"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Matrix Resurrections: Great Mix of Deep Philosophy and Fast-Moving Action

I just saw The Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max.  It may be the best Matrix since The Matrix -- that is, the first movie, so I'm saying Resurrections may be better than the two earlier sequels, certainly better than the third in the original trilogy, Revolutions.

One of the reasons I'm thinking this is how well the meta angle is handled in Resurrections.  We find Neo working as a programmer, whose great accomplishment was writing a computer game called "The Matrix".  He's sucked into a journey in which reality vs. fiction as an explanation for what is happening vie for our attention at every incandescent turn, and there are many of them.  

[Note: For once, or as a rarity, there WON'T be any big spoilers ahead ... ]

Let's talk about the acting.  Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity were excellent.  I was prepared to be annoyed at Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus and Jonathan Groff as Smith, because their original incarnations by Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving were so brilliantly, searingly memorable.   But the new actors for these crucial characters were quite good.  In the first three movies, Smith was for most part the more keenly acted and therefore more unforgettable character -- delivering such now immortal lines as, to Neo, "How can you speak if you have no mouth?" with perfect laser, razor precision --  and even though Groff is not quite as knife's edge as Weaving, his Smith will be somewhat memorable, too.

Among the new characters, by far my favorite was Neil Patrick Harris as The Analyst -- a big step up from Doogie Howser, MD but in a related medical profession -- and I very much liked the unpredictable villainous kindred relationship between him and Smith.  Both had a fair share of bon mots, and if I had to choose the most profound it would be The Analyst's observation that feelings make fictions real.  In addition to these lines that could have come from Plato -- who notoriously distrusted both feelings and art (see his Republic) -- we also get some good ultra-contemporary commentary from some of the characters.  I guess my favorite would be the Merovingian's, a returning character, who lashes out at both Facebook and Wikipedia in a tense, verge of bursting into action scene.  It's probably worth noting that Facebook didn't exist when we last saw Merv in Revolutions in 2003, and Wikipedia was just a tiny three years old, so his denunciation of these two social media giants is understandable, if not fair to Wikipedia, which has done far more good and much less damage than Facebook.

Without telling you anything more about the plot, I'll say it's plausible, exciting, and works well with its three predecessors.   The action and special effects were outstanding, as always, and the characters' awareness of the deep philosophic issues that underlie their exploits endows this movie with a refreshing intellectual heft.  I'd say The Matrix Resurrections is a triumph of a reboot, and one of the best now around in the burgeoning genre.

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