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You ruined every suck-my-silky-ass thing!

The Matrix Resurrections
(2021)

(SPOILERS) Warner Bros has been here before. Déjà vu? What happens when you let a filmmaker do whatever they want? And I don’t mean in the manner of Netflix. No, in the sequel sense. You get a Gremlins 2: The New Batch (a classic, obviously, but not one that financially furthered a franchise). And conversely, when you simply cash in on a brand, consequences be damned? Exorcist II: The Heretic speaks for itself. So in the case of The Matrix Resurrections – not far from as meta as The New Batch, but much less irreverent – when Thomas “Tom” Anderson, designer of globally successful gaming trilogy The Matrix, is told “Our beloved company, Warner Bros, has decided to make a sequel to the trilogy” and it’s going ahead “with or without us”, you can be fairly sure this is the gospel. That Lana, now going it alone, decided it was better to “make the best of it” than let her baby be sullied. Of course, quite what that amounts to in the case of a movie(s) that has impacted the culture’s vocabulary, conspiratorial rumblings and overall total perception vortex, and how free she really is to call the shots on the “destiny” of The Matrix is another matter.

Gwyn de Vere: This cannot be another reboot, retread, regurgitated…

I don’t tend to read TPTB-sponsored Grauniad anymore, except when I want to check how many articles I haven’t read that year – oh, the irony of such an outrageous propaganda rag begging for scraps in the name of a free press – and I find Peter Bradshaw frequently grating in his tastes. To his credit, though, he considers The Matrix Reloadedvivacious and underrated”. And I at least partly agree with his view that The Matrix Resurrectionsdoesn’t have anything approaching the breath-taking “bullet time” action sequences that made the original film famous”; the action is almost indifferently staged at best, plain poor at worst (about the most arresting visual is a steal from Carpenter's Prince of Darkness).

Berg: I was kind of worried at first because he’s so much older. The beard, the hair… Oh.

But The Matrix Resurrections’ content leads me to conclude the cynicism Bradshaw identifies (“a heavy-footed reboot which doesn’t offer a compelling reason for its existence other than to gouge a fourth income stream from Matrix fans, submissively hooked up for new content”) is likely blithely ignorant to a lie of the land where many were entirely unplugged from the franchise after The Matrix Revolutions underwhelmed. Rather, its existence is symptomatic of studios willing to do something, anything, to exhume properties that may have a last gasp of afterlife. There’s much in The Matrix Resurrections that is far from sure-footed, and it’s rarely light on its feet – the amount of exposition in this movie, scene upon scene of it, makes The Architect seem positively taciturn – but for all this, it’s simply much too interesting as a piece of cultural landscape mapping, arriving as it does at this point in time, to be dismissed out of hand.

The Analyst: Paint the sky with rainbows.

Certainly, In terms of narrative, aside from the meta-play of the opening act(s), Wachowski doesn’t have very much to offer. No ground-breaking twists. No Matrix within-a Matrix. Nothing to extend the movie’s metaphysical consciousness beyond its established boundaries. In terms of character, it’s often weak swill. The new Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a bust because, if you remove the original character’s gravitas, you aren’t left with anything much. And if you then convert him into a pixelated non-person out of Transcendence for much of the proceedings, you’re making him even less compelling.

Smith: You know the difference between us, Tom? Anyone could have been you. Whereas I’ve always been anyone.

Jonathan Groff was tremendous in Fincher’s variable Mindhunter, but he’s a bland, anaemic replacement for Hugo Weaving (and again, rather underlines that Agent Smith’s stature was comic book, all about the iconography and cadence. There’s Jada Pinkett Smith back as Niobe, never very persuasive in the first place and now buried under miles of prosthetics. Christina Ricci has about one scene. Which is odd.

Neil Patrick Harris often makes an impression by virtue of sheer idiosyncrasy, but he’s straightjacketed as someone who explains, and explains, and explains, and is also the big bad: The Analyst, the demiurge of the current Matrix. Like Groff, Wachowski either doesn’t know how, or doesn’t care about making him a singular force, and you end up more conscious of his egregious third act utterances, as a rather lacklustre nod to toxic maledom (there are others sprinkled through the picture): “Women used to be so easy to control”; “Can’t you control her?

The Analyst: Such a pain, cloning Agents over a coppertop. Far more effective just to saturate a population.

I tend to the position that, as with the action, Lana simply doesn’t care very much. She can’t go wrong with Keanu and Carrie, between whom there is palpable chemistry and sincerity – when they actually get to share scenes, that is. Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters) is the picture’s one undeniably successful new face as Bugs – a reference to WB being the coercive force behind the picture? – who is responsible for waking Neo from his stupor.

Smith: That’s the thing about stories. They never really end, do they?

So what we’re mostly left with is talk. And it is often heavy-handed talk, but it’s often also an engrossing conversation – or monologue, as the case may be. By foregrounding its meta thematic, I suspect Lana is actually saying, as often she appears to be having a very specific conversation, “All these conversations you think you’re having, they aren’t the conversation you should be having, the one you too distracted to be aware of” Essentially, the trilogy’s conversational dead-end – “Are we in a simulation?” – is one of those, and not the one, by virtue, if nothing else, of it now being an at-best crutch to support the narrative, yet no longer inform or expand it.

The Analyst: Do you need a refill of your prescription?

There’s much reference to binary – superficially, code – in The Matrix Resurrections, which instantly lends itself to the trilogy’s most popular recent-ish conversation piece, touting it as a metaphor for transgenderism. Lana even meta-textualises this with the brainstorming session – “Obviously, The Matrix is about trans politics…. Crypto-fascism…. It’s a metaphor… of capitalist exploitation” – but the nutshell, it seems to me, is Smith informing Neo “This is not about binary, Tom. It’s bigger than that”. Essentially, this is not about a Hegelian conflicts, about manufactured polarities, about any of the possible readings that have been given (and with them, the transhumanism position, one the movie does have additional designs on, but I’ll come to that).

The Analyst: Here’s the thing about feelings. They’re so much easier to control than facts.

Some of this conversation, we’re familiar with from Smith anyway. But it’s now spouted by the Analyst, along with the added import of arriving two decades on. The Analyst tells Neo it’s “not about facts. It’s fiction. And you people believe the craziest shit” Is this Lana nodding at a reality that has been manipulated for centuries, with a plandemic only the latest incident thereof? One where science is continually made up and facts manipulated, safe in the knowledge that the feelings this creates in people are “so much easier to control than facts”? In this sense, those who go along with the barrage of diktats and “facts” are “People staying in their pods happier than pigs in shit”. Symptomatic of “Quietly yearning for what you didn’t have, while dreading losing what you do”.

If we follow that to its conclusion, it is not that reality itself is an illusion, it is that what we are told is reality is an illusion. How we are informed or indoctrinated into perceiving that thing. A fictional method of perceiving the actual world results. Masking it. This is a movie where, in the Matrix – the artificial reality, the lie – many of the train commuters are masked. Where Merv, the Merovingian, launches into a tirade about how much better the previous generation of fakery was (“We had grace. We had style. We had conversation! Art, films, books were all better! Originality mattered”) And what does he point to as encapsulating the current version of the lie: “You got us Face-Zucker-suck and Cock-me-climatey-Wiki-piss-and-shit!” I mean, Zuckerberg is pretty much non grata these days anyway, but Greta will be livid at Lana for pointing that particular lie out.

And this is an interesting read too. By implication, this Matrix – two decades on – is based on a quantum leap in our way of perceiving the world. Early digital to deep digital, if you like. You might call it simply a generation gap, but Wachowski is identifying an entire paradigm shift.

Bugs: Honestly, when somebody offered me these things, I went off on binary conceptions of the world and said there was no way I was swallowing some symbolic reduction of my life.

The fresh idea of the choice – red pill or blue pill – in The Matrix is thoroughly worn and memed out, so simply must be approached in self-referential fashion, as much as the rules for looking after a Mogwai were. I don’t doubt many of this movie’s readings will simply go to the binary = gender take, not least because Lana is an avatar of the same, but I really don’t think it’s quite that simple (or binary, if you like).

Let’s not forget the siblings’ previous foray into the narrative of arch puppeteers/ manipulators controlling us all (the disastrous Jupiter Ascending). The Matrix Resurrections repeatedly identifies binary as a mode of perception at the broadest level. Tom tells his shrink his recent encounter had him thinking he is in either suffering a mental breakdown or living inside a computer-generated reality that has imprisoned him again. And the reply, “Maybe it’s not as binary as that”, is as telling as any on an either-or reality. Smith – the proponent of the old school sim – tells Neo “Look how binary is the form, the nature of things”. Look how the Hegelian conflict always flies, basically. It’s a winner (and no, not “Reject binary and embrace transgenderism and thus transhumanism” although Lara will doubtless offer some soundbites to that partial effect. How could she otherwise?)

Morpheus: Are memories turned into fiction any less real? Is reality based in memory nothing but fiction?

The Matrix – simulation theory – has, after all, been foisted on us by “science” (so it must be valid) and reinforced by “religion” (Gnostics and their demiurge, so appealing to and capturing fringe thinkers in its net). But there’s no reason to believe either aren’t, in and of themselves, tools devised to provoke an emotional response, since feelings are much easier to control than facts. The reaction to this non-binary thinking, however, can be a state of disassociation: “This isn’t happening. It’s in my mind. It’s in my mind. This can’t be happening”. When faced with the idea that reality – again, our perception thereof, rather its essentialness – has been manipulated on a grand, global (or planular) scale, it’s entirely reasonable to reject it out of hand. A paradigm shift on that level is not easily digestible.

Smith: It was our great ambition to create a game that was indistinguishable from reality.

This impenetrability is most effectively addressed in the meta-game element, whereby Neo, incredulous, protests “Hide me? I’ve been at a company making a game called The Matrix” On the one hand, you have the idea of placing the truth in plain sight, and drawing attention to a truth as fiction; it is thus very easy to dismiss, even more so when David Icke (whom, for the sake of this example, we shall call a limited hangout) starts extolling this interpretation. There’s the idea that we are told the truth in such forms as a popular Hollywood movie as an occult principle, whereby we must implicitly accept or “endorse” the conditions by which we are quelled (similarly, it’s very, very easy to find official data that does not support the current narrative, but most prefer to believe the lie).

The Architect: It turns out in my Matrix, the worse we treat you, the more we manipulate you, the more energy you produce.

Accordingly, according to some, the Matrix simulation is precisely how it is, give or take the overt squid-tech controllers. It’s TPTB telling us how it is. Alternatively, it’s simply a lure, a means to send those inclined to question down the wrong rabbit hole. This would be the reasons the Wachowskis also then made the aforementioned Jupiter Ascending, which singularly failed to capture imaginations (part of that may have been the dull action and the inert stars, including Channing Tatum’s dog boy). There, we are manipulated by those from other planetary realms, who feed off us and harvest us, rather like the Matrix machines. Lana returns to that idea here, when the Analyst tells Neo “Why nightmares? It’s actually us, maximising your output”. This is a voiced explanation for the Archons, the astral manipulators behind the scenes (at the behest of the demiurge), controlling our reality and milking us for all we’re worth.

Sati: A failsafe has been triggered to reset the Matrix back to the previous version.

So the constant here, one lacing through the Wachowskis’ work – well, maybe not Speed Racer – is that we’re being hoodwinked, and The Matrix Resurrections is happy to confess that even those saying we’re being hoodwinked are likely themselves engaged in hoodwinking. Hence the areas where the movie, rather half-heartedly, it has to be said, and so in no way approaching The Last Jedi-level betrayal some are looking for, toes the party line and gets with the programme (seriously, the biggest surprise of Resurrections is its failure to ooze Woke from every pore).

It’s notable, then, that title on down, the resurrection of Neo and Trinity takes on an explicitly, intentionally religious aspect. One might have expected Lana or WB to plump for a “Rebooted” or some such. But this title invites the return of those who once gave hope, salvation, whom many of the devout still cling to (“Everything was simpler then. People wanted to be free. Sometimes it seems like people gave up. Like the Matrix won” Neo is told, of the real world post-his caveated victory, ie his brokering peace and capitulating). There is an idea of Neo and Trinity as placatory instruments (a Christ and Mary?) Together – a second coming – they can overpower the status quo by rejecting Hegelian rhythms. But can they? Or are they themselves constructs, offering a different paradigm within the same essential manipulation? Would we know?

The Architect: They don’t want this sentimentality. They don’t want freedom or empowerment. They want to be controlled. They crave the comfort of certainty.

Lana seems to be broaching several ideas of “freedom” here – Neo and Trinity thank the Analyst for giving them “something we never thought we could ever have – another chance”. And yet, it’s a strangely stifling, airless point of conclusion. There isn’t anything beckoning the rush of The Matrix’s conclusion. It’s more a forced grin. We have, after all, already been told that transhumanism has won out. The flesh-and-blood humans of Io are now working with Synthients.

Bugs: You made it possible and it changed everything.
Neo: It doesn’t feel like I changed anything. The Matrix is the same.

Neo is told “Not all seek to control, just as not all of us want to be free”. One might posit the idea, as proposed by Rudolf Steiner, that it is only through the correct martialling of inevitable Ahrimanic forces (technological materialism) that humanity may be furthered, but one can’t help seeing that non-binary position as slippery slope here (because this is “good” transhumanism, with a friendly version of Johnny Depp from Transcendence in the form of Morpheus). “This city was built by us and them”. There are now anthropomorphic machine lifeforms who are our friends. Morpheus is now good-guy nanotech (there is another element here to note, whereby Neo’s creation of Morpheus is akin to a thought form or tulpa, manifested through code, but nevertheless a creation materialising into reality through conscious manifestation).

Neo: They promised peace and they gave us purge.

Do you continue to question the construct Neo and Trinity promise at the end (how confidently can they know about the correct choice, as products of a wrong one?) It’s telling, as I note, that there’s no sense of real engagement in this on Lana’s part. That she’s stimulated by the endless discussions, but not the place the narrative leads, the saviour figures potentially inviting another lie. Because she’s already identified where the truth must be found. Wasn’t Neo’s peace last time an attempt to move beyond the binary, after all? What is this one going to be? It seems more disposed towards working within the binary, than finding whatever lies behind it.

The Architect: But it becomes a problem when fantasy endangers us or other people.

The essential danger, the problem, is those for whom the fantasy – those, refusing to accept the lie that cloaks reality – fails to convince. When they actively refuse to bend the knee and offer out their arms one, two, three, four times. And it’s impossible to hear “They use bots now, skinned as normal people” and not think of such mooted ideas as boosted-up EM carriers controlled en masse via 5G. Well, for me anyway. The previous Matrix possessed were, by relation, simply your MKUltra lackies waiting to be triggered. And what then? Do you overlay a saviour, antichrist or alien encounter to perpetuate the illusion further?

Bugs: When this newer version of the Matrix was uploaded, there was a purge.

Much easier to do that kind of thing if you wipe out your opposition. Again, the purge reference here is entirely intentional. And this leads to confusion, as memories are untrustworthy, and knowledge murky – was Neo, in fact, working for the machine city (well, he did broker an agreement)? On one level, that’s the same kind of conspirasphere theorising we’re familiar with, where a Trump is a hero one day and tells everyone he’s had his boosters the next.

Trinity: My name is Trinity, and you better take your hands off me.

As for the Wokeness here, well I can’t really see that Neo has been disenfranchised by being simpatico with Trinity. Neo’s specialness was already revealed as anticlimactic during the first trilogy, essentially ineffectual, with none of the superman promise of the first movie paying off in heroic posturing. So yeah, you can argue Trinity holding Neo up when he fails to fly makes this woke. But it’s still Neo in ninety percent of the movie, and Trinity in about ten, This is not Luke sloping away and Wonder Rey stealing his thunder (if that’s the yardstick for comparison).

Indeed, the most disappointing aspect of the movie, for me, is how under-fuelled their romance is after the tantalising first meeting. There’s too little of Trinity here, and when she does come “back to life” for heroic moves in the third act, she’s given some of the ropiest lines in the movie. She’s used to voice the idea that women wouldn’t choose to have children if they weren’t manipulated into it, and that the family unit is something essentially alien and untrustworthy (all of which fits neatly into the transhumanist game book). To emphasise this, Lana also gives the Analyst a series of godawful misogynist insults. But again, it’s so overt, it doesn’t feel very impassioned. Just clumsy and prescribed (I also wondered about the “using children” idea in the Elite sense; obviously not the context of the line, but anything has the whiff of resonance and layers these days)

Neo: I’m not doing this? Are you doing this?

Neo is generally immune to being a bad male, with a notable exception (“Do not rob my ex-captain of her agency”) He is duly chastened. Trinity meanwhile, is a “Total f-ing MILF” and unawake (un-woke) males, even of the adolescent variety, are just as toxically repugnant (“Hey, are you trying to ball my mum or what?”) Urghh. Who would even want to be a parent, right?

Developers: Movies are dead... Games are dead… Narrative? Dead... Media is nothing but neuro-trigger response and viral conditioning.

Unfortunately, I suspect the most representative scene in The Matrix Resurrections, in terms of Lana’s personality, is the post-credits one. I’ve seen enough of the siblings’ attempts at humour to know it isn’t their forte, not when they trying for it, and The Catrix is woeful, coming as it does amid a broader comment about the burnout of all fictions that can be used to blur or form a barrier to the truth.

Thomas Anderson: Yeah, we kept some kids entertained.

As an entertainment, The Matrix Resurrections is sorely deficient. Although, as an entertainment, it is vastly more so than The Matrix Revolutions. There’s a lack of care in the telling. A disinterest in the action (Revolutions was the first sign of this. Actually, no. Letting the Burly Brawl through quality control was). A reliance on vast swathes of telling rather than showing. And as a love story, it’s almost entirely based on its leads imbuing something absent from the screenplay. But as a text on the times, and what is and is not going on, it yields some fascinating content. There’s certainly nothing comparable out there right now. How could there be? I’ll leave the last words to Merv: This is not over yet! Or sequel franchise spinoff!


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