The legacy-reboot fan-service sequel no one asked for… but probably won’t mind.
Surprise! The Matrix is real: a series of three award-winning and wildly successful computer games created by programmer Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves) that redefined the genre, and everyone’s heard of them. Even as he toils over a new game, his bottom-line boss (Jonathan Groff) pulls him into development of a sequel — Matrix IV — and for a moment, Anderson is inexplicably reminded of the villain Agent Smith. Feeling his grip on reality slipping, Anderson visits his kindly therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) about the things he keeps thinking and seeing, even the woman (Carrie-Anne Moss) he notices coming into his local coffeehouse every day… a woman who reminds him of so much of Trinity.
Developed and shot in secret by Lana Wachowski in San Francisco and other locations, an August 2021 teaser showing Neo and Trinity meeting as strangers while sensing deeper connections piqued curiosity. Both characters made the ultimate sacrifice in The Matrix Revolutions, creating speculation about how far into Wonderland the new film would tread to hit the reset button. Does the new film scrap the last installment like Terminator sequels repeatedly remaking part three, or does the screenplay find a way to give viewers their heroes back and explain everything that has happened since Neo made his truce with the Machines?
In 1999 as the world braced for Y2K possibly destroying computer networks, purging critical data, or launching nuclear missiles at random, The Matrix was all the rage; the green-hued dripping-character screensaver was everywhere. Envisioning a far future where machines enslaved humanity to harness body heat as a power source, minds were plugged into a fictional world indistinguishable from the late twentieth century. As “woke” rebels freed minds to resist “the world pulled over their eyes,” phenomenon such as déjà vu and why so many things taste like chicken were given cool explanations. Twenty-two years later, the modern distractions of society are again ripe to exploit, and Lana Wachowski has succeeded (if just barely) in giving us our heroes back, reminding us how unique the original film was, and spring-boarding into continuing installments… if the audience can find their was back.
Franchises are not always given their due when it comes to storytelling. The MiB films, for example, didn’t quite measure up, with the original coming to an end too soon, the sequel rehashing the same ground and even recycling the final gag, but the panned third MiB film managed to be the best of the three after interest had already waned. So, too, The Matrix Reloaded provided information-overload to rapidly expand the original film’s concept while Revolutions was two-and-half hours of pure battle sequences; the original film’s solidity and uniqueness kept viewer’s attention in spite of distraction. In Resurrections, new actors portray old parts, yet those parts aren’t what they once were; in keeping with the meta concept, everyone has a part to play, but the final steps have to be taken by those who must. Reused footage from the 1999 film is cranked up to nostalgia overload, but the finished product has the depth, humor, angst, and payoff consistent with the franchise, but like Neo himself, it’s hard to ignore the nagging feeling that revenue is its sole purpose to exist.
Reeves and Moss have always had chemistry on-screen, and it feels like no time has passed. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II appears as a different Morpheus than viewers originally knew — there are reasons — and Jessica Henwick plays Bugs, who reportedly described her part as “the audience’s eyes.” Christina Ricci is in it too, somewhere, looking a bit different than her appearance in the Wachowski’s exemplary Speed Racer. While the production feels like a love letter to fans, it’s also an attempt to introduce The Matrix to new audiences who can’t be told what it is — they’ll have to see it for themselves.
The Matrix Resurrections is rated R for violence, some language, and not looking up from your phone, coppertop.
Three skull recommendation out of four