Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Matrix Resurrections - Review


It was only a matter of time before the executives at Warner Brothers got their way in making a fourth entry in The Matrix franchise. Whereas the original 1999 film painted a portrait of a hopeless, mundane future at the end of the millennium giving way to an otherworldly dystopia of a computer program, this newest entry faces issues of the modern age. Gone is the cubicle and bland life of the 90s, replaced with the unending commotion of the social media age. 

Thomas, or as most audiences would know him, Neo, is back, played once again by Keanu Reeves, and finds his life to be crushing and surreal in very new ways. In this “reality”, Thomas is a game designer, coasting off his success in creating The Matrix, a highly detailed, deeply immersive video game that mimics the events of the first film. In spite of the different appearances and ultra-connected world of this new film, Thomas is just as existentially distraught as before, confident that there’s something else just beyond what he can see. 

And yes, the film as a whole is really as meta as that brief synopsis sounds. In one instance, Warner Brothers itself is referenced as wanting to make The Matrix 4, with or without the approval from its original creator. Lana Wachowski, directing solo this time without Lilly Wachowski, seems to have a great deal to say about Hollywood’s propensity for making everything old new again. A brainstorming session about what made the in film video game a hit might as well be a peek into a meeting of executives at Warner Brothers, with repeated uses of words like “original” or phrases like “bullet time”. 

Wachowski seems determined to not coast entirely off nostalgia with The Matrix Resurrections. The famed director has plenty to say, but realizes the power that familiarity has within audiences. There aren’t recast versions of old characters, but rather new versions, sharing qualities with older characters complete with in world explanations for their different appearances. While bringing back Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss are both essential pieces, and they’re both great, the other members of the cast shine just as well. Jessica Henwick as the blue haired Bugs aces her role, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II brings an excellent energy to the screen as this new version of Morpheus. 

It should come as no surprise that the franchise that gave us bullet time features some great action set pieces as well this time around, reinvented for a modern age. There’s notably less than most action films in 2021, but unlike the previous two installments, it doesn’t fill in the gaps with complicated machinations on destiny and choice. Those are still there of course, those themes are baked into the idea of the franchise, but in many ways Resurrections feels free of the pressures that were on the less well-received second and third entries.

It’s nearly impossible to live up to the world bending success of the original 1999 film. It’s perfection is hardly disputed and its influences are still felt in some ways to this day, but this fourth entry is an updated, potential re-start to the whole idea of what the Matrix could be. Lana Wachowski isn’t attempting to recreate the original film, nor build the philosophical debates that the sequels sought to start, but instead she’s creating something new, a resurrection of her own, out of one of the greatest films of all time. 

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