To get the important stuff out of the way up top; The Matrix Resurrections is good. It’s really good! If you’re looking for hot goths shooting cops and doing kung-fu, then you’ll be very happy. If you like mind bending science-fiction with a large side of French philosophy, then you’re gonna be over the moon. If you know who The Merovingian is, and you’ve always wanted to see him impotently cussing out Millennials for ruining cinema, then wow, let me tell you, you’re going to spit!
With that said; The Matrix Resurrections is an outrageously bananas movie. If you haven’t seen the original Matrix trilogy, it’s hard to say whether any of it will make sense at all. Not so much because it’s packed with winks and fan service (although it is), instead because it’s a film in direct conversation with those movies and their cultural legacy.
Resurrections is acutely aware of the expectations placed upon it as a sequel to a beloved and now twenty year-old franchise. It uses that weight to perform a kind of meta-textual judo throw, becoming a wildly literal commentary on sequels, reboots, and on a deeper level, the way radical politics can be repackaged, commodified, and reduced to another tool of pacification. Though it can be a little bewildering, the less you know about the plot going in, the more gripping you’ll find the ride (so no summary here!).
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Directed by Lana Wachowski (her first film without sister Lily), and co-written by Wachowski and Sense8 collaborators Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell, Resurrections still feels very much of a piece with the previous films.
Retaining a lot of the stylish, precisely choreographed action and crisp, moody cinematography, it also carries through some of the shortcomings of the 2003 sequels. Namely, some of the philosophical monologues feel more like lore-dumps than thematic essentials, there are sections which drag a little, and the whole thing could probably bear being a little shorter. What it does have over Reloaded and Revolutions, is an absolutely compelling role for Keanu Reeves’ Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity.
Though the Matrix films have always been about the relationship between love, faith, and self-belief, centring the bond between Neo and Trinity allows Reeves’ and Moss’ performances to bring this message home in a moving and personal way. Finding these once sleek and impenetrable characters now wearied and humbled sees a fascinating reframing of their dynamic, heightening the stakes, and letting the actors go in a little harder.
It’s difficult not to miss Laurence Fishburne who, as Morpheus, rounded out the original core cast, but Jessica Henwick and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II bring plenty of charm and charisma in the supporting roles, and both Jonathan Groff and Neil Patrick Harris do their best to channel Hugo Weaving’s scenery chewing verve.
For a director who has pointedly refused to release deleted scenes from her films, let alone “director’s cuts”, it’s almost shocking that Lana Wachowski has chosen to revisit and resurrect a story she and her sister wrote more than two decades ago. But you have to hand it to her, The Matrix Resurrections is so much more than just a boring retread. More weird. More self-aware. More fun. Just… brush up on your original trilogy before you watch it, you don’t want to be the only person not laughing at the Merovingian.