At its heart, ‘The Matrix’ has always been a love story about two wandering souls who anchor themselves to one another, even as the world falls apart around them.
In 1999, when the Y2K threat was still looming on the horizon, the Wachowskis gave birth to a mind-bending reality through ‘The Matrix’, one that hooked audiences through its visual influences, its esoteric plot and dialogue that spawned countless articles in an attempt to decipher the subliminal messaging.
The movie also sparked a cult following with its cyberpunk story, slick choreographed action and ‘bullet time’ visual effects, prompting the Wachowskis to direct a second instalment that was split into two films, ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘The Matrix Revolutions’, which released six months apart in 2003.
The franchise was led by Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne, making up the trio of Thomas Anderson aka Neo, Trinity and Morpheus who are fighting to free a world from a dystopian future where self-aware machines have imprisoned mankind in a virtual reality system — the Matrix — where they are farmed as a power source to fuel their artificial intelligence.
The trilogy churned out close to $3 billion at the box office, sparked a gaming arm, comic books and an animated extension, despite the third instalment opening to mixed reviews. While many perceived ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ as an end to the franchise, in Hollywood, can anything really fade into the long good night?
Enter Lana Wachowski, who picked up the reins of the franchise nearly two decades after the last film had released to bring us ‘The Matrix Resurrections’. Out in cinemas this week, Reeves, now 57, and Carrie-Anne Moss reprise their roles as Neo and Trinity, still waging a war against the machines with a little help from a new star cast that includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
Ahead of the film’s release, Reeves experienced no blue pill vs red pill moment, saying that he was “thrilled” about returning to the franchise while lauding how the reboot was able to tie in the first three instalments through expert storytelling.
“I thought it was really interesting, in terms of a cinematic structure and storytelling structure, how Lana was dealing with the past and the present, not only for the characters in the film, but I think for the audience watching it,” he explained.
“I think her use of flashbacks is very enriching, along with some of their editorial choices and way that she includes the audience and lets us be connected to the present journey of the character as the film unfolds,” he added, spelling good news for fans who need a refresher in the timeline.
While fans eagerly await their return to ‘The Matrix’, Reeves shares insight on what the makers have in store.
Q. What was your reaction when Lana Wachowski reached out to invite you back to the Matrix? What did you think about this new take on this iconic trilogy?
Reeves: Yeah, that was a very thrilling moment. I thought it was a beautiful script. I thought it was a beautiful love story, and I thought it was very up to date and important medicine for the days that we have. As I feel ‘The Matrix, Reloaded’ and ‘Revolutions’ had a cautionary tale and kind of inspiring messages, I felt like ‘Resurrections’ was embracing and speaking to where we are today and hopefully will be as inspiring.
Q. How did it feel to step back into Mr Anderson’s shoes?
It was nice. They fit, and they’re quite comfortable. The character has a sense of questioning and also has experience and knowledge. So with that, there’s these moments in the film where he’s kind of wondering, ‘Is it all worth it or what really happened or what does it mean?’ I think those are memory, fiction, fact, truth, perspective, systems, control…
This kind of kaleidoscope that the character goes through and the film has with its references, its Easter eggs, its past, its present, its characters who talk about the past, who have made certain choices that they’re confronted by — ‘What have we done? What are we doing?’ kind of aspects, it was pretty profound. It’s a pleasure to play.
Q. What was your experience working with Lana years later, having done so early on? Has her style changed in any way?
Yeah. The filmmaker that I worked with in the late ‘90s and early 2000s and then worked with on ‘Resurrections’ was familiar, but then also had gone through revolutionary evolvement. For a filmmaker who kind of watched on the monitors and was interested in artificial light now is fascinated by and interested in the power of the sun.
The filmmaker who was watching things quite objectively on the monitors is now standing next to the camera operator and guiding them through shots. Someone who is interested in rehearsal is now not doing rehearsal, saying things like, ‘You learn by doing,’ but you do that on camera. It’s a different way of working, and it’s a fundamental change and made it very exciting. Not that the other way isn’t exciting, but it’s a different way.
Q. Tell us about Carrie-Anne Moss coming back as your partner in this film, and getting to work together again.
It’s so special and such a pleasure to work with Carrie-Anne and really to partner up, to be that kind of single element, but the duality of the characters being this one thing in their love. It’s such a pleasure to play the connection that Thomas Anderson and Trinity have, and she’s an exceptional artist, a righteous soul. It was a real pleasure to work together again.
Q. You have a lot of new talent coming into the world. Can you talk a little bit about your great cast?
It was really cool just to be working with artists who had such an affection and enthusiasm for the project, and then to work with them and to experience all of their extraordinary, talented commitment. It’s a real pleasure.
Q. One of the themes in this film is about taking this leap of faith, but for your character, that’s a very literal and physical thing. You obviously are used to training for your films very hard, but what did this one entail for you, especially keeping in mind that Lana wanted it to be different from the first franchise?
The training was actually probably very similar to the training that I had previously on the films. I guess the biggest thing was just Carrie-Anne and I jumping off a building. That was a little different, but we worked with Scott Rogers, who designed all of the wire and designed the architecture of that event, who I previously worked with. Carrie-Anne came to completely trust him, as well. I thought it was really cool that Lana wanted these characters to leap off a building and not do it in a computer generated environment. She gave us the opportunity to do something and have an experience that we have never had in our lives.
Q. What do you hope that your audiences are going to experience when they see this film?
I hope they’re inspired. I hope they find it interesting and inspirational, and they have a good time, and they laugh, and they cry, and they have some good sustenance, some good food for thought, and have a wonderful takeaway from the experience of watching the film.
Meet the new cast...
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: The actor steps into Laurence Fishburne’s role as Morpheus.
Jessica Henwick: She plays Bug in the new film, a resistance fighter who believes in the legend of Neo.
Neil Patrick Harris: He plays The Analyst in the film, with a brief appearance in the trailer where he plays Thomas Anderson’s blue pill-prescribing therapist
Jonathan Groff: The actor steps up to play Agent Smith in the new instalment, playing the protagonist who is out for Neo’s destruction.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas: She plays a grown-up version of Sati, the exile programme that was portrayed by Tanveer K Atwal in ‘The Matrix Revolutions’. Some tout her as the new Oracle.
Don’t miss it!
‘The Matrix Resurrections’ is out in UAE cinemas on December 23.