I want to start by saying that calling this film ‘The Last Jedi’ of the Matrix franchise is woefully simplistic (and probably just a marketing line to get ‘subversion fans’ to buy a ticket or HBO Max). It might even be straight out incorrect.
This is far more than that.
Last Jed was a non-sequel that consciously unraveled the threads of the previous installment to make a statement, and (giving Johnson some credit here) to make SW feel new again.
Resurrections presents as a deconstruction of the original Matrix trilogy on some levels, but it has the unsurmountable benefit over Last Jed of having one of the original trilogy’s writers on the script, as well as two less-known writers (Mitchell and Hemon) who have clearly forged a close creative relationship with the Wachowskis through work on Cloud Atlas and Sense8.
The result is a true sequel to the original trilogy that is packed with action, meta-commentary, a handful of very juicy reveals, and far less waxing philosophic than the originals. That’s not to say it’s lacking in depth. While everything may not be drawn out to the level that some critics may desire, the tease of concepts and underlying narrative structure is plenty enough to satisfy me. Plenty is left to the imagination and the commentary of Analysts (heh) far more proficient than I.
I like it a lot.
The best bit was definitely the first act, where, as indicated by the trailer, it seems that Thomas Anderson is once again ‘stuck’ in the Matrix. There was an instant sense of depth and mystery, with the opening sequence featuring new, younger redpillers who I think are included both to ‘be introduced’ and to give the sense that, yes, this is a movie about escaping the Matrix and not purely meta commentary on it.
Since this is day one, there are a lot of things I’d like to comment on that I won’t. I strongly recommend going into this film with as untainted an awareness of the plot and elements as possible. I will say that the world of the Matrix, both real and simulated, is expanded in ways that are fun and make sense.
Naturally it looks amazing. What big budget film doesn’t? There are even some new graphical gimmicks that I think were pulled of really well.
The actors are solid. Keanu is himself of course, sufficiently portraying a frayed at the edges Anderson who is rightfully questioning his sanity and who flinches at the merest hint of things being out of the ordinary.
‘Replacing’ Morpheus was a bit of an odd call (that’s not a spoiler if you’ve seen trailers). But Abdul-Mateen brings an interesting energy to this altered take on the character. Anderson’s boss, quite obviously meant to echo Agent Smith’s demeanor in the trailer, is well done too.
The standout performance for me was Neil Patrick Harris as Anderon’s analyst. As usual, Harris plays himself, but he does it as well as ever and fits into this iteration of the Matrix surprisingly well.
One thing I think will be on most of my readers’ minds is the political messaging in the film. Now I’ll freely admit there is likely a ton of messaging and symbolism that I didn’t get on the first watch, and may never pick up on until a more diligent analysis is shown to me, but I think fears of this film being overly ‘woke’ can now be allayed.
I’ll use one of the main themes as an example. The following element is also what elevated the last act of the film greatly for me, culminating in a beat that actually made me misty eyed…
That element is, surprisingly, the power of the male-female binary. I know, right?
Without going into too much detail, I can report that while there was mention of bits of humanity and reality existing on a spectrum, there was an undeniable focus on the contrasting of opposites and the ability of one ‘side’ to provide that which the other side lacks. This is demonstrated at various moments but could be boiled down in the fact that Neo and Smith repel each other, while Neo and Trinity are eternally drawn to one another. There’s a lot under the hood here and I’m excited to see how some other commentators pick it all apart.
Returning back to the Last Jed comparison to conclude, is Neo less than he was? Yes, but there’s a real reason. Is he emasculated, sidelined, and humiliated as Luke and the other men in LJ were? Absolutely not. His existence and desire drives the plot from start to finish.
I had a great time watching this movie, from the comfort of my home no less. Next time I’m up with baby princess twins in the middle of the night, I will surely watch again.
So that’s two thumbs up from me, in bullet time.