The Pitch: Here’s the problem with reviewing The Matrix Resurrections: At this point, we basically have to accept that the franchise peaked with the first installment. This isn’t meant as an insult, but an honest statement of fact– this is what happens when a film is a masterpiece. If 1999’s The Matrix is a nearly perfect movie, almost transcendent at some points with how it blended genre and technology in service of its storytelling, then yeah, it may be impossible to top it.
What makes Resurrections such a fascinating viewing experience, though, is the fact that the movie knows this. And, rather than try to shift the narrative to some different angle on the original, director Lana Wachowski, who co-wrote the script with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, decides to take on that problem directly. The result is a movie that is in direct conversation with itself and what came before (an ongoing theme lately), and while the routes it takes to get there are sledgehammer blunt at times, the points it raises are wild.
Also, in a time of uncertainty and fear, Keanu Reeves still knows kung fu. And we are blessed for that.
Right Back to Where We Started From: A good piece of advice, going into Resurrections, is to rewatch not just the first film, but the second and the third. This is because the fourth movie does continue the story of the trilogy, though it takes a little while to get to the point where it’s clear what’s happening.
While it’s no longer possible to deliver that same stunned amazement at the twists from the original — specifically the central conceit, that “reality” as we know is a simulation keeping all us happy energy-producing batteries entertained while in the real world, a scorched Earth is dominated by AI-driven machines — Resurrections keeps its cards close to its chest initially, before once again returning us to the fight for not just humanity’s freedom, but its soul.
Things begin with a direct homage to the original film that also introduces us to two new characters: a blue-haired hacker named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a mysterious man who claims for himself the mantle of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). And then, we get to catch up with Neo (Reeves), or as his friends now call him, Thomas Anderson.
Blue Pill-ed: Much like at the beginning of the first Matrix, “Tom” is living a lonely and joyless existence, stuck in a cycle of work, gym, sleep, and medication, with occasional interruptions by his business partner (Jonathan Groff) and therapist (Neil Patrick Harris). What’s “Tom”‘s job? No spoilers, but it’s meta as hell. And that may be exactly what Wachowski is going for (while also having some fun with the circumstances which led her to make this film in the first place). As a new approach to making the viewer question the reality of what they’re seeing, adding such a meta touch is maybe or maybe not effective. It’s certainly the moment when some people are going to check out.
But it does offer up yet another opportunity for the film to grapple with the weight of what came before. As any good therapist will tell you, you can’t embrace the future without coming to terms with your past. Resurrections is very, very conscious of this even as the plot progresses forward, because once again, Neo needs his mind to be freed, and fortunately Morpheus and Bugs (who literally has a white rabbit tattoo) are there to help him find the rabbit hole.