What happens when you wait fourteen or so years to do a sequel? Well much depends on how much buzz the earlier movies created and how devoted the fans of the earlier Matrix films were and are. And in that regard the first Matrix movie created enough buzz to start a whole beehive, the sequels less so. This particular movie is long by modern standards, indeed a whole extra longer than your average films these days— 2 hours and 38 minutes and change. It is also R rated, but simply because of all the action scenes, many of which involve lots of bullets and fighting. This movie is definitely not for children. And like its predecessors it raises some pretty deep questions about where the line is between fantasy and reality, between good and evil, between artificial generated things, including digital characters, and real beings.
In many ways this film is one for the gaming generation who get lost and buried in the CG world of numerous games. The Matrix is of course such a creation and our main characters— Neo and Trinity go back and forth between the two spheres or worlds as do several other characters. The essence of the plot, the tension in the tale, is whether the relationship between Trinity and Neo will be resurrected. There are indeed other resurrections as well, including that of Morpheus, though the Oracle does not make a return performance. One of the more interesting features of this film is that while the ‘real world’ of a modern city seems normal enough, it is in fact permeated by bots or artificial creatures, whereas what appears to be a futuristic world turns out to involve more real people than the one that looks more normal—raising all the right questions about what is real and what is not.
But the larger philosophical question the movie raises is the whole issue of determinism and control and the seeming security it brings, and freedom of choice and the inherent uncertainty which comes with freedom. At one point in the film we hear a message desperately needed in the U.S.— do people really prefer having a dictator who determines all the major choices and takes away uncertainty, but at the price of lost freedom, or would they rather have the messiness and uncertainty of freedom of choice? I’m afraid much of what I’ve heard again and again in the last few years is the former….. unless of course it involves a government telling us to get vaccinated and wear masks. But alas, there is no freedom of choice during a pandemic if one refuses to do what makes for your health and the health of those around you. For a virus is not selective in who it affects— it knows no denominations, no parties, no age groups, no genders and no raises. It is an equal opportunity ruiner of human lives.
At another point in the film, the shrink (played well and diabolically by Neil Patrick Harris) raises the question as to whether peace without choices is better or war and freedom. And that in itself is a diabolical and false binary. Indeed this whole movie raises questions about binaries including 1s and 0s. With one exception— the love between a man and a woman when the two become one and yet remain two.
Too seldom do we have movies that tease the mind into deep thought but this one does. Kudos to Keanu and the gang for daring to probe deeply.