Movie review: The Matrix Resurrections
Returning to The Matrix is a strange rabbit hole to go down.
The Matrix Resurrections is a flawed if fascinating coda to the saga that began in 1999 and seemingly ended in 2003 with no more needed – or wanted – to be said.
After all, Neo and Trinity were – spoilers ahoy – dead.
The original film is close to being a perfect movie. It has aged even better than its star Keanu Reeves.
It changed cinema by introducing new technology and (at the time) underground genres. It also revolutionised Hollywood's approach to action choreography and set a much emulated visual lexicon. You can still see its influence on today's films.
It was such a game-changer that its sequels (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both released in 2003) could not come close.
The Matrix Reloaded tried to up the game and was left with a laughably bendy CGI Keanu. The trilogy did not end on a high.
And yet, such is the power of that first film (combined with the power of a resurgent Reeves on the back of Matrix descendant John Wick) that we have The Resurrections.
But who put this fourth instalment in motion?
The film has a lot of meta moments. It is so self-referential at times it feels incredibly close to having characters turn to the camera and acknowledge they are in a film.
In the film, Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is the creator of a groundbreaking computer game from 20 years ago called The Matrix. That game closely followed the story played out in the three films we saw. But are the visions he's been having of the Matrix part of a psychotic break or is the world he inhabits a facade? (Yes, the plot parallels the first film.)
In one of the most meta moments, Anderson is told that parent company Warner Brothers want a sequel to The Matrix game and they’ll make it with or without the original team. It's one of a number of moments that threaten to jolt the viewer out of the narrative, such as the discussions of "Bullet Time" or Keanu's former stunt double turned John Wick director Chad Stahelski appearing as a character called Chad.
But is the Warners line a cry for help? A protest hidden in plain sight?
If the people with the money were hoping for a sequel to the original Matrix, they'll be disappointed. This is much more of a sequel to the sequels.
It shares more of the "qualities" of parts two and three.
The fight choreography is not what it was. What could be impressive set-pieces sometimes feel muted thanks to some questionable choices from director Lana Wachowski.
In some places, the effects – it pains me to say – are quite poor and look unfinished.
(Some of the practical effects are also laughably bad, such as one actor's school play take on acting elderly).
And then there's the dialogue. The first film had characters like Morpheus and Agent Smith deliver iconic lines that infiltrated the mind.
In the sequels, the word count multiplied and characters monologued to the point of parody (ergo, vis a vis, concordantly etc).
It’s the same here. Matrix new hires Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff are given so much to say in one go that it’s an effort to catch it all. At times. it's like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher.
And yet... I still enjoyed this. I was intrigued to see where this meandering journey was going.
While one of the original architects – Lily Wachowski – sat this out along with notable absentees Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving, we still have ever watchable Keanu and Carrie-Anne Moss as Thomas Anderson / Neo and Trinity.
The line code-crossed lovers are the pure human heart of this story. The essential element that cuts through the forced nostalgia nods and philosophical filibustering.
Their clear connection is what makes the most sense in this muddled tale and fits most with the world of the Matrix.
We also have fresh faces Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and the film’s MVP, Jessica Henwick.
As Bugs, Henwick helps drive a lot of the narrative as she tries to bring a clueless Anderson/ Neo up to speed. She also gets to do some of the cooler action moves.
That she manages that and is still engaging is a feat in itself.
If you’re not sure of anything else going on here, you will be sure that Henwick is destined for even bigger things.
So it is Resurrections worth a journey to the cinema?
If you're unaware of earlier Matrix films, this fourth instalment will likely be baffling.
Fans will get the most out of this.
But if it leads you to watch the original, then it is all for good.