Is ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ a Critique of the Tech Industry – or Society?

When The Matrix Resurrections premiered in San Francisco, the city's mayor "celebrated the appearance of her fair city in the film and cheered the film's economic contributions to the region," reports SFGate. "But there's a problem of aesthetics at play here... It is undeniably a dystopian hellscape where police rule the city and technology looms over all..." In the first section of the movie, the metaphor of the Matrix mirrors that of the tech industry depicted in the film. Tech is stereotypical here — lots of T-shirt-wearing men playing ping-pong and talking about how to design the next great video game. The most annoying character in the film, Jude (Andrew Caldwell), is a proxy for all annoying tech bros... Meanwhile Politico writes that the original 1999 film The Matrix actually "changed politics, almost entirely by mistake," and calls the new Matrix Resurections "a sophisticated self-critique of the culture that swallowed it." In the past two decades, the idea of a "red pill" has taken on a life of its own in American culture, most prominently at first in an infamous misogynist subreddit, and then more broadly as a symbol of any kind of political awakening, almost always on the right. The idea has proliferated wildly throughout politics, and especially the darkest ideological corners of the internet, in which to be "red-pilled" means to realize that American society has been hopelessly debased by liberals, requiring a total rethink of its premises... Hugo Weaving, who memorably portrayed the original films' villain, lamented in a 2020 interview how people "will take something that they think is cool and they will repurpose it to fit themselves when the original intention or meaning of that thing was quite the opposite...." [T]he Wachowskis have been largely silent about the "meaning" of their creation — a movie franchise that not only became a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon, but predicted the cultural tenor of politics in the digital age with an eerie, oracular accuracy. We know they got it right, but what did they think about it? Wednesday saw the release of "The Matrix Resurrections," a long-delayed sequel from one of the original writer/directors (Lana directed; Lilly sat it out) — and also an answer to that question. As a movie, it's everything its predecessors was, an impressive feat of visual-effects artistry, action choreography and original sci-fi worldbuilding. But even more, it's a two hour and 27-minute-long piece of cultural criticism. The film interrogates, to a jarringly specific degree, not just its own iconography, but how American culture has evolved around and bastardized it over the past two decades. "The Matrix Resurrections" is both wildly successful popcorn entertainment and a window into a long-misunderstood creative mind. But in refitting its entire premise to the social media age, it illustrates just how much the contours of American society have changed in the intervening decades.... The original "Matrix" was deeply of its time. Reeves' Neo a was a quintessential late 1990s corporate drone, captive to the professional ennui also depicted in films of the era like "Fight Club" and "Office Space." Its modern incarnation is a cry of protest against something else: society's willingness to trade individual agency for the neurological reward pellets of the Online. Visual metaphors abound, with Reeves disoriented by a procession of mirrors that serve as gateways to another world, another possible truth. "Your brain is hooked on this shit the Matrix has been feeding you for years," one character tells him. "They don't know you like I do. "I know exactly what you need...." The movie is streaming now on HBOMax for subscribers in their $15 ad-free tier — but, like, Dune, only during its 31-day theatrical run.

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