The Matrix is back! If you haven’t watched the trailer for the new Matrix Resurrections yet, do that first before you read on.
It’s a wonder that in the era of reboots, rehashings and repeat-until-you've-fully-flogged-a-dead-horse, the Matrix hadn’t yet found its way to becoming a sequel, prequel, interquel or a paraquel already. But not to worry. Keanu is back as John Wick as we all attempt to milk dry yet another classic franchise.
I have title suggestions for three more follow up movies to this - Retributions, Reincarnations and finally Revelations. Or maybe the last one can be Remembrance, for I am certain by then we’d have forgotten why we loved The Matrix in the first place.
Where the rabbit hole starts
The year was 1999. I was anxiously mugging my way through 12th standard, believing that my entire future was somehow dependent on my ability to regurgitate what I’ve stored in my head in examinations.
It was an eventful year. We owned a computer in the house for the first time. Very soon, it would have the matrix green-digit-fall wallpaper. In the real world, India fought a war with Pakistan in Kargil and ‘won’. The Indian cricket team achieved the most important goal in the cricket world cup by beating Pakistan. Euro, the currency, was born. Napster was also born, a kind of middle finger to the man. Jeff Bezos, the man who would become the very manifestation of ‘the man’ in less than two decades, was named the Time person of the year, The first Counter Strike mod was released. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi became the first Indians to win at Wimbledon. Bill Clinton had been naughty in the White House and was facing some mild repercussions. Shockingly, an Indian plane got hijacked and after ensuing drama, India released three terrorists.
So, this was the world where the Wachowskis opened a strange pod and released The Matrix, all gooey, cyber-green and leathery. I saw it in a theatre in Coimbatore with my friends. I saw it a second time with different friends. We could not stop talking about it - we were proud if we caught easter eggs and deeper ideas (what you then thought was deep). Eventually, I’d end up seeing the movie quite a few times when it finally made its way into my computer.It was the mind-bender of those times and it is linked to my teenage years like the pimples on my skin.
The movie is full of so many amazing moments including little things like how Keanu rubs his nose before the kung-fu sparring session. Morpheus glasses were a raging hit. Glitch in the matrix was a meme of our times. Every little detail about the movie was fresh and intriguing. At some point, my windows loading sound was Morpheus saying, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is.”
I wished that I could just connect wires in my brain and upload all the shit I had to mug that year. But I guess the ultimate joy of The Matrix was the sheer improbability of it - a movie that’s so stylistically different, with deep allegorical meanings, leather pants, Keanu, kung fu and slow motion bullet times all packaged into an experience that could not be replaced by anything else.
I am not the first one to say the Matrix sequels were a bit of a disappointment. A lot happens on The Matrix - we are introduced to the world, shown about Neo’s potential and taken on the journey with Neo. He literally flies off at the end of the movie. So the next two movies were more or less a drag to push through. These films are full of protracted action scenes and other set pieces which do not help add new information nor give us a glimpse of any characters. Don’t get me wrong - I am still not complaining about the spectacular freeway action sequence in Reloaded.
This leads me to the question of Matrix Resurrections. With an entire hefty trilogy behind it, I wonder what Matrix Resurrections is going to bring to the table. It’s not like the fast and furious where you throw in new cars and three new ridiculous stunt ideas and can say done.
There’s the obvious nostalgia trip, of course. The 80s and 90s kids would line up to watch Keanu, in his John Wick avatar, stumble around a bit to fall back into the rabbit hole. The old gang will be assembled one by one (there is no Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus, sadly) as we whistle. Phrases from the Matrix will be repeated. And finally there would be some matrix-worthy action set pieces. I mean, that’s not a bad couple of hours for sure. But if that’s all there is to it, it would leave a bland taste in the mouth.
There’s a likelihood the movie is going to be meta. If you watched the trailer keenly, at one point you’d see the original Matrix playing inside the movie. One leading theory is that in Matrix Resurrections, the original Matrix series itself was a movie that came out in the 90s. That could be either a very good thing or a very bad thing depending on how this whole shebang plays out.
Red Pill or Blue Pill
The choice between the red and blue pill is an iconic scene in the matrix. “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the matrix is. You have to see it for yourself,” says Morpheus and offers the choice to Neo. The blue pill is about continuing to live in a dreamland, believing what’s told and not being able to peel back the layers to see reality. The red pill, on the other hand, will mean Morpheus will lead Neo further into the rabbit hole to show what lies beyond.
Of course, it’s a metaphor (the whole Matrix series is all metaphors, allegories and ideas ranging from science fiction to spiritual texts) to the idea of ‘waking up’ to see reality, whatever that means. In fact, Lana Wachowski has stated that the movies are a metaphor to the trans experience (She herself was the first of the two Wachowskis to transition).
However, the world has changed quite a lot since the first Matrix movies. What used to be an idea of ‘waking up’ or ‘enlightenment’ has now been co-opted by deranged conspiracy theorists and men in the far right, QAnon groups who believe Bill Gates is Satan that drinks the blood of children and those that believe Vaccines have tracking devices have picked up the ‘being red pilled’ idea for themselves. It helps that the republican party, which is now pretty much propped up by an increasingly radical, hate-spewing right wing is red and their opponents are blue.
The scary thing is, red-pilling isn’t just a meme but the community reinforced with more and more delusions is also becoming increasingly violent. And you have the cheerleaders propping this up.
In this context, the movie’s initial promos and teaser website (https://thechoiceisyours.whatisthematrix.com/en/) that focussed solely on the red and blue pill idea feels a bit on the nose. Either Lana Wachowski is claiming them back or, (this is more interesting and likely) she will make a political stand out of this in a flip that’s going to be a fuck you to all those who co-opted the red pilling meme.
I personally think this whole pill allegory in itself is probably not a direction you’d have wanted it to be taken in an era dominated by big pharma, the opiate crisis and all that. Besides, the pill was just a moment, about a choice and less about the device. It’s mildly unfortunate that it had become this centrifuge of controversy and gotten way more gravity than it deserves.
Low expectations - can’t wait!
If the way the series progressed is any indicator, I don’t expect Matrix 4 to blow my mind. I am still happy to be proven wrong. I will visit the theatres to watch it the moment the movie releases. It’s a slice of the past - best suited for almost 40 year olds with some mid-life crisis looking to relive a piece of the 90s. While I highly doubt it, it might even blow my mind much the way the first Matrix did. Even if not, I expect to see some stunning set piece action sequences that I hope feel unique in the current era much like how the original Matrix movies did when they came out. Surely, it can’t be ruined as badly as the terminator sequels, can it?
Could be worse,
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