Co-writer and Director, Lana Wachowski, hits upon a great idea early on in The Matrix Resurrections
, giving the film a meta approach. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a burned out video game designer who is famous for creating a trilogy of video games called The Matrix
. He is informed by the powers that be at Warner Bros. Studio that they want a fourth Matrix
game from him, and we get some brief moments that have humorous and smart jabs at having to revive a long dormant franchise that has a nostalgic fandom behind it.
At this point of the film, I was kind of getting the same vibes that Joe Dante gave with Gremlins 2: The New Batch
, which was essentially a parody of sequels in general, as well as the first movie. Would Wachowski (working without her sister Lilly this time) really have the guts to dive as far as Dante did with her own meta idea, and give us a satirical breakdown on reviving a long-dormant property? Turns out to be a bait and switch, as what follows is a fairly mediocre follow up to the two previous mediocre follow ups to the groundbreaking 1999 original film. Just like before, Thomas starts to question his reality, despite the reassurance from his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) that these feelings are brought on by stress of having to return to his video game franchise. He has numerous encounters with a woman at a coffee shop named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) with a husband and kids that he seems oddly attracted to, as if he knows her from somewhere. Then, he has a run-in with a familiar face, who is now being played by a new face. That would be Morpheus, who is now played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, stepping in for Laurence Fishburne. Thanks to him, Thomas is pulled back into the world of the Matrix itself, and audiences are pulled into disappointment.
The Matrix Resurrections
, despite its early promise, ends up repeating a lot of ideas and images of stuff we've seen before. And what little new there is here, such as certain machines now helping the human rebels who are fighting for freedom, is not explored as much as it could be. This is a surprisingly wordy movie, where the characters wax in pseudo philosophical speak, while occasionally engaging in world-bending martial arts battles that don't seem as special as before because, again, we've seen it all before. With a bloated two and a half hour running time, and an overall indifference to add much new here to draw in viewers who aren't already in the rabid fanbase, there's just not a lot here to warrant this kind of uninspired return. There's a new butt-kicking woman named Bugs joining the cast (Jessica Henwick), some new bad guys to beat up, and a lot of regurgitated ideas and clips from the past movies designed to either instill nostalgia, or to help catch up the audience on what happened almost 20 years ago when the original trilogy ended.
I can understand that Wachowski and her fellow writers are trying to add tension by having Thomas/Neo trying to reawaken Tiffany/Trinity's memories so that they can fight alongside each other again, but it doesn't work here, because the movie keeps them apart for almost the entire film until its final moments. So, fans who are anxious to see Reeves and Moss kicking butt together again are in for a long wait, and will probably have to wait for the inevitable sequel to get any real mileage out of the reunion. Even the special effects and battles that have always been a hallmark of the franchise are strangely unmemorable here. They're appropriately epic in scope, but they lack any memorable moments, or a reason to care. Oddly enough, the action sequences here come across as one of the countless movies from the early 2000s that tried to copy the original Matrix
, rather than innovate. Unlike the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home
, this movie cannot build upon its past legacy, but rather seems held back by it, and a curious lack of understanding as to what wowed audiences about it in the first place.
I'm not sure if a fully meta take on The Matrix
would have worked, but at least it wouldn't seem like the movie was eventually going on autopilot, as this sequel gradually does. Sure, it gives us what we expect, but it does so in such a way that feels less in the end. I'm sure I'll be in the minority, the film will make its money, and the next installment will be hitting in a couple years. You know what? I'm okay with all of that. I'm comfortable being in the minority when it comes to this, and I'm comfortable with the filmmakers getting a chance to hopefully build upon what could be.