We start off the new year hoping that it very much doesn’t continue in the same vein, as we examine Don’t Look Up and The Matrix Resurrections for any redeeming features. Tune in and find out if we identify any!
Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dr. Randall Mindy are excited to be the first to discover a massive new comet, which quickly turns to abject terror once they calculate its trajectory and discover it’s heading straight for us. So, it’s essentially a remake of Deep Impact.
The difference is, of course, while Deep Impact went on to discuss serious people preparing seriously for this serious event, Don’t Look Up is set in our current era of weaponised idiocy, and so their warnings that the planet is about to be pulverised in a mere six months is treated with mild interest at best, bumped on the news schedule behind the latest pop star gossip
Meryl Streep’s Janie Orlean, U.S.A President and unholy combination of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, is similarly unfussed about this, opting for a wait-and-see strategy, at least until a suitably stupid scandal means a diversion is needed and a mission to explode the comet is launched, only to be aborted when a billionaire tech baron, Mark Rylance’s Peter Isherwell convinces Orlean to instead allow his company’s wild scheme to break it into smaller chunks in order to land it “safely” in the US and mine the precious minerals it is composed of. This goes as well as you might expect.
While all this is unfolding, Dr. Mindy finds himself becoming the government’s face for comet communications, a slowly boiling frog in the increasing outlandishness of first the refusal to act and then the wildly unconvincing response to it. Kate rather quickly recognises the inadequacy of the response and tries to raise an appropriate level of alarm, only to be mocked and proverbially run out of town, although once Dr. Mindy regains his critical faculties they have something of a reconciliation, agitating for action while the opposing forces deny there’s even a comet out there, urging people to think positively, and Don’t Look Up Boom Title Drop.
It is, much like writer/director Adam McKay’s prior work The Big Short, a satire of little subtlety. Now, in this instance, the hammerlike nature of it is very much the point, the film itself being a satire of the cloth eared, lead footed response to the our planet tearing itself apart in a bid to remove us pesky humans, a film that’s basically the embodiment of Jennifer Lawrence’s character.
However, that being the point of the film doesn’t excuse, well, the point of the film, and this does quickly feel like it’s repeating itself over and over. Not necessarily a problem if it remains funny, but, sadly, it doesn’t. I mean, it has its moments, but this is a comedy that is well north of two hours, and is at least three quarters of an hour too long.
That’s really my main issue with the film, sadly it’s a pretty critical one. There’s a fair amount in the theoretical positive column, from a batch of solid turns from a star-studded cast, and the production design is lavish and on point, and a lot of it is more believable than I’d wish.
But, well, bottom line is that it’s a comedy that’s not funny enough, no matter what your politics are. Indifferent out of five.
1999 saw the release of The Matrix, a hugely derivative, yet hugely influential, and hugely enjoyable action movie. Should’ve left it at that, really. It had some interesting notions of the nature of reality, in particular with its references to Jean Baudrillard’s book Simulacra and Simulation, and a bunch of other, similar, things littered throughout. None of it was more than surface level, but that was fine, and it all fitted well into the film’s conceit of living in a dream world indistinguishable from reality.
Then came the sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, which I’ve seen described as going harder into the philosophical stuff, something that, like the Oracle’s prediction for Neo, really baked my noodle as, while that stuff may be there if you’re looking for it, as far as I’m concerned is mostly completely abandons it for crappy action, ugly effects and hokey, fortune-cookie level philosophy like “You do not truly know someone until you fight them”. Oh, and they were tremendously boring.
Now, a mere 18 years later, we have another sequel, bringing down the total percentage of good Matrix films to a round 25%. Yay.
It all actually starts off reasonably promisingly: Keanu Reeves’ Neo is not dead (he and Carrie-Anne Moss’s Trinity have been brought back to life by the machines for some inadequately-explained reason, something something happier, more productive human battery something), and is living within a new version of the Matrix, working as a video game developer.
His therapist, Neil Patrick Harris, is helping him to deal with his anxiety, depression and his continuing delusions that he’s living inside of a computer-generated dreamworld in the thrall of sentient machines. These delusions the therapist attributes to Neo’s, or Thomas’s, extremely-successful video game trilogy, The Matrix, in which a character called Neo is living within a computer-generated dreamworld in the thrall of sentient machines.
And that idea grabbed me, actually. It fitted the series’ main conceit extremely well, it was potentially interesting, it tied back to Simulacra and Simulation and the like. And then the film winked. It winked so hard I winced, and it never stopped winking.
Neo’s boss wants him to make a sequel to his game. “Our beloved parent company, Warner Bros., has decided they will make a sequel to the trilogy with or without us,” he tells him. Oh. Oh, you’re going to be like that. No.
I loved that meta stuff in, for example, Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It worked in Gremlins 2. In The Matrix Resurrections I hated it, and it never stops. I might have warmed to that, though, if the whole film had been in the same vein. But it’s not. It stops for an hour or more to have an incredibly tedious real-world plot where Trinity has to be rescued, with dull characters and pretty mediocre action. There’s no spark.
There’s also Agent Smith, for a reason, who wants a thing. I have no idea what, but I’m sure it’s a jolly important thing, and not a nebulous, poorly-explained plot contrivance. Quite certain. Of course, it’s not Agent Smith, because it’s not Hugo Weaving. Weaving’s antagonist was so distinctive, so charismatic, so entertaining in The Matrix. Here, what is supposedly a version of the same character is played by someone operating on a sub-Dennis Quaid level of non-charisma. It’s rather depressingly bland.
That recasting is something of a theme, actually: Laurence Fishburne’s role is sort of kind of reprised by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and he’s decent enough, but he’s no Fishburne, and his character is written to, seemingly, entirely ridicule the first film in the franchise, which is a weird move.
Jada Pinkett-Smith isn’t recast, but may as well have been, so little resemblance in performance does she have to her character in the first two sequels, and in perhaps the strangest move of all, though potentially a meta one, a song has been, effectively, recast.
A cover version of Rage Against the Machine’s Wake Up, which notably ended the first film, is used as the credits begin here. In the way of many covers, and a way I’ve never, ever seen the point of, it is performed in the same style as the original. Only worse. Much, much worse. It is the probably the worst thing since that criminally bad cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit from Black Widow, which may be the actual worst thing.
On the upside, series newcomer Jessica Henwick is pretty good as the Trinity-like Bugs. Erm. That’s it.
The Matrix Resurrections is more entertaining than Revolutions, certainly, and may be better than Reloaded, though on my recent rewatch I had a higher opinion of that than I did previously, but it’s largely dull, the winking at the audience is infuriating, it’s too long (of course) and it’s massively unnecessary.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
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