In 1999 The Matrix directed by the then Wachoski brothers, now the Wachowski sisters, shocked the world, becoming one of the biggest science fiction films ever to be released. 22 years later, and a very divisive trilogy that followed, Lana Wachowski took what was a conclusive ending with its main legendary trio and revisits it. Why you may ask after 2 decades a fourth film should be conceived is a mystery beyond me but Warner Brothers believed a story could be continued on after so much time has passed by. Don’t be fooled by the incredible marketing campaign and the hype surrounding the trailers, The Matrix: Resurrections is a complete mess.
I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to seeing a 4th installment of The Matrix franchise after the first two films, The Matrix & The Matrix: Reloaded dazzled with its breathtaking cinematography by Bill Pope and heart stopping special effects called bullet time created such a buzz that the third film Revolutions failed to live up to the expectations. The main reason the first film was so successful besides everything I mentioned previously in the paragraph was because of the originality to it. Beyond the religious undertones, the meta references to society and the trans allegory associated, The Matrix is one of the most influential science fiction franchises of the 21st century.
Revolutions ended the trilogy in a concrete manner, Neo (Keanu Reeves) ended the war between man and machine, saving Zion by fighting Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) to the death (or deletion since Agent Smith was basically a computer virus), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) was impaled in a crash in the machine city and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) fought alongside the rest of Zion. If you ask me, you can’t get more conclusive than that. But here we are, and Resurrections proves that some franchises shouldn’t be continued, rebooted, revived no matter how valuable the IP is.
Earlier this year Space Jam: A New Legacy came out with Lebron James leading the Toon Squad. What Warner’s brothers accomplished with that very bad sequel was a feature length commercial with every ounce of IP the company owned squeezed in as if to brag how impressive their library was. All the eggs were placed in the nostalgia basket that turned out to be nostalgia porn with not much to say amidst the flashing visuals and bad puns from start to finish (I don’t think I’ll ever get over the character name Al-G Rhythm).
Being self-aware and breaking the 4th wall is fun and all if its handled correctly. Deadpool makes it work because that’s who the character is, it’s in his DNA to be that obscure. The self-awareness in The Matrix: Resurrections is way too forced to feel organic to the story. In theory, it’s a smart move making all three previous films take place in the Matrix programming, but it plain doesn’t work the way it’s written. Warner Brothers wants to make a 4th Matrix film explains Smith (Jonathan Groff), Thomas Anderson’s business partner who co-created the program with him. Tom as he’s called (that irritated me more than anything) is a game designer whose talent precedes him. Tom meets with a man known as The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) – later identified as the architect of this iteration of the Matrix.
Throughout the first act of the film, little hints are placed here and there, easter eggs to suggest that the characters are in fact in the Matrix, but the poor writing doesn’t help in making the message all too clear. How Trinity (Tiffany) is alive is never explained after the events of the last film or how any of the characters arrived at this specific point in history. Part reboot, part continuation of a story, part self-aware meta nostalgia, Resurrections is convoluted to the point of aggravation. Frustrating enough as it is to keep track of the many different plot points and story beats, the film is nearly 2 and a half hours of nonsense.
Sure, the visuals are given a significant upgrade and the bullet time is still a modern film marvel even without Bill Pope behind the camera, the underlying question is why, why was this necessary? Who asked for this? The more I think about this movie, the more questions pop up making it more stressful than satisfying re-entering the world created by the Wachowski’s.
Given the option, since Warner Brothers decided to release their 2021 slate of films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, I would recommend watching on the latter. Too much of the film is not enough to draw you back into the Matrix to take the red or blue pill. Rounding out the ensemble cast is Jessica Henwick who plays Bugs a ship captain, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who plays a new version of Morpheus (Was Fishburne not available) and Priyanka Chopra Jonas who plays a grown-up Sati. Jada Pinkett Smith returns to reprise her Niobe character to bring in a familiar face.
The Matrix: Resurrections further proves that nostalgia isn’t enough of a reason to reboot/continue a story that has been concluded for some time. The good thing is the previous films still exist to consume and get sucked into the program. With an impressive cast, the story is way too convoluted to make any sense, but the visuals will still create enough buzz to consider watching. I’d rather see Keanu continue with John Wick with Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss return to Marvel. Lana Wachowski gives a good effort, but it falls way shorter of the original magic of the first and second films. I couldn’t keep focus on the screen that throws everything but the kitchen sick at the audience.
Written By: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell & Aleksandar Hemon
Directed By: Lana Wachowski
Music By: Johnny Klimek & Tom Tykwer
Cinematography: Daniele Massaccesi & John Toll
Starring: Keanue Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jada Pinkett Smith
Where to Watch: HBO Max
Release Date: December 22, 2021
Running Time: 2 Hours 28 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%
My Score: 2 out of 5
Based On: Characters by The Wachowski’s