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There’s not much Neil Patrick Harris can say about The Matrix Resurrections, except that it’s ‘gigantic’ and ‘exceeded his expectations’.
In 2003, The Matrix was everywhere. It was all around us. You could see it when you looked out your window, or when you turned on your television. Its double-release strategy felt like a revolution, and the sequels have garnered just respect in time. After 18 years, against all odds, we’re reloaded and ready to go into the rabbit hole.
Keanu Reeves is returning as Mr. Anderson – say that in a voice other than Hugo Weaving – aka Neo, as well as Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity, and a slew of mysterious newcomers, including Harris, whose blue-spectacled identity hasn’t been revealed. Plot details are under lock and key – but if there’s one thing he managed to tease, it’s how excited the fans should be.
You’ll get your red pill soon. My sit-down with Harris was primarily to chat about 8-Bit Christmas, Warner Bros’ rather lovely update to A Christmas Story that could – and should – become a festive re-watchable in with the next turns of yuletide.
Narrated by a grown-up Harris, the movie follows his younger self (Winslow Fegley) in 1980s Chicago. As kids start assembling their lists for Santa, there’s only one thing he wants: a Nintendo Entertainment System. However, his parents (June Diane Raphael and Steve Zahn) aren’t so keen, pitting him against financial, logistical and emotional odds to secure that sacred console.
We can harp on about how the holidays shouldn’t be about the material things, and it’s true – but let’s all grow up a bit. While phones, tablets and other depressing gifts are popular now – something the film acknowledges, much to my grumbling vindication, the best thing about Christmas is the joy kids experience when they get that one thing they absolutely love.
I asked the How I Met Your Mother star which childhood gift would feature at the centre of the movie if the story was biographical (mine would be a PS2).
‘Here’s an actual answer which sounds like a fake answer: I got the gift of a treehouse built by my father as a holiday gift. An actual surprise gift. That was pretty amazing. I thought things weren’t that exciting one year, and I found out all that was happening without my knowledge. It was remarkable, and weirdly meta,’ he said.
It’s with no disrespect to 8-Bit Christmas when I say, festive movies which actually make an impression are fewer and far between.
Year on year, we still queue up the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Gremlins, Home Alone, Elf, Love Actually and more, but new films find it harder than ever to establish themselves as ones to revisit – or more often, feel like afterthoughts in the conversation. For the record, The Night Before and Klaus are among the very best of the past decade.
‘I think most people, myself included, love the comfort of the holidays being a repetition; getting to slow down and thinking about others with gifting and the gathering of family and friends, and sweaters, and fires,’ Harris said.
‘With that cyclical nature, comes that desire to watch things you’ve watched the year before and the year before that. I grew up watching It’s a Wonderful Life, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, A Christmas Story. So, I think 8-Bit Christmas has an opportunity to be that movie as well for a generation who grew up loving those movies and lived through those times.’
My time with Harris was sparse, so before we parted virtual ways, I remembered I was there because of the path that lies before me: The Matrix Resurrections is coming to cinemas this Christmas. From the trailer, we know Harris is playing a therapist… and that’s about it.
Why was there a black cat in his office? Why does he have so many pills? Could this be the live-action, twisted debut of Cryptos from The Matrix Online? Is he an agent in disguise, like Jonathan Groff (probably) is?
Denial may be the most predictable of all human responses, and concordantly, ergo, vis-à-vis, there’s only so much he could tease. I asked him if he had a name he could share, and if he had any fight scenes. Immediately, he laughed. ‘I can’t talk about the plot at all. We all have ‘cannot discuss’ clauses,’ he said.
To my delight, he didn’t stop there. ‘What I can say is I got to see the movie this last week, they threw a little screening for me, my family and a couple of friends. It is gigantic,’ Harris continued.
‘So, getting to watch it as a fan of the franchise, I recommend that if you’re excited to see the film, you try and see it on the biggest screen you’re able to. Reserve a seat in the middle of a big space where it is coming at you, because there are some sequences and shots… and everyone looks so fantastic.
‘Keanu and Carrie-Anne look amazing, they have aged so brilliantly, and Lana films everyone so well. I was just gobsmacked… it exceeded my expectations.’
It’s less than a month ’til we go back to where it all started… back to The Matrix.
8-Bit Christmas is available on Digital Download from November 26 and on Sky Cinema and NOW from December 4. The Matrix Resurrections hits cinemas on December 22, 2021.
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