The Matrix is back. Can it go away now?
One concept I try to avoid mentioning here at How About Notflix is the idea of whether or not a film “deserves” to exist, and it’s a topic that is hard to avoid when speaking of reboots and remakes. After all this is cinema, where the question to “does it need to be made” is almost certainly a no. Films exist for our appreciation, our enjoyment, and our time and money. If you asked Lana Wachowski if The Matrix needed a reboot, she’d probably give you an emphatic no. In fact she tried to kill it while the film was on hiatus during the Covid shutdown. Lilly Wachowski’s answer would probably include more vulgarities, as she didn’t sign on at all.
But The Matrix: Resurrections lets us know exactly why it exists through the exact kind of non-subtle commentary in the film itself. Keanu Reeves once again plays Thomas Anderson, who in this iteration of The Matrix is a video game programmer who created…The Matrix; a trilogy of games that might seem very familiar if you’ve ever watched The Matrix trilogy. Yes, the world of the Matrix has become so bold in its ability to control this Neo that it has turned the events of the prior films into a video game, and set Mr. Anderson as the conductor of all of it. Anderson is brought into his boss’ office who informs him that their boss has greenlight another sequel after all this time.
The boss? Literally Warner Bros. And Neo has explained to him that the sequel has been greenlit and will go forward with or without his approval/involvement. So it seems obvious what happened behind the scenes; Warner Bros. said they were making a new Matrix film with or without the Wachowskis, to which one of them agreed to at least steer the ship. Carrie-Anne Moss returns as Tiffany, a woman who Neo can’t seem to keep his mind off of. There’s a link between the two that seems to transcend time and more importantly iterations of the Matrix.
I suppose the most glaring omission is Lawrence Fishburne who played Morpheus. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Morpheus, but the film makes it clear right off the bat that this isn’t the Morpheus. He’s not Fishburne with a different face. In that vein, Hugo Weaving has not returned as Agent Smith however Jonathan Groff has taken on the role. It’s a lot easier accepting both men taking on their roles if you can accept that they’re not meant to be quite the same person as we saw in past iterations.
And for what it’s worth, Lana Wachowski seems to have gone into this with the idea of if the film is going to be made you might as well do something with it. A long time has passed since Matrix Revolutions, both in our world and the one Neo inhabits. There does feel like things have changed as opposed to say Star Wars where it feels like everyone went into a coma for 20 years. I won’t reference any of it to avoid spoilers, but it’s clear that the writers had an idea for how the world would go forward in the absence of Neo and Trinity at the end of Matrix Revolutions.
So after ping-ponging in my head as to how I felt about this film, I can honestly say that The Matrix Resurrections sucks. As per the usual standard, I haven’t read a single review from critics or viewers about this movie and have absolutely no idea what the consensus is, or if there is even one. If I had to guess, I’d put this film squarely in the 60’s on Rotten Tomatoes and I can’t imagine the audience and critics disagreeing too hard. There’s a reason why Neo and Trinity feel this connection, and when you get to the point where this plot point is unveiled it’s a bit like waking up on your birthday, finding a set of car keys on your dresser, and going out to the driveway to find a car covered in a sheet. But when you pull the sheet off it’s a rusted out 1990 Pontiac.
The Matrix has had some plot contrivances, but holy cow does the Neo/Trinity bit hit the guard rail at 90 and shoot right through. The action scenes are also a regression from where The Matrix was at twenty years ago, with fast-paced fight scenes using a wide angle lens and intricate sequences replaced with sloppy, slow, almost Ambien-level punches being thrown. Too many jump cuts, none of the stunning choreography from the original movie. Some of the sequences seem to take bits from the earlier film and just sort of half-ass it. Jada Pinkett Smith is back as Niobe, now an old woman who provides nothing to the flow other than “I’m not letting you go out there” and then thirty seconds later “alright I’ll let you go out there.”
Having a plot that acknowledges that reboots are cynical, repetitive, and are generally bad ideas doesn’t change the fact that the Matrix Resurrections is a cynical, repetitive, bad idea. It’s a film that doesn’t build on its predecessors, and from a choreograph standpoint regresses in many ways. The supporting cast isn’t as memorable, the plot is far more contrived than we could ever have expected a Matrix film to become, and it’s a movie that had it actually been cancelled back when Lana Wachowski wanted to shelve it, wouldn’t even be on anyone’s mind by this point.
I feel worst for the actors who had to try their best with this junk. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is one of my favorite current stars given his role as Mantis in Aquaman, Bobby Seale in Trial of the Chicago 7, and Anthony McCoy/Candyman in the Candyman reboot. The rest are fine but woefully forgettable. The only character’s name I remember is Bugs, because her name is Bugs, and it’s only been a couple of hours since I’ve seen the movie.