‘After all these years’, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are ‘going back to where it all started… back to The Matrix.’
The impact of Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s original mind-bender can’t be overstated; it’s arguably still Reeves’ defining role; its earth-shattering story trusted audiences to think as well as whoop; and the visual effects literally changed the game in action cinema. If you’ve not limbo-leaned as if you’re dodging bullets, you’ve not lived at the movies.
Heavy hangs the series that wears the crown; Reloaded and Revolutions failed to set the world on fire to the same blaze, but the double-release strategy still feels, ahem, revolutionary today. I’d add: they feature set-pieces so transcendently awesome – the ‘Burly Brawl’, the freeway chase, the final torrential fight – they’re almost depressing. We didn’t know how good we had it, did we?
It’s been 18 years since the original trilogy concluded, with Reeves’ Neo and Moss’ Trinity seemingly dead – not the ambiguous ‘are they, aren’t they’ kind of death, they were wiped out.
Yet, The Matrix Resurrections, directed by a solo Lana Wachowski this time, is a reckoning of the past. We pick up with Thomas Anderson (Reeves) living out his life in an eerily-constructed Mega City. His day-to-day existence has that familiar cocktail of stress and boredom, whether it’s tolerating work’s annoyances or longing after that girl in the coffee shop (Moss).
His life is upended by a chance meeting with Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, not Laurence Fishburne). This is ‘Mr. Anderson’ as we’ve seen him before: suspicious of his surroundings, but ‘having the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up… ironically, that’s not far from the truth’.
I sat down with the cast of the fourthquel to chat about how it continues the franchise’s legacy, lives up to it and whether they’d like to return for another dip down the rabbit hole.
For Abdul-Mateen, I presumed there’d be a lot of pressure in taking on one of cinema’s coolest characters, not to mention its iconic actor at the helm. In a word, I was wrong.
‘Nah man, no pressure. That’s not a way to think about it or succeed. It’s fun for conversation, and from an outsider’s perspective I can see that. But for myself, my job was to honour that role by finding things that I enjoy about it. But then coming to the table with my own twist. It’s my understanding that what Laurence Fishburne did… is bible,’ he said.
‘Fortunately, my character has that perspective too, but he’s also aware of that Morpheus and aware of himself. There’s an opportunity to become his own character. He’s literally on a journey of self-discovery, and those are the really exciting things I latched onto about this character; the way he was able to be expressive and charismatic and have a strong sense of fashion, charm and wit. There was plenty to be explored without taking anything away from what’s already done.’
The Candyman star is a unique case in the series’ revival; he’s playing someone we’ve seen before, but joins a cast of complete newcomers to the overarching world, including Priyanka Chopra Jonas as… well, I can’t tell you that. What I can say is that I asked her how her opinion on Revolutions has changed since making the movie.
‘This is such a difficult question to answer… I don’t think my impression of the movie has changed, I think the way I perceive it has changed. With a lot of themes hit upon in the Resurrections movie, it makes you a lot about what you’ve seen in the previous ones, which is fun,’ she said.
As for any anxiety over becoming part of the Matrix lore, she continued, ‘I tried not to think about it… it hit me when we started doing the promo tour. Before that, I was just doing my job; I’ve been doing this long enough now to know not to take on that pressure because it does affect a performance. Once I finished my job and I was on press tour and I saw everybody on the cast sitting together, I was like… damn, I’m in the Matrix movie. Wow. That was cool.’
From the many smiles and laughs across my interviews, the defining takeaway for the actors seems to be happiness, or just graciousness for being involved at all; and they’d all come back, if asked. ‘Listen, I’m gonna be greedy and say, I just got to join the franchise… so, um, yeah, I would love for there to be another and yeah, I would love to be a part of it,’ Chopra Jonas continued.
‘Honestly, I’m just really excited to be included and inducted in The Matrix world, especially as such a pivotal character; a character who has been so intentionally seeded into the previous movies with foreshadowing of the fact she will have a really pivotal role. The responsibility of that was very cool.’
Neil Patrick Harris, who plays… well, I can’t tell you anything beyond Thomas’ therapist, was similarly hyped. ‘I would have been in one scene with one single line, like ‘Look over there!’ if Lana Wachowski asked me to. There’s something super special about her style, and there’s something super intoxicating and horny about her aura. So, getting to play any sort of part in this franchise was, for me, a great thing,’ he said.
While Jonathan Groff, who plays Mr. Anderson’s suspiciously Smithian boss, says he’d come back ‘in a second if Lana wanted it to happen’, Harris said, ‘I would return in a second, and I don’t care what Lana says.’
Abdul-Mateen said, ‘I think The Matrix Resurrections was a cool and awesome experience. I try not to get too ahead of myself in terms of what I’ll do next and things like that, but it’s The Matrix so you never know what’s going to happen.’
Jessica Henwick, who plays the nimble Bugs, would ‘definitely consider’ returning for another movie. ‘It would depend on a lot of things… I loved working with Keanu and Carrie-Anne. It would be hard to say no.’
Henwick partakes in one of the most striking stunts in the film: a jaw-dropping flip from a building onto a sign, crashing down the lights like Jackie Chan in Police Story. ‘That one was actually really hard and yes, I love the Police Story reference. That one was difficult. I have a fear of heights, so they put me on the wire to shoot me falling down the sign… that was traumatising. But I’m glad I did it, at least you can see in the film that’s me doing it. It was just very challenging – it’s definitely the most action I’ve ever had to do,’ she said.
What about Reeves and Moss? They’re the very soul of the movies; Neo and Trinity are the heart of it all, and love is the genesis of everything.
‘I would be totally open to the idea if Lana Wachowski wanted to continue the story, and do I think there should be one? I can’t say that… we could always use another Matrix story as the days go on,’ Reeves said, to which Moss added, ‘If Lana is involved, of course.’
I’ve always been in the ‘Matrix trilogy is legendary’ camp; for all Revolutions‘ flaws, its epic storytelling is incomparable to today’s monster universes. For Reeves, their endurance in pop culture can be credited to a simple reason: ‘Because they rock!’
‘The aesthetics of the films are incredible, the performances, the action and the ideas… I feel like there’s stories that people want to and can take home with them. I feel like they’re nourishment; they’re entertaining but also food for thought,’ he continued.
‘They make you think and open up parts of your mind to think a little deeper, and to be self-reflective of yourself, the world. I think it’s an incredible feat Lana and Lilly did with those movies – entertaining people with spectacular cinema, amazing action, love at the core and to just turn on the mind and have you thinking in the way the movie evokes,’ Moss also said.
The Matrix Resurrections is bold in a way few films studio tentpoles are; but to the core fans digging out their leather coats and shades for the cinema, it honours the holy text – it’s here not because of the path that lies before it, but because of the path that lies behind it.
The Matrix Resurrections hits cinemas on December 22.
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