Every movie available to be streamed will be streamed in big numbers, or it will suffer a speedy exile into irrelevance. That’s happened to a lot of films that did well only in their theatrical release this year — as I predicted. A lot of Hollywood types strafed me for saying this, but the nearly two years of a pandemic have made analog filmgoing a lot more niche. That is, unless it is an obvious megamovie like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which can attract a younger demographic, unworried about the pandemic, and is just far more entertaining to see on the big screen.
But I digress: The reason I liked the “The Matrix Resurrections” and “Don’t Look Up” is because these are both stories about the limits of big tech, big media and big politics and the importance of heartfelt, real family connections. These are critically important ideas as we move into the next iteration of tech, which will have a lot more to do with virtualizing everything. How we evolve and connect as humans as the world moves to VR is a critical issue.
The first “Matrix” explored the idea of existing in what was essentially a metaverse — though no one used that term in 1999 — that become reality to most people. The notion of becoming confused over what’s real and what’s fake was profound then, and even more so now that we have become consumed by tech to a level that we still don’t quite grasp. The director and co-writer Lana Wachowski was apparently inspired to plumb this idea after the death of her parents, which is why she revived the main characters Neo and Trinity from the last film, “Revolutions,” in 2003. And, anyway, what is “The Matrix” without Keanu?
“I couldn’t have my mom and dad, yet suddenly I had Neo and Trinity, arguably the two most important characters in my life,” Wachowski said earlier this year, adding, “It was immediately comforting to have these two characters alive again.” She said, “You can look at it and say: ‘OK, these two people die and OK, bring these two people back to life and oh, doesn’t that feel good.’ Yeah, it did! It’s simple, and this is what art does and that’s what stories do: they comfort us.”
So, too, Adam McKay’s much-maligned “Don’t Look Up.” If you ask me, you should ignore the critics. Yes, there are some obvious plot points and over-the-top characterizations, but ultimately it’s a story about the gravity of humanity, however doomed it becomes because of its most pernicious members. That includes, particularly, the tech billionaire Peter Isherwell, a part played to geek perfection by Mark Rylance, who has managed to cohesively mash together the worst parts of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Zuckerberg.
Isherwell’s character hits it on the nose with his know-it-all certainty and data-driven lunacy, calling to mind tech’s ruling class, with its proclivity to be frequently wrong but never in doubt. And within the movie is a caution, that we ought not let Big Tech alone govern the world we share. “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” says the feckless astronomer played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie’s last scene.
Well, as it turns out, we do still have everything, so join me and look up in 2022 and beyond. And not at dumb spaceship stunt rides by billionaires, but at the things we really need to focus on — like the humanity in the rest of us.