Director: Lana Wachowski
Writers: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Priyanka Chopra, Neil Patrick Harris, Lambert Wilson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Cinematography: Daniele Massaccesi, John Toll
The Matrix Resurrections is the modern-day follow up to the beloved and path-breaking science fiction franchise that started with The Matrix. While the sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, had fans and critics divided, we often forget how that entire universe laid the template for modern, multimedia franchises – including the MCU.
Apart from the movies, the franchise had its high points like the highly underrated The Animatrix, The Matrix Comics and Path of Neo video game, as well as its lows in the form of The Matrix Online unplugging and that atrocious Juno Reactor soundtrack in The Matrix Revolutions. However, what made the universe cohesive and path breaking was its singular vision – that there was a story to be told, and it was told with an end, warts and all. As The Oracle famously said, "Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo".
Therefore, as someone who once said at the end of The Matrix Revolutions' simultaneous release, "I don't know what to do with my life after this!", I approached Lana Wachowski's resurrection with an optimist's trepidation.
For all the fans, I will keep the plot details relatively spoiler free. The Matrix Resurrections picks up years into the future with Keanu Reeves' Neo still trapped in The Matrix. The Matrix is still the illusory world where the humans are plugged in to lead their machine-controlled lives, while they are harvested as energy by the machines on the outside. Neo is an in-world game designer and his greatest creation is the Matrix game, which is essentially the first three movies, but as a game. Neo has a shrink, played by Neil Patrick Harris, who keeps his suicidal tendencies in check by prescribing him (surprise, surprise!) blue pills. Neo also has a crush on Carrie-Anne Moss' Tiffany, a 'MILF' who frequents Neo's favourite café Simulatte (groan!). New and returning characters like Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) want to get Neo out of The Matrix, and others like Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) prefer to exercise restraint in seeking old prophets. Eventually, Neo escapes, discovers his legacy within the source code and then seeks out Trinity/Tiffany. The plot is not only straight forward, but a lot of it seems so unpolished and un-restrained, that it borders on fan-fiction.
At the core of it, The Matrix Resurrections is to The Matrix, what the The Force Awakens was to Star Wars sequel – a nostalgia hype-train masquerading as a new movie. Sure, there are some things The Matrix Resurrections gets right. First being that the franchise's leads finally have chemistry! In fact, Neo and Trinity's love story is one of the few things elevating the movie above the realm of pure fan-fiction. Yahya, Jessica, and Jonathan Groff deliver some entertaining performances as well.
The movie also has pop-culture packaged philosophy and meditations on the state of the world today, including its original themes of choice, will, and belief – interspersed with newer concepts of identity, loss and the state of social media.
If you were okay with long-winded expositions that The Architect perfected in The Matrix Reloaded, then Resurrections' musings will work for you. In a stark tonal shift from the original trilogy, the movie also dabbles in levity and meta humour. It's a welcome change, until it isn't – however, it does give us The Merovingian as a homeless Zucker-ranter – and that by far was my favourite scene in the movie.
With so much going for it, why does The Matrix Resurrection feel so self-indulgent, and carry glorified fan-fiction vibes? Is it the fact that it relies on its meta-ness as a crutch? Is it because the action is barely passable, and Chad Stahelski's John Wick-style fight choreography is a misfit? Is it because the movie adds nothing new to the franchise, and makes you care little about the world you left behind, or the world that is to come?
Maybe it's all of these reasons, or maybe it's some of these. I don't have the answers. I suspect the only person who knows is Lilly Wachowski – who chose not to be a part of this. The Matrix Resurrections ends on a very familiar note, both literal and musical. The musical 'note' by the band Brass Against is the best metaphor for the movie itself – a feeble cover of an inspiring and pathbreaking original.
The Matrix Resurrections does not feel earnest, much like the crash grab it self-references in the middle of the movie? Just as Peter Jackson squandered his Lord of the Rings goodwill with the over-extended The Hobbit trilogy, Lana Wachowski joined the elite ranks of directors/creators who ruined the legacy of their own beloved franchises. The Matrix Resurrections is best enjoyed on streaming, when there are no more new episodes of The Expanse Season 6 left to watch.