If you’re like me and was coming of age when the first Matrix dropped in 1999, this was more than just a film. It was a paradigm shifting experience. From the storyline – a reality bending what-if, to special effects never before seen on the big screen, and a theme that would later lead me to question the very existence I knew which – is still evident today, in my adult career as a journalist. It was complete with the perfect pairing of angry, thought-proving, tracks from Rage Against the Machine.
By now, most of you have probably seen at least the first of the original Matrix trilogy. But if you haven’t – I suggest you stop reading now.
During the George W. Bush era of the early 2000s – a post 9/11 world saw what we now know to be the deep state hack away at the very freedoms we cherished in the US. The emergent and more obvious powers granted to the FBI, CIA, NSA, and a bunch of other three-letter agencies who used to exist in the dark corners of the government. The Patriot Act, which would later prove to be the most wide-reaching, ever-expanding law, this country has ever seen was sold under the guise of anti-terrorism, engendering fear and hatred. But you only saw that if you chose ‘the red pill.’ Choose the blue one, and you were able to go back to the life you knew and trust that the government had your best interest at heart and only went after “the bad guys.” The Matrix franchise struck this nerve for me.
The original trilogy was more about a wake-up call than a love story, though that theme was certainly present. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss delivered their roles of enlightened warriors with convincing appeal, shepherded by the gravitas that can only come from Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus. Neo and Trinity’s love story was a subplot, not the point of the movie (at least in the original). And only Hugo Weaving playing Agent Smith could bring with it the delicate balance of evil and snark: the perfect representation of “the government.”
In 2021’s version of The Matrix, Resurrections left more to be desired in highlighting the internal strife each person faces in choosing what road to take: A) the blue pill status quo – staying plugged into the machine and experiencing the predictable comforts of an easily explained world or B) swallowing the red pill that would inevitably lead to seeing the uncomfortable realities of existence…and perhaps most importantly, in choosing the latter, fighting to break free the minds trapped within the system so that life is an independent choice.
Instead, Resurrections revived the series driven by the subplot. The lovestory between Neo and Trinity that always was, and this time, making her the ‘shero.’ Originally brought to you by the Wachowski Brothers, this one brought to you by the Wachowski Sisters. (Yeah, I was just as surprised as you are to find out there are more Wachowskis who apparently are also film directors.) Though the movie delivers lots of action, as expected from the series that invented the 360 slow-mo capture, Neo and the gang still defy the human-bullet speed dodging capabilities, but this time lacked the more mind blowing depth that came with the other movies.
Neil Patrick Harris’ role was the highlight of Resurrections. His villainous portrayal was needed to offset the heft that was lost without Fishburne’s reprisal of his seminal character. Yahya Abdul Mateen’s rendition of Morpheus was great – if you were trying to play Laurence Fishburne playing Morpheus. In this case, imitation is not the greatest form of flattery. I feel Mateen missed the opportunity to make Morpheus his own.
All in all, Resurrections was ‘good’ not great. I still enjoyed seeing many of the actors I loved in my formative college years reprise those characters but was a bit disappointed that this whole movie centered around a love story, rather than a fight for enlightenment of mankind.
To top it off, at the very end, they brought back RATM’s ‘Wake Up’ in the closing credits but this time opting for a cover of the song by a group called Brass Against. The name alone already annoys any angsty 90s teen, with vocals by a woman called Urista, who slows her rendition on the metronome by just half a beat, fell flat for me. I’m not familiar with the band’s other music but I was perhaps most sorely disappointed by this choice.
There is no other human alive who could harness the falsetto growl like Zack de la Rocha. No other man or woman could deliver that same gut-felt conviction that moved a generation like Zack. (And yes – I’m a YUGE Rage fan, so I found this particularly awful.) Wake Up is a nearly 30 year old song. It’s been done. They have this at their disposal. It’s not like they’d be asking a now 50-something de la Rocha to sing this fresh for the new movie. They just had to click on a file. Instead, they opted for a cover of a classic, which is exactly what the entire movie felt like – a cover of a classic film that will never capture the essence of the original.
Resurrections was entertaining and certainly piqued my excitement momentarily but will likely lead to the slow death of this franchise revival. I think I’ll have to re-watch the originals now to get this taste out of my mouth.
Side note: Keanu, I still love you!
Manila Chan is the founder of Slanted Media and an internationally recognized TV news anchor. Her work spans across all platforms; print, radio, television, streaming, and podcasting. She is passionate about US foreign policy and the Asian-American experience. Manila’s career has taken her around the globe, interviewing world and industry leaders, and sharing one-of-a-kind stories from the ground.