Why The Matrix Resurrections is a Deliberately Subversive Work of Brilliance

by Will Johnson

The Matrix Resurrections might be heavily dividing the public, but with such obvious use of previous tropes it seems that something very subtle and intriguing is underlying this film.

It wasn’t unexpected that The Matrix Resurrections would divide opinion, whether it be with fans, critics or general audiences. What was unexpected is how it has gone about causing that divide, with a storyline that was pretty much unfathomable from the trailers. If there has been any consensus so far it’s that the first act of the film is self-aware, humorous and interesting while the rest feels like a bit of an underwritten rehash. My theory however is that the whole film is part of a deliberate attempt to subtly subvert and antagonise the corporate forces that insisted this film exist in the first place.

You don’t need to have read anything about the making of this film to know that the directors were pretty much blackmailed into making it. They literally tell you as such within the first twenty minutes. It’s not even a veiled reference either, and they specifically call out Warner Bros., who it seems were able to take a joke at their expense while waiting for the cash to roll in. In summary, the background is that for financial reasons Warner Brothers have pestered Lana and Lilly Wachowski to make a Matrix sequel for many years, and for creative reasons the Wachowkis have always steadfastly refused.

Eventually Warner Bros. decided that, seeing as they owned the rights, they would make a Matrix sequel without the Wachowski’s involvement. This threat effectively forced the Wachowskis’ hands, because the idea that another Matrix film could happen without them was deplorable. Although ultimately only Lana ended up being behind The Matrix Resurrections, it’s still far preferable to the alternative. But forcing a creative mind to make something they never wanted to is always a dangerous ploy, particularly when it involves a creation they care so deeply about.

Once Resurrections goes beyond it’s playful first act, the rest of the film does have the air of a reformed rock band’s comeback gig. After introducing replacement members for those who’ve not returned to the original line-up, they’ve performed re-jigged versions of some their greatest hits and a few of the lesser known fan favourites too. They’ve also written a couple of new tracks, though they don’t sound all that different to the classic material. All the costumes, pyrotechnics and flashing stage lights are also back, yet for some reason it all feels substantially less thrilling than before.

The more I pondered on The Matrix Resurrections, the more I started to feel that this is not like vintage rockstars doing their best to recapture old glories. Instead, this is more like an intentionally ironic pastiche by artists who are acutely aware of the follies of their industry.

This movie might begin with a complete reneging of what Warner Brothers would have idealised, but what it moves into is actually a slightly sarcastic take on the kind of film that would likely have been made had Warner Bros. gone ahead without the Wachowski’s. What better way to subvert the studio demands for a sequel to a series that was always considered unique and original, than by making a film that appears on the surface to be almost entirely the opposite?

It’s perfectly possible that I’m wrong, and in fact Resurrections could just be exactly what it first seems. There is a sincerity in some of the discourse surrounding the film that suggests that may be the case, but I struggle to accept that Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, three highly intelligent and creative writers, would let this movie happen in such a way without some purpose behind it. Of course, the complexities of making a film this high profile and high budget while balancing creative desires with financial expectations are always difficult. It’s also not easy to talk about that balance with honesty and integrity, as Andrew Stanton found out with John Carter in his infamous interview with Mayo and Kermode.

Perhaps then there is an element of balance, which is why The Matrix Resurrections moves on from its first act so drastically. Making a sequel completely set in this mode might have worked for A Nightmare On Elm Street, but any film-maker would probably tremble at the idea of trying to convince Warner Bros. that it’s a good idea for a Matrix film. Instead, having a wonderfully witty opening before a recreation of the original films with a subtle underlying tone of self-satire becomes a far more passable plan. In essence, The Matrix Resurrections is both a rebellious replica and a serious sequel to the trilogy. Combining these two sides together was always going to create division amongst audiences, but as many great film-makers will attest, brilliance and acclaim don’t always go hand in hand.

What did you think of The Matrix Resurrections? Let us know in the comments!

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