'The Matrix Resurrections' Goes Down the Rabbit Hole of Shameless Nostalgia Directed by Lana Wachowski
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris
Published Dec 22, 2021Let's get this out of the way now: The Matrix Resurrections is nowhere near as good as 1999's The Matrix. Not even close. But did anyone really expect it to be? The Matrix was a cultural event that defined a generation and still inspires filmmakers decades later. And to Resurrections' credit, it doesn't try to recapture the magic. Rather, it reflects on the legacy of the franchise while attempting to move it forward, albeit clunkily.
We're reunited with Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves), who is living in the Matrix as a video game designer. Naturally, his greatest success is the runaway hit The Matrix. Mr. Anderson walks through life mindlessly with a nagging feeling that his inspiration for his game isn't just dreams or imagination — they're things that truly happened to him. To help him get a grip on his perceived delusions, he sees a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) who loads him up with blue pills and exercises to ground him to reality. Anderson is eventually tracked down by a group of renegades who traverse the realms — much like Neo, Trinity and Morpheus once did — and try to bring Neo back to the fight.
In this simulation of the Matrix (void of any Matrix Green tint), Neo and Trinity, now named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), are strangers, though they frequent the same coffee shop, Simulatte. Tiffany is happily married to Chad (a fun cameo from Chad Stahelski, Reeves' stunt double in The Matrix and director of the John Wick films), has children, and is going through life seemingly unaware of any of the events from the previous three movies. After finally being introduced to one another, they are struck by their unexplainable connection.
One of the biggest joys of Resurrections is the reunion between Moss and Reeves. After 20-plus years, their relationship has deepened with a comfort and intimacy that only two people with a shared experience as unique as theirs could. Reeves in particular benefits greatly from their chemistry. While we're treated to some classic Keanu line deliveries, when Moss shares the space with him, he's noticeably more at ease.
The first half of Resurrections involves a lot of meta commentary (Warner Bros., the gaming company's parent, is forcing them to make a sequel, with or without Anderson's help) and fan service. From pointed shots of medium rare steaks to bullets falling from the sky, Resurrections gives fans some fun referential nostalgia while cheekily poking fun at reboot and sequel culture.
The back half of Resurrections sees Lana Wachowski attempting to further the lore of the franchise and set up Neo and Trinity for more adventures. Arguably a rehashed derivative of its own source material, some of it makes sense, but the bulk of it probably requires a few re-watches, much like its predecessors.
The most disappointing aspect of Resurrections, though, is the generic action sequences. No one is expecting Reeves and Moss to fight like it's 1999 (although John Wick is a great counter-argument), but it's clear none of the actors have undergone the same intensive combat training the original cast did. Close-ups and frenetic camera work leaves a lot to be desired, and given that The Matrix built its reputation on swish, innovative sequences, Resurrections' forgettable action is very unsatisfying.
Resurrections isn't necessarily a shell of its former self; it's more like an athlete who still has some juice but should probably stay retired. The film doesn't take anything away from the original (safe to say Reloaded and Revolutions were more aggressive attempts), and it really is a delight to see Reeves and Moss on screen together again, but Resurrections doesn't add enough to make it worthwhile for casual fans or the curious. However, the nostalgia may be ample for die hard fans who just want to revisit the characters and world(s). (Warner Bros.)