The Matrix Resurrections (Review): Stories Never Really End
Heartfelt, unique, action packed, and very meta, The Matrix Resurrections is the best Matrix film since the original.
Honestly, there’s so much about The Matrix Resurrections that I’d like to say, but there’s only so much I can say without harming the experience. When I was writing my Matrix Retrospective for Loud and Clear earlier this month, I realized that, for the most part, I didn’t actually dislike 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as much as I did when I was a teenager. That retrospective also got me even more excited to see The Matrix Resurrections, and, now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you that’s the best Matrix film since the original was released in 1999. Is Resurrections a masterpiece, as I consider The Matrix to be? Not exactly: it has flashes of what made the first film great, but doesn’t quite bust through the glass ceiling, despite coming close.
The Matrix Resurrections picks up several decades after the end of The Matrix Revolutions (2003). Neo (Keanu Reeves) has been living an ordinary life under his original identity of Thomas A. Anderson inside a new version of the Matrix. When Morpheus (now portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II after being portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the first three films) reemerges and offers him the red pill, Neo must follow the white rabbit once again in order to discover the truth of his reality.
Unlike its predecessors, Resurrections has a key element that I absolutely loved in the first film. It brings back the element of mystery and makes you ask so many questions almost immediately. In 1999, you asked the question “What is The Matrix?” and in 2021, one of the central questions is “How did Neo wind up back in The Matrix?”. Through some very clever and meta worldbuilding by Director/Writer Lana Wachowski and the script’s cowriters David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, you’ll find out the answer to that first central question as the film plays out. Bringing back this element made things a lot of fun for me, as I was constantly coming up with new outcomes while I was in the theater. While I won’t reveal the actual answer to the mystery here, it was just as satisfying to me as all the theories my mind was creating.
What might divide a lot of people is the very meta nature of the narrative. The Matrix Resurrections is aware of what it is, and it also is aware of the varied responses to the sequels before it. Early on, there is a reference to a parent company making something without the creator’s involvement. This mirrors Warner Bros.’ real life attempt to move forward with a Matrix film without The Wachowskis involvement. There are plenty of moments like that in this film, and it creates something that is in my opinion very unique. In a world filled with remakes and reboots, this take from Wachowski and her cowriters manages to create something that feels old, new, and almost like a commentary. Resurrections isn’t a normal sequel, but it isn’t a reboot either. There are new characters and elements introduced, but if you’re looking for the more philosophical stuff offered by Reloaded and Revolutions, you might not like watching this new installment. This story feels very self-referential and personal on the part of Lana Wachowski, and at the center of it is a love story between the characters of Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a human rebel freed by Morpheus and the subject of Neo’s affections, who has also been reinserted into The Matrix.
That love story is one that makes The Matrix Resurrections a very heartfelt film. One of the key criticisms I had of the prior Matrix sequels was the lack of character development. This new film focuses almost exclusively on Neo and Trinity, their relationship with each other, and their relationship with the world they live in. While there are some cool worldbuilding nuggets in there, there is a lot more attention paid to our central characters. I cannot complain about that one bit, even though I wish it had taken place earlier in the series. It’s fascinating watching Neo find his way back to Trinity and vice versa. Both Neo and the audience know what their relationship is, but how far are the two of them willing to go to return to each other? As it turns out, they both are willing to go pretty far to be together. They’ve also got some great bonding moments during the film that will likely make you root for them to be reunited even more.
If you’re looking for action, The Matrix Resurrections has a good bit of it. There are new things, like the “swarm” mode, which are cool. What really impressed me is how the advancements in CGI have managed to make the fight sequences that we know even more impressive than they originally were. Neo’s abilities are more realistic looking, which makes them even cooler to witness on screen. Granted, all of them don’t look as good, in particular, there’s a new element that sounds cool, but doesn’t work as well visually. Problem is, I can’t really get into why it doesn’t work to me without getting into major spoilers. What matters most is that Resurrections does retain the action that the series is known for, and most of sequences look great.
While I don’t love that Laurence Fishburne wasn’t even asked to reprise the role of Morpheus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II gives a refreshing new spin on the character. It also helps that Costume Designer Lindsay Pugh puts Morpheus in some slick outfits that really make him stand out like he should. The Matrix Resurrections also introduces a new character named Bugs (Jessica Henwick), who is a gunslinger and captain of the hovercraft Mnemosyne. Bugs stands out because she serves as a bit of an audience surrogate, and she’s a total badass. Her blue hair may catch your eyes, but Henwick’s character holds her own against some formidable foes.
With its unique story that is meta and heartfelt and tons of action, The Matrix Resurrections is the best film in the series since the original. Lana Wachowski and her cowriters managed to take most of the worst aspects of the sequels away, and replaced them with some things that will feel familiar, and others that are new. It’s not perfect, but I’d much rather watch this fascinating film crafted by Wachowski over something made without her or her sister Lilly’s involvement.
The Matrix Resurrections was released in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22, 2021.
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