I finally watched The Matrix Resurrections, the latest in the film series by The Wachowskis that brought cyberpunk into the mainstream of storytelling entertainment back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My only regret is that I haven’t already watched the movie a dozen times yet.
My opinion certainly may be biased (aren’t all opinions?). I’m not the average watcher who liked The Matrix but derides the second and third films, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Even if the first installment does stick out as particularly good, I loved all three of them and I re-watch them all with some regularity. While it might be a bit expected then that I would write a raving review of the latest film in the series, I think I’m in league with a solid majority when I say this movie is amazing.
Resurrections brings to its audience a number of things that make it a top notch movie. First, and perhaps most obvious, is the nostalgia and familiarity that we love about reboots. Second, it tells the latest installment of the story in a humorous and even satirical tone that marks a well-crafted departure from the original trilogy.
Additionally, director Lana Wachowski seems to use the film as a means of setting the record, um… of making it abundantly clear to extremist, rightwing, gender essentialists that YES, The Matrix is a pointed allegory about the value and beauty of transness and pushing the boundaries of gender norms. It is in not, in any way whatsoever, about any of the weird Q-based “deep state” conspiracy theories the extremist right is trying to insert into the story in a typically twisted attempt to usurp the films make them their own.
Consciously or not, the latest installment of the Wachowski’s Matrix saga also brings something that, when I first noticed noticed it, had me jumping out of my chair with excitement. The future human city of IO is lunarpunk as fuck.
Yes, The Matrix Resurrections creates what is—at least in my estimation—a decidedly lunarpunk world and brings the budding aesthetic and subgenre to the big screen, if not for the first time, then at least in the most high profile example to date.
The city of IO is the primary human habitation in a world where the Earth has been destroyed by AI machines of humanity’s own creation (an easy allegory for human-induced climate change). With the sun blotted out and the surface of the planet uninhabitable, the remaining humans—the ones who weren’t being stored in goo pods by the machines and used as batteries—took to the substratum and built a city and massive network of tunnels miles beneath the surface.
Their world is dark and subterranean. It’s marked by bioluminescence and a color palate of blues and silvers and purples and black. They even use advanced technology to create breathable atmosphere and a gorgeous artificially produced sky beneath the surface of the Earth.
Unlike its predecessor, Zion, the city of IO was built in cooperation by both humans and machines, and where the two live together in harmony rather than in conflict. It’s a community in which the value and importance of both science and faith in the unexplainable have their place. And while the surface is mired in war, apocalypse, and dystopia, IO exists in a bubble of hope and relative peace. It’s a place where humanity and machines are resisting the old AI-based, anti-human order and working together and collectively striving to build something new, cooperative, and wonderful. They even have botanists who are successfully bringing lush green plants back to life in a harsh and mechanical underground world.
Lunarpunk is far from the main point of the movie. But its an aspect that I believe is important given The Matrix‘s historical role importance in bringing science fiction subgenres into the mainstream. It was wonderful to see a lunarpunk community come to life on the screen, and I hope we see more if it in future.
Justine Norton-Kertson (they/he/she) is the co-editor-in-chief of Solarpunk Magazine. They live in rural Oregon with his partner, puppies, cats, goats, and beehives. She can be found on Twitter @jankwrites.