The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix has always been a fun franchise, albeit one whose premise doesn’t stand up to too much scrutiny. It explores the possibility that we are living in a simulation. Although the scenario presented has always been a bit conservative, in that the human characters still have human bodies, rather than being simulations. (Another movie from the same year, The Thirteenth Floor, was less conservative, but was much more cerebral overall.)

The conservative take allows humans to break out of the matrix and fight the machine oppressors. But it’s that conservative aspect that doesn’t bear much scrutiny. The human body as an energy source is pretty questionable, although the original movie tried to get a little cover by vague references to some type of advanced fusion energy. But if energy from biological systems really made a difference with that kind of energy, there would almost certainly be better options than the bodies of an unruly ape species.

Other questionable aspects are the idea that if you die in the matrix, you die in real life. And that simply disconnecting you from the matrix, if you’re not in the right place, kills you. Along with characters showing signs of physical trauma when they’re getting beat up in the matrix, this all makes sense from a plot strategy of needing to preserve some jeopardy for the characters, but it makes little sense scientifically or technically. (When the original trilogy was running, I considered the possibility that it involved security code in the implants killing the host if they were disconnected, but then why doesn’t it kill the humans the rest of the time they’re disconnected?)

And that’s all before we get into the issues with downloading skills like martial arts. Or Agent Smith managing to possess a human in the real world. These plot points, while cool magic in the story, seem rooted in a simplistic version of computationalism that no understanding of the brain supports. (Again, some excuses based on the implants might be possible, but then why would the implants have those capabilities for meat batteries?)

But weaknesses in the premise aside, the movies have always been fun because the premise, if you do accept it, allows for a lot of very cool special effects and choreography.

A lot of people enjoyed the first movie, but considered the second and third to be pretty poor. I actually enjoyed the entire trilogy, but can definitely acknowledge the third movie being a pretty bitter pill. At the end, it looks like Neo and Trinity are both dead, although they succeed in creating a détente of sorts between humans and machines.

Anytime you make a sequel to something like that, a large part of it is going to be about how the characters managed to survive, or be resurrected. This one is no exception. A substantial portion of the new movie is about Neo and Trinity still being alive in the matrix, how they got there, why they don’t seem to recognize each other, how they climb out of this new hole and find each other, and the way it matters for the rest of humanity and the machines.

There were a few times watching it that I was worried it would be a lackluster story, similar to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Or that it would be too mired in nostalgia. It does have a lot of nostalgic moments, but with a purpose, to remind us of what happened in the earlier movies. (It’s been 18 years after all.) And the writers do manage to come up with enough fresh content to make this an interesting story in its own right.

Is it as good as the first movie? No, but that’s a tough nut to crack, being that it was the one that initially ripped the carpet out from under us. I’d say it’s better than the second and third movies. And it does manage to mix in some philosophical pondering, and bring in a new take on Trinity’s role in Neo’s capabilities in the original trilogy, which I liked.

It also has a few moments of self referential irony. Neo, at the beginning of the movie in his new matrix life, is Thomas Anderson, a world famous software designer who designed a trilogy of games called “The Matrix”. Despite having insisted he’d never do a sequel, he finds himself drafted into an effort to make a fourth installment, with committees trying to figure out what made the original trilogy so appealing. This is Lana Wachowski winking at us after years of her and her sister refusing to consider a sequel, which I found amusing.

So, I enjoyed it, and recommend it if you’re in the mood for this kind of entertainment. I watched it on HBO Max rather than the theater (an option I continue to love).

14 thoughts on “The Matrix Resurrections

  1. To a God-like AGI, humans’ biological energies might not be that useful, but their creative energies might. Keep them around as a sort of random scenario generator to provide fodder for the Machine’s own technological advancement, seeing how the Machine may have to admit to not having a soul and therefore incapable of truly creating anything novel.

    Discovering how a Matrix-embedded consciousness teases out how to beat the system would be the perfect scenario, I would think, to keep the innovative juices flowing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That would have been a better explanation than the human battery one. Although it hinges on a brain being able to generate randomness that a technological system couldn’t. On your final point, I think you’ll find aspects of this new movie interesting.

      I think there are lots of ways to explain the setup. They just didn’t exert much effort on it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Poetic license, loose with the facts, glossing the details, suspension of (considerable) disbelief — all fiction expects the consumer to “come along for the ride”, I suppose. Else, the ride would be as mundane as our pathetic, dogged existence — and who wants that?
        There was an Australian movie — These Final Hours (Angourie Rice’s first movie) which was entertaining, evocative and realistic. No holes in that one, really, just the acceptance that such a future WILL happen, someday, but probably after humans have suffered some other crippling calamity.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Often it comes down to what we’re willing to accept vs what pushes us out of the story. I notice the issues, but can usually set them aside to enjoy the story. I’m a lot more forgiving with a story like this, which doesn’t hold itself out as some kind of uber serious work, than with the ones that do.

          I hadn’t heard of Those Final Hours. From the Wikipedia, sounds unremittingly bleak.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I am seriously tempted to go and watch this on the big screen, although I was also tempted by Bond and by Dune and decided in the end to stay safely indoors. I am definitely not cut out to be a Neo-style action hero 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Obviously me either. I think Avengers: Endgame was the last movie I saw in the theater, way back in 2019.

      Someone I know, who really wanted to get the immersion of the theater without the risk, started watching movies with a VR headset. I’m tempted, but I don’t know that it’s worth the money just for that. Maybe at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike,

    I know a philosophy professor who uses The Matrix as a class exercise to spark discussion and flesh out the concept of Descartes’ evil demon in his meditations. But I’m usually drawn to the deeper literary themes, which I think are straightforward in The Matrix. Mankind uses technology for their own purposes, yet because mankind has become over reliant on technology, it is in fact technology that enslaves mankind. I have always thought that was the obvious deeper meaning of the Matrix, as well as numerous other late 20th century dystopian science fiction stories.

    In 1954 a French philosopher, Jacques Ellul, published a work entitled The Technological Society. Way ahead of the integration of computers into our culture Ellul argued that technology was properly instrumental to human purposes. But that it threatened to become its own end rather than a means to our ends. I think it was Ellul who coined the expression “technological imperative” for this threat. In short, it was his concern that technology would impose its own imperative—i. e., what can be done through technological advancement ought to be done.

    That philosophical argument was picked up by numerous other philosophers, social theorists and authors including, I suggest, the screenwriters for the Matrix. The solution to being enslaved by technology is through consciously exercising free will, the other part of the theme of The Matrix.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Matti,
      The Matrix franchise is definitely fertile ground for philosophical discussion. The screenwriters for the original trilogy were the Wachowskis, and there’s been a lot of analysis (some of it confirmed by them) on their inspirations.

      Some of their noted literary influences are interesting. It sounds like major influences were Ghost in the Shell and Neuromancer. Interestingly, “Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World” sounds like it was also a major influence.

      Lana Wachowski had some collaborators on this fourth movie, but it had many of the same themes, including free will. Although, at least in this latest film, I don’t really detect an anti-technology theme. In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite at certain points, but I’d have to get into spoilers for the details. It could have been in the earlier films and I just don’t remember. (It’s been a long time since I’ve watched them.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My brother and I streamed it last night at home. I was underwhelmed, but a fun part of a movie like this is multiple viewings can reveal things missed the first time(s) through and sometimes that can cast the film in a different/improved light. Having said that, I thought a lot of the new film was more or less a rehash of various parts of the earlier films ****Spoiler Alert **** – e.g. the fight scene between Morpheus and Neo. (Although, I don’t think that’s much of a spoiler for this film.) Overall, it seems like it’s successful as a film, but it never seems to break new ground in quite the way the first film did, and the characters never drew me in in the same way the earlier films did. Maybe I’ve gotten too old?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see where you’re coming from. I do think the movie was too backward looking in many ways. As I noted in the post, I understood why they did it, but it can leave you with the impression that it’s just the first movie redux. I think it mixes in enough new stuff to be more than that, but it’s admittedly a pretty subjective thing. And I agree it would be nice to see the world of The Matrix expanded, something that really hasn’t happened since the first movie.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like to view the “real” world as another level of the matrix were the machines put the people they can’t control then control them though by giving them an enemy to fight, something to fight for, and an authority to fight against.
    The Matrix is a shallow action movie that used an interesting premise as an excuse plot. This is not a criticism, it is a fun movie and recommend it. It is not really that deep and it doesn’t need to be.

    I haven’t seen the new movie. I don’t see why we need another Matrix movie or what it could add other then plot holes or retcons. I might see it but I have no plans to.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for commenting. I think if you enjoyed the earlier films, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this one. But tastes vary, including tastes over time. If you were lukewarm about the originals, then maybe not worth going out of your way to see it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I do think the original is a good movie. Not every movie needs to be thought provoking, sometimes it just needs to be fun. The Matrix is fun. The sequels became too full of themselves, they thought they were telling an epic story. Pirates of the Caribbean had the same problem, as did God of War 2 and 3.

    Liked by 2 people

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