The Sheeple Look Up: A Review of The Matrix Resurrections

Eighteen years after the last installment of the Matrix trilogy comes The Matrix Resurrections. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, a lot. I came away conflicted, for many reasons, some of which I will get into here. Some spoilers lie ahead, but nothing earth-shattering. The film wasn’t either. Earth-shattering, I mean. More’s the pity.

Let’s start with Thomas Anderson. It had been so long since I heard the name associated with Neo that I had almost forgotten that was the character’s name. Poor Neo. He turned into a real doubting Thomas at the beginning of this installment. As Thomas Anderson, or just plain Tom, he has no recollection of the events that led him—spoiler alert—to getting plugged back into the Matrix and largely forgetting all about it. There are glimpses, of course. And much is made of déjà vu in the movie. There’s even a cat. Can you guess its name? It may not be the first stick director Lana Wachowski beats her audience with in this newest installment, but it’s a big one. I won’t give it all away here, but if you’re familiar with the franchise you know what I mean. If you are new to it, any decent working definition of déjà vu will do. Also, for the viewer unfamiliar with the storyline it’s best to go back and start at the beginning since Wachowski and fellow writers David Mitchell and Aleksandr Hemon, not exactly lightweights, don’t care if you know the Matrix saga so far or not.

Despite not knowing he’s back in the Matrix, all is not lost for Thomas Neo Anderson. He’s become a rather wealthy game designer in San Francisco whose cash cow is a video game—meta alert ahead—based on his experiences in the Matrix. It’s not all dividends and roses, however. Old Thomas takes blue bills to curb his tendency to remember fragments of his past that his therapist informs him is a result of a break from reality that the gaming magnate suffered before the story begins.

Early on Thomas meets Trinity whose name is now Tiffany (see big stick reference in the closing paragraph). Like Neo, Trinity has forgotten all about the past. The two meet in a coffee shop named Simulatte (another big stick). Not to digress, but I found this clever. And by clever I mean I wanted to throw my sugar-laden mug of coffee at the only television I own. Let me get back on track. Trinity-now-Tiffany is no longer the ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding hacker virtuoso she had once been. Now she’s a mother of three and married to what constitutes in their world as an alpha male. Or maybe he’s just an asshole. It’s such a blurred line these days. Wachowski and company thought this set-up was a good enough antithesis for the real Trinity, as if marriage and motherhood were the toll paid for the sins of the past.

Ultimately, Thomas Anderson is visited by a new Morpheus in a men’s room at the office of all places. A good ten seconds of dialogue between the two men sounds like something straight out of a bad gay porn movie when Neo repeats, “No, no, no,” and Morpheus replies with, “You wanted this.” Pills are offered, one red and one blue. Just like old times. Then, after a massive shootout between Morpheus and his crew and agents in the building lobby, Thomas/Neo is led to safety via a series of portals and ends up in his therapist’s office. The “analyst” is played by Neil Patrick Harris. We’ll get back to Mr. Harris and his role in a bit.

Later, we find out that Neo and Trinity share some pretty sweet real estate in the tower of human batteries. There’s an encounter with the elderly Niobe who rules Io which came into existence when humans and machines began working together. The détente that exists between the two is hardly tenable, as evidenced by Io having to camouflage herself.

Along with Niobe played by Jada Pinkett Smith, a few old faces return for this installment. The general is one of them. Lawrence Fishbourne, sadly, was not among them. It’s just as well, really. Things aren’t what they used to be. They don’t need phone booths anymore to move in and out of the new Matrix, and bullets remain largely useless. In this respect the movie suffers a flaw some science fiction tales do, be it in print or onscreen. Technology excels in some areas while gunpowder never goes out of style.

One theme that recurs in Resurrections is the question of choice. Once Thomas Anderson assumes the role of Neo again, he realizes that he can never be made whole unless he liberates Trinity from the false life she’s living, perhaps a more accurate description would mean hoping that Trinity makes the decision on her own. A future film student will one day note in an otherwise poorly written undergraduate paper that neither Neo nor Trinity can be “The One” without the other. Likewise, a psychology major in the future will note how no one of us can truly learn to manage our manias and fears without recognizing both the feminine and masculine aspects of ourselves. For now, however, it doesn’t spoil the whole thing to let the reader know that Trinity and Neo are eventually reunited.

There are the requisite chase scenes and shootouts. Some cool effects are used, but overall the movie falls flat visually. Call it my Generation-X-inspired malaise of cynicism, but some of the imagery looks like it came straight out of an early version of Enter The Matrix for PlayStation 2.

There was some satisfaction late in the film watching “The Analyst,” Thomas Anderson’s “therapist,” played by Neil Patrick Harris getting his ass kicked first by the new Agent Smith and later by Trinity herself, if only for a short time. Mostly, The Analyst served as the chorus in this drama whose purpose, just like it was in ancient Greek plays, was to fill in the gaps for the audience and to provide information about main characters.

Nevertheless, The Analyst delivers a soliloquy of sorts toward the end that tells of “sheeple” who long to be controlled, who are in fact more comfortable with little to no freedom. Another big stick to drive messages into the audience’s heads. It’s a good thing, as noted earlier, that this project had three writers credited. Between using the name Tiffany for Trinity, and all the images that name may conjure concerning obsession with fine jewelry and other luxury material goods, the coffee shop named Simulatte, and the speech about “sheeple,” it would take at least that many writers to bear the weight of sticks that big. For a movie in part about codes, hidden agents and bots, and such, not much subtlety in messaging was done. If it was meant to be that purposeful, that in one’s face, the moviemakers fell flat in that respect. But hey. Here comes the final spoiler: at least Trinity finally got her wings.

Some Thoughts on My New Book The People’s Republic of New Arkaim

The People’s Republic of New Arkaim is my latest effort, a sci-fi dark comedy about aging, blind patriotism, cults, government overreach, love, politics, and technology. Did I also mention paranoia? It’s there too.

Here’s the short pitch:

For a long time I’ve been plagued by dreams of ending up back in the army. As a veteran, I know I’m not alone. This novel came to life, in part, because of it. Nostalgia can be a nasty bit of business concerning days in uniform.

The People’s Republic of New Arkaim I published under Red Grit Books (named for two of my father’s favorites: True Grit, the novel by Charles Portis and Leon Redbone, of all people). I have an idea about starting a tiny press in the future with which I might publish other indie authors who pen dark comedy and satire. It’s too early to tell about that.

More news later…

The People’s Republic of New Arkaim is available at Amazon and other online retailers.

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