I’m Ready to Be Hurt Again

It’s only been a little over twenty years since The Matrix hit theaters, but in that single generation, our relationship to technology and to each other has changed drastically. The Matrix was a true word-of-mouth hit. Released in April 1999, no one really saw this movie coming beyond its eye-catching trailers. Instead, it was a seismic shift as the Wachowski Sisters changed our perception of blockbuster filmmaking by taking big, philosophical ideas and combining it with influences ranging from kung-fu movies to anime and then provided cutting-edge VFX. In a year where everyone thought the big sci-fi/fantasy hit would be Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, it turned out that it was The Matrix that had everyone talking and creating imitators.

Sequels were inevitable and the Wachowskis went all out with not only back-to-back sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, but also drastically expanding the universe to make fans wonder if each piece of media was essential to understanding the story’s continuation. Would you really get The Matrix sequels if you also didn’t watch The Animatrix and play Enter the Matrix? In 2003, I went all-in on The Matrix and Reloaded, while a bit stilted at times with long philosophical monologues, still captured my imagination for what I hoped would be a stunning payoff when coupled with Animatrix and Enter the Matrix. But then came The Matrix Revolutions and it all felt a little silly. The setups from Reloaded felt abandoned in favor of new characters fighting for Zion while a dude doing his best Agent Smith impression lurked around Neo and Trinity in the real world. Somewhere, the thread had been lost and while there are bright spots (everything with Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith is terrific), it never seemed like a full realization of the original or Reloaded’s potential.

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Image via Warner Bros.

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Now 18 years have passed and we’re about to return to The Matrix with The Matrix Resurrections. A new trailer has dropped that will have everyone speculating on what this means, and personally, I’m back on board. For starters, the film benefits from the fact that we haven’t been inundated with Matrix stuff for the last 18 years. Yes, there was a Matrix MMO, but beyond that, it’s not like there were more movies or TV series or anything like that. The Matrix is part of the culture, but the storytelling hit pause, and that break has allowed the stronger aspects of the franchise to rise to the surface while the weaker elements have faded away.

It also helps that Resurrections is arriving as just Resurrections. There’s no interconnected media attempt, which, while a bold experiment back in 2003, didn’t really pay off in any way that felt rewarding to those who invested in the ancillary stories. Asking fans to come back for just one movie (although if it’s a hit, I imagine WB will want to smash that franchise button as hard as possible to create more sequels and spinoff series), especially after an 18-year-hiatus, feels like a fair invitation. I certainly don’t harbor an 18-year grudge against Revolutions, which, while a disappointment at the time of its release, was never so upsetting that it felt like it ruined anyone’s enjoyment of the original Matrix, which remains a stone-cold classic.

And maybe Resurrections won’t pay off. Maybe I’ll be disappointed again. But that’s the risk you take when you have an interesting, unique filmmaker like Lana Wachowski who’s more interested in pushing narrative boundaries than simply creating comfort food. I’d rather this sequel be in her hands than anyone else who might want to play it safe and try to recapture the lightning in a bottle of the 1999 movie. It may not work out, but as we’ve seen from the Wachowskis’ post-Matrix Trilogy career, it will at least be worth our attention. Gimme that red pill.

The Matrix Resurrections opens December 22nd in theaters and on HBO Max.

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I’m Ready to Be Hurt Again