‘The Matrix Resurrections’ Review — Get Plugged into the Best ‘Matrix’ Sequel

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The Matrix Resurrections Review

What is The Matrix? That was the tagline for the Wachowskis’ iconic blockbuster The Matrix. Often imitated and never reproduced, The Matrix was an absolute gamechanger. Even the wildly ambitious sequels couldn’t recreate the magic of the first film. Nearly two decades after The Matrix concluded its trilogy, we’re invited to plug back into the world of The Matrix with The Matrix Resurrections. Directing solo, Lana Wachowski has directed an action-packed meta-sequel-reboot that once again asks the question: What is The Matrix? After co-directing two sequels that took big chances but left most audiences somewhat unsatisfied, Wachowski takes us back into that digital world with the same philosophical wonder that coursed through the original trilogy while also pondering just what make The Matrix endure and what it means in 2021.

Of course, The Matrix Resurrections comes with some inherent questions. How do you continue a story that had a rather conclusive ending? How do two beloved characters whom we saw meet their demise return nearly 20 years later? Why is Morpheus different? There are answers to these questions contained within the film but I’m not going to ruin the experience of watching this daring blockbuster by divulging the details. So feel free to read further without fear of big moments being spoiled. My plot summary will only focus on the establishing details of the first act.

The first act of The Matrix Resurrections is like looking at the cascading green code for the first time. You can’t quite make out what’s what. The film opens in what seems like a meticulous recreation of the first scene of The Matrix. Differences start to become apparent as the events are being watched by Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and when she’s spotted by Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who at this point is working as an Agent, and the events begin to wildly diverge from what we know. And yet it all still retains a sense of mystery as you sit there and wonder, “Just where in the hell is this going?”

And then we’re in San Francisco. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is one of the world’s best video game developers. He’s famous for creating a wildly successful video game trilogy called, well, The Matrix. He’s a lonely guy working on a new video game, though certain glitches start to emerge. Thomas is just getting back to work after some mental health problems, and he confesses his issues to his analyst (Neil Patrick Harris). At his local coffee shop, Thomas meets a familiar face though the two have never met. Her name is Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) and she’s married with two children. Of course, it’s not long before Thomas begins to suspect that perhaps he’s losing his recently regained mental health. The editing gives us echoes of the original trilogy and moments mirror that of the original at times.

It’s at this point that Lana Wachowski and co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon begin showing their hand. Thomas’ business partner Smith (Jonathan Groff) approaches him with the news that their parent company, Warner Bros., wants a new sequel trilogy of The Matrix despite the artist saying he was done with that world. It’s not often that a movie will tell you exactly why its creative team have decided to return to world they’ve long left behind, but The Matrix Resurrections makes it absolutely clear – Lana Wachowski was not going to cede control of The Matrix to people who see it as nothing more than a valuable intellectual property with built-in name recognition. It’s at this point that The Matrix Resurrections starts taking its shape, and the further it continues the more impressive it becomes as it’s constantly engaging, thoughtful, and challenging in all of the best ways the original Matrix ever was.

The how and why Thomas and Tiffany become Neo and Trinity again isn’t of importance in this review as it would undo some of the many reveals that unfold in the film’s second half. At its core, it is a love story between Neo and Trinity, though it takes a long time to really get to the heart of the matter. That’s not a bad thing. Through its clever flashbacks and callbacks, The Matrix Resurrections takes moments that are very familiar and makes them entirely new. All the while the film retains its mystery and suspense as it continually builds to its grand finale.

Thematically, The Matrix Resurrections is a philosophical as any entry in the series and that doesn’t come at the expense of the spectacle. Often the film is quizzical in pondering where these characters and this mythology stands in the modern world. Sometimes that’s in action that looks more modern, i.e. a bit more chaotic with its camera movement and editing than the previous films. Other times, it’s quite literally recontextualizing the very nature of what The Matrix means, especially when it is discussing the system as a means of control when much of the original film’s language has been co-opted by some of society’s most toxic movements. The Matrix Resurrections isn’t just about reviving the franchise and saving it from its corporate overlords – it’s also about taking back its iconography and terminology.

Why The Matrix matters and why The Matrix endures is going to vary from person to person. These are complicated, ambitious movies that were cultural touchstones regardless of varying opinions as to their quality. The Matrix Resurrections understands this series’ complicated legacy and builds upon it in wildly imaginative ways. This is a meta-sequel-reboot that completely understands where the sequels fell short but isn’t out to apologize for past creative choices. This isn’t a retcon. This isn’t “for the fans.” This is a bold, daring piece of blockbuster filmmaking. If this is the start of a new trilogy, you can count me in. I know I’ve said that before and wound up regretting it, but something this time around feels very, very different. Or maybe it’s inevitable.

The Matrix Resurrections
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

An inventive meta-sequel-reboot, The Matrix Resurrection is more than just a nostalgia trip. Lana Wachowski’s film delivers a captivating story and thrilling action as it ponders where The Matrix fits into the world in 2021.

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