December 25, 2021

Review: Failing to Resurrect “The Matrix”

Its difficult to put into words how I feel about The Matrix Resurrections, because I wanted to love it. From my viewing of the first trailer, I was fully on-board with this movie and was willing to buy whatever it was selling.

The last Matrix film, 2003’s Revolutions, was a disappointing end to a mostly-strong trilogy, and say what you will about it, but it gave a concrete end to the story. There was no doubt that it was the end of the line, and it was frankly a satisfying conclusion. Released eighteen years later, Resurrections proves itself to be a sequel without a clear purpose. In this way, Resurrections continues a long line of reboots/sequels that bring back the original cast for what is essentially an expensive reunion that unnecessarily extends the perfectly fine conclusion to the original series.

Years after the deaths of Neo (Keanu Reeves), savior of the human race, and his girlfriend/fellow ass-kicker Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), they somehow live on in the virtual world of the Matrix. Neo (known in the Matrix as Thomas “Mr.” Anderson) is a video game designer, and the events of the first three films are — somewhat confusingly — represented as the games he designs. Of course, in the real world, the machines are still at work subjugating humanity, and a hacker named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) makes it her mission to free Neo and Trinity from the world they worked so hard to take down.

I should probably get this out of the way and say that The Matrix Resurrections has a lot of great ideas. The mechanics of the Matrix are used in some fun ways, and the technology of the real world is rightfully expounded upon after many years away from this universe. Unfortunately, the story never presents us with a clear goal, and so most of its beats feel aimless and, thus, without stakes or tension. Sometimes it’s exciting not knowing where a film is going, but I just wanted Resurrections to actually take the leap and work towards something as opposed to just jumping from place to place before ending very abruptly. Sure, there’s a reason the previously-dead leads are alive, but it never amounts to anything more than “they came back to life and now they’re here, so…might as well give them something to do!” Sometimes, they aren’t even afforded that luxury.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Jonathan Groff appears as Agent Smith, the primary villain of the first three films, but I think Resurrections would have been better served with him as the main antagonist (unfortunately, I can’t specify who ends up being Resurrections’ chief baddie). As any Broadway or Netflix fan will tell you, Groff is an incredible actor, and his interpretation of Smith has the potential to be as engaging as Hugo Weaving’s. The true villain and their paint-by-numbers plan isn’t nearly as interesting as anything that Smith could come up with. I wouldn’t necessarily ask for a sequel to Resurrections, but if Smith were the focus, I’d watch the hell out of it.

Its raison d’être is to be a new Matrix with some “hip” meta commentary that doesn’t always land, and there’s not much beyond there. Its callbacks alternate between fun (if you’ve seen the other films) and downright confusing (why is the Merovingian in this movie?), but at least the action is epic and looks great. The ambitions of Lana Wachowski the writer get in the way of Lana Wachowski, the still-very-apt action director. It’s a real shame because I really wanted to like Resurrections but, hey, at the end of the day, it’s a new Matrix movie — how often do we get one of those? [Grade: B-]

Director: Lana Wachowski

Writers: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksander Hemon

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Rated: R for violence and some language

Available: Theaters
Fun Fact: In this new Matrix, Trinity is now married to Chad, played by Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves’ stunt double on the original Matrix and director of John Wick, also starring Reeves.

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