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.

The Mystery of Blame It On Rio or, Night of the Living Potheads

The 80s were a harrowing time. The threat of nuclear war. The threat of having to repeat an entire school year because you thought your shell shocked geometry teacher’s pedagogical method was, in a word, lacking.

Ok. That last one was a lie. Well, to be more accurate, the latter half was. When I was fourteen years old I didn’t know what “pedagogical” meant. I did nearly flunk my geometry class. And my teacher was rumored to be shell shocked.

Then there was the ever-looming threat of library fines where I spent almost as much time as I did at school. That part about frequenting the public library? That was true, though I kept that a secret from my friends. They weren’t readers, by and large, not even Tolkien whose books, at that time, were still popular among potheads like us.

One Saturday night there were no parties to attend, no one out in the woods with beer or Boone’s Farm. Someone said, “let’s go to the movies.” What? I thought. Walk there? Just then our friend Mike showed up in his 1979 Chevy Impala. He was a junior. We were freshmen. Four of us climbed inside. One friend produced a joint. We smoked the whole thing. Then Mike took out a joint twice as large as the first. By the time we got to the movie theater, we were all potted up.

The trouble began when someone confused Blame It On Rio with Cat People, Michelle Johnson for Natassja Kinski.

Someone said Natassja Kinski got naked in Cat People. Another friend reminded us that she was European. “Natassja is European, man,” he said. “German. And you know what they say about German chicks.” None of us did. We’d never been east of Wildwood, NJ.

Mike was the only one old enough to get into an R-rated movie. The lady in the ticket booth made us so paranoid we just pointed to the Blame It on Rio movie poster without reading the title when she demanded to know what movie we wanted tickets for.

She asked me, “When were you born, young man?”

I said, “seventeen years ago.”

My friends found that hysterical. I didn’t mean to be funny. I had visions of the police showing up and ultimately getting pimped out in prison just because I lied about getting into Blame It On Rio. Somehow, we got tickets anyway.

There may have been a trip to the snack bar before going into the theater proper. All I remembered of Blame It On Rio was Michael Caine’s giant eyeglasses. Then, suddenly, the movie was over.

In school on Monday one of my friends remarked, “I still can’t remember anything about that movie.”

There was good reason. On the night of the living potheads, the five of us had walked into the theater for the last fifteen minutes of the movie. By the time I figured out the mystery of memory loss with regard to Blame It On Rio, the 80s, a harrowing time indeed, were long over.

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