There was a time when the Wachowskis would be mentioned in the same breath with luminaries the likes of David Fincher, the Coen Brothers and Ridley Scott. Now, though, the only times their names are ever mentioned is when we speak one-hit wonders like M. Night Shymalan. After a string of poor films such as the offensibly bad “Cloud Atlas” and the laughably terrible “Jupiter Ascending”, it seems that the Wachowskis have returned to the one bright spot of their careers. The landmark sci-fi film that raised a whole generation of amateur philosophers, hacker bros and people who know kung fu. After their success, it was clear that the Wachowskis lacked the foresight or the vision to bring their magnum opus to a satisfying, nevermind poignant, conclusion. “The Matrix Revolutions” gave us some closure to Neo’s half-baked messianic arc and that was good enough for us.
Then, they brought him back. Neo is back in the Matrix, in spite of the very clear death at the end of the last film. Along with the resurrected Neo, comes a whole slew of familiar faces and new characters as well. So, does “The Matrix Resurrections” have any meaningful to say about Neo’s journey, the nature of reality and society? Let’s find out.
Directed by Lana Wachowski, the film follows the story of an older Thomas Anderson, who lives a mostly comfortable, if not mundane, existence in a newer, more insidious version of the Matrix. A world that mirrors much of the ennui of our own. That is until a ragtag group of human resistance fighters and their new friends work together to break Anderson out of the simulation. He’s soon thrust into a new war against the machines as he races against time to save his old flame, Trinity from their clutches.
It’s absurd at times in which the lengths “The Matrix Resurrections” will go to justify not only its existence but its casting discrepancies and blatant plotholes as well. The film’s backhanded attempts to explain why certain characters look different while still trying to bank on our nostalgia is jarring. Furthermore, it betrays a lack of confidence in Lana Wachowski’s vision for the franchise going forward. It would have been far more commendable if she had simply rebooted the entire thing. Start from scratch and tell a whole new Foucaultian dystopia with fresh faces. Instead, we’re left in this pathetic compromise between contrived fan-service and a new, imposed status quo. No one’s happy.
The film does have some meta-commentary on how people seek refuge in the familiar and how the powerful use our sense of security against us. The same spirit of free-thought and rebellion is at the very least still present in the film. Unfortunately, much of Wachowski’s heavyhanded critiques of society and human connection come off as reductive and antiquanted.
The idea of the “The Matrix” film trilogy existing as a video-game series within the universe is constantly being shoved in our faces as some greaty novelty. Yes, yes, the system is using much of our cherished beliefs against us…so what? It’s not enough just to wink at the audience and mention it. Also, stop winking at us and focus on telling us a cohesive story! The film, much like the Matrix itself, functions in constant loop of lore-dumps, prequel homages and loud gunfights. Rinse and repeat.
We remember the time when “The Matrix” was hailed for its innovative fight scenes and gripping action-sequences. Sure the technology seems crude by today’s standard, but there was kinetic vibrancy and flair to the fights. The way the film incorporated hyperstylised martial arts sequences and impressive gun-fu battles was revolutionary. None of that ingenuity is here. In fact, the fight scenes here somehow look worse that the ones from the 1999 film. Admittedly, not as bad as “The Matrix Revolutions” but that’s not exactly high praise!
There’s no artistry to the shootouts beyond the use of the occasional reality bending in the Matrix. Our heroes seem to be either statically confined to trading shots over cover or blasting while being suspended in mid-air. They took the famed bullet-time concept and made it into a joke. Then there are the martial-arts sequences that make the hand-to-hand combat in the “Fast and Furious” films look good. Viewers are subjected to jump cut after jump cut as we try to make sense of the action unfolding before us. It gets even worse when you factor in the claustrophobic close-ups between characters. The only redeeming grace here are the mildly entertaining chase sequences. Credit where credit is due, the scene in which bots in the Matrix were turned into living bombs was pretty cool.
If you came to watch Keanu Reeves reprise his role as the stoic, disillusioned warrior, then you won’t be disappointed. The man carries the same effortless swagger that he does in films like “John Wick” and “Constantine”. Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity is given a much bigger role this time around with the film exploring her new identity within the Matrix. Beyond the two of them, everyone is essentially a Saturday morning cartoon character or a nameless grunt for the meat grinder.
In spite of the film touting Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the next Morpheus, the film’s characterisation of Neo’s revived mentor is a far cry to the original’s. Where Lawrence Fishburne mastered the craft of quiet intimidation, Abdul-Mateen’s character never quite captures the authority of the original. Jonathan Groff does a slightly better job as Neo’s new foil, channeling his inner psychopath, but again the issue of relying heavily on the prequels’ legacy remains. Neil Patrick Harris’ character offers some relief from the endless monotony of callbacks and techno-babble as Neo’s therapist.
“The Matrix Resurrections” is more an awkward anomaly than a hard reset to the Wachowski’s franchise. When its not working at full capacity to capitalise on fans’ goodwill, it’s busy assaulting your senses with middling action sequences edited to nauseate. All held together by a thin plot that oscillates between being inaccessibly esoteric and downright dumb. Not even Reeves’ natural-born charisma could save this film. Simply put, this film should have stayed dead.
You can now catch “The Matrix Resurrections” in cinemas today!
"The Matrix Resurrections" Review
"The Matrix Resurrections" is more an awkward anomaly than a hard reset to the Wachowski's franchise. When its not working at full capacity to capitalize on fans' goodwill, cramming your head so full of middling action sequences edited to nauseate. All held together by a plot oscillates between being inaccessibly esoteric and downright dumb. Not even Reeves' natural-born charisma could save this film. Simply put, this film should have stayed dead.
- "The Matrix Resurrections" Review