Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure and Martial Arts Running Time: 2 hrs. 28 min.
Release Date: December 22nd, 2021 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Lana Wachowski Actors: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jonathan Groff, Christina Ricci, Lambert Wilson
his is how it all began.” The music, the graphics, the sound effects, signature lines, and more aid a direct recreation of iconic events from the original film, setting the stage for a mixture of homage, throwback, and discouraging repetition. It also makes use of genuine stunts blended with CG models – something largely avoided before through cutting-edge cinematographic technology. Fortunately, despite some questionable choices in renovation, the production shifts into a welcome familiarity, avoiding the pitfalls of a straight ripoff. There may not be much more of a story to tell with these characters, but that doesn’t negate the amusement of revisiting them.
“This is not the real world.” Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a world-famous game designer, having made the Matrix trilogy for a company called Deus Machina (governed by Warner Bros., no less). In other words, the original three Matrix films are mere video games, with Thomas having put a bit too much of himself into the designs for the product’s star persona, Neo. Although he recognizes the impact and popularity of his work, something in the back of his mind still nags him; a suicide attempt some time ago is at the heart of a plaguing feeling that he’s somehow trapped in repeating loops, where choice is an illusion – free will contrasting with destiny is the ultimate paradox. And his analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) doesn’t help all that much, despite prescribing him bottle after bottle of medication – in the form of shiny blue pills.
There are new characters in this long-awaited return to the universe of the Matrix, but they serve to essentially refill old jobs and recognizable tasks; from locations to costumes to fight choreography to a black cat, deja vu is pervasive. And it’s actually quite gratifying. It’s no surprise that this fourth outing is made entirely for fans – the trailers and advertising material give away as little as possible about the plot, because it’s absolutely necessary to have seen the previous three features. It’s unlikely that anyone unfamiliar with the Matrix pictures will have any interest in seeing this sequel anyway.
And so, “The Matrix Resurrections” jumps right into the secret doorway portals, the gunfights with limitless bullets, the kung fu duels, ultra high-speed pursuits, and the coolness-oozing self-defenestrations. Major players also reappear, including Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, while doppelgängers abound, redefining the integral roles of Agent Smith and Morpheus. Curiously, since the plot is written around those specific characters, it’s disappointing that replacements were cast, as opposed to simply bringing back Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne, respectively. It wouldn’t have been difficult at all to morph the script into accommodating those actors, since the screenplay is basically orchestrated around continual nods to the original trilogy – going so far as to utilize countless flashbacks that are chunks of footage manipulated into various displays within the Matrix.
“You can’t be a character I coded!” At times, this latest chapter is virtually a parody of itself, though the tone thankfully doesn’t devolve into significant silliness. It’s far from necessary to expand upon the franchise at this point, but it nevertheless works to challenge the reality of the prior lore, while also revisiting so many pieces of unforgettable imagery – from a rabbit tattoo to “bullet time” to black-suited agents to sprinkler systems erupting over slow-motion shootouts. The nostalgia value is exceptionally high and smartly incorporated. It’s inarguable that a considerable amount of attention is paid to repetitious hand-to-hand combat, acrobatic posing before fatal strikes, and the use of warped mirrors and strange reflections to highlight the difficulties in discerning reality from fiction, yet that doesn’t get in the way of entertainment.
What “The Matrix Resurrections” does do incredibly well is to fix the supremely dissatisfying conclusion of the third episode, twisting an unambiguous collection of demises and open-ended stalemates into unpolished yet pleasing second chances. As if answering the criticisms of the previous conclusion, this reboot of sorts espouses the simplicity and intimacy of one condensed, obvious mission – to save Trinity – rather than solving the wealth of predicaments the massiveness of the Matrix poses on an entire civilization (of course, answers aren’t always found when it’s easier to shrug things off as grand anomalies). The basic love story from the 1999 blockbuster was perhaps the most significant component (augmented spectacularly by themes of identity and liberty in a modernized, tech-dependent world; the visuals of long black coats and sunglasses to match heavy weaponry; and some of the greatest action sequences ever devised), making it an undoubtedly wise decision to stick with – and it’s every bit as moving as before. Here, the supplementary elements – such as the villains, the high-octane adventure, and the set pieces – aren’t as stimulating as in the first film, but the end result still goes a long way in repairing the sense of satisfaction and outright fun that were so starkly absent from the 2003 finale.
– Mike Massie