The new Matrix sequel may not live to the high expectations of its fans, and indeed, the creators’ penchant for turning it into a political lesson may severely dampen audience reactions — especially if they’re conservative.
Beyond its portrayal of a futuristic cyberpunk world, as similarly depicted in Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell and Netflix’s Altered Carbon, The Matrix has always been a product of its surroundings — it’s simply part of the speculative nature of the genre. And yet, in spite of all its pretenses to speculative fiction, the movie may be marred by contemporary, reactionary politics.
The film’s two scriptwriters, Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell, admitted as much in an interview with the A.V. Club, where they explained Matrix: Resurrection’s political messaging and how their left-wing reactionary views of the world influenced the story.
Indeed, the scriptwriters penned the movie through a reactionary lens in response to populist conservatism made popular by Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk. The duo had previously collaborated with directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski on Cloud Atlas and the Netflix transgender series Sense8.
The interviewer points out that specific current events such as Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, social media radicalization and other contemporary concepts appear in the movie — speaking to the writers, he asked “Were these things you were talking about while writing the film?”
Hemon replied: “We were aware because you bring it into [the writer’s group], all that’s happening in the world, so we talked about specific things,” he said. “Things like the Red Pill/Blue Pill trope or meme and how it was kidnapped by the right-wing. The verb ‘to red pill’ and so on.”
“So one thing we were mindful of is how to reclaim that trope. To renew the meaning of Red Pill/Blue Pill,” he explained.
“Obviously, we weren’t involved, but the first Matrix was so present in the world while also being ahead of its time. So with this movie, too, we were deeply embedded in the time, early 2019, but also we were thinking about the future. I had to catch up with them on that,” Hemon added.
The impact of popular conservatives is evident in the dialogue spoken by the film’s villain called “The Analyst,” who uses right-wing terminology such as Ben Shapiro’s popular refrain “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
The A.V. Club interviewer asked if it was “empowering” to write a rebuttal to the weaponization of [the Wachowski’s] work, prompting Mitchell to say “I suppose the short answer is yes.”
“I don’t see myself as a frontline fighter in the culture war, but you also want your work to mean something, to have an ethical edge,” he said. “One of the many reasons I’m proud of Resurrections is it does have that. What I’m trying to say is, I think the film has integrity, and perhaps that’s the source of the integrity.”
“I am infused with a need to confront some of the things that are taking place in this country,” said Hemon, who lives in the United States and whose Twitter bio reads: “Writer. Prof at Princeton. YNWA. Blocks fascists/trumpists/misogynists/ homophobes. He/his. I make music too.”
“But we did not set out to get into arguments with right-wingers,” Hemon insisted. “I think, at some point, there was a joke about Red Pill and Blue Pill, and Lana decided that she did not want to give any credence to that position, even a semblance of dialogue with that. There’s nothing to talk about with that.”
“My personal position is I don’t discuss things with Nazis and fascists,” said Hemon, apparently referring to conservatives like Shapiro. “There’s nothing to talk about. One of us is just going to be left standing, and I want it to be me and my people.”
The creators of Matrix: Resurrections have clearly used the film as a platform for their political beliefs, but as to how well this translates to audiences remains to be seen. Don’t be surprised if it ends up disappointing fans as badly as the third film, if not worse.