After the finality brought onto the Matrix franchise by 2003’s Matrix Revolutions, a fourth film certainly came with some intriguing implications for a universe that has remained a closed story for nearly 20 years now. The state of cinema in modern times is one of sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots, and so despite the Matrix trilogy’s intended closure, a dip back into this world was pretty much inevitable. Enter: The Matrix Resurrections.
The film (as the title would suggest) resurrects Keanu Reeves’ character, Neo, for one. Neo – or Thomas A. Anderson, as he’s known in the simulation – is a game designer who has found success for The Matrix, a video game series whose plot is based on… well… the plot of the first three movies. In other words, the Matrix films now exist as video games within the Matrix itself.
Neo constantly struggles with his grip on his own sense of reality, and his therapist prescribes him some familiar blue pills. While the therapist and other forces, some new and some familiar, work to stabilize or interrupt his grip on reality inside the simulation, Neo soon becomes tasked with creating a fourth game in the Matrix series despite his reluctance to continue an already complete story.
That last part seems oddly familiar, doesn’t it?
A plot brimming with that much ambition makes it difficult not to respect the hell out of the writers for even attempting something so bold. But as an altered version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” plays over a board-room discussion about what a fourth Matrix game should look like, one can’t help but feel this movie is begging us to save it from its own existence. If nothing else, this will go down in history as one of the most self-aware films ever made. It not only acknowledges its own presence as an unnecessary sequel, but basically apologizes for it.
It puts so much energy into being meta regarding previous installments and its existence as a reboot that it feels less like a movie and more like an essay pretending to be a movie. This hyper-self-analysis leads to the actual plot taking a back seat and becoming half-assed convolution that watches more like fan-fiction.
Once the charismatic, self-aware nature of the writing wears off a bit, the issues with the plot are cast into the spotlight; the forced callbacks try in vain to remind viewers of the magic the other films had and the new (and new-ish) characters receive minimal development.
Both these problems come to fruition with the recasting of multiple iconic characters. Sure, it makes sense plot-wise that these characters might look different in this than in the originals, but I can’t help but feel we should’ve just gotten new characters, as opposed to taking new actors and dooming them to live in the shadow of their predecessors.
As far as the other callbacks go, I wouldn’t necessarily mind as much if it didn’t seem like the whole reason this film exists is to point a finger at the original trilogy and go, “remember THAT? Wasn’t THAT great?” with its endless clips of the original films being played over top of endless allusions made by the characters about those same endless clips.
I will say, however, one scene in particular provided a refreshingly fresh monologue about how feelings are so much easier to control than facts, and that for humans, emotions are what makes up reality, as opposed to those facts. To hear such a fascinating take on the human condition, especially in the midst of a sea of unnecessary referential dialogue, was nothing short of captivating.
Something else I have to note is in regards to the action sequences. The original film was so iconic in how it showed these wide shots of squeaky clean fight choreography and infused it into a sci-fi film; it was revolutionary at the time, and remains iconic today. The included fights are nothing short of a slugfest. The actions are largely hard to follow and messy, and it’s ultimately disappointing that a franchise known for its role in the evolution of fight sequences should resort to the mess we got.
The Matrix Resurrections was a huge disappointment for me, but one can’t help but respect the writing team for accepting the film’s fate as a reboot of a beloved franchise. Regardless of my personal feelings, I have no doubt that this will go down as one of the most polarizing movies in recent memory, and I hope that in the future I’ll be able to appreciate it a bit more.
Overall rating: 3/10