VOD film review: The Matrix Resurrections
Mark Harrison | On 31, Jan 2022
Director: Lana Wachowski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff
Warning: This contains minor spoilers for the set-up and initial premise of The Matrix Resurrections
“That’s the thing abut stories. They never really end, do they?” It’s hard to think of a more climactic film than the third Matrix film and yet, almost two decades later, The Matrix Resurrections reopens the story. We’re in a curious period of nostalgia for the early 2000s, which amounts to simply bringing movies and TV shows from that era back to life, and it turns out Lana Wachowski has some thoughts on that trend and how her characters would feel about it.
As one of the suits (Jonathan Groff) remarks early on in this new instalment, Warner Bros has decided to make a new Matrix sequel with or without its original creators’ involvement. In the film’s initial narrative, that’s a sequel to an acclaimed video game trilogy but, in our world, it’s an opportunity for Wachowski to not only reclaim the movies from bad-faith misogynistic readings but also reframe them in a way that is harder to misread.
The film finds depressed game designer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) and soccer-mom Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) seemingly plugged back into a new iteration of The Matrix for unknown purposes. When a new generation of rebels (led by Jessica Henwick and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) decide to track down Anderson, his first priority is not to vanquish any machines but to find Trinity.
The hook is essentially Hook, Steven Spielberg’s 1991 re-imagining of Peter Pan. Resurrections shares a lot with Spielberg’s film in that it’s both post-modern and almost entirely earnest. From the point of view of this series, though, it’s at once a necessary film and a self-indulgent one, both thoughtful and incoherent, much like the previous instalments, but this time from a filmmaker who’s obviously more comfortable with flouting those contradictions and cutting a straightforward path through them.
On the meta side of things, Wachowski is obviously working out some pet peeves here. Neo is surrounded by people being vocally wrong about The Matrix, whether it’s the company brain trust who are trying to come up with Matrix 4 – hello, Christina Ricci and the cast of Netflix’s Sense8 – to Anderson’s therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), who prescribes conspicuously blue pills to help with his apparent dissociative disorder.
Of the newcomers, Harris and Groff turn in the most interesting performances, both playing different faces of “not getting it” but their ignorance becomes something more malignant as the story goes on. Elsewhere, Henwick’s Bugs (the film’s “white rabbit”, if you like) is more akin to Wachowski herself in her proximity to Neo and Trinity.
As the script grows beyond the fourth-wall-breaking gags and into its sci-fi love story, the chemistry between Reeves and Moss proves to be paramount. There are good plot reasons why Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving aren’t around this time, but the familiar faces we do see are deliberately portrayed very differently to when we last saw them. Reeves and Moss being a constant is what powers the film to its satisfying pay-off.
That said, there’s no sugar-coating that the action sequences are the least striking of all four films in terms of choreography and cinematography. Again, for plot reasons, it’s distinct from what went before, but it’s also not as good – in the main, it’s framed too closely and cut too quickly. That means the jaw-dropping “whoa” moments come from other, more unexpected sources, but if you’re on board with it, they do keep coming throughout the film.
Silly, sincere, and unabashedly sentimental, The Matrix Resurrections both continues and reclaims the same subversive trend of the earlier sequels with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight. Tasked with reopening one of the most concluded movie franchises, Wachowski delivers a less polished but more personal epilogue to the original trilogy. Even disregarding the meta-jokes, it’s refreshing to see a legacy-quel that allows characters and filmmakers alike to grow and change, rather than plugging them back in for nostalgic reasons.