The Matrix is a masterpiece, one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, a film that transcends human thought, a revolutionary action film, and a high concept thinking piece. While its sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions did not come close to living up to that standard, they are still entertaining films in their own right. Creating a good sequel to the original 1999 film has never panned out well for the Wachowski team, and sadly they’ve created the worst one yet in the form of The Matrix Resurrections. This new film is lifeless, joyless, dull, and strips all of the staples of the franchise that made it iconic in the first place. It’s overly concerned with reminding of what its done before rather than paving anything new to embrace. The performances by Keanu Reaves and Carrie-Anne Moss are certainly great to see back on screen but very little works in this sequel 20 years later, and further confirms that we shouldn’t go down this rabbit hole.
The film opens with an exact carbon copy opening of the first scene from the original film, with a few twists and turns here and there. It plays out exactly how you think it will, with footage overlaying areas that you may have forgotten (or even remembered) on top of the scene to make sure you remember your love of the first film. This opening scene highlights the biggest problem with Resurrections in that it tries to cash in on your nostalgia and connection to the other films, to the point where it shoves footage from those films directly in your face to get you to like it. Character reveals are done through reusing old footage, callbacks are done through reusing old footage, plot points are conveyed (you guessed it) reusing old footage. Why the film feels the need to force this down your throat is beyond me and actually plays off as laughable at certain points. The film has a certain self-aware and metaness to it as they comment about how “studios cash in sequels” or “sequels are never as good as the original”. However it then becomes that what it is making fun of. It’s so concerned with the references and B-roll footage then actually paving anything new for the characters.
It has been hotly discussed that neither Laurence Fishburne nor Hugo Weaving were returning for the fourth film either not being asked to or due to scheduling conflicts. Their replacements for Morpheus and Agent Smith are okay in the role, but I never felt they were actually needed for the story. They show up randomly to have some action scene or plot contrivance and then disappear for the runtime. Even the explanation of why these characters aren’t played by the original actors is sloppy at best. There is a story based reason for it, but it doesn’t feel needed or earned. If they wanted Morpheus and Agent Smith in the film, they should have just cast the original actors and let the stand ins be their own new characters to the franchise. That at least would have been refreshing and ambitious instead of contrived and nauseating. The new characters, particularly Jessica Henwick as Bugs, are entertaining enough but we aren’t given enough time and character development with them to truly feel attachment to them. The film focuses up more on Neo and Trinity and the bond they share, but it doesn’t amount to anything special until the last 10 minutes and by that point you are already bored out of your mind.
The pacing in this film is particularly off, with entire sections that could have been cut off to shave off the runtime and made this movie a little more manageable. The first act plays as a direct copy and homage to the first act of The Matrix, the second act sloooooooooowwws down as they begin to exposition dump everything that has happened since the end of Revolutions, and the third act starts to get a little interesting but botches it on generic action sequences that feel nothing like the Matrix formula. It’s inconsistently paced, and doesn’t invest their audiences in its story or high thinking concepts it starts to set up in the first act. There are certainly great ideas within the film, particularly how the film starts out with Neo being alive again or with the concept of human emotion and free will. It never commits to those ideas and flesh them out to cause the audience to ponder and think on their way.
It’s also pretty dull on the action sequences, which is a surprising statement to make for a Matrix movie. The Matrix films have been known for their blend of gun fighting and kung fu, blending each together for some great cinematic sequences filmed with great direction and camerawork. Gone is that nuance and sophistication and replaced is generic action sequences with little impact or awe factor to behold. Even in Reloaded, when you have the cheesy action sequence with Neo versus 500 Agent Smiths, there was a nuance and detail to the fight choreography that makes it entertaining to watch. None of that is present here, the most exciting sequence happens between Agent Smith and Neo in bathroom, but it lacks the grit and direction of the original subway fight in the first film. It’s baffling to me how you have the same creative and directing team, but don’t try to retain that flavor.
What can be said for the sequel are some of the ideas and concepts it begins to introduce. There are certainly intriguing ideas such as human emotion and how they create their own realities, or how we perceive our own tragedies and cope with them. The movie never capitalizes on these themes to form its own conversations, but it is interesting to see what those ideas could have been in better written sequel. Other than that, there is nothing much that works in this sequel/reboot. It’s stripped of its DNA in the fight choreography and instead tries to remind you of the first film through stock footage and callbacks. It isn’t done in a loving or subtle way, but rather done to evoke nostalgia in a movie that doesn’t do anything for itself. This film could have been a lot better and put the franchise back on the map for a new generation. Sadly, i think this is a film that many will forget and toss aside in the decades to come.