The Matrix Resurrections
The long awaited return to the Matrix is a masquerading dumbed down reboot
The Matrix (1999) proved to be a cultural milestone throughout the world as the nature of our reality and dull routines self-imposed by society were broken. The great success of the film spawned a trilogy with diminishing returns, yet a wholesome and entertaining one. After nearly 18 years of the supposedly decisive finale of The Matrix: Revolutions (2004), Warner Bros. and one half of the Wachowski siblings, who helmed the original three, return.
The Matrix: Resurrections (2021) finds Neo (Keanu Reeve), who had seemingly died in Revolutions, back in the Matrix. In this new version of a simulated reality by evil machines, Neo is a video game developer that has used his memory of his previous adventures to populate his products. However, when Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) come to wake Neo up, he realizes what’s at stake and how an also seemingly alive Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) might be the key to everything.
I was very skeptical about a return to the world of The Matrix, especially when the story and narrative had been so tidily resolved in the third film. However, given that Lana Wachowski was returning as a creative mind, I hoped that her ambitious drive would be able to spin something new from these old characters. Certainly, with the first Matrix, Wachowski and her sister not only revolutionized film in the way action and visual effects were used, but were also prescient to how humans have become slaves to machines in today’s world. The Wachowski’s have been stumbling as of late with their films, with such ambitious projects as Cloud Atlas (2012) and Jupiter Ascending (2015) proving to be embarrassing flops. Since the latter film, the Wachowski’s had not released another movie (working in TV instead on such hits as Sense8 (2015-2018)), therefore Resurrections was also an anticipated return of a visionary filmmaking eye.
Resurrections, unfortunately seems to be following a similar path to other franchises, that seek to do a hybrid reboot/sequel (requel if you will). We’ve seen this in the likes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Creed (2015), where an identical structure is given a new coat of paint to sell to new generations. Albeit those two mentioned films were enjoyable enough in how they played around with characters and audience perspective. Resurrections does nothing of the sort. Throughout the entire film, Resurrections keeps pointing out how it is having a hard time to come up with an idea to revisit this world. This tongue-in-cheek commentary about how bad sequels and reboots are, carried on as a shameless gag that filled the runtime of a narrative it was desperately trying to seem self-aware of.
Resurrections feels like it was made by someone who has only heard of The Matrix films, but never actually seen them. Wachowski seems to be erasing the character progression of the first three entries and restarts Neo’s whole journey. There is such a blatant redundancy with the first film, that Wachowski even flashes scenes from it in scenes that she is recreating anew. Lines are reused and new actors brought to substitute old ones. Not a single character seems to have been fleshed out, performers are simply given big exposition speeches that they try and handle as best they can. In many ways, Resurrections seems to be taking the subtlety and intelligence of the first film and dumbing it down and overexplaining it to death to new viewers instead. Many characters from the original film are brought back for the sake of it rather than having role in the story (one of the most blatant of which is the misused and recast Morpheus). Neo is present in every scene, yet Reeves is cornered into simply listening to other characters explain themselves to him giving him no chance to explore an older Neo or to have any semblance of a character journey.
Many viewers were excited with what Wachowski would do with the advents of visual effects and the proven skill of Reeves in action films such as the John Wick franchise. However, even here, Resurrections seems to be degrading itself to look even worse than its 1999 predecessor. CGI is overused to an embarrassing degree, with no sequence having a semblance of originality. Action is horribly filmed in shaky-cam and choppily edited so you have no idea what’s going on (long gone are the comprehensive long takes of the first three films). Violence has become even more gratuitous with some rather horrific imagery interspersed, such as people launching themselves out of buildings to crash in Neo’s way as if they were bombs. Not even attempted humor (which is already incongruous with the Matrix’s tone) can save Resurrections, as it comes off as desperately trying to appear hip and young (does anyone post-2005 say “welcome to my crib”?).
In the end, I was rather shocked by how disappointing and outright bad The Matrix: Resurrections was. The franchise had built a reputation of at least delivering enjoyable action and inventive visuals, but Wachowski seems to have regressed in her filmmaking ability. The writing is incredibly lazy in justifying why and how the characters have returned and Wachowski even starts contradicting rules she herself had made-up in the first films. Resurrections seems more like the work of a mindless robot, than the passionate revisiting of your own characters. Instead of justifying its existence, Resurrections seems intent on remaking the same film as the original but dumbing it down shamelessly for new audiences.