Metro Weekly

Movie Review: ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ is an unoriginal glitch

Lana Wachowski's "The Matrix Resurrections" is a meta "sequel franchise spinoff" that would have been best left unmade.

The Matrix Resurrections
The Matrix Resurrections: Reeves and Moss – Courtesy Warner Bros.

“What if I can’t be what I once was?” ponders Thomas Anderson/Neo (Keanu Reeves) — often messianically hailed as “The One” — at the midway point of The Matrix Resurrections (★★☆☆☆). The words feel directly aimed, in a very meta way, at the fourth installment of a series that back in 1999 sent cinemagoers into a frenzy and launched a thousand theories about the nature of reality.

Unlike the first three films, Resurrections is helmed solo by Lana Wachowski without (clearly much-needed) assistance from sister Lilly. It arrives almost 20 years after 2003’s Matrix Revolutions bundled up the trilogy in a trite, machine-gun blasé finale, one that promised an end to the seemingly endless war between the last free humans, living in a subterranean outpost called Zion, and their mechanical, computer code-based overlords.

The original trilogy has its indecipherable moments, to be sure, but it remains historic for its visual recalibration of cinema at that point in time. The first Matrix physically shoved the medium forward, stylistically and visually, while broaching fantastical notions about life in a computer simulation that inevitably created dozens of philosophical musings, theories, and suppositions. What is it to be free? What is genuine awareness? Take the red pill and find out.

The 1999 film holds up, remaining a blast of fresh, engaging entertainment, directed by The Wachowskis with powerful assuredness and masterful precision. The first sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, expanded on the initial film, devising some of the most dazzling, thrilling set pieces imaginable, notably a mind-boggling, dizzying highway chase and a crazy schoolyard fight between Neo and dozens of replicated Agent Smiths. The third and final film, Revolutions, released six months after Reloaded, is where everything turned to movie mush, as the originality that drove the first two movies was set to autopilot, with the ensuing spectacle overclocked and overcooked. The series couldn’t have ended on a more mundane, disappointing note.

But it did end and the finality felt at least final. So why attempt to revive it? To repent for an ending gone sour? To reignite a surefire, money-making franchise? Maybe a bit of both. The Matrix Resurrections steeps itself in nostalgia while attempting to introduce new — but not too new — ideas into the mix. It’s a continuation of the story that also serves as a reboot, a retro-fit, and a miserably botched attempt at an upgrade. It’s perhaps best described by one of the movie’s few enjoyable returning characters: a “sequel franchise spinoff.”

The Matrix Resurrections
The Matrix Resurrections: Moss and Reeves – Courtesy Warner Bros.

Diving too deeply into the infinite rabbit hole of plot will spoil things for the curious who haven’t yet seen it, so let’s just leave things with this: Thomas Anderson is a successful game designer at a firm called Deus Machina, which is owned by Warner Bros. Things get pretty meta during the film’s initial, mentally woozy 45 minutes as Anderson, who devised a successful trilogy of games called — here it comes! — The Matrix, attempts to stave off a mental breakdown prompted by visions of a past life that may or may not be in actuality from a past life. An encounter with a man called Morpheus only pushes him into further mental distress.

“Are memories turned into fiction any less real?” says this new Morpheus, played by the wonderful Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, suavely filling Laurence Fishburne’s considerable boots. “Is reality based in memory nothing but fiction?” Honestly, I understood maybe half of what was going on at any given moment in Resurrections. It’s knowingly obtuse and yet somehow more accessible than the first three films. How’s that for a Wachowskian Paradox?

Characters like Agent Smith, no longer portrayed by the magnificent Hugo Weaving but the significantly less magnificent, blandly sinister Jonathan Groff, and Trinity — who very clearly died at the end of Revolutions — feel jammed into the narrative to service the voracious fans at the buffet.

Still, to be fair, the reintroduction of Trinity — now Tiffany, and married with kids — is the movie’s heart, soul, and sincerest pleasure. She’s once again played by Carrie-Anne Moss, who is a welcome, luminous pleasure in every brief moment she occupies. Wachowski seems to be exploring how love literally has the power to light up our lives. It may also hold the secret to flight.

There are plenty of things to complain about: The movie’s look has none of the visually stimulating distinctiveness of the original trilogy, shot by the legendary cinematographer Bill Pope. Instead, Resurrections largely resembles a warm and cozy commercial for Betty Crocker Cake Mix. The action is downright messy, a clumsy clutter of over-editing and half-assed punches. And, I’m sorry, but Keanu Reeves, now in his late 50s, may have changed the way he looks here — long hair and a patchy, grizzled beard — but nothing has changed in terms of his inability to act.


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The film has a trace amount of queerness running through it, mostly in a character called Bugs (a delightful, sharp Jessica Henwick), sporting blue hair and a rabbit tattoo, but I wouldn’t call it a pantheon of LGBTQ cinema. Wachowski seems more interested in introducing three new “characters” — Cybebe, Octacles, and Lumin8 — all of whom feel ripe for Walmart’s toy shelves. (Oh, and incidentally, machines prefer to be called “synthients.” Well, la-dee-dah.)

With Resurrections streaming on HBOMax for a month, as well as in theaters, it might be worth a second watch to look for helpful clues and missed details in its cluttered, mind-drain of a narrative. Then again, at two-and-a-half hours, your time might be better spent outside this Matrix altogether.

The Matrix Resurrections is now playing in theaters nationwide and streaming through Jan. 21, 2022 on HBOMax. Visit www.hbomax.com.

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Lilly Wachowski: ‘The Matrix’ is a transgender allegory from ‘a closeted point of view’

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