August 18, 2022
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After she chases the White Rabbit down a really lengthy tunnel, Alice enters a low, dim corridor. There are doorways up and down the passageway, however they’re all locked. As she walks by the corridor, Alice wonders how she’s ever going to get out. You could end up asking a lot the identical query whereas watching the fourth film in “The Matrix” sequence, because it alternately amuses and frustrates you with its fantastical world.

The sequence first invoked Lewis Carroll’s elusive bunny within the first film, the 1999 style sport changer that was collectively directed by the Wachowski siblings and shortly set audiences’ heads on fireplace. “Follow the white rabbit” Neo, a.ok.a. the One (Keanu Reeves, cinema’s ideally suited savior), reads on his desktop monitor, shortly earlier than doing simply that. The chase continued and at occasions appeared endless because it endured by two sequels, comics and video video games. It additionally supplied grist for reams of articles, dissertations and scholarly books (“The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Actual”), taking its place as one in all modern popular culture’s supreme interpretive chew toys.

The sequence resumes in “The Matrix Resurrections,” which nudges the cycle ahead even whereas it circles again to swallow its personal tail. As soon as once more, Reeves performs each Thomas Anderson and Neo, who exist in separate but conjoined realms. Anderson’s world resembles our personal (although airlessly artwork directed) however is a software program program known as the Matrix that’s run by artificially clever machines. Right here, human avatars go about their enterprise believing themselves free. Within the sequence’ wittily perverse tackle the circle of life, these machines preserve human our bodies — Anderson’s included — imprisoned in goo-filled vats, utilizing the vitality from these meat puppets to energy the Matrix.

The Return of ‘The Matrix’

In “The Matrix Resurrections,” written and directed by Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves plunges down the rabbit gap once more.

Directed solely by Lana Wachowski, “Resurrections” pronounces its intentions after the opening credit, with their streams of cascading inexperienced code. Someplace within the illusory world, a girl with brief hair fights unsmiling males in fits and shades, a setup that mirrors the banging preliminaries within the authentic movie and makes you ache for Carrie-Anne Moss’s Trinity, Neo’s comrade in arms. Don’t fear, she’s onboard, too, simply wait. Now, although, two others are additionally watching the motion together with us, together with a man carrying a headset (Toby Onwumere) who analyzes the motion like a sports activities commentator simply earlier than Bugs (Jessica Henwick) jumps into a really acquainted fray.

What follows performs like a loving, narratively clotted tribute video to the “Matrix” cycle itself full with innumerable bullets and virtually as many flashbacks to the youthful Neo. (You don’t must revisit what occurred earlier within the cycle, the film does it for you.) As soon as once more, Anderson is in dreamland writing code, this time for his function as a online game designer engaged on a mission known as Binary. Talking of which: As earlier than, he additionally has an obvious selection to stay ignorant about his existential situation or embrace its painful reality. He additionally meets a mysterious determine known as each Agent Smith and Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, whose velvety, sepulchral voice provides shivers of hazard).

There have been some important solid adjustments because the third film. Alas, lacking in motion are each Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne, who added gravitas and much-needed wit. As an alternative, a silky Jonathan Groff now prowls round menacingly, his boyishness having been properly weaponized for his function as a sly trickster. A much less comfortable addition is Neil Patrick Harris, who delivers an unhelpful, one-dimensional efficiency because the Analyst. Nonetheless, not a lot right here is completely different apart from a few of Reeves’s facial creases and salt-and-pepper hair. Characters nonetheless put on fetish clothes or nubby threads, and nonetheless preserve preventing the struggle as they brawl and yammer by the labyrinth.

A few of that yammering is amusing just because “The Matrix” (and its successors) are exemplars of what’s been known as mind-game films, “a ‘sure tendency’ in modern cinema,” because the movie theorist Thomas Elsaesser put it. Like others of this kind, “The Matrix” performs with the notion of actuality held by each the protagonist and the viewers, poses questions concerning the limits of information and addresses doubts about different minds and worlds. What makes mind-game films particularly fascinating — and helps clarify their cultish attraction — is how they draw spectators into the sport, partly by displaying them worlds that they acknowledge. Or, as Morpheus put it as soon as upon a time: “You’ve felt it your whole life, that there’s one thing mistaken with the world.”

So, sure, “You will have many questions,” as a personality known as the Architect tells Neo in “The Matrix Reloaded.” No kidding! That film supplied some persuasive, or not less than tantalizing, solutions: The world is an phantasm, a simulation, an ideological jail, however it’s potential to flee with a number of weapons and funky children in black, that’s till the sequel. The primary film supplied viewers doorways that they — in contrast to Alice — may open, permitting them to enter extra rabbit holes. As soon as there, one of many extra resonant readings, because the critic Andrea Lengthy Chu has defined, is that “The Matrix” has been embraced by trans girls as an allegory for gender transition. On this take, the world of illusions is the gender binary.

Regardless of the limits of allegory, this interpretation is each intriguing and touching. (Lana’s sister Lilly Wachowski has said “that was the unique intention.”) It provides emotional resonance to “Resurrection,” which will get an excessive amount of mileage from its — and our — nostalgic craving, appreciatively stoked by Reeves and Moss’s reunion. The actors’ sincerity and effortlessly synced performances have at all times been this sequence’ best particular results, and watching them slip again into their previous roles is a pleasure. The film they’re in remains to be as beholden to the identical previous weapons and poses as the sooner ones, the identical doubtful concepts about what constitutes coolness, the identical box-office-friendly annihilating violence. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless good to dream of an escape with them.

The Matrix Resurrections
Rated R for excessive gun and different violence. Working time: 2 hours 28 minutes. In theaters and on HBO Max.

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