Thursday, 23 December 2021

The Matrix Resurrections

Credit to Lana Wachowski, it takes a certain amount of bravery to attempt a fourth entry in The Matrix series during a pandemic with a drastically shortened production cycle and an army of key collaborators off the books. As well as Lana's sister, and co-writer director, Lilly Wachowski, The Matrix Resurrections misses both the gravitas conferred by Laurence Fishburne and the alien jeopardy that radiated from Hugo Weaving. Despite the absence of these actors, their characters remain - one rejuvenated into self-satisfied nanotechnology whose big, plugged-in, scene lands like farce; the other given the handsome-but-dull affect of the American ruling class. Alarmingly, these truancies extend beyond the screen into the technological and conceptual arena too. Bill Pope's (constantly quoted) sulphurous chiaroscuro has been overwritten here with a mode of visual communication that is often indistinguishable from streaming service television. A decision that, in fairness, is genuinely evocative of an artificial construct circling the drain. 

The most dispiriting point of departure for Resurrections though is how the film handles its action. Fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping was not retained for this fourquel, the decision (or restriction given that Yuen is deep into his seventies and quite likely at least semi-retired) limits not just the movements that have been drilled into the cast but the angles the filmmakers then use to communicate arching limbs and the resulting impacts. The Matrix didn't just vary the speed of reality when employing its time slice visual effects. Bodies hammered each other in violent, exaggerated, flurries; fists detonated concrete structures in beatific crawls. Although Resurrections revisits these ideas, there's no attempt to build on them. The majority of the film's hand-to-hand action instead resolving to a deliberately obscured askance. Where previously we were asked to consider the ways in which superpowered bodies relate to each other - not just in terms of combat, but the twisting poses and power displays that might denote annoyance or an assured tranquillity - here these battles are punctuation, deployed to massage the transition between scenes. These, admittedly older, characters are no longer expressing themselves physically. 

What Resurrections does have though is Carrie-Anne Moss, Keanu Reeves and an on-screen longing between the two that has only deepened with age. Reeves' Thomas Anderson is trapped in the medicated funk of corporate game development, forced to deliver a much delayed sequel to his biggest hit. Although Resurrections' frequently features enormous, projected, clips from the previous Matrix films, everyone in-universe points at these illuminations and identifies them as games - apparently interactive full-motion video was a seismic success on this particular server? Trinity is similarly confined by middle-class domesticity; kept busy by an insistent, hovering, husband and a pair of children portrayed as ongoing irritants. The pull between Neo and Trinity then is initially contextualised as that of an affair - an exciting, instantaneous, connection between two disappointed adults. Since Resurrections suffers horribly the further apart this couple are, it's therefore tempting to imagine a smaller scale instalment that completely forewent the technological ambitions of a big budget action film to concentrate on a bubbling infidelity in a counterfeit world - a Brief Encounter by way of Bound

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