Once the announcement for a new Matrix was made, and I realized that it was not a hoax and that it was actually happening, my mind began to ponder what would a new Matrix movie look like in 2021. After re-watching the original trilogy, I went to the theater expecting something that felt like a return of a legend – a club legend returning for their last hurrah to his original team. After leaving the theater, my feelings were unclear; The Matrix Resurrections is a good movie, that much I know for sure, but is it a good 4th entry in the Matrix franchise, a good reboot of a dormant franchise, a shake-up of the formula, a deconstruction or some other fancy word people like me use to feel smart and “in the know”. I still don’t know, I would like for another viewing to be more definitive about that, however, I do want to talk about certain aspects of it and what this new movie “updates” and what new things it brings to the table.
The Matrix Resurrections is co-written and directed by Lana Wachowski (Lily, the other half of the Wachowski duo has taken a break from the industry), and stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Henwick, amongst other stars. Since I have a strict “nothing I would consider a spoiler is mentioned” policy – and since I didn’t even want to see trailers before watching the movie – that is all I am going to say about the facts of the movie. Furthermore, as you may have noticed, this article is not titled as a review, because it’s not a review; it’s simply a few observations and a discussion about certain ideas and decisions of the movie. I already mentioned that I think it is good, but as you may have seen online already, people have gushing comments about the movie and a burning hate for it with little middle-ground. The only thing that I will mention without elaborating on is that, I found the movie’s justification for its existence (in the world of Matrix) to have been satisfactory; it made sense and it felt fitting.
What I was most interested in – before watching the movie – was how the legendary, ground-breaking action scenes would evolve 18 years later. The Matrix is known for a lot of things, but audience members can see its effect on cinema clearly in how it revolutionized Western blockbusters and how they handled action sequences. The Matrix Resurrections does not do that; in fact, in a year where the 4th entry of the quintessential action franchise releases, I would not place it in my favorite action movie list of this year. That does not mean the action is poorly handled because there are some great scenes and some thrilling sequences, but it changed towards something more generic when it comes to the action. The Wachowskis famously storyboarded every single frame of the original trilogy and would not deviate from that for any reason, whereas now there was a clear change of philosophy; according to interviews, Lana would shoot for 20 minutes straight and have a lot more improv as they were shooting. This can be seen in the action sequences, in particular; gone are the inch-perfect, visually glorious, fights and in its step a modern, more intimate style that still has martial arts, stunts, and practical effects galore, but also feels more ‘generic’. It feels harsh to say that, but when taken into consideration of what the previous films were and what they had done for action sequences, this new take just feels like a wasted opportunity to reinvigorate that style with a flair that it sometimes sorely misses – especially in Western films – and that is what The Matrix did more than anything else; it combined Eastern action and storytelling with the Western counterparts to give us something unique and groundbreaking.
What ended up interesting me the most about the movie is the writing; according to Lana herself, Warner Bros would contact the Wachowskis yearly for their blessing or to convince them of the prospect for another Matrix and only in 2019, after some unfortunate events, had Lana conceived and was willing for another Matrix. It does feel that a lot of that came from what she could say through the movie. The Matrix Resurrections is a lot of things, but most interestingly, it is an intimate, sincere, and personal blockbuster; at times, it is the creator looking back at her creation and how it has become something that it stood against; other times, it is the Matrix’s beginning sequence, taken into interesting new depths, exploring ideas and themes that mean even more today; it is a criticism of nostalgia culture, not only in art but in society as well; it’s an exploration of what the creators would have done differently today. In true Matrix fashion, it has a lot of complicated themes and a lot of room for interpretation, but at its core, it is about Neo and Trinity in a way that I found to be intriguing. This is where that shift in philosophy works brilliantly. In the original trilogy, although that connection is very real and – aided by the recent re-watch and by my tastes aligning better with the strengths of the sequels – very effective, it all felt like there was an artificiality to it; the way everything was framed and staged to look perfect, it made for brilliant visuals but did not allow much room for the characters to be more than that. Resurrections best moments are not the ones where cars blow up or characters are running on walls shooting (although they are very good moments too), its moments where Anderson touches his jeans to try and make sense of what’s real and not, or when he’s having coffee with a friend and they ask him a question that allows him to open up. Resurrections finest moments is when Lana is tackling nostalgia, legacy, identity, Alice in Wonderland, kung fu, on all fronts; visually, on paper, with stunts. In some ways, Resurrections is weaker and, in some ways, stronger than what came before it; on the whole, what I feel confident and happy in saying is that this is no cash-grab and this is a sequel that should exist. Not everyone will enjoy it – that much is already apparent – but, it is not a half-assed attempt at a new Matrix, it is a different Matrix.
After another viewing maybe I’ll get into spoilers as well, but for now, I just want to close off with a few personal criticisms. Firstly, I know there was a certain actor who wanted to reprise his role but could not due to scheduling issues; his absence is felt. Replacing him would be near impossible and, unfortunately, it didn’t work for me; no fault to the actor that did replace him, although his choice made that character more generic, but I think this is one of those roles that are just too beloved for me to see anyone else do that. Moreover, the score for Resurrections also changed for the worst; The Matrix score is one of the most iconic scores of all time, and it’s not just the techno parts. Say whatever you want about the sequels (I know I have up until recently when after a rewatch my opinion changed for the better), but both had some of the best scores and it’s a shame that Resurrections does not.
There’s a lot more to say on Resurrections, but I’ll leave it here. Maybe after another viewing, I’ll do a spoiler discussion as well, but for now, I think that Resurrections will be a point of contention for fans. It’s a good way to see what The Matrix is for you; is it them mind-fuck, Rage against the Machine, attitude? Is it the action sequences, cool leather jackets, and tight latex? Is it the philosophical ramblings and depth? As always, for me what a movie has to do before anything else is ensure that the experience provided is entertaining (whether that’s from some good dumb action or an appreciation/interaction with the themes) and Resurrections did that; I had a good time and it led (as well as will lead) to many fun conversations and discussions. It’s a good movie, but whether it will hold up to the standards of being a good 4th Matrix movie is up to your own personal interpretation and time.