Lana Wachowski’s radical reinvention of the Matrix franchise stuns on UHD
Lana Wachowski is not here for your bullshit.
After fending off years of pressure on all sides from studio execs and Matrix trilogy fans alike, the ever-renegade director shocked the world when she returned for a fourth Matrix film with Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss in tow. The Matrix Resurrections, however, quickly separated itself from its assumed place in the over-saturated marketplace of IP reboots, sequels, and re-imaginings with a dizzyingly meta storyline that saw our once-dead heroes not just revived, but even more vulnerable as they lived shockingly complacent lives within a new Matrix.
Gone are the black-and-white (black-and-green?) delineations of good and evil between human and machine. Now, Neo and Trinity lead the same boring lives they’d previously escaped, their adventures subsumed into in-universe mass-marketed video games. Neo/Thomas Anderson’s parent company, Warner Brothers, is eager to move forward on a fourth installment with or without his involvement. Any dreams of the “real world” are explained as a way of coping with past trauma, easily mitigated with a blue pill. On the flip side, Trinity/Tiffany is a coffee-slinging soccer mom (married to Chad) with a love for bike repair. She enjoys the brief escape rides give her, but she’s satisfied by her new role as wife and mother. The heroic destinies of the previous Matrix films here are relegated to a comforting place of fiction for our newly-resurrected heroes–and it’s rightfully jarring that Neo and Trinity have the same reaction we undoubtedly would when faced with no longer having to worry about the fate of the Universe. Echoing Joe Pantoliano’s earlier villain Cypher, Thomas Anderson and Tiffany are either unaware or relieved that their place in the universe isn’t just ordinary, but unimportant.
The series’ mind-bending action sequences are eventually ushered in by an equally-resurrected Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and a team of familiar Wachowski stars spearheaded by the headstrong young Bugs (Jessica Henwick), who shake Neo out of his complacency to free him from this latest iteration of the Matrix. However, Wachowski doesn’t place a premium on scenes of shoot-em-up mayhem like previous installments. Rather, she pivots Resurrections into something else entirely, using the tantalizing connection between Neo and Trinity to explore a battle between love, art, and commerce. Neo and Trinity’s fight to reconnect is, at large, a fight to regain control of identities that have been exploited for the survival of the powers that be. The only force that can overcome it is the spark between them–so that the fate of the Universe rests not in how many bullets are spent but in believing that love will literally conquer all.
Audiences were understandably split, some rabidly so, as they reckoned what the film was with the film they wanted it to be. It’s not an action film choreographed by Yuen-Woo Ping (absent from this installment), leaning even further into heady philosophical debates about the nature of reality instead. This time, however, the focus is on what we owe to reality–as creators, as ordinary people, as would-be heroes–that is, if we owe anything at all. Wachowski doubles down on this through the film’s reflexive flourishes, re-contextualizing (and even wholly re-creating) favorite moments from past installments in order to imbue them with new, often bitingly critical meaning. To me, it’s amazing how instead of getting another Matrix film as we all expected, we got a film set in the Matrix about being set in Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix; it’s a film whose characters (and even its creator) are at war with their own legacy, and the expectations thrust upon them by those who hold them on such a formative pedestal. Much like the nostalgia-critical (and far too maligned) The Last Jedi for Star Wars, this is a fair point of hatred by those who did, well, want another Matrix movie.
But as much of the film shows, The Matrix Resurrections isn’t necessarily for those audiences. What’s more, as creator Lana Wachowski (ditto sister Lilly) has evolved into and embraced the personhood and identity they’ve always been at their core, Resurrections dares to suggest that fans may have fallen in love with the original films for dubious reasons. Even before Lana and Lilly’s public transition, much has been written about The Matrix as a Trans allegory (since confirmed by the creators), placing its audience in a struggle to break free of a binary society where one’s idea of self has been predetermined by higher powers since their birth. Buried under the sheen of anime and Hong Kong action influences and effortlessly cool leather jacket/sunglasses combos is a struggle for expression, of choice, of freedom; not just to escape to the real world, but to return to the real body that the mind knows is there, but is forcibly kept away at a tantalizing distance.
It’s a subversive message, unfortunately even by today’s standards, but so damn much has happened in the decades since The Matrix Revolutions. Not only have The Matrix’s creators been able to publicly live as they truly are, but the fight for LGBTQ+ representation on and off-screen has reached a fever pitch in American culture. With projects like Cloud Atlas and Sense8, the Wachowskis stoke a frenzied, unbound rallying cry for every human’s right to exist and love who they choose, featuring characters who transcend the roles forced upon them to pursue a greater sense of compassion, freedom, and justice. In these projects, the ability to be who you truly are is as fantastic and effective a superpower as kung fu, mind control, or flight. What’s more, it’s a power the Wachowskis firmly believe every human being has the capacity to wield, and it’s a force that can ultimately overcome societal constructs of racism, bigotry, greed, and overall hate.
These themes are still present in the original Matrix Trilogy, as the awakenings of the first film morph into a love story centered around Neo and Trinity with the fate of the world held in the balance, but The Matrix Resurrections by far showcases how these themes have progressed alongside with their creators over the last few decades.
To The Matrix Resurrections, what we owe to the world isn’t to live up to who society has defined us to be. It’s our responsibility to earnestly seek out our own self-definition, to live true to it in a world full of hate and self-doubt, and to connect with, love, and fight for others who are trying to do the same. In a world where IP reigns, we must hold true to our original selves–even if that means shedding off the parts of us that others loved most, if it was ultimately for the wrong reasons.
To me, The Matrix Resurrections is the culmination of decades of creative and social evolution by both Wachowski and her audience. It’s not a film that rejects its audience as some have earnestly suggested, but it fiercely acknowledges that the best of art–whether it be another iteration of IP or something rare and original–never exists in a vacuum. It’s a film that finally has the budget and social acceptance to reflect the true identity and intentions of its creator, unbound by pre-existing notions of what’s right or cool. Hell, it’s a film that has ultimate badass Keanu Reeves try and fail to fly not once, but twice. It’s the most vulnerable he’s been onscreen in years.
The Matrix Resurrections is a courageous feat of action cinema, one that wholly justifies its own existence by encouraging its audience to redefine the franchise that came before it. It’s unabashedly sentimental and self-effacing in a way no other recent blockbuster has been–and the result is a soaring success.
Warner Brothers presents The Matrix Resurrections in 4K Dolby Vision UHD and 1080p HD in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. An English-language Dolby Atmos track is the default audio option on both discs.
Audio Options are as follows on the 4K: Atmos tracks in English, German, and Italian. 5.1-Surround tracks in English, English Descriptive Audio, French, German, German Descriptive Audio, Italian, and Spanish. On the Blu-ray: Atmos tracks in English, 5.1-Surround tracks in English, French, Hindi, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil, Telugu.
Subtitle Options on the 4K: English SDH, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish. On the Blu-ray: English SDH, French, Greek, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish. Subtitles are available for both the feature and special features.
Benefiting from decades of technological advancement between The Matrix Revolutions and this film, The Matrix Resurrections has a gorgeous transfer on UHD that takes full advantage of director Lana Wachowski and cinematographers John Toll and Daniele Massaccesi’s vibrant expanded color palette. With an extreme emphasis on multi-colored crispness in the revamped Matrix, these sequences of the film look almost too perfect, while the signature grimy grays and blacks of the “real world” vividly return in the film’s ship and sewers sequences. The neo-Zion human city of IØ provides a welcome opportunity to showcase UHD’s versatility when it comes to shadows and flames, which highlight the textures of the earthy, decaying production design. The extensive CGI featured in the film’s robot-laden sequences, as well as in the creation of a new liquid-metal iteration of Morpheus, is intricately worked into the film’s presentation, responding well to light and shadow without errant blocking or artifacting.
Audio tracks are equally well-represented, showcasing control over a chaotic mix of shoot-em-up foley work, cryptic dialogue, and an iconic score revamped by longtime Wachowski collaborator Tom Tykwer. Both the Atmos and 5.1-Channel tracks make full use of any sound system, creating an engaging and immersive experience for viewers on first and repeat viewings.
For this presentation, all special features are on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc.
- No One Can Be Told What The Matrix Is: The cast of The Matrix Resurrections presents a humorous intercut recap of the original Matrix trilogy. Many cast members’ recollections are pretty off-the-cuff, with newer cast members’ fan-based reactions playing well off established cast’s half-remembered plot details. Lots of “that’s so cool!” with “And this happened, and this, and this…”
- Resurrecting The Matrix: A stunningly put-together behind-the-scenes featurette placing viewers in the shoes of Lana Wachowski as she recounts the debate of returning to The Matrix, the evolution of her cinematic style as it relates to her trans experience, and the cast and crew’s embrace of a more fluid, improvisational style that embraces imperfection and spontaneity–which one wouldn’t expect from a massive fourth-installment blockbuster.
- Neo x Trinity — Return to The Matrix: Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss share their infectious joy and apprehensions of coming back for another Matrix sequel, complete with BTS of the original trilogy in conjunction with BTS for Resurrections.
- Allies + Adversaries — The Matrix Remixed: The new supporting actors of the Matrix Universe share their surreal experiences joining established cast members Reeves and Moss for the Resurrections journey. It’s a wonderfully nerdy experience for yours truly to see so many Sense8 cast reunited for this!
- Matrix 4 Life: A charming BTS package of legacy cast members reflecting on the experience of coming back for a healthy amount of creative freedom on the newest Matrix film.
- I Still Know Kung Fu: Profiles the action sequences and stunt work of Resurrections, with a focus on practicality (real crowds, real helicopters, etc.) and in-camera trickery.
- The Matrix Reactions: The Cast and Crew of The Matrix Resurrections provide a hybrid behind-the-scenes making-of and philosophical commentary on select sequences from the film. Included are Echo Opening, Deus Ex Machina, Welcome to IØ, Bullet Time Redux, Morpheus vs. Neo, Exiles Fight, Neo vs. Smith, The San Fran Chase, and The San Fran Jump.
The Matrix Resurrections is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD courtesy of Warner Brothers.