Hello. Um, I'm doing something different today. Which is I'm going to do what I used to call and what David Antin (a sort of performance artist/poet) used to call a talking piece.
That doesn't mean I'm going to be all elaborate and leaping all over the place and doing something very avant garde. It just means, instead of writing a blog, I'm going to talk instead and then transcribe it afterwards with the help of some software. So if you're reading this as an email that has arrived in your inbox and notice it doesn't read in a very writerly way, it is because it is a transcript of me talking rather than something I wrote.
And the reason why is I tried writing this as a blog a few times, and I got really tired of my own writing style. I got really bored of the kind of pompous, slightly academic highfalutin tone that I was adopting when I was writing these blogs. So I thought, I'd try something different, which is why I'm going to just talk my way through the idea instead and record it and post it, I guess it would be more like a mini podcast, if anything.
And then I will put a transcription up on a website and that will be it. So today, I'm going to talk about The Matrix Resurrections, the latest Matrix film from Lana Wachowski. I'm not sure how to pronounce it. There's been a lot of commentary about this film and a lot of the commentary has centered on whether the film should exist, whether it's gratuitous.
And so I thought rather than me just giving my hot take on whether I liked the film or not, because actually the most boring form of film criticism is hearing about whether someone liked a film or not, or whether they think it's good or bad. Um, I don't think that's interesting. It just doesn't really engage me. I like to think about the thoughts and the ideas and the experiences someone had while watching a film, um, how they analyse it and then like, literally keep whether you liked it or not as an addendum. I dunno, I get it. I get it. But mainly with criticism, we lead from the “whether I liked it or not” thing but I just find it more interesting just to engage with something.
But yes, whether you took pleasure in it or not is one part of your experience of it. But ultimately, um, I'm more interested in the experience you had and possibly triangulating it with the experience I had and whether any ideas kind of flowed from your experience of it and whether those ideas chimed with perhaps what the maker was doing.
So that was a bit of a weighty academic intro from a guy who said he wasn't going to be a weighty and pompous and highfallutin and academic. So I'm going to talk about my feelings about whether The Matrix Resurrections should exist rather than whether I thought it was good or not. Maybe I'll just save that till the end.
So from the commentary that I've seen, and that's mainly hot takes on Twitter and YouTube, a lot of it is centered on whether this film should exist or not, or its reasons for existing. And people have been… had some interesting hypothetic arguments as to the existence of this film.
And I think it's quite interesting in the sense that Lana Wachowski has kind of avoided the interview rounds. The co-writers, who I forgot the name of one of them, but I know another one is David Mitchell who wrote Cloud Atlas. He's been a bit more vocal about the process of making the film and the ideas with it.
But as far as Lana Wachowski, who I think is the big shot, really with the writing and the… just the creation in itself for the film. Um, she stayed very quiet, which I find really cool actually. It leaves us to work it all out for ourselves. So the two theories are, I'm going to divide this into two theories, um, the first theory, and there's a few different flavors of it and a few different arguments for it, is did Lana Wachowski make an intentionally bad film? So that's one that I've seen… the basis of a few hot takes. I mean, obviously that presupposes the film is bad and I'm going to analyse why we might think the film is bad as well.
And then after that, I will look at… is there a reason to carry on the story? So after Matrix Revolutions , which was kind of disappointing, I liked Reloaded, Revolutions not so much, but I have enjoyed it more with subsequent viewings, even though a lot of the film is people with mech suits firing bullets at these kind of hoards of sentinels while going, ARRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH, for about, like, half the film.
Uh, so that got quite tedious, but there were still some interesting ideas within the film and the actual plot is interesting as well. One more, one more disclaimer, before I get onto the bad film arguments. And that is, I really don't care about plot holes in most films. Like, I find that the most amateurish vantage point to take when criticizing a film is the plot hole detective.
Um, if I'm watching a thriller, or a very plot-heavy film, a film that really relies on plot, a bit like a Christopher Nolan film where you're meant to kind of watch it a few times to put the plot together, then I think plot is important. But if the film is dealing more with ideas or mythology, or it's just an old fashioned fairy tale or it's just an entertainment, I am not as concerned about plot. I don't mind plot holes at all. I don't mind magical, silly coincidental things happening in order to move the plot along.
So a few theories as to why. Lana Wachowski might've made an intentionally bad film. The first theory,well, the first argument towards it, is the meta aspect of Matrix Resurrections, particularly a conversation that happens early on in the film. Oh, by the way, there will be spoilers. I should add that shouldn't I? I should have said that at the beginning, but there are going to be spoilers ahoy. Okay. So there's a conversation between Neo and the new version of Agent Smith. Who's played by Jonathan Groff, who you might know from Mindhunter or from Frozen. Um, he is Christophe in Frozen and they're having this very wink, wink, nudge, nudge, meta conversation, because in this incarnation of the film, the Matrix trilogy exists, but it exists as a video game that has been made by Neo, and I guess published with the help of his business partner Smith, who is actually agent Smith, but kind of he's forgotten he's agent Smith in the same way that Neo has forgotten he's Neo in this new Matrix.
And they have a conversation about how they've had this smash hit trilogy. Um, I think that, um, Neo has been working on a game called Binary, which is a different project, you know, maybe a labor of love, maybe a new thing that he wants to put into the world rather than something that's derivative of the old stuff that he used to make.
Obviously binary is all over the place in the film as well. at the very beginning, we talk about the binary choice when the character Bugs who's played by Jessica Henwick, offers the red pill to the new Morpheus, who's played by Yahya Abdul Mateen II, and he says, like, is that some kind of choice?
And then she says, no, it's not a choice. I knew which one I would take, actually. And I was talking all about rejecting binary things. And in some ways in the film, Jessica Henwick's character, Bugs, is, is sort of, even though they're referred to as a she, they are very much kind of visually presented as a nonbinary person as well.
So, you know, binary, non binary, I guess that's me going off on one, on a tangent there. So he's working on this project, but all of a sudden he has this big conversation with Smith and Warner Brothers have been on the phone. This is where very wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and they say, they need another Matrix and if they don't make this Matrix, they'll get some other hack to make The Matrix instead. And, they will, also stop supporting and funding the new labor of love project, Binary. So they're sort of strong armed into brainstorming and devising a new Matrix video game. And this is seen as exhibit A by a lot of people, that actually this really happened and that she was strong armed into making it.
Lily Wachowski, the Wachowski sister, she decided she didn't want any of it. And she's kind of taken a bit of a step back. I mean, I think season two of Sense8 was all Lana rather than both of them as well. And so yes, a lot of people say that this really happened and it probably did really happen. And according to David Mitchell, at least in some of the interviews that happened afterwards, yes, Wachowski was strong-armed,or pushed, let's say in a very similar fashion into making the new Matrix film. So that could be exhibit A, to say it didn't really need to exist because the Wachowskis probably would've let it lie if they weren't kind of nudged towards doing it because of being presented with a choice, [laughs] with a binary with a binary choice of, “make the new film or someone else makes it and we, we defund everything that you're doing”. So I understand that.
While it's an argument for why the film exists, does it mean that Lana Wachowski made an intentionally bad film? Now, rather than talking about the film, generally being good or bad, I'll look at what people zoom in on, about the film… when they argue about it being intentionally bad. And the first thing they think about is the action scenes, and the action scenes in Matrix Resurrections are, I think without a doubt, not as good as the action scenes in the original Matrix trilogy. And I think there are reasons for this that aren't that hard to find out.
Firstly, there was no second unit. So Lana Wachowski directed all the action scenes herself, with a bit of assistance from the man who plays Carrie Ann Moss's husband in Matrix Resurrections. I've forgotten his name. He plays Chad and he's also the director of the John Wick films. He helped out and someone else helped out.
Now that's the first big difference, as far as the action scenes are concerned, because in the original Matrix trilogy, and I've forgotten the name of the gentleman that did a lot of the choreography, but it was a proper Hong Kong fight choreographer. And I think people make a big thing about how kind of groundbreaking The Matrix was as a film, but anyone who was watching lots of Hong Kong action films at the time, the action in The Matrix wasn't as new as people thought it was. The way it was shot with a wider sort of focus, longer shots and, um, fewer cutaways and the choreography and the wire work, all of that's Hong Kong.
Now the bullet time, which really didn't make up that much of the action scenes, that was kind of new, but everything else wasn't that different. It wasn't that new, it was stuff that we've seen. If anyone had been watching Hong Kong cinema before The Matrix throughout the nineties, at least, and the eighties um, a lot of those techniques, a lot of that style of the fight scenes that was already around. It wasn't a big surprise. It was just the first time someone had done it that well in, um, a western mainstream science fiction movie.
There's lots of cutting before blows make impact, the camera is much more zoomed in, the editing is much more choppy and it is a lot more like the typical kind of action scenes that you find in TV shows and films, um, for western audiences.
So in that sense I, even though I don't know whether Lana chose to do the fight scenes herself, because she might have been constrained by the pandemic — like getting people from Hong Kong to do the fight scenes. Maybe that was a factor, I don't know, but I think ultimately the fight scenes, compared to the original trilogy where what you could call bad. They weren't as good. And I don't necessarily think that was intentional.
Okay. So that's number one. That's me pronouncing my judgment that the fight scenes were, unintentionally not as good as the fight scenes in the original Matrix trilogy, um, there's also a whole aspect that Carrie Ann Moss and Keanu Reeves, um, some of the actors aren't as young. I'm sure they're still 10 times as physically fit as I am. Um, and of course we can say, well, you know, Keanu's in the John Wick films and he's really good in the fight scenes in John Wick, I would say for John Wick films, the kind of action, which is much more punchy (punching, firing guns), he's not doing big stretchy leg kicks or leaping up in the air and doing these acrobatics. It's much more probably, Keanu, who is who's no doubt, again, 50,000 times as physically fit as I am and I'm probably about sort of at least 10 years younger than him… um, but I think that's more tailored to what he can do. And I found that a lot of the scenes, the fight scenes, when Keanu, wasn't just doing this weird force push thing, (sorry I just literally knocked something over on my table while doing a force push with my hands.) So when he's not doing this force push thing, I think, um, it's much more of those crunchy, punchy fight scenes that are more from John Wick films rather than, than what we saw Neo doing in the previous Matrix films.
So yeah, not intentionally as good. Oh yeah. I wanted to say one more thing because I've noticed that there wasn't a rave scene in this matrix film, and I know Lana Wachowski loves her rave scenes and I hate rave scenes in films. Whenever I see a rave scene in a film, I do kind of feel like I want to be, um, part of that crowd but with a gas mask and a canister full of some kind of nerve agent. Normally I just find them really obnoxious and annoying.
I just don't like raves. I think it's me. It's my introvert kind of mindset. Um, that said, I did notice that there was no rave scene, but the punch up that happens near the end of the film, which is in the excellently named Simulatte coffee shop. Um, it cuts to wider, slow shots of people fighting. And even though people are fighting, it kind of looks like the rave scenes in the Matrix. And I thought that was interesting, but it kind of, it was meant to be a fight scene, but everyone kind of looked like they were raving. Um, and again, I don't know if that was intentional or not, but that was something I caught on my second viewing.
I didn't go to the cinema twice, people, I, um, VPN, HBO Max, y'know, I paid for it, but I wasn't completely honest in the way that I paid for and watched the film. Okay. So yeah, fight scenes, I think not, not as good as the original fight scenes, but not intentionally. Um, so was there any aspect that maybe is intentionally bad?
Well, again, I don't know if bad is the term. So the first half hour of the film and the early scenes in the Matrix and even the kind of action scene that happens in the office block that Thomas Anderson, Neo, works in. Um, I think those scenes do have a certain cheaper look to them.
And it's interesting. So the commentary of what other people have said about these scenes is it looks a bit like TV. But when we say TV, like TV looks better today than it used to, like, if you said something looks like TV in the sixties, seventies, eighties, or even nineties, um, TV definitely looked very different to film, but from the sort of, I guess the nineties onwards TV became more cinematic, especially during the two thousands.
But at the same time, I have to say... so TV production values are a lot better now than they used to be and they are much closer to cinema. Like Game of Thrones and stuff looks very cinematic, but, at the same time, I know I what they mean about this aesthetic, it looks like... some people said it looks like the CW Arrowverse, um, DC comics TV shows, um, like Supergirl and Arrow and then other people, and I think this is… this is the one, said it looks kind of like a Netflix movie, not like the auteur Netflix movies, like the Irishman or Roma, but more the star vehicles that Netflix do, like, like Project Power, the one with Jamie Fox or the one where they did with, Charlize Theron and I've forgotten the name of that one, but they kind of do these sort of action films, comedy films, and they're Netflix originals. And there was a certain, Netflix-y aesthetic to them. They don't quite look cinematic. I don't know if it's the digital video or the lighting, the editing. I'm not sure what it is, but there's a look that they have. That's all I can say. Yeah.
So a lot of the scenes in this have that look, they do have that, that kind of weird Netflix-y movie sheen. Particularly there's one scene in a toilet, in a bathroom, in a washroom because it's America and it's in the office block.
And it's when Neo comes into contact with the new version of Morpheus, who turns out to be for some reason, a cross between Morpheus and agent Smith. And he was actually kind of created as a program by Neo. Anyway, they ended up meeting in a toilet… not in the toilet, if you're American… if I say “in a toilet”, people know what I mean if they're from Britain but an American would think they're literally there in a toilet bowl, kind of swimming in the water together, you know, um, maybe, maybe in the next film. So they're in a, in a restroom, in a public bathroom and they meet up and I have to say the aesthetic of that scene reminded me of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Like there's always these public restroom moments with um, Larry David, and, uh, where he will do something where he'll get annoyed about something. And maybe it's because of how Keanu is acting in this scene as well, where he's kind of having a bit of a panic attack, but it looks like that. And then it leads into this action scene that doesn't completely kind of shake off that Curb Your Enthusiasm-ness, even though it becomes much more cinematic and there's slow motion and explosions. You have to compare it to have a look of the original Matrix, which is kind of, you know, which has meant to be another version of the Matrix. This is a new rebooted version of the Matrix program itself.
And it looks more noirish, sumptuous and cinematic in the original Matrix films. But in this one, it has that kind of weird, naff, TV quality, but it does turn out, but this is a new version of the matrix and the kind of naffness is factored into it. It's almost like people don't want to live in this sumptuous, matrix-y world. They want to live in something that's a bit more disappointing. And so something that looks a bit more like a typical TV series looks today, it kind of makes sense. And again, this might be because she is working with different people, but the original Matrix film cost less, even adjusted for inflation, than this one did. So, I think it's intentional.
I think the film looks better as it goes on. And then the final scene, when the actual action actually is really good and there's a final scene when everyone in the matrix goes into what's called "horde mode", which I guess is some analog for cancel culture, and people are literally jumping out of windows to land on Neo and Trinity, who was renamed Tiffany, I'll get to that in a second, in this film, before realizing she is Trinity, but they're trying to escape. And literally people were just flying at them like this horde of digital zombies. I think the aesthetic decision to look cheaper and less cinematic than the previous matrix is intentional, because I think that that reflects things about today's society and the kind of fakeness that they wanted to project about the world that Neo is now trapped in again.
Okay. So that was my answer. Very quick answer. Did she make an intentionally bad film? I think… yes.. to the degree that the matrix is meant to look cheaper, the actual matrix itself, the world of the matrix, the simulation. Yes. I think that's intentional, but I don't think that's necessarily meaning the film is bad. It's just that, that particular cheap aesthetic, I think was intentional. The action scenes: unintentionally, not as good. That's what I think.
So the second bit of his argument, I finally got round to is, does the story need to carry on? Now we already accept that she was probably pushed into making this story, but once she was pushed, was there something to say, to carry on from it?
And I think there was in the sense that, the original Matrix trilogy ends on a compromise. Um, the compromise is based on the fact that ultimately the trilogy ends because Neo makes a deal with the machines because agent Smith, as played by Hugo Weaving in the original trilogy, he's like a rogue program and he's infected the whole matrix and he's messing everything up.
And so the machines need to get rid of him. Um, they don't want to shut the whole matrix down. I can't remember if there's whatever reason they, they need to get rid of him. And so Keanu… Neo offers a compromise, he's already blinded, by then Trinity has died, and he says, he says, “I can go in, give you the chance to destroy Smith and then, and then in return, you don't destroy Zion and anyone who wants to leave the matrix, you let them leave, everyone else who's plugged in, all the blue pillers, you still get the blue pillars.”
So that's the kind of compromise that's made. And so what happens is he sacrifices himself because when he allows, Agent Smith, who's taken over everyone to kind of take him over and become Neo, that's when the machines are able to kind of, I don't know, just blast, just basically fry, Neo's body with a massive bolt of electricity, and that manages to kill all the Agent Smiths, and then they can reboot the matrix, I guess, without killing all of the people that are still hooked up to it who are supplying energy to the machines.
I think that's basically the gist of it. But ultimately there's a compromise. The humans don't defeat the machines. There's no glorious victory. It's just that Neo makes the sacrifice and the compromise. And it's that compromise that allows the humans and the machines to co-exist.
So that's the compromise. Now, obviously, if we look at the films as allegorical, I think the Matrix films are equally communist /socialist almost in some ways as they are an LGBT allegory.
So in the more left wing sense, I think it's interesting because it's often an analog for the politics that we have today, which is we seem to fluctuate between full-on right wing governments, and then quite disappointing, liberal centrist ones. Um, and there's often a point where with Trump and whoever, um, perhaps now with Boris Johnson, where we become less idealistic and we accept the alternative of the compromise. So I think that's kind of reflected there. So that is the kind of thing where, where, you know, again, if you love the Tories, if you love Trump or whatever, fair enough, you wouldn't agree with me in this, but I'm talking about possibly from the political subtext that Lana Wachowski is coming from. Lana is arguing for a kind of compromise.
Now the compromise is also there from the LGBT perspective of the films, particularly with the films as an allegory for gender dysphoria, um, and transness. Now I won't go into this too much. There's a great blog by, um, Jennifer Harrison or Genetic Jen about it. And there's also a very good video essay by Sarah Zelig and Sophie for Mars as well on YouTube. Um, and that's a collaborative video where they talk about the Matrix sequels and they go into lots of detail about, about the trans allegory-ness of the Matrix in a sense that, um, Neo and Trinity are a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and Neo is a trans woman and Trinity is a Cis woman. And that sort of, I won't go into all the details, but from reading those blogs and for watching those videos, I think it makes sense, actually, it does make sense, even in the way that Neo dresses and stuff like that, and the kind of culture that it borrows from.
It's the kind of thing that a CisHet male like me wouldn't notice. But once someone kind of explains to me, I kind of go, oh yeah. What, what does the compromise mean from that perspective? From an LGBT perspective, it kind of means, “you let us get on with our lives. You're no longer prosecuting us. You're no longer throwing us in jail. You'll no longer kind of actively seeking to destroy us. Um, we don't get in your business too much either, you carry on with your CisHet society, but we end up with our own spaces where we can be safe, I guess is the kind of thing. So it's almost like, “we hide away from you to a certain extent. Um, but you tolerate us.” Um, so yeah, it ends on a note of tolerance you could say.
Now, I'm sorry to bring up Slavoj Zizek, because a lot of people don't like him, but he made an interesting point, which is about tolerance, which is no one ever fought for tolerance, Martin Luther King never used the word tolerance in a single one of his speeches. Tolerance is just this kind of begrudging thing.
And when we're arguing for our rights, we're not arguing to be tolerated. We're arguing because that's how we want to live. And so when we look at how Resurrections kind of paints things, and again, I've said there's spoilers, it kind of ends not only with Trinity, no longer being Tiffany, this kind of CisHet woman with a family and the husband called Chad who's also the actor who directed the John wick films and was also um, Neo's stunt double in the original matrix. Also the man who stands in for Neo… So Neo kind of sees himself as Keanu Reeves in this matrix, but his actual physical appearance is this slightly older looking man who is actually played by Carrie Ann Moss's real life husband, who is actually younger than Keanu Reeves as well.
So, um, ultimately they find each other again, but I think there's a certain tone at the end of this film where it's no longer about compromise. And so they're kind of in control. They can both fly now. It's… firstly, it's kind of actually Trinity who saves Neo by being able to fly and Neo's not able to fly, but it's almost like Trinity getting her mojo back allows Neo to get his mojo back too.
And they both seem to be very powerful beings. And then, um, another character called The Analyst, who’s played by Neil Patrick Harris, who is perhaps the person who's forcing gay people to integrate. Maybe that's what he, rather than being a straight out fascist figure, like Agent Smith, he's more of a, kind of a concern troll, like the caring person.
But anyway, he's no longer in control, he's lost his power and he says to Neo and Trinity, um, “do what you want, paint the sky with rainbows for all I care.” And they say something like, “oh, that's a good idea.” And off they go flying. And so I think ultimately from that perspective, the film ends on a note where it says, “we're not going to compromise any more, we're going to be visible and we are going to make an impact on the world that you live in. Sharing is no longer to be a case of us kind of being tolerated. It's no longer going to be a case of us retreating to our spaces.”
And of course this comes probably from Lana Wachowski because of the whole trans rights issue thing that is happening right now, nd how kind of, I guess, how outwardly acceptable anti-trans sentiment has become… but certainly it's kind of the way that there's an attack on trans rights that comes from something that purports itself to be women's rights. I don't agree with that. I don't have time to kind of go through all my reasons why I don't agree with that.
But looking at Lana Wachowski's motivations, she's doing this because, um, I think that… I think trans people. Uh, once again, having to argue for their own existence, they're not being tolerated. Their right to self identify and exist peacefully is being challenged and the the kind of horrible nasty, transphobia… um, that I often see in my own social media feeds that I don't look at as much and sometimes in casual conversation from other people, um, it is there and it is disgusting and I can see why Lana Wachowski wanted to make this film from that perspective about that perspective of no longer wanting something that was about a trans allegory to be about compromise anymore. Um, it's going to be more about, "No, we're here, up yours".
So there we go. That's my argument for why I think The Matrix Resurrections should exist, which is, I actually believe that that whole thing about Warner brothers forcing them to do it or giving them that choice that isn't really a choice, I think that's true. I think some aspects of the production are intentionally cheap looking and others aren't such as the fight scenes and ultimately, the climate… the social and political climate of today's day and age, I think made room for her to rewrite the story… that it doesn't end on a sense of compromise.
And by the way, yes, this is an interesting thing. One more detail, but I didn't really talk about, which is, um, I liked the way allies are portrayed in the film, which is, there are some machines, mute machines that... they're like real, present machines, but they're almost like pets and then there are the programs who kind of are existing in the matrix and in the other simulated worlds, but kind of appear as ball-bearings, these kind of animated ball-bearings. So they're kind of physically there but they're not entirely physically there. And I find that really interesting as well, because I think the one reason why they're not, storyline-wise, they don't have to compromise anymore because there are machine allies now. Before, when it was humans against the machines, we could never outfight them. You know, humans could never beat the machines, the humans were always outgunned, but being that there are now machine allies, things have been evened out a bit more and now the compromise can be renegotiated. So I think the story deals with that as well. So, yes, I think there is a reason to go back because of how compromise is no longer an option. And that's it.
What did I think of the film? I think the film is a typical Lana Wachowski movie. I think there are things about it that made me cringe and there are things about it that I really enjoyed and unlike other films that talk about nostalgia, such as the new Spiderman film and the new Ghostbusters film, I wanted to watch this, the new Matrix film immediately afterwards and watch it multiple times, because of all the ideas that existed within it.
One critique was,"Oh there's lots of ideas in the matrix, but the ideas don't go anywhere." Ideas don't have to go anywhere in a film. If it's an idea, you take it somewhere as a viewer. You know? You can be respected to deal with these ideas yourself, um, the film doesn't have to lead all the ideas to their conclusion and hold your hand all the way.
I liked it. I did like it, even though I found lots of things that kind of made me go “Eww,cringe” or whatever. Um, and I won't go into detail about those, but at the same time, that's how the sequels make me feel as well. And that's even how certain bits of the original matrix film make me feel. Um, but ultimately there's still plenty for me and other people to enjoy .
Whereas the other nostalgia films such as Ghostbusters, and Spider-Man: I didn't need to watch them again. They were like a little theme park ride or whatever, weaponising nostalgia to varying degrees, but did I need to revisit any of it idea-wise or aesthetically or whatever? No, no, I was, you know, I consumed it. It was fine. It was like a McDonald's actually, although sometimes I do feel like having another McDonald's to be fair.
So that's it. That was my experiment. That was my talking piece. Um, I hope the software does a good job of transcribing this cause I've probably been talking for quite a long time, but I'm going to leave it there.
Cheers. Have a good one. Bye-bye.