Unpopular Opinion: I liked Matrix Resurrections (although I didn't love it)
Almost 20 years after its third episode (Matrix Revolutions, 2003), the fourth movie of the saga with which the Wachowski sisters revolutionized the action and science fiction genres at the beginning of the 21st century has arrived in theaters. Since last Friday, January 28, it has been available on HBO streaming for Latin America, after almost two months in theaters with a cold (almost indifferent) response from the public. For many fans of the trilogy, this sequel was disappointing, for others it was a run-of-the-mill movie with no outstanding aspects, while many others found it boring to the point of not finishing watching it. Among so many opinions, the debate about the legacy of The Matrix, the 1999 film that blew the minds of millions of viewers around the world, both for its special effects and martial arts choreographies, as well as for its layers of existentialism, oriental philosophies, literary references and techno aesthetics that captivated the generation of the end of the millennium, is simmering. I invite you to read this review of the good, the bad and the ugly of Matrix Resurrections (Lana Wachowski, 2021). Greetings, dear Community.
The first thing I must point out is that I agree that the film is slow in its first hour (something unforgivable for fans of the trilogy, accustomed to the fast-paced sequences of shootouts and fights). But the story demanded an important contextualization exercise to justify the presence of Neo and Trinity in this new version of the matrix and to connect the new events within it with the story closed with their sacrifice in the third movie. But once that first hour is over, the story becomes more fluid, even faster, and presents us with a more leisurely and mature vision of the events that, although it lacks the intensity and the protesting character of 1999, is no less interesting for that reason.
Another much criticized aspect is the direct and simple humor that breaks with the solemnity and mysticism of the previous ones. Referential formulas and worn-out jokes that reach the height of annoyance in the (fortunately) short post-credits scene. And it is precisely this disconcerting change of tone, which borders on self-mockery, that makes me wonder: isn't the first dialogue between Thomas Anderson (Keanu Revees) and his partner Smith (Jonathan Groff) an autobiographical clue with which Lana Wachowski explains the raison d'être of this film? In that conversation Smith tells Andreson, a famous video game developer: "Surely you understand why our beloved parent company, Warner Brothers, decided to make a sequel to the trilogy (...) They said they would do it with or without us (...) and they made it very clear that they will cancel our contract if we don't cooperate".
Later, in reference to that same conversation, the therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) tells Anderson during a session, "Yesterday you went to a meeting with your business partner and he ambushed you by asking you to do a game you would never do. This attack clearly left you speechless. His violence affected you and your mind responded." I wonder if this conscious and systematic destruction of everything important to the essence, tone and aesthetics of the trilogy is not the response of Lana Wachowski's mind to pressure from Warners to forcibly extend a story that had already been closed. I can't say for sure, but as the therapist says in another line, "There's nothing wrong with that. It's what artists do," referring to how Anderson "turned elements of his life into a narrative" that gave life to The Matrix, the video game that would make him world famous.
The truth is that the film goes directly against the spirit of the previous installments and finds one of its most shocking elements in the new Morpheus, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Of the warrior prophet who in the first episode guides Neo in the search for his destiny as the Chosen One, little more than the color of his skin remains. In Resurrections, Morpheus looks almost all the time like a kind of virtual pimp without the emotionality and leadership of the character played by Laurence Fishburne.
But within these breaks with the original plot, which so disappointed the followers of the saga, I find some aspects worth noting: The evolution of Naiobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), who became the General of the flourishing city of Io, the new settlement of human civilization after the siege of Zion. The old fighter reflects very well the consequences of war when she acknowledges how difficult it was for her to adapt to peace and recognize its value: "I´m ashamed of it now. My pessimism of how long it took me to believe that a world without war was possible". And even more, she brings us closer to the integrative vision necessary for the resolution of long war conflicts when she tells Neo: "Zion was stuck in the past. Stuck in war. Stuck in a Matrix of its own. They believed that it had to be us or them. This city (Io) was build by us and them." History has taught us (more than once) that "it takes much more courage to make peace than to make war" and this twist in the relationship between humans and machines makes the Wachowski's story remind us of it.
And the fact is that, stridencies and jokes aside, the new narrative rhythm, the tone and the deepening of integrationist and less radical discourses (which were already announced in the trilogy in dialogues such as those of Counselor Hanman), the fourth installment of this saga ratifies the inevitable: The creators mature, evolve and incorporate their learning to their work, at the risk of disenchanting those who followed them dazzled by the creative jewels of their youth.
In terms of technical aspects, the film is sufficient, though never impressive. It repeats many formulas of the previous ones and the combat choreographies lost the brightness and charm of the first movies, perhaps because they were repetitive. The self-referential passages can become tiresome at certain times and at the end the story slackens again and loses some of the fluidity gained along the way. The sound and music continue to be strong arguments of the franchise; while the new performances pass without pain (and without glory) on the screen, saving the good performances of Jada Pinkett Smith and Carrie-Anne Moss, and making us miss Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishbourne.
For all this (and more), Matrix Resurrections is a film worth seeing, as long as you do not go with the expectations of finding a product at the height of the previous installments. Because, even if they keep the thread of continuity, these are stories with completely different narratives, aesthetics and philosophical paradigms. I think the low expectations with which I sat down to watch it allow me to appreciate a little of what I find good in it. In short, it's light years away from the trilogy presented between 1999 and 2003, but it's also far from being an intractable dreck or the worst film of its genre in recent times. If you've already seen it or are encouraged to do so, I'd love to know your opinion in the comments,