About twenty-three minutes into The Matrix Resurrections, when Thomas Anderson starts making the Matrix IV video game and White Rabbit starts playing, I jumped from my couch and screamed. This aggressive expression was not because of how objectively good the movie is (which it is) but because of joy at something else. I went into this fearing that I would be witnessing yet another Hollywood cash-grab reboot for a franchise which already got a conclusion. But Lana Wachowski had other plans.
It would be reductive to call The Matrix Resurrections a meta movie since the film itself is centered around its self-awareness, not the other way around. The meta aspects are too direct and might feel extremely on-the-nose. But one wonders whether subtlety was the point of the film. Or whether subtlety in this case would have been any better than direct confrontation of the truth. In Peter Bradshaw's review of the film, he describes the movie as "drained of life by the Hollywood machine." The part Bradshaw fails to address is the self-awareness of the movie when it comes to being trapped in the Hollywood Machine. Lana Wachowski knows this. Not only does she know it, she makes it a point to tell it to us on multiple occasions.
What makes Resurrections fresh is not the fact that it knows it's an unnecessary reboot for a finished franchise, but what it chooses to do with that information. The same case of being self aware of its rebooting can be made for Spiderman: No Way Home as well; Consider the inclusion of the different iterations of Spiderman from the previous instalments, and the villains, with the reasoning of it being a multiverse. But there is a clear attempt made by the movie to not alienate the audience from the blockbuster experience. There is a very strong sense of linearity in the plot and every element which self-references the previous instalments is played for nostalgia and claps.
But Wachowski does the opposite with self-awareness. If No Way Home was trying to make the audience feel that its existence was justified, Matrix was asking us to question the reason for it existing almost two decades after it ended. Wachowski does this by showing us herself through Keanu Reeves' character, who is reluctant to reboot the game "Matrix" for a fourth instalment. But eventually, when Warner Bros., the parent company, tells Anderson that the reboot will be helmed with or without his permission, Anderson half-heartedly agrees. This scene in itself feels like a minor miracle to have survived till the final cut.
Indiewire chief critic David Ehrlich says this about the movie: "a fun, ultra-sincere, galaxy brain reminder that we can only break free of the stories that make our lives smaller by seeing through the binaries that hold them in place — us vs. them, real vs. fake, corporate product vs. personal art, reboot vs. rebirth, etc." And I could not see anything but the truth in his statement; Matrix made me think in a way blockbuster franchise movies seldom make me.
Through a strange set of events, by making a movie speaking against the unnecessary existence of itself, this movie's existence becomes necessary. The Matrix Resurrections is a red pill for the audience, an antidote to the hundreds of blue pills forced down our throats by Hollywood studios for decades.