The real subject of The Matrix is hegemony: the rule of authority that hides ideology from people accustomed to simply accepting and following social conventions. The real point of “red-pilling” — a term sometimes abused by zealots today — is the need to rouse people from their acceptance of uncontested, pre-set rules. The true objective of red-pill stimulation is release from the dictates of media influence, especially the media whose real goal is political control.
This awareness — so important to our current culture wars — should make The Matrix more relevant than ever, but the film’s comic-book characterizations lessen its impact. Reeves is used for his androgynous remoteness — not a sense of political curiosity. He has rapport only with Gloria Foster as The Oracle, who brings an unexpected comic, human touch. The sleek, film-noir imagery (based on green binary-code digits, a motif that predates David Fincher’s chromatics) achieves graphic-novel stylishness, but it doesn’t equal the deep mythos of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman. Visionary passion is beyond the Wachowski siblings who conceived The Matrix (and then went on to the unfortunate boondoggles Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas and the cable TV series Sense8 about sex and gender ambiguity).