'The Matrix Resurrections' Is Doing What Other Meta-Sequels Couldn't
The article contains SPOILERS for The Matrix Resurrections.
After either watching it in theaters or at home while fielding questions from confused relatives for 20 minutes before they eventually nod off, audiences seem extremely divided on The Matrix Resurrections. Obviously, the belated sequel gets pretty damn meta; the first act is literally about Neo being pressured into making a belated sequel to The Matrix trilogy, which in this reality, is a popular video game franchise with shockingly realistic graphics.
While more explicit than some others, The Matrix Resurrections is part of a larger trend of studio sequels (often a fourth entry) that concoct transparently allegorical stories reckoning with their own artistic existence. But The Matrix Resurrections may ultimately succeed where others have stumbled through the simple act of not making any more Matrix movies.
Director Lana Wachowski actually laughed at suggestions that Resurrections was kicking off a new trilogy of films and unequivocally stated that there weren't any plans for further sequels. And with the film reportedly underperforming at the box office (a somewhat unfair categorization considering it was available to stream at home in the middle of a goddamn pandemic) presumably Warner Bros. won't exactly be champing at the bit for a follow-up.
Many of Resurrections' meta-sequel predecessors, on the other hand, had their original points muddied, or even flat-out contradicted, by additional movies. Like Jurassic World, which was unsubtly about how attempting to make a new and better Jurassic Park is a terrible, terrible idea. Not only did we get a nerd in a vintage t-shirt constantly reminding us that the first "park" was superior, but the story also ended with the rebooted park being destroyed and its star attraction being taken down by the original T-Rex.
Which would have had way more impact, in the long run, had it not been immediately followed by yet another sequel full of human clones and Trump references. Or how about Scream 4, which seemed at the outset to be crassly teeing up a new cast of fresh-faced teens to inherit the franchise from the original gang – but in the end, those likable youths turned out to be the villains, and Sidney Prescott basically had to fight her own replacement to the death.
But despite those metaphorical efforts to purge the Scream series of the "legacyquel" trend, we're getting yet another Scream movie with another horde of young characters poised to take over from the original cast. And the other polarizing sci-fi blockbuster that Resurrections is not surprisingly being compared to is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which pretty clearly ended with the message that, while it's important to be respectful of the past, the lasting importance of Star Wars is mostly in its ability to inspire future generations to tell new stories. Famously, it was followed by a movie that literally brought back a space wizard we all thought had been dead since the Reagan administration.
Resurrections juggles a lot of different themes, but one of the most important, it seems, is about the balancing act of nostalgia -- the therapeutic benefits of revisiting the past vs. the crass exploitation of our remembrances. Which will work best overall if this turns out to be the end of Neo and Trinity's story, not a set-up for another movie and yet more lucrative promotional deals with Denny's.
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Top Image: Warner Bros.