By Marc S. Sanders

Miguel and I went to see the The Matrix Resurrections last night and honestly, when I woke up this morning, I had forgotten I’d even seen it.  That’s because, other than the original Matrix film, the subsequent chapters are about as special as cheap food court Chinese food.  When you get home from the mall, you recall what you may have window shopped, but you never reflect on what you had for lunch; well maybe your gut does later on, and that’s certainly not doing you any favors. 

When The Wachowskis introduced the world to The Matrix way back in 1999, it was one of the biggest surprises in films.  No one saw its uniqueness coming.  Everyone was focused on the over hyped resurgence of Star Wars, or a kid who desecrated a pie, or a hand held video film that was seemingly terrorizing audiences.  Yet The Matrix arguably may have had the best longevity that year.  It seemed like a combo sci fi/super hero picture with the players looking ultra-cool in designer sunglasses and leather night club outfits.  Guns and jiu jitsu flew off the screen, but it was done in a new visual kind of way.  Bruce Lee would have likely been a part of this picture had he been alive.  When someone took a kick to the face, it was edited super cool looking sloooooowwww motion.  Bullet time became a thing with projectiles warping through the space between characters and these players, especially Keanu Reeves as the messianic Neo and Carrie Anne Moss as Trinity, would bend and twist and twirl acrobatically (again in slow motion style) to dodge machine gun fire and endless shrapnel.  The look of the film remains absolutely superb.  Nothing (other than maybe the film’s sequels) has duplicated what was accomplished here. 

As well, the original Matrix stands apart from the other three because it actually told a story and developed its protagonist and his mentor (Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus) into fleshed out characters.  It also went so far as to describe what the Matrix is, and what the world outside of that realm represents.  Like all humans, Neo, also known as Thomas Anderson, was actually under the control of a machine-like community designed to sustain a world known as the Matrix, and…well…that’s just bad!  There was solid storytelling here with setting and character development that was later accompanied by well-choregraphed action and pulse pounding club music.  When the film ended, audiences couldn’t wait for more and Warner Bros happily greenlit two more films that were shot back-to-back.  Only the train derailed from there.

Gearing up for the 2021 installment, directed by Lana Wachowski, I watched the first three films again.  Other than the first film, I had forgotten much of what occurred in the 2nd (The Matrix Reloaded) and 3rd (The Matrix Revolutions) pictures.  I realize now that I only forgot what really wasn’t there.  Substance!  Of the two films, Reloaded is likely better, thanks especially to an outstanding highway car chase involving sci fi effects of the characters bouncing off of big rig trucks, motorcycles and car roofs.  A pair of characters dressed in evil white leather with dreadlocks morph in and out of the vehicles and concrete streets as well.  The scene comes late in the film and only wakes you up from the meandering ahead of it.  Truly, it’s hard to comprehend what the hell is being explained in this second film.  The Wachowskis almost would prefer you be impressed with the monosyllabic vocabulary that’s exchanged with each character.  Dialogue doesn’t advance the story any further from where the first film left off.  All that I gathered was our band of rebels who successfully broke free from the slave-controlled Matrix are regrouping at the promised land of Zion, and the machines (squid like metal robots with countless red light bulbs) are advancing for an attack.  Morpheus, Trinity and Neo take it upon themselves to reenter the Matrix (because they look so much cooler there) and do who knows what.  Near the end of the film, Neo walks down a long hallway, opens a number of doorways and encounters the one supposedly responsible for the Matrix, an older gentleman known as The Architect.  This moment was intended to be a highlight of the film and yet it was anything but.  This architect spews out word diarrhea at an alarming rate that only clouds your mind further and further.  The guy has a great radio voice and has an antithetic appearance against the heroic looking Neo, but what in the hell are we supposed to do with any of this?  What’s the point?

On to Revolutions which begins exactly where Reloaded left off.  This is a picture that could have had a running time of thirty minutes at best.  The robots are finally attacking Zion.  One character who seems like he should be important or necessary to the Matrix storyline saddles up in a robot suit equipped with massive machine guns and The Wachowskis make the poor choice of feeding their audience a good seven or eight minutes of this guy spraying endless amounts of bullets in an upwards direction towards the infinite swarm of octopi robotic armies.  His guns never run out of ammo.  He just bellows as he continues to fire.  Where’s the story here?  Where’s the innovation that the first film offered?  Also, what goes up, must come down.  Shouldn’t some of that ammunition have dropped down in a hail storm eventually?  Reader, if I have to ask that last question then you know there’s not much to pay attention to in this film.

The wisest character of the Matrix films, Morpheus, is given very little to say or do in either film.  Fishburne stands in the background and let’s everything happen around him.  He’s not utilized to explain anything like he was in the first picture.  His skill for teaching the audience has been completely diminished.  Whatever he had to offer was exhausted following the first picture.  With Revolutions, especially, the filmmakers rely on B characters that we’ve never really gotten a chance to know or remember or adore like Yoda or Jabba or even Boba Fett in the films that followed the original Star Wars. In fact, Revolutions seems more concerned with its extras than any other film I can recall.  So much so that when a major character from the first film has a death scene, you hardly care for the loss.  There wasn’t much to expound on the character after the original film.  Revolutions only relies on the war nature of the human armies against the monochrome metallic squid race.  Beyond shooting at one another, where’s the conflict?  Ms. Pac Man and Frogger have more depth than any of this.

That’s the problem with these films.  A discovery was made with the 1999 installment and the filmmakers opted to capitalize on the effects and not the challenge of story. 

Furthermore, and this goes back to the original film when I first saw it in theatres, I was always of the mindset that I’d rather live in the Matrix.  After all that Morpheus has revealed to me, the Matrix still seems like the better place to reside.  The real world consists of living on a dirty, dreary ship and eating slop for food while wearing torn sweaters and having electrical plug orifices running down my spine.  Who wants that?  A Judas character from the first film turns on his crew by telling the evil Agent Smith that he will bring them Neo as long as in return he doesn’t know that he’s under the control of the Matrix and he can savor the taste of a juicy steak again.  Now I’m with this guy.  Aren’t The Wachowskis as well, though?  More footage and highlights take place in the computer mainframe of the Matrix than outside of it.  Thereby, more cool looking action sequences can happen and the cast appears more glamourized.  The films want us to fear the horrors of the Matrix on the humans by showing them plugged into wires while drowning in a pod like puddle of KY jelly embryonic ectoplasm.  You know what?  What I don’t know won’t kill me.  So, leave me be.  Perhaps the argument would have been more convincing had the environments been reversed.  Put the rebels as slave dilemma in the real-world areas and the utopian setting within the Matrix.  Then I might buy the problem here.

The newest film, Resurrections, is nothing special and nothing new.  It’s rather boring actually.  Revolutions was boring too.  It only kept me awake because it was two hours of headache inducing noise.  With the new 2021 film, apparently a new Matrix has been developed and thus a new Neo and Trinity have been conceived.  The antagonist is represented by Neil Patrick Harris and that’s about it.  Miguel pondered much, following the picture as to what was going on.  That’s not a good sign for a popcorn action flick, and it’s consistent with what was done with the 2nd and 3rd films.  What the hell is anyone talking about. Once again, dialogue moves to a beat of answering questions with questions. Even the allies speak to one another that way, and if it is not a question, then it is a cliché of some sort.  Don’t these people want to help one another?  If so, then speak to each other like your four years old and get to the point.  The action scenes drone on and on.  A goal of the picture is to keep Neo from finding Trinity because if they do, then the Matrix crashes.  Okay.  That’s simple enough.  Yet (spoiler alert), when they do find each other, somehow this new Matrix continues on.  Huh??????  The movie just betrayed me, and I don’t like that. 

Miguel attempted to conjure up the idea that Lana Wachowski was trying to demonstrate her transition from a man to a woman and this new picture was a representation of that.  Could that be true?  Maybe, but it never occurs to me while I’m watching the picture.  Am I watching The Matrix Resurrections because it’s the newest Wachowski film?  No.  This isn’t a Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan piece.  This is leather and gunfire and sunglasses and noise, all depicted in a green DOS computer hue lens.

The Matrix was always worthy of a sequel; a subsequent follow up that explored imagination and perhaps more background.  What has Neo not yet uncovered.  Yet, the series as a whole continues to deny those opportunities and simply settles for cool looking visuals that get overly exhausted and tired.  No new skills are featured with each passing film.  Over the course of the series, the big bang, so to speak, of the first Matrix never reveals itself.  Instead, we are mind controlled viewers relegated to depend on overlong dialogue with no point and no where left to explore.  We are simply gifted with Neo punching Agent Smith and/or infinite duplicates of Agent Smith with no one getting weakened or wounded or defeated.  Look no further than an early fight scene in Reloaded.  The scene goes on forever.  The editing is amazing.  So is the choreography but after four minutes of this, it’s time to show some progress.  The Wachowskis limit their imagination to just having Neo fly away.  Scenes like this only allow me ample time to exit the theatre for a bathroom break and return having not lost out on any storytelling.  My friends, you can find plenty of bathroom breaks in this series of films.

The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and The Matrix Resurrections should never have been made.  Producer Joel Silver and Warner Bros would argue otherwise though.  Their wallets continue to get fatter, but at the cost of controlling moviegoers’ appetite for something more when all they really got was dry rice and overcooked orange chicken from the food court.

2 thoughts on “THE MATRIX FRANCHISE”

  1. I loved the first Matrix. It was the most imaginative story I’d seen in a long time and, yeah, there was NOTHING that looked like this. I thought the Wachowskis were gonna be someone to keep an eye on going forward. Unfortunately, they set the bar too damn high for themselves.


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