Movie Review: ‘The Matrix Resurrections’

Director: Lana Wachowski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jada Pinkett Smith, Daniel Bernhardt

Plot: Thomas Anderson is a…ok, look, we can’t even discuss this movie without spoiler things. If you’re a Matrix fan who wants to see this clean, best leave the review until later.

SPOILER Plot: Thomas Anderson is a computer programmer who has achieved global celebrity for his trilogy of ‘Matrix’ games, based on delusions he suffered wherein he saw himself as a key figure in a simulated war against AI. He becomes to question his sanity when characters claiming to be from his game begin appearing in his life claiming that his delusion was real.

SPOILER Review: Right, so obviously Neo (Reeves) is still alive somehow and back in the Matrix. Before we get to this though, we get an off-kilter recreation of the opening of The Matrix being observed by resistance member Bugs (Henwick), indicating that the second trailer that paired images from the new movie with the original, were are a stronger indicator and the film’s content than we suspected. The Matrix trilogy as we know it exists in what is revealed to be a new world as a fictional creation of Thomas Anderson, and quite a bit of footage from those three films appears here as part of that game. At this point you might be wondering if you can use this as an entry point for the series, and now. Absolutely not.

Neo has based these games on his own delusions, as diagnosed and treated by his therapist (Harris). With the arrival of Bugs and Morpheus (Abdul-Mateen), Neo is re-awoken from the Matrix, regains his memories and learns what has happened in 60+ years since he headed for the mainframe thing that concluded the third movie. The machines rebuilt the bodies of both Neo and Trinity (Moss) and re-inserted them into the Matrix with false memories, and Neo wishes to free Trinity before rejoining the war against the machines.

There’s a whole bunch of great ideas that function as an evolution of the world constructed by the Wachowski sisters in their breakout work. Morpheus is the product of an experiment being conducted within the ‘Matrix’ code Neo used in his ‘game’, a self contained loop where an Agent is pushed to evolve and take on the new role of Morpheus in the return of the ‘One’. A resistance member being an evolved Agent program is fascinating, and taking on a role he’s been guided into takes on some of the ideas built into the series. Morpheus exists in the real world through a construct of metallic orbs that can move independently and take his humanoid form. This visually interesting character is used much more creatively than we usual see for CGI characters.

The battle lines between the human resistance and the machines has become more blurred. Some machines has switched sides, and a civil war between the machines created some unexpected allegiances. There’s not much done with this concept, however, as it’s mostly an exposition dump from an aged-up Niobe (Pinkett-Smith).

With the new version of the Matrix which appears in this film, we get a couple of new reality bending ideas that are well executed. People existing in the Matrix can use ‘skins’ to alter their appearance to programs and other prisoners trapped in the simulation. A few other video game ideas aren’t as well utilised, as the ‘Swarm’ program is talked up to no end with an under-whelming pay-off. Also underwhelming is the re-introduction of Agent Smith, the rogue program now inhabiting the form of Jonathon Groff. That’s pretty much the extent of that plot thread.

Although the kung-fu has been pared down, there’s plenty of solid Matrix-esque action to be found. Little of it is as memorable as some of the sequences of the early films. There’s a couple of note-worthy stunts and parkour moments, but little of it impacts on the story. In one fight, some generic bad-guys from the second film turn up to have a biffo, and it never comes up again. Even Lambert Wilson turns up as Hobo The Merovingian to ramble incoherently from the side-lines. If they hadn’t said his name out loud a few times we never would’ve know it was him he’s so unrecognisable in his hobo make-up, so it’s kinda pointless.

To narrow in on the cast for a moment, Reeves and Moss are straight back into step with their memorable roles. Harris and Groff in the roles of snarling villains appear to have been told to have fun with it, and are frequently entertaining. Henwick and Abdul-Mateen are also excellent new leading characters, bringing a great physicality to the performances. Someone should keep an eye on the latter though, this is the second time this year he’s nicked an iconic role from another actor.

Overall, we enjoyed this extension of the lunatic auteur project that is The Matrix. We like it for the ideas, but none of them contribute to the main story, which never feels like it established the stakes. It may have worked better as a series of shorts, or another volume of The Animatrix. As it is, it’s going to be incomprehensible to anyone who isn’t at least familiar with all the previous films.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN