A Sequential Cinema Event
In 2021, The Matrix came back. After nearly two decades, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Lana Wachowski reunited once more. Reeves has been killing it with a career resurgence thanks to the John Wick franchise and being an all-around great guy. Carrie-Anne Moss was busy with a villainous turn as Jeri Hogarth in Marvel Television’s Jessica Jones. Lana Wachowski would direct sans her sister Lilly. Lana’s return to the series would be a personal one.
With that in mind, The Matrix Resurrections does embody that spirit. What happens when those we’ve lost come back? Does the world stay the same or does it move on? Can someone go forward without having to stay in the same norm that’s expected? Resurrections may have that answer for those who wish to watch and listen. It launched in theaters and streaming as well via HBO Max. Warner Bros. pushed their entire 2021 slate to a day-and-date streaming release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless clickbait articles on sites ending in Rant or Blend would call it a bomb, but that’s more due to it not pulling in Spider-Man: No Way Home numbers. Resurrections was a polarizing sequel with many split on if it was a satisfying return to the franchise or a dud that would fizzle out. Consider me in the former because I loved every minute of The Matrix Resurrections.
Neo (Keanu Reeves) is back in the Matrix as a game designer Thomas Anderson has designed The Matrix as a series of games. Neo is pressured to reboot the Matrix game franchise thanks to his boss Smith (Johnathan Groff). The pressure makes Neo seek therapy from The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris). Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a revived Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) look to guide Neo back into the real world to become his true self again. Bugs and Morpheus also want to see if Neo can help bring back Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), stuck in the Matrix as Trinity. The new trio must go back into the Matrix, face a returning Agent Smith and save Trinity from the new Matrix itself.
The Matrix Resurrections is a marvelous return to form that questions the need for a reboot as well as tears down the perception of what the Matrix is. Lana Wachowski went for the jugular for this one to show why The Matrix is important. She also shows why the need for a new one is not necessary. The film feels personal to Lana both by conquering the constant desire of Warner Bros. wanting a new sequel and showing it’s okay to let things be as they were without having to rehash everything.
Here, it shows the chaos created by trying to build a new Matrix from the memories of the past and how it could never be. This is shown when the film begins with a near beat-for-beat recreation of the first film’s opening. Signs on billboards reference this being a shit imitation of the original with a neon “All the shit you can eat” appearing in the same locale later. It’s a rehash that has Bugs going “What, this is the same as before…yet something is different.” Very much so because this is not The Matrix we love. This is The Matrix corporate greed brought about or, in this case, the machines. The journey to reawaken back, in reality, reflects the need to get out of the past and focus on what is in front of you. This time around, the Matrix is The Matrix franchise and Lana is ready to free her characters (and herself) from the unnecessary need for a new one.
These characters are her own and what she adores. She does not want them tied to the Matrix forever, but to live on as themselves. Lana herself is more than just The Matrix films. She and Lilly created Sense8 to break from the mold. They created the world of Jupiter Ascending. They adapted Cloud Atlas which polarized many but both showed they could bring broader worlds to life. They made a Speed Racer movie that was a wild and yet accurate interpretation that is better than critics in 2008 would have you believe. Lana is more than The Matrix and Neo and Trinity are more than it too. This is a reboot that tells the audience “There is no need to reboot this, but since we are here, let’s show you exactly why.” Not only that, it does so without much acknowledgment of the sequels (save for Jada Pinkett Smith’s return as Niobe).
One big hit to the sequels is the return of The Merovingian as a hermit ranting and raving the reboots are stupid and Hollywood has been ruined by them. It’s damning to hear from one of the sequel villains. Yet, having him say those words makes sense. The Merovingian is a character from two sequels that killed the momentum that The Matrix had for a long time. What he says is a reflection of the audience pushing back against those two films. It’s also Lana using him to voice her own dismay at the current state of Hollywood. No need for original ideas, give us the same old slop and market it and package it forever (looking at you, Star Wars). Even Neo’s face of displeasure to seem him echoes the sentiments of fans who did not care for the sequel.
The new cast carries nothing but fantastic additions. It’s hard not to fall in love with Jessica Henwick in this film. After stealing the show in the lackluster Iron Fist, she gets to be here in full force. She’s spectacular in the action scenes and holds her own against Reeves and Moss. I love how she looks to Neo as a guide, but someone who can help them get through whatever the hell this new world is. Henwick is a phenomenal actor and glad she got to be a part of this film. Also, it’s weird that we got two reboots with the main character named Bugs. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus is stellar. He killed it in the reboot of Candyman months before the film. He continues to do so here not being an imitation of Morpheus, but rather his own unique take.
Groff is fantastic as the new Smith for the same exact reasons. He doesn’t evoke him like Ian Bliss in the prior sequels. Yet, he has the same sense of understanding and urgency as the prior Smith. It also helps to make him not the outright antagonist in the film. That honor goes to another person and that is The Analyst. Neil Patrick Harris under a therapist guard is a wonderful mix of the Oracle and the Architect. He out and out surrenders to Trinity toward the end of the film proper. Harris shines in his brief moments by being antagonistic, but not to the extent of making a whole clone army to allow for that. I adore that Moss gets so much character depth and growth as Trinity. Reeves also covers a great balance of the fright Anderson feels with the true realization of Neo once more. It’s lovely to see Moss and Reeves together again no matter what.
The action can be much left to desire to some, but for myself, it works as trying not to be such a replication of the original and stands out on its own. The close combat nature of the stairs fight adds a greater focus by honing on the characters in action rather than the need for a broad spectacle. . Those expecting the Matrix to suddenly turn into John Wick will be left disappointed. The only true complaint with the film is the pacing itself. This is a two-hour and 30 minutes film and it feels every bit of it. Even with my love for this franchise, this is still longer than the previous two sequels.
The Matrix Resurrections exits the tomb of reboot hell to become a stellar return. It is a strong reboot sequel that tackles the need for a reboot, how to move forward, and gives closure to those wanting to see a true return.
The Matrix Resurrections 4.5 out of 5
The Matrix Series 5/5
Next time, Sequential Cinema goes into bi-weekly mode again for BOND AT 60.
A decade ago this upcoming October, I wrote about the James Bond franchise for 23 days straight as Skyfall was about to release for the franchise’s 50th Anniversary. I had never seen a Bond film beyond the Brosnan era and challenged myself to get through them all. I have not watched a lot of the films since. A decade on out, I think it’s time to revisit the films in a more concise manner. Yet, I’m pacing myself this time around. I will be reviewing the first five Sean Connery films in the series, so prepare for some Sean Connery. Here’s the schedule:
Apr. 14 – Dr. No
Apr. 28 – From Russia With Love
May 12 – Goldfinger
May 26 – Thunderball
June 9 – You Only Live Twice
Oh right, there was that other fellow too.
June 23 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
I said we would be doing the first five Connery films, but George Lazenby was there in the 60s too. BOND AT 60 begins April 14. Till the next sequence.