- Produced, Co-Written, and Directed by Lana Wachowski
- December 16, 2021 (Toronto) / December 22, 2021 (US)
A computer programmer realizes his life as he believes it to be is a lie and finds himself trying to overcome a more secure version of the Matrix.
This is a meta sequel that starts out the film by taking swipes at sequels. Neo is once again living as Thomas Anderson who is a supposedly suicidal game designer working in San Francisco. He has created a successful video game series known as The Matrix and is being forced by Warner Bros. to create a fourth game. They have the rights and they are going to create one with or without him.
And that is one thing that makes this film very meta. This is an obvious swipe at Warner Bros. Pictures which reportedly were considering a fourth Matrix film with or without the involvement of the Wachowskis. I give Lana Wachowski points for taking a shot at the people holding the purse strings.
And it also tries to be a little meta with a sequence that emulates the opening scene of the first film with Carrie Anne Moss. They hang a lantern on sequels being a retread of the original by mimicking the original’s opening moments.
This may be a little bit of a nitpick, but The Matrix Resurrections is not nearly as stylized as any of its predecessors-including the Animatrix. Making the world of The Matrix look cooler than cool and (I’m talking about The Matrix construct) is one of the elements that helped the original films stand out. When doing a sequel there are certain things you cannot leave out or change. That is something that varies from fictional universe to fictional universe, but some things just make a universe.
The style elements, from the clothes to the environment, are significantly toned down to almost nonexistent. There are the hints of green while inside the construct, but the cool clothes are largely missing. Again it may be a bit of a nitpick but it really sticks out.
The closest we get to the styling of the original matrix is the fight scene at the end where Carrie Anne Moss proves she is still just as flexible and agile as she was when she made The Matrix and does that weird backward kick thing where head is pointing towards the ground and her foot comes back and smacks the guy in the side of the head. But unfortunately the rest of the few fights there are just are not as stylized.
It was good to see Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss return to their respective roles. The question of how their characters survived is what is used through much of the narrative here. It is a teased mystery but the payoff is not as good as it should have been. It does not pack a punch and this was a film series that made revelations impressive.
Neil Patrick Harris as The Analyst was great here. He is really the chief villain of the movie and the architect of the current version of the Matrix. He’s a lot less cold and emotionless than the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) from the previous film. To be honest the Analyst is a bit of a dick but a villainous dick.
The new Smith (Jonathan Groff) or old Smith (depending on how you look at it with him being in a new body) I thought did a good job but was not in the film nearly enough. His character was evil but in a slightly different way than Hugo Weaving portrayed the character though you can see a connecting thread between the two. It’s tough to fill the shoes of someone in an iconic role and the list of people who have done it effectively is extremely short but I think Groff did a well enough job.
The issue is how the character is written. Smith for whatever reason was never purged from the system and instead was reformatted to be Neo’s business partner though why makes no real sense. Smith waffles between being an antagonist and ally of Neo as dictated by vague reasons. A side needed to be picked and stuck with.
Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is about as close to the original version as the 2016 Ghostbusters was to the original. This Morpheus comes from a modal that Neo as Thomas Anderson created and states he is combination of Smith and the original Morpheus but I see neither in the character. I did like the new Morpheus, but he was under used.
There are brief clips from the previous films as well as visual callbacks. There are a few returning characters either in played by new actors or by those that originated them. The return of The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) was the weakest of them and by weakest I mean seriously weak. He was nothing but a joke here.
The newer characters aren’t as well rounded as they were before. You had a better sense of the individuals present in the film in the first three films then you do in the newer ones here. They just show up and go through no character arcs.
Much like the original film The Matrix Revolutions touches on some deeper themes. Free will and choice and do either really exist? But this also touches on how people prefer to live in control and certainty rather than an existence where some risk is involved.
There are Machines that have chosen to work alongside humans. It is an interesting idea but lacks the impact in had in the Animatrix short it was first used in.
Despite my issues, I enjoyed The Matrix Resurrections very much. It has deeper ideas than most science-fiction films out there and at points does manage to mess with your mind and use some cool concepts. For example rather than having body hopping agents patrol the construct there are now bots populating the Matrix that act as it’s enforcement arm that engage in a swarm mode.
I’ve heard people call this movie ‘woke.’ I certainly understand the term and I can most assuredly point to plenty out there that is woke but this isn’t woke. I’m not calling it conservative either, but it is most certainly not ‘woke.’ If anything it’s about how people are willing to just live their crappy or mundane and repetitive lives rather than take a chance on something new. This is exemplified by Neo as Thomas Anderson being unwilling to talk to Tiffany/Trinity.
The Analyst’s Matrix program hinges on the inhabitants of the program being unhappy with their lives but being afraid of losing what they do have if they try for something better. It’s a fear we all have. We take comfort and feel safety and security in what we have but are fearful of losing it all if we try for something else. I am not sure how acknowledging something like that makes this movie woke.
The closest we get to woke is Trinity getting Neo like powers while in the Matrix. I’m not sure why she gets those abilities other than it’s a new construct and maybe that is something they’re saving for later films. When she gets the abilities though Neo is unable to use his. However that change no longer exists by the end of the film when Neo and Trinity, after they confront The Analyst, are seen flying through the sky together. If that makes it woke then that’s a pretty low bar to make something woke.
I guess now Neo and Trinity are the One but does that not make them the Two? Was this to counter the white male savior complaint some people have? Or was it to mix things up a bit for possible future films?
In the end though The Matrix Resurrections is not on the same level as the first three films. It’s hard to re-capture that magic after 20 years. Somehow the film as whole feels smaller. It’s not as groundbreaking as its predecessors and the stakes do not feel as high in the narrative.
The Matrix Resurrections is an interesting film. But it seems a little more aimed at core Matrix fans rather than the casual viewer. I do recommend this to someone looking for something with a little more thinking. If you go in expecting something as original as the first you will be disappointed.