him from his Doctor Manhattan character (re: WATCHMEN:THE SERIES), who shared Morpheus’ stoic sensibilities.
Then there were the homages to other sci-fi movies and shows that I dig. I’m sure I'm missing a whole set, but I got:
STAR TREK (as Smith fights Neo and slams his face into a wall, he holds it there using a Vulcan mind meld).
THE ABYSS (The sentient stingray-like friend of Niobe that flies into IO looks uncannily like the benevolent aliens in that James Cameron movie); INCEPTION (The new, wall running, camera inversion tricks and fights are totally reminiscent of it).
CLOUD ATLAS (The concept of kindred souls continuing to find each other through time, even in new bodies. And this includes not only Neo and Trinity, but Smith and Morpheus); WATCHMEN SERIES (Yahya looks like a pixelated Dr. Manhattan. They had a choice on the creative design of what the exo-avatars could look like. Yahya didn’t have to be nude and have godlike abilities again).
AUSTIN POWERS (The Analyst and Deja-Vu cum Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth).
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (Because the Analyst says so on why Trinity's called 'Tiffany').
And of course, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (The Trinity Matrix jail break plan was a total MI steal. From the scene where they say how impossible it is, then how they’re going to do it, to the actual execution of it in the nick of time).
On the far reaching end of things, there's something about the bot swarm which reminds me of fast running zombie movies like 28 DAYS LATER...
I also liked this movie because as I said, it was full of evolved SENSE8 philosophy. To back that up, I IMDB-ed at least ten actors from the series in the movie; I missed a lot of them because of make up and costume. The casting of these actors did get me to reflect again on the message of this sequel. That love, powers all. It was always a theme in the previous MATRIX movies. But SENSE8 is a striped down, barely sci-fi proposition by the Wachowski siblings, on love's power. And how scientific the fiction needs NOT to be for us as an audience to listen to this universally necessary message.
In “RESURRECTIONS,” lifted up by SENSE8, love transcends not only gender, race, space and time, but species. There is now love for anything sentient. This is evinced by the machine allies living within the human stronghold, IO, working and living in harmony with organic lifeforms. They also were crucial in the jail breaks. As artificial intelligence will likely be going from soft to hard intelligence in our lifetime, the entire concept of intra-species acceptance that movies such as THE TERMINATOR and THE MATRIX put forward, gives us more pause to debate and consider the width and berth of the concept of love, which will surely expand to include symbioses and synchronicities.
The visual symbolism of “RESURRECTIONS” was a delicious layer too. Like the loopy flock of birds that resembled a double helix or binary code, which are later mimicked by the flying “Ones” at movie's end. Or Deja-Vu the cat, who was merely an extra in the original movie, now a full on character with lines (or purrs).... Aside- does that mean the Analyst was there in the old movies all along, growing and waiting for an opening to seize more power? Speaking of which, as soon as I saw Neil Patrick Harris finger his pen a few times, I turned to Kasim and said, “He’s the Architect.”... I wasn’t too far off.
I totally was also sold on the visual translations of ALICE IN WONDERLAND tidbits throughout the movie. From going in and out of looking glasses and windows, to traveling down Trinity’s rabbit hole as an escape route.
There were also the Easter eggs dropped in the signage. For instance, Neo and Trinity in the "SIMULATTE" coffee shop. Double purpoused as the the site of the final showdown, it trends that this would be where the vertices of past, present and future life intersect; only in a Matrix simulation of normalcy, where sanity can be bought in a foamy cup of Joe, could this occur.
The deeply expanded color palette of the cinematography was total eye candy. As it departed from the stylized, heavy green wash of the previous movies, it subtly spoke of this being a new matrix with slightly different rules. This color scheme upgrade is carried through in the costumes (especially Morpheus’). While still hip, the bold tones against Yahya’s dark skin spoke of his dynamic rejoice of new freedom from cyber bondage.
There’s more. There’s much more, I'm sure. Like the self-referential humor at the expense of the previous movies (You really can't have enough "Bullet Time."). Or the promotion of numerous female protagonists of varying race and age, against the white, suggestively hetero-normative patriarchy. But this was just a start of my analysis. I’m sure after a couple more viewings and time to let it all sit, I’ll uncover more richness to this motion picture. Suffice to say. It is a sequel for my generation. And I wholly take it in as a fan and an artist, as a testament on what magic can be derived from stones already thought to be wrung dry, when passion, talent, and commitment to your art reigns supreme.
UPDATE: A reader of this blog entry later found an article corroborating my assumptions about Warner Brothers. Read: ‘Matrix’ Producer Says WB Was Actively Looking To Resurrect The Franchise With Or Without The Wachowskis