Review: Matrix Resurrections has just enough old magic to thrill fans

Keanu Reeves returns as Neo in <em>Matrix resurrections</em>“><figcaption class=

Enlarge / Keanu Reeves returns as Neo in Matrix resurrections

Warner Bros.

After nearly 20 years, moviegoers finally have the chance to revisit the imaginary cyberpunk world from the years 1999 The matrix with the fourth installment of the science fiction franchise: Matrix resurrections. It’s not a perfect movie, but there is enough old magic to thrill longtime fans. The stars still radiate chemistry, there are plenty of cameos and devious nods to the franchise throughout, and the familiar themes have been subtly updated to make them more relevant than ever.

(A few minor spoilers below, but no major reveal.)

As I wrote previously, it’s hard to overstate the profound cultural impact of The matrix. It redefined the genre of sci-fi film and shaped an entire generation of fans. What’s more, he’s raised $ 460 million worldwide, won multiple Oscars, and sent star Keanu Reeves’ already healthy career into the Hollywood stratosphere. Cyberpunk author William Gibson called The matrix “an innocent delight that I hadn’t felt in a long time,” and he named Neo his all-time favorite sci-fi action hero.

We still refer to take the “red pill“when looking for a metaphor to represent the choice between a disturbing life-changing truth or blissful ignorance. Who can forget the worthy statements of a Reeves meme (” Whoa! “or” I know kung fu “) or the fabulous sunglasses of Laurence Fishburne Morpheus? This is also the movie that gave us the” bullet time “: a special effect – used for the scene on the roof where Neo (Reeves) dodges the bullets fired by one of the Matrix Agents – in which the shot progresses in slow motion as the camera appears to move at normal speed through the scene.

Two pistols are better than one for this new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
Enlarge / Two pistols are better than one for this new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

YouTube / Warner Bros.

It’s a tough act to follow, and the following two films never quite hit the same heights, despite their box office success. The same can be said of Resurrections.

The film opens with Bugs (Jessica Henwick), captain of a rebel ship called the Mnemosyne, stumbling upon a strange program running on old code in an isolated node of the matrix. It performs a recreation of the original film famous opening scene in which Trinity takes out a group of armed officers and must flee from the agents. But some key details are all wrong, including the presence of an agent who turns out to be the digital embodiment of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Bugs frees Morpheus from the node and they team up to find Neo in the Matrix.

Neo, back in his character as Thomas Anderson, works at a game design company called Deus Machina, along with his boss and partner Smith (Jonathan Goff). Thomas is famous for building the company’s most successful game franchise: The Matrix. But he continues to have vivid dreams that resemble memories, and can’t help but feel like he’s truly trapped in a fake computer reality. He regularly sees a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), who keeps Thomas well stocked with prescription blue pills.

Thomas is also strangely drawn to a married mother named Tiffany (Carrie Ann Moss) who frequents the same cafe (aptly named Simulatte). Of course, Thomas’s intuition turns out to be correct, and it doesn’t take long before Bugs and Morpheus track him down and figure out how to save him from the Matrix again.

Carrie Ann Moss returns as Trinity or is it a suburban housewife named Tiffany?
Enlarge / Carrie Ann Moss returns as Trinity or is it a suburban housewife named Tiffany?

YouTube / Warner Bros

The premise of the film is ingenious: the concept of the Matrix, and whoever can control and manipulate it, is so powerful that the system has had to figure out how to dilute it. What could be better than to trivialize it, to turn a heroic myth into entertainment? It provides the perfect opportunity to work in clever fan service nods to the original trilogy in unexpected ways, like a black cat named Deja vu. And Wachowski came up with a particularly cool take on “bullet time” that I can’t discuss in depth without spoilers.

There have also been technological updates. Bugs and his rebellious human companions enter and exit the Matrix using mirrors as portals rather than telephone lines; Agents can take on “appearances” to better blend in with simulated humans in the Matrix; and Morpheus can be embodied outside the Matrix via what is called the “Codex of Exomorphic Particles” (essentially swarms of nanobots).

Jessica Henwick is a new rebel ally named Bugs.
Enlarge / Jessica Henwick is a new rebel ally named Bugs.

YouTube / Warner Bros.

It is well known that the Wachowskis did not originally intend to make another Matrix movie after Revolutions in 2003. Lilly Wachowski went on to call the prospect “a particularly repulsive idea in these times” in a 2015 interview – a scathing criticism of Hollywood’s preference for sequels, reboots and adaptations. Nonetheless, Warner Bros. officially announced the fourth film in August 2019.

In Resurrections, Deus Machina’s parent company is forcing Thomas to work on a fourth installment of the Matrix game, giving Lily Wachowski, as director, a great opportunity to break the studio franchise system’s obsession with focus groups and the marketing. (“We need a new bullet time!”) As the game’s development team discusses the most crucial elements and the true meaning of The Matrix, it’s not hard to imagine scenes like the reflection of the director’s own frustrations.

Agent Smith (Jonathan Goff) vs. Neo.
Enlarge / Agent Smith (Jonathan Goff) vs. Neo.

YouTube / Warner Bros.

Look, no sequel will ever come close to the visual pyrotechnics and jaw-dropping originality of the first film, and The matrix: resurrections has some problems. Most notably, the whole of the second act is poorly paced and muddled, although the third act finds its marks to bring us to a satisfying conclusion. The dialogue is often stilted, or bordering on pretension, always a fine line to overlap when it comes to the Matrix franchise. And there are sometimes rather heavy moralizations that would have benefited from a more subtle approach.

But those issues aren’t enough to sink what is otherwise a very entertaining movie that gives longtime fans of the franchise pretty much exactly what they want. It has striking visuals, emotional resonance, a dry wit, enough conceptual and thematic depth to spark intriguing discussion, and plenty of fight scenes, though the choreography isn’t as electrifying as the original film. In short, it’s a solid addition to the franchise that works more often than it doesn’t.

Matrix resurrections is now playing in theaters and also airing on HBO Max. We strongly recommend that you only go to the cinema if you are fully immunized and boosted, and wear a mask for the duration of the screening.

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