Review – Matrix Resurrections

Review – Matrix Resurrections

(Spoilers ahead)   

The difference between 1999 and 2022 can be seen in the difference between two Matrix films.

The 1999 film could be heralded from multiple sides. As Neo Anderson (New Man) dodged bullets and bent space-time, it was possible to read the film from a Christian viewpoint: there was a vague Christ figure, ‘the one’; there was the awakening to the lies of mass culture and modern society. There were cool shades, black leather and fast bikes, stylised shots of bullets exploding concrete: an amoral reading could also attach without too much trouble. For a classical reference there was Morpheus, ancient Greek god of dreams. For the Buddhist, or the New Ager who liked the sound of Zen, there was vague spoon-bending and non-reality. It was a metaphor waiting to be interpreted. A poster-film for postmodernism, with ground-breaking CGI.

The 2021/22 version is The Matrix remade, but with the woke-progression-of-postmodernism added in. So heavy-handed has this culture become that the open plotting – which still let us read and revise from a range of cultural inputs – has been swamped.

The direction we are supposed to think is telegraphed throughout. Matrix Resurrections is at once an homage to the 1999 original, founded on references and flashbacks, a replica cast and a closely mirrored storyline, and an attempt to imprint a new meaning onto what has become culturally familiar. The ‘red pill’ of this remake is not readily interpreted as an awakening from liberal, politically-correct, culture and brain-washing (as it has been widely referenced in online Conservatism for two decades), but is an awakening into extreme liberalism. The character of Trinity must free herself from her false husband and children (the Christian root of the character’s name is a long way away from this remake); at the finale she announces her intention to remake the world as one of ‘rainbows’ – in an on-the-nose pro-LGBTQ reference. The ship’s crew of camp men and lesbian-leaning women are the new norm.

This film is very much the remake of Lana (formerly called Larry) Wachowski. It seems he wasn’t content with the original and wanted to pull it into what he now envisages reality to be. We are given regular, unsubtle nudges that Neo and Trinity need to find their true selves, and not be controlled by what society has put upon them. Is Trinity a mother and wife (in the fake world) she wonders, because she was made to feel she must be? Did she choose? In this new Matrix, what is queer, and left-wing-liberal, is choice – the meaning of which being simultaneously, and conversely – unmistakeable, unalterable identity, that you must discover; every other idea is a hegemonic false reality (taking from Gramsci and Adorno’s Neo-Marxism). In the 2021/22 sequel, freedom from the matrix means liberal-left wing, progressive, identity politics.

And yet, it is, for some reason, the love of Neo and Trinity that is the spiritual, technology-defying key to bringing down all this machine-controlled hegemony. The story doesn’t know why. That these rebuilt clones (not resurrections) of Neo and Trinity are machine made, also doesn’t seem to factor. We are shown a materialist and presumably soulless view of humanity on the one hand, and on the other, a fatalistic, all-conquering, immutable love as salvation, upon which the storyline wholly depends.

The film fails to work because its ideas do not stand, and cannot go together. It tries to present a story of escaping false reality (including family and morality), for a real reality that is clearly false. If we can choose our postmodern identity, then the notion of Neo and Trinity being joined unfailingly, timelessly together can’t be true; if Neo and Trinity’s love is true and has the power to reshape the matrix, then the film’s ‘choose your identity rhetoric,’ is not. Queer theory, Gender theory, social constructs, and Marxism do not fit, at all, with a great redemptive love. They fundamentally cannot. The result, in Matrix Resurrections, is a film that feels hollow: it simply doesn’t ring true, because the two realities presented – both matrix and real world – are false; because a ‘progressive’ conception of the person is one without grace or hope; one that inextricably denies the need for redemptive love.

It’s sad that the filmmakers have not understood the reason for the original 1999 film’s success. It worked as a narrative because – in spite of a mishmash of ideas and inconsistent meanings – there was room enough to see amongst the shades, bullet-time, and cryptic-babble, a story of freedom and love and destiny against evil control. The new attempt to reshape the story speaks moreover, of a desire to shackle that basic metaphor to a particular current of liberal-left wing consensus on identity and politics. To be freed from the Matrix in this sequel, is not to be freed at all.

Copyright © 2022 by Dominic Graham

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