“The Matrix Resurrections” is the best of the series, thrillingly romantic and wonderfully diverse with villainous surprises and kickass men and women and machines. Directed and co-written by Lana Wachowski, this sequel and fourth installment in “The Matrix” film series goes back to take us forward.
The previous films were written and directed by the Wachowskis, Lana (formerly Larry) and Lilly (formerly Andy). The 1999 “The Matrix” starred Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoiliano. In this film, computer programmer Thomas Anderson (Reeves), leads a double life. By day, he works in a cubicle, playing by the rules and admonished by his boss for being late. At night, he’s a hacker using the alias “Neo.” He meets another legendary hacker, Trinity (Moss), who hints that there’s another reality. When enforcers under the command of Agent Smith (Weaving) try to arrest Anderson at his work place, Anderson begins his journey to break free of the tyranny of the intelligent machines that have been harvesting human bioelectric energy to charge themselves.
Trinity takes Anderson to meet Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who gives Anderson a choice: the blue pill or the red pill. The blue pill brings forgetfulness and serenity, but the red pill strips away the illusions and awakens Anderson in a liquid-filled pod. He is rescued from the energy harvesting fields and taken into Morpheus’ aircraft, the Nebuchadnezzar (a biblical reference to “Book of Daniel”). Now embracing his Neo alter ego and a dual reality, he is mentored by Morpheus into life in the real world, using his eyes and limbs, and yet learning how to work within the simulated reality. By believing you can do certain things, a person can circumvent the laws of the real physical world while in the Matrix (e.g. fly), but if one dies in the Matrix, killed by the Agent sentient subprogram, one also dies in reality.
The real world of humans is a battle between free humans and intelligent machines. When the humans destroyed the solar power from which the machines drew their energy, after winning the war, the machines captured and bred humans and using them as their energy source. To pacify the human energy sources held captive in liquid-filled pods and plugged into an energy generator, the machines provide them with a simulated reality circa 1999. The free human refugees of the war live in an underground city, Zion.
Morpheus believes that Neo is the chosen One who will save humanity. In “The Matrix,” Neo begins to believe that he is the One, and Trinity and Neo fall in love. All of the main characters have consulted with the Oracle (Gloria Foster). The Oracle predicted that Trinity would fall in love with the One and let Neo know what he needed to know. Yet the Oracle doesn’t reveal that the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar are betrayed from within. Neo escapes and makes a phone call warning the machines that he will show humans “a world where anything is possible.”
In the 2003 sequel “The Matrix Reloaded,” Neo and Trinity are now a couple and this seems to be an excuse for an orgy scene. Six months have passed and Neo again teams up with Morpheus. Another captain Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) calls a meeting of all the ships of Zion as they prepare for an attack. Agent Smith has new powers inside and outside of the Matrix and continues to pursue Morpheus and Neo. Neo meets with the creator of the Matrix, the Architect, and learns that the Matrix is in its sixth iteration. Neo is part of the programming and there have been five previous chosen Ones. Each one of these supposed saviors have been presented a choice: Zion’s extinction or choosing to reboot the program at the Source and save a select few of the citizens of Zion to carry on. Neo chooses to save Trinity.
“The Matrix Revolutions” was released six months after “The Matrix Reloaded.” During this film, Trinity is held hostage and then fatally wounded. Neo enters the Machine City and finds the leadership, Deus Ex Machina, and makes a deal because Smith wants to conquer both the Matrix and the real world. However, Neo ultimately sacrifices himself and is assimilated (replugged into power generator). Morpheus and Niobe survive, but the Architect and the Oracle (Mary Alice who replaced Foster after her death) also come to an agreement that the humans who wish to leave the Matrix will be given the opportunity.
The Matrix Resurrections
“The Matrix Resurrections” starts by going back to the beginning. Fans of Matrix will know that déjà vu has specific meaning in the Matrix. In the first film, Neo sees a black cat repeat its actions and the crew members of the Nebuchadnezzar know it means the code of the Matrix has been altered. Here Bugs (Chinese-British hapa Jessica Henwick) is watching the initial scenes of the first film, “The Matrix,” from a room hidden within the walls of the building where it takes place, and notices that something is wrong.
Within what seems like contemporary times, Thomas Anderson is a highly successful programmer who is the brains behind an extraordinarily interactive computer game that was once wildly popular (The Matrix franchise). Dressed in jeans and a long jacket, he is a bearded, nervous man with mental disorders that he keeps under control by a prescription from his Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris). At one point, Anderson had problems distinguishing his dreams/game simulations with reality. He thought he could fly and almost stepped off of a high office building rooftop. The Analyst helps him stay grounded in reality.
Audiences might be reminded of the comedy “Free Guy” but there is little of the loopy humor that characterized Ryan Reynolds’ film. As in “Free Guy,” the original program is being changed. In “The Matrix Resurrections,’ the threat of Warner Bros. making a sequel forces Anderson to work on his Matrix program. Anderson’s business partner, Smith, an oily glib but pragmatic man with an eye for the bottom line at Deus Machina, is pressuring Anderson to expand upon his game. Underneath that ooze of niceness, there’s something not quite trustworthy about Smith. Anderson listens to the other programmers who work at his company (“I like my games big, loud and dumb.”) and feels alienated.
Anderson frequents a coffee shop where he watches a woman whose name he doesn’t know, Tiffany (Moss). Anderson eventually introduces himself to Tiffany (“My mom loved Audrey Hepburn”), but she is married with kids and a husband, Chad (Chad Stahelski). He feels as if he knew her or recognizes her from somewhere else. According to the Analyst, Anderson has used people in his life as models for his program. Anderson has used his sublimated anger at his business partner to create his nemesis in the game (Weaving appears in archival footage), and Tiffany has become his Trinity, the love that he ultimately loses.
The blue and the red pill dilemma resurfaces as does the question: Is there free will or destiny? Here we are entering the territory of the FX series “Legion.” Is Anderson/Neo sane? What is the real world? In the original series, Anderson/Neo was driven by his love for Trinity. He followed a white rabbit, and, in this sequel, he will go through the looking glass. There is no Alice, but there is love at the center of this universe. You can be sure that Trinity will appear as do other kickass women (notably the character of Bug) and men. Morpheus does return, but now played by Yahha Abdul-Mateen II. There will be an Agent Smith and more than one.
“The Matrix Resurrections” is a satisfying revisit to an imperfect trilogy. It is better than the last two and more emotionally involved than the first. It envisions a world where there can be peace and not a simply grinding away under the mundane grey of daily life without rewards. “The Matrix Resurrections” also reminds us that this franchise was built with a diverse cast and makes the casting of the Marvel Cinematic Universe seem backwards.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe began Phase One with the 2008 release of “Iron Man.” Yet in 1999, “The Matrix” had a man who was part Native Hawaiian and Chinese, Keanu Reeves, as its lead. African American Laurence Fishburne was Morpheus. African American and Chinese hapa Marcus Chong played Tank, the operator of the Nebuchadnezzar. Māori Estonian actor Julian Arahanga was also in the cast.
“The Matrix Reloaded” added Randall Duk Kim as the Keymaker. Samoan New Zealander Nathaniel Lees played Captain Mifune. Taiwanese actor and martial artist Collin Chou appeared as Seraph and Chinese Australian Anthony Wong appeared as Ghost. Lees, Chou and Wong all appeared in “The Matrix Revolutions.”
“The Matrix Resurrections” includes Henwick, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Leo Cheng, Ed Moy and Purab Kohli.
The Chicago-born Wachowskis remind us what diversity can look like and they’ve been doing it since 1999. Despite the slightly fetishy nature of Trinity’s costuming, she’s not sexualized or trivialized like “Black Widow” has been in the MCU by cheap face-in-the-boob gags. And Trinity, unlike Black Widow, has a love life that ultimately drives this franchise.
As director Lana and as a writer with David Mitchell (“Cloud Atlas”) and Aleksandar Hemon (novels “Nowhere Man” and “The Lazarus Project”) has given us an action hero and a tale of true love set in a diverse world while providing Tony Award-winning Neil Patrick Harris and Tony Award-nominated Jonathan Groff with substantial yet nuanced roles on the big screen.
“The Matrix Resurrections” was released in Toronto on 16 December 2021 and was released on 22 December 2021 in the United States. Remember to stay for the credits.
King Nebuchadnezzar II was the second kind of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia. He rebuilt his capital city, Babylon, and expanded his rule to that he “received the submission of local states,” including the Kingdom of Judah in Syria and Palestine and his armies captured Jerusalem. In the “Book of Daniel,” Nebuchadnezzar asks a group of men to interpret a nightmare he had. Daniel gives an accurate dream interpretation and is rewarded but Daniel will later predict that the king will suffer seven years of madness.