movie reviews

‘The Matrix Resurrections’ review: Jacked in and popping pills

Carljoe Javier
‘The Matrix Resurrections’ review: Jacked in and popping pills

Warner Bros Entertainment Inc

'One of the draws here was seeing Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann-Moss reprise their iconic roles. They wear the years well...'

It was easy to dismiss the announcement of a fourth installment to the Matrix IP as a cash grab. In fact, in a very Matrix-y self-referential way, the fact that we consider it an addition to IP as well as a film sequel is indicative of the ouroboros-like manner that “properties” get developed. In a world where every film must be part of some larger interlocking universe, it was easy to see this in a very cynical light.

But if you can get past that initial cynicism and franchise fatigue, there are some truly enjoyable moments in the film, and on the whole The Matrix Resurrections makes for not just a great revival of the franchise, but a real expansion in the story. I won’t give too much of the plot away, since part of the enjoyment in the film is seeing how they make it all make sense. Suffice to say that The Matrix continued, and for some reason, Neo and Trinity are in it. But, as one of the characters explains, there are changes happening in The Matrix. 

First things first, if you did not watch the first film, or if you did not enjoy the previous films, then there isn’t anything here that is going to suddenly win you over. And because a good amount of this film’s effectiveness is reliant on a familiarity with the earlier films, if you’re not already a fan you’ll probably miss the importance of the references it makes. 

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Now, a slight digression to discuss all this referencing. I’ve read reviews where people are dismissive or frustrated with all the self-referencing that the film does. For sure it isn’t for everyone, but at the same time, I think it’s not a bad thing at all that this film leans into the power of its predecessors. Watching The Matrix in 2021 is totally different from watching it when it came out. By now, some 20 years later, it’s safe to say that almost every Hollywood blockbuster has been influenced or at least informed by that movie. So imagining ourselves in that first screening, the freezes and 360-degree camera whips, the bullet-time, even the commitment to such disciplined framing, all of those things that made that film what it was, holds up as an experience on par with films like Jaws or Star Wars. Which is to say, when you’ve created some groundbreaking, I feel like it’s more than fair to build on top of it. 

The issues with constant referencing are that it can get tiresome and that it can become a nostalgia trip rather than something uniquely its own. The former is a matter of taste, but the latter is thankfully something that The Matrix Resurrections side steps to make something that feels fresh and relevant to today. 

The Wachowskis changed the game with The Matrix. And one challenge with being a game-changer is that people will expect you to keep changing the game. Succeeding sequels, which had their moments, never measured up to the first. Even as the Wachowskis created other films that attempted their own kinds of reinvention, it’s safe to say that their first film truly stood apart. 

As a solo director, Lana Wachowski drives The Matrix Resurrections through a gauntlet of familiar pieces and knowing winks, and into some fresh territory for the franchise. The thing I appreciated most was that it has the most coherent and emotionally-driven story since the first. There’s much less head-scratching and “explain that again” exposition and much more of, “oh yeah that piece makes sense.” Some credit might be due to collaborators like David Mitchell, who first made a name for himself for his complex novels, which run a nice parallel to the Wachowskis mythology-building. 

One of the freshest things about this film is the introduction of a new cast of characters, led by Jessica Henwick, who shines every moment she is onscreen. Unlike previous ship crews which had a knack for looking cool and then getting killed off much too quickly, the new crews hold their own. They contribute to the development of the story as much as the fight sequences. 

Though we are looking for fresh material, one of the draws here was seeing Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann-Moss reprise their iconic roles. They wear the years well, and in a weird way I couldn’t stop thinking about Before Sunset. Where earlier films sort of took the Neo/Trinity relationship as a given, this is the first time we see them sit and have conversations about aspirations, longing, and a sense of meaning. It took 20 years, but time and distance from the franchise have created space not just for the characters, but for us as viewers, to be ready to see something beyond the kick-ass flying kicks (though those are still awesome, too). 

While it’s hard to say this, or any sequel, was necessary, the dominant feeling I had after watching this was that I was happy to have taken a trip back into the world of The Matrix. It hit familiar beats and provided new ones. The action was interesting – not a game changer like the original, but inventive enough to elicit wows from me. Perhaps most important for the franchise, it shows a way forward for new stories in this world. –

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