Review: THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS, An Acutely Meta Evolution of the Paradigm Shattering Classic
Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star in an action adventure, directed by Lana Wachowski, and opening exclusively in movie theaters.
Eighteen years after supposedly putting the series to bed, Lana Wachowski returns to the franchise that made her and her sister household names with The Matrix Resurrections. Making the journey with her are original lead actors Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as the doomed lovers Neo and Trinity, along with a smattering of familiar and fresh faces to the Matrix universe. Wachowski takes this opportunity to turn the concept of a world within a simulation on its head, asking the viewer to consider what it is they truly want.
Reviving the Matrix series was always going to be a tall order. With a self-contained trilogy already in the can and the pretty darn definitive deaths of Neo and Trinity serving as the climactic ending of the old world to make way for the new, the titular Resurrections in this latest iteration would have to be both literal and symbolic in order to make the film worth the wait. Is it successful? It depends on what you bring to the experience; some will feel the same energy that made the original trilogy beloved, while others may sit in their chair scratching their heads and asking themselves, “why?”
Lana Wachowski, for her part, understands the duality of this potential response, and leans into the strangeness of the endeavor in The Matrix Resurrections, and the result is oddly satisfying, if not in exactly the same paradigm changing manner as the initial triptych. You can feel the ambivalence in the writing, but many fans of the series will definitely appreciate the approach, as bizarre and blatantly meta as it is.
Joining our heroes twenty years after the events concluding The Matrix Resurrections, we find them adrift in a world of mediocrity. Aimless, dissatisfied with their lives for reasons even they can’t articulate, and seeking some intangible thing to bring them back to life.
It is at this point that I must mention that the plot of The Matrix Resurrections kicks off pretty damned quickly, effectively turning any even slightly detailed plot synopsis into a minefield of potential spoilers. I will tread lightly, but some things may be difficult to dance around.
Mimicking the initiation of Reeves’ Anderson in the first film, our Neo gets dragged back into the battle we thought was long won, only to discover that it isn’t over, it has just evolved. The very idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same is a constant theme throughout the film. Reeves and his co-stars seem very aware of this, even as some of the faces change, the characters remain largely the same, with only slight tweaks meant to bring the story up to date as technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since 2003.
The story of The Matrix Resurrections is as much a continuation of the original series as it is a criticism of some of the meme culture it spawned. Wachowski and co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon (regular collaborators since Sense8) seem intent on breaking down the philosophy not only of the universe, but also poking fun at it in a way that brings to mind meta projects like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, films that understand their own tropes and utilize them in a way that makes it clear that those elements were intentional and that the writers are in complete control.
In doing so, The Matrix Resurrections has very different aims than its predecessors. The intent here is no longer to simply deliver mind-bending action with a deeply philosophical bent, it is to do so with the understanding that they’ve already done that, and in order to evolve they must acknowledge their own rules in order to break them. Whether or not its successful depends on what you bring to the film, just as the original was interpreted by different factions as representative of their own ideals, so might this film’s success be predicated on the expectations of each audience member.
Those looking for an action extravaganza will certainly get one. The Matrix Resurrections attempts to reignite some of its former glory, with large scale action sequences that play tricks with the viewers’ perspective as well as leaning on a few old tricks we’ve seen before. With Reeves now well into his fifties, though, the hand-to-hand combat has slowed a bit, making it less effective. However, there are plenty of neat tricks to keep the fights and stunts fresh, even when they seem to be parodying themselves in very obvious ways.
Equally confounding and creative, The Matrix Resurrections is maybe not the sequel we wanted, but it may be the sequel we deserve. Reeves and Moss still have palpable chemistry on screen, and Wachowski is in complete command of her universe, enough so that she seems to feel comfortable twiddling the knobs a bit in a way that might make series stalwarts just uncomfortable enough to make it interesting. It’s a wild ride, and a worthy addition to a series to which so many feel an immense affinity. Just like the original trilogy, those who enter with an open mind may just see it expanded, but attempt to confront it with your own preconceptions and you may not understand what you’re in for.
The Matrix Resurrections
- Lana Wachowski
- Lana Wachowski
- David Mitchell
- Aleksandar Hemon
- Keanu Reeves
- Christina Ricci
- Carrie-Anne Moss