The fourth installment in the Matrix series – a hugely popular Hollywood movie franchise – was released in Japan on December 17 and released worldwide on December 22.
Directed and co-written by Lana Wachowski, The Matrix Resurrections is the first Matrix movie to be released in 18 years.
The first episode in 1999 – titled The matrixand co-directed and co-written by the Wachowski sisters – is widely considered groundbreaking, because CNN described in its online edition December 21:
“This film became a true cultural phenomenon and a turning point in sci-fi storytelling and visual effects, redefining 21st century Hollywood blockbusters.”
The matrix was then followed by The Matrix Reloaded and The matrix revolutions (both in 2003), resulting in high expectations for The Matrix Resurrections.
On this occasion, however, an actress of Asian origin, Jessica Henwick, was more present than the Hollywood titan Keanu Reeves, who played the main character of Neo.
It is unprecedented for an actress of such an ethnicity to feature so prominently in a major film produced by a major Hollywood studio.
The Matrix Resurrections is also a masterpiece
When The matrix was released in 1999, the Internet had not yet taken over society, and some viewers had difficulty following the notion of simulated reality depicted in the film.
However, the “bullet time” filming technique that was used to The matrix – which includes characters jumping, freezing in mid-air, then kicking the enemy after a 360-degree spin – was impressive then, and it’s still spectacular today.
However, in the 18-year period that has elapsed since The matrix revolutionsthe technology mentioned in the trilogy has evolved tremendously, so I was a bit anxious as to how the fourth installment would tackle that.
But the genius that is Wachowski did well. She managed to make a thought provoking and breathtaking film that is beyond imagination.
There was also a positive response in the West. On December 22, a room in the Atlantic wrote:
“Lana Wachowski has made a film that addresses the upheavals of contemporary life, critiques the general culture of Hollywood’s reboot, and is a surprisingly sweet work of nostalgia.”
Meanwhile, on December 21, the Crooked Marquee said: “
“The Matrix Resurrections is a nostalgic triumph that reminds us of what – and who – we loved about the original trilogy, without forcing itself down a familiar path.
Criticism of the original trilogy is inevitable
Neo, played by Reeves, is the savior of a war between humans and machines in the Matrix trilogy.
In Matrix resurrections, the character of Neo goes by his birth name, Thomas A. Anderson – and Anderson is a successful video game designer who works based on his memories as Neo.
Anderson is complimented by many players, who tell him their lives have been changed by his work, but the designer struggles to separate reality from illusion. Meanwhile, Neo Trinity’s ally (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) appears in the fourth episode as a regular housewife named Tiffany.
One day, Bugs (played by Jessica Henwick) – a mysterious woman who has been searching for Anderson for about 20 years – shows up with Morpheus (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
They reveal a terrifying truth to Anderson. Although suspicious, Anderson decides to face the truth. Just like in the first episode, he refuses the blue pill, which would lead him to a simple daily life – and he chooses the red pill instead.
In the West, and especially in the United States, the original Matrix trilogy had a huge influence on society and culture. Major newspapers and magazines began to use the phrase, “Do you choose the red pill or the blue pill?” referring to a choice between two options.
The fourth episode was made on the assumption that many people have seen the original trilogy. Viewers familiar with the first three films will no doubt be enthralled by the nostalgic scenes, locations, and characters.
On a personal note, I laughed at a scene involving The Merovingian (played by Lambert Wilson), who has also appeared in previous installments of the franchise.
But the star of The Matrix Resurrections is actress Jessica Henwick, who plays the captain of a hovercraft called The Mnemosyne.
Born in August 1992 in Surrey, England, Henwick is the daughter of a British novelist father and a Singaporean-Chinese mother. She appeared in the BBC series spiritual warriors – becoming the first actress of East Asian descent to star in a British TV drama.
Henwick went on to appear in the popular American HBO drama game of thrones in addition to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
As I explained in a previous Sankei Shimbun column dated November 29, 2019, Hollywood considers actors of East Asian origin to be inferior to black or Hispanic actors, and even lower in the case of actresses.
However, as understanding of the surrounding diversity deepens, more and more actors of Asian descent are taking on major roles, such as Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran, who appeared in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
However, Henwick’s role in The Matrix Resurrections is arguably more significant in that she rescues Neo and bravely fights back with her cool blue hair while maintaining a dignified demeanor – making her the star of the show.
In fact, Henwick was offered another great opportunity around the same time – to be in the Marvel movie. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. But in the end she chose Matrix resurrections. She compared the dilemma to choosing between the blue pill and the red pill in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly.
The Matrix Trilogy is inspired by Japanese anime and manga, such as Ghost in the Shell, Lupine the Third, and Ichi the killer. A Japanese shinkansen appears in this latest installment (a possible homage to Demon Slayer?) – reminiscent of Wachowski’s interest in Japan.
With the Japanese film drive my car having received accolades in the West last year, the next cinematic era could be Asian.
RELATED: Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s ‘Drive My Car’ Wins Best Screenplay Award at Cannes Film Festival
(Read it Sankei Shimbun column in Japanese on this link.)
Author: Toshikazu Okada