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How The Matrix: Resurrections Tackles Toxic Nostalgia and Reboots

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A poster for The Matrix: Resurrections featuring the main cast

Nostalgia is a very powerful sensation especially when it comes to the movies and shows that we love. Many long-running franchises have been rebooted or revisited recently, and The Matrix is among them, with the 2021 sequel The Matrix: Resurrections hitting theaters and HBO Max last December. The film offers up a resolution to the character arcs originated in the series, and also a surprising meta-commentary on the nature of franchises and revisiting the past.

While some sequels heavily traffic in fan service, others do the opposite and build against it. The Matrix Resurrections is one of those sequels that acknowledges its predecessors but manages to comment on and subvert its nostalgic roots. As a follow-up to the original trilogy, The Matrix Resurrection offers both resolution and addresses the nature of toxic nostalgia. Here we break down how this sequel subverts the traditional reboot structure to deliver a strong meta-commentary on franchises in general.

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One of Resurrection’s most inspired plot points is having Keanu Reeves’ Neo become a video game developer who creates a successful video game franchise based off his half-remembered experiences within The Matrix. The film also includes a plot point about Warner Bros. wanting to adapt the games into their own property, both a wink at Resurrection’s existence and a critique on the nature of studios constantly rebooting franchises for profit.

Related: Explained: The Philosophy of The Matrix Movies

By tackling this head-on, Resurrections manages to be self-aware and explore the idea of why people are drawn towards nostalgia even when what it references no longer serves them. The film does have Easter eggs and nods to the original, but also makes an effort to recognize how much its characters and the world they occupy have changed. The satire of studio franchises and Warner Bros. is not only clever but an examination of how many franchises start off as original IP only to be later bought out and utilized for mass profit later on. This commentary is relevant, thanks to it’s subversive playfulness, in regard to the current nature of big studio franchises and the constant presence of reboots and revivals.

For a number of sequels and reboots, it’s common to resort to recreating past installments and trying to capitalize off the highs of earlier films. For The Matrix Resurrections, the film wisely decides to avoid mere recreation or a staging of the films’ past iconic moments and instead focus more on Neo and Trinity’s journey to reuniting with one another. While Resurrections does have some parallel moments to the original and its fair share of references, it devotes a good amount of its runtime to exploring its own narrative possibilities, and could even be considered an inverse of the original trilogy.

The film’s main motif is about reconciling with one’s past to make way for the future, and the storytelling here adds to this theme by smartly avoiding an overindulgence in fan service but instead continued development and depth regarding its characters. While the film does confront the fandom and influence of the original, it effectively tells its own story about growth and acceptance that falls in line with the other installments without resorting to an all out rehashing of past heights.

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