Well, it’s finally here. After an eighteen-year gap from The Matrix Revolutions, Mr Anderson is back.. but was it worth the wait? Okay, I’m not doing spoilers here so this is a safe review to read. Still, I would recommend just going into The Matrix Resurrections as blind as possible and avoiding any reviews.
Not only is this film one of those legacy sequels that seem to be all the rage these days. This The Matrix flick also joins the list of brilliant film sequels that uses the ‘resurrection’ subtitle. I mean…
Surely The Matrix Resurrections can’t be this bad… can it? I often find these legacy sequels follow similar paths, high on the nostalgia and references, while lacking any real substance of its own. The Matrix really did change cinema back when it was released in 1999. Every other film released for a few years had some kind of reference or joke that was The Matrix influenced. Several filmmakers tried to emulate the style of the then Wachowski brothers, see movies like Equilibrium or even the Keanu Reeves starring John Wick trilogy. Films that used sci-fi or action… or both to stylistic effect. If there was one thing that The Matrix oozed, it was style.
Of course, under all of that style was some ‘effing awesome substance too. The Wachowskis created a hell of a world with the first film, a film that got a lot of people theorising, analysing and talking for years, even today. I was lucky enough to see The Matrix on the big screen when it was released. It was a film I knew nothing about, I hadn’t even seen a trailer. It was released at a time when Keanu Reeves’ career was pretty much dead, so nobody really paid it any attention. It was topped off with a lot of unknown or forgotten about actors. Honestly, back in 1999, The Matrix was a massive underdog of a picture that people didn’t expect anything from… especially me. Yet, I came out of that cinema and said that this film would be our generation’s Star Wars. A comment I still stand by and one I feel that became true in many ways. Star Wars had legacy sequels too… ones that (perhaps) didn’t really please the fans of the franchise.
As for the sequels to The Matrix, they are largely detested. For me, I thought they were fine. hardly as groundbreaking as the original. Yet, since when have sequels ever been better than the original? It happens yeah but it is very, very rare. I thought that The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions were okay films. I don’t outright love the sequels as I do with the first film, nor do I outright hate them like so many fans do. So yeah, I’m kind of going into this film with an open mind. I’m not full of hate that we have another sequel, I’m not exactly full of hope because these legacy sequels (or just sequels in general) rarely turn out great.
Well, it’s time to see just how good or bad The Matrix Resurrections is. Again, I’m not doing spoilers here, other than mentioning things already seen in the trailers, so I can’t really go into depth with the plot here. I’ll just copy & paste a synopsis that I found to cover the basics.
To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, Mr. Anderson, aka Neo, will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. If he’s learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of – or into – the Matrix. Neo already knows what he has to do, but what he doesn’t yet know is that the Matrix is stronger, more secure and far more dangerous than ever before.
Anyway, the first thirty minutes or so of The Matrix Resurrections is full of self-gratification, meta, sucking its own dick, ‘aren’t we clever’, non-stop references to the first three films. All legacy sequels do this, they can never just be their own thing, they have to lay on the nostalgia trip hard and heavy. The Matrix Resurrections does this harder and heavier than most other films if its ilk. I had a few niggles with Ghostbusters: Afterlife for doing the same thing (especially the ending), this film though? It takes that shit to whole new levels of unbelievable forced nostalgia. The Matrix Resurrections feels like it’s trying to be clever… and failing hard. There were times during the first half an hour when I could feel my eyes rolling, as if they had a mind of their own. It really is quite sickening how much ‘look at me, I’m a sequel to a popular film’ that this does do.
From lines of dialogue that are either taken directly from the previous films, lines that are similar but slightly altered to other lines like “Reboots sell” that force what the film is down your throat. Subtle scenes that echo those from the previous films or reference events. Neo eating noodles in a local restaurant, etc. Yup, this film really does its very best to let you know that you are watching a sequel to a massively popular film that has had a good few years gap between. Honestly, I really was getting a bit angry at just how ham-fisted The Matrix Resurrections was being with its blatant callbacks and references.
After all of that self dick sucking though and when the plot began proper, once they got all of the front end heavy nostalgia crap out of the way… the film seriously kicks up a gear. Not only that, all of that shit in the opening suddenly began to make a lot more sense. This wasn’t forced nostalgia just for the sake of having it, just to keep ramming it down your throat that you are watching a sequel to a film that’s a couple of decades old. What first felt like a film trying to be clever and failing, soon felt like a genuinely clever film. It feels… well I guess it feels very The Matrix. The opening thirty to forty minutes began to feel like it was making fun of legacy sequels that do the nostalgia trip thing. It got most of that crap out of the way in the opening so it could get into the main story proper, all while still having some importance on the actual plot too.
The think the best way to describe The Matrix Resurrections, without going into deep spoilers, is by linking to this officially released trailer. That way, you can choose to click on it and reveal more about the plot of the film, still without spoilers. But there is just enough there to get the theme and concept of just WTF is going on, still using what is known about the universe that the films take place in.
How and why both Neo and Trinity are brought back (they were most definitely dead at the end of The Matrix Revolutions) makes sense within the universe that these films exist. Are they even the original characters, are they some kind of program, are they real? That’s the beauty of The Matrix as a franchise, it is pretty much limitless and with some thought behind the writing, you can really do anything. What Lana Wachowski has created here is pretty damn impressive given the legacy these films have created. There have even been questions of whether The Matrix Resurrections is a sequel at all. If you have seen the trailers, then you’ll know there’s a lot of reusing certain shots, effects and iconography that makes this feel like it is some kind of a remake… I can’t really get into that without spoiling the plot. All I can tell you is that this film has a lot more depth than it first appears to.
Of course, you have stylised action. There are mass shootouts, “I still know kung-fu” fight scenes, vehicle chases and so on. In this regard, The Matrix Resurrections does very well indeed. It’ll never be as groundbreaking as the first film was, you just can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice. Still, the action here is very well done and while hardy original anymore. still manages to impress. There’s a scene that involves an interesting new look at bullet-time which is also used to deliver a hell of a lot of exposition too. A kind of a slow, race against time action scene that is packed with urgency… just presented in a very slow way. It’s certainly an interesting twist on what we have seen before. As the trailers show, there’s new Morpheus. Once it is explained why, it makes perfect sense. There are several returning characters from the previous films some very much expected, some genuine surprises.
There really is a lot here to talk about, I just can’t as I’m not doing spoilers. I think this is a film that’ll need more than one viewing to get the most out of it too. Not because The Matrix Resurrections is confusing or anything, it’s really not. If you could follow the first film, you can follow this. The multiple viewings will really be because there’s a lot of little details here, a lot of nuances that need your full attention and I’m pretty sure there are things I missed when I watched.
I went into this film, not dismayed but definitely weary and unsure if I should even bother with it. By the time the end credits rolled, I was pretty damn happy. The Matrix Resurrections takes what we already know about the world and updates it for a more modern era. Some great action, balanced out with more character-driven and story elements. Not as amazing as the original but a very worthy sequel in its own right. It does sequel-bait at the end and there’s a very pointless ‘comical’ end credits scene that you really don’t need to see. But yeah, I say give this one a view.