Down the rabbit hole we go. After 18 years, The Matrix is adding another sequel that not only resurrects Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as Neo/Thomas Anderson and Trinity respectively, it also occurs 60 years after the last one. While fans and audiences were led to believe that the deadly crash in The Matrix Revolutions marked the end of their love story and the reality-bending sci-fi franchise, The Matrix Resurrections opens the floodgates to a whole lot more, not because it has to, but because it can.
In Resurrections, director Lana Wachowski, one half of the directing duo of the original trilogy, takes viewers slightly further into the future, which sees Anderson back at square one – stuck in the Matrix – unaware that he is stuck in a simulation that he had fought against in the past three movies. But instead of being a hacker, he is now a game designer at a millennial-run game company where colleagues only drink lattes from a hipster cafe down the road, mix formal and casual wear and use cat viral videos as the base of their humour. You almost feel sorry for Anderson, until we learn that his boss is a guy who goes by Mr Smith (Jonathan Groff). The two talk about Anderson’s hit game trilogy, ‘The Matrix’ – aha! – which is basically a recount of Neo’s life.
This scene alone is enough to tell you what Resurrections essentially is – a meta-filled, self-referential, Hollywood sequel/semi-reboot that fans might either love or hate. There are two sides to this coin of course, so bear with us whilst we explore that.
After two decades since the first movie, seeing Reeves and Moss back as Neo and Trinity come back, all clad in black and on motorcycles, is nostalgic and frankly, satisfying. Their danger-filled romance is both a result and the catalyst for all the misadventures in the war against the machines and Resurrections take them back to the start of their early days – two strangers, destined to meet, but not love and last forever.
That said, the movie banks heavily on nostalgia. There’s references to past events in Reloaded, famous lines being said over again and numerous use of flashbacks. We literally see Neo go through the same motions in the first film, from being saved by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in an office attack, to the iconic fight in the dojo. It does make one’s inner geek excited to see the same iconic scenes remade once again, especially with a lead actor as loved as Reeves, now aged. Nostalgia isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact it’s the very ingredient that makes fans fall in love with a franchise all over again.
The double edged sword of that though, is that the heavy reliance on nostalgia and meta-ness of everything does very little for fans looking for something new. There’s hardly an expanded story as we learn that even after all that trouble and their deaths, the machines still won the war and are still harvesting humans for energy. Here, we are still trying to awaken Neo (and in this film Trinity too) so that they can once again attempt to take down the Matrix. Resurrections does exactly what it’s title does – it resurrects, but the franchise is still where it was last left – dead and unalive.
The only things ‘new’ in this movie are its newcomers Jessica Henwick as new original character Bugs, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus (or so he claims), Groff as Agent Smith (previously played by Hugo Weaving) and Neil Patrick Harris as Anderson’s therapist aka The Analyst. Henwick’s Bugs can be seen as the movie’s lead, next to Reeves and Moss’s Neo and Trinity. Bugs is a determined Captain who wishes to save Neo and Trinity from the new simulation that they’re stuck in. She’s stubborn, cool and a likeable character and acts as a guide to Neo for a big part of the movie, and aids him in getting Trinity back.
Abdul-Mateen II’s Morpheus is a refreshing take on the beloved Morpheus, and how he returns is a stretch that is the start of many more questions to come. The once all-black clad Morpheus now springs about in brightly coloured tuxedos, and is less stoic and livelier than Fishburne’s version of the character. He isn’t the same demanding leader so instead of leading a crew of his own, Morpheus 2.0 plays a close companion to Bugs. It takes a while to get used to, but seeing how Abdul-Mateen II’s Morpheus isn’t exactly the same Morpheus (who as most of us believe is dead) and is simply a variant of him, one shouldn’t make direct comparisons. Whether he is your idealised re-enactment of Fishburne’s Morpheus is secondary, because one can’t deny that Abdul-Mateen II himself is a great actor.
Harris’ ‘The Analyst’ surprisingly plays a huge role in the film’s plot. In the trailers, Harris’ role seemed small, inconsequential almost, but there’s definitely more to him than led on. Without wanting to spoil it too much though, Harris’ addition is a welcomed one.
Perhaps the best newcomer is Groff as Agent Smith. Maybe it’s the new sexy look but Groff is a great Agent Smith, who is just as smug as Weaving’s take on the character. And whilst Weaving’s Smith tends to be a lot more sluggish, Groff’s Smith is just as methodical and determined.
What made The Matrix such a success when it first came out was its almost campy futuristic aesthetic. The leather on leather outfits, the tiny black glasses, the long coats. There is nothing like The Matrix and never did, not even the sequels. Resurrections strips our characters of these aesthetics and while they still look cool by today’s standards, especially with the crazy hair colours and use of monotoned bold outfits, it doesn’t exactly scream The Matrix with one look. Heck, this is likely the most we’ve seen Reeves in a t-shirt and jeans.
Aesthetics aside, the action and big ideas were what made fans so intrigued too so portals, bullet-time, and the kung-fu fighting returns but there’s nothing new. Adding on to the fact that Matrix-action without noted Hong Kong action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping just feels wrong.
Resurrections takes the CGI route and does a routine job with the action sequences but it lacks the stylistic essence of the original. Advancements in modern technology mean the visual effects in Resurrections are far better than previous installments but digital details form just one aspect of the franchise. It’s a shame that there were some iconic movements that were left out in this super meta self-referential movie, but we can live with it.
Ultimately, Resurrections is an awe-inducing exposition dump – which is conundrum in itself, but is exactly what the movie and last sequel felt like. The movie is incredibly meta and is a personal letter to the franchise but it adds very little to the overall story that fans know from The Matrix, Reloaded and Revolutions.
Watching Neo and Trinity return can only please for so long, and it’s a bit difficult for viewers who aren’t familiar with the original films to catch the references or fully understand the concept of the Matrix. However, one thing’s for sure, fans will either leave the theatres loving it, or hating it.
Which one are you?
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Matrix Resurrections is a meta-filled, self-referential sequel come reboot that adds very little to the overall story, but is beautifully told.
Story - 6/10
Direction - 7.5/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10