Keanu Reeves Jacks in for a new Take on old ‘Trix.
DIRECTED BY LANA WACHOWSKI/2021
While virtually no movie is “necessary”, most would agree that the sequels to 1999’s mind-bending blockbuster The Matrix rank as particularly unnecessary. Now, after eighteen years, the long-dormant franchise has a fourth entry to gum up the works. The Matrix Resurrections, helmed and concocted by only one of the two Wachowski siblings (Lana), is one of those far-after-the-fact sequels that no one asked for. The philosophical and spiritual bent that permeated the previous entries is given a backset to action, snark, some kung-fu, and (unintentional?) self-parody.
What is The Matrix Resurrections? You don’t have to see it for yourself to correctly guess between “sequel”, “reboot”, or “rehash”. The answer, in any case, is “yes”. Keanu Reeves is back as Neo, now reformatted into a middle-aged Thomas Anderson, award winning developer of a trilogy of now-classic video games: The Matrix,The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions. Just as the oh-so-meta corporate demand for a fourth one spins up, trouble materializes in the form of the nefarious and viral Agent Smith. (No longer Hugo Weaving, Smith now wears the experessionless face of Jonathan Groff).
Neo, now sporting the hair and beard of an aging grunge rocker- exactly the music that The Matrix ushered out- is reawakened into the dreary techno-fied reality where he was once the sacrificial “One”. In the meantime, however, much has changed for Zion, and the murky like. A crew of upstart fighters (played by Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and others) has made it their mission to get Neo back; Neo then spends the rest of the movie on his mission to get Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) back. Currently living in the Matrix as a tired wife and mother and going by Tiffany, the film’s assumption is that of course she’d want out! The question is, why does it take her so darn long to “wake up”? Conditioning? Contrivance? Consensus?
The collectively lingering name recognition of The Matrix has been more than enough to get home studio Warner Bros. to insist on a revival. If that’s somehow not evident enough by this movie’s mere existence, it includes groaningly self-referential corporate board room scenes that spell it out. (“They’re going to do it, with or without us”). In so, The Matrix Resurrections demonstrates a mischievous streak absent in the property heretofore. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the painful post-credits scene depicting studio pinheads advocating for Matrix-themed cat videos, the humor is just as stale as the franchise itself. “Bullet time” just doesn’t hit the spot the way it used to.
To watch The Matrix Resurrections is to watch a movie at war with itself over its own existence. Wachowski works hard to make the most out of this existential crisis, but the discomfort of the struggle is never not felt. Amid all of the intricate re-stagings of key moments from the first movie (the entire Vertigo-influenced Agents vs. Trinity chase that opens the original happens again at the beginning of this one. In Resurrections defense, The Architect did warn us about this sort of thing.) and liberal re-use of footage from the entire trilogy, there’s increasingly verbose social and political commentary. Like everything else in The Matrix Resurrections, this business is, at turns, both ham-fisted and awash in the din.
Obviously, Lana Wachowski is not happy about the way Qanon and Trumpism appropriated The Matrix’s truth-imbuing red pill/blue pill concept. Her need to reclaim that is understandable, though an op-ed piece really would’ve sufficed. While the first half of this movie seems to play into the narrowness of right-wing interpretations, the eventual about-face doesn’t land as radical so much as lecture-y. By the end, our heroes are keen to give the close-minded badguy(s) a robust what-for. And, let’s just say that witty, sarcastic banter is nobody’s forte here.
The Matrix Resurrections brings back some old characters (some of whom we have reason to remember, most of whom we do not) and introduces a few new ones. (Neil Patrick Harris as Thomas Anderson’s shrink? Uh, okay…) The fight scenes and requisite blockbuster action chaos clicks in the moment, but won’t be remembered a week later. Brushing up on the previous Matrix trilogy will no doubt help one navigate this one, but then, ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” That, of course, is a question that every individual must answer for themselves. It is also the deepest question that The Matrix Resurrections poses.
What is The Matrix Resurrections? You actually do have to see it for yourself in order to truly comprehend the layers and levels of lore, exposition, and uneasy lobs at no less than Warner Bros. But doing so is philosophically unnecessary. The choice, as they say, is yours.