The Matrix Resurrections joins a long line of long-awaited sequels that find something more. Films such as Mad Max: Fury Road and Blade Runner 2049 returned with something new to explore. They did not settle for just regurgitating nostalgia the way so many other retreads have done.
Light Spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections below
This fourth film in the Matrix franchise is thankfully not the same old Matrix. It doesn’t just pose another existential observation of reality with all the bullet-time effects. This is a film smart enough to realize how passe bullet-time has become.
Going even further, it’s a film that is aware of itself. This leads to a postmodern deconstruction of The Matrix as a concept, movie, and cultural element. That’s not exactly something one would expect from yet another movie IP revival.
What Is Reality?
This movie starts off very self-aware. It’s not just that the film starts with the acknowledgment of the human runners and the machine-written agents of the simulation. There’s also a highly meta-commentary on the past.
Consider how the film reintroduces Neo (Keanu Reeves). We first see him in the simulation not as the hero but the game developer Tom Anderson. The game he has developed is a trilogy literally called The Matrix.
The video games do not hide the obvious deconstruction of The Matrix. Tom finds himself dealing with executives who want more and creatives who debate the themes. There’s a darkly comedic angle to how a disillusioned Tom listens as developers bicker if Matrix is more action or commentary on fascism.
Tom also finds himself struggling to keep his mind straight. Flashes of a past life bombard his psyche, showing him scenes from the previous Matrix movies. Will he remember that he’s Neo or will he remain the docile programmer?
Which Pill To Choose?
Choice becomes the central theme of the picture. It’s not enough for the human resistance to merely fight back against the machine. They need to make that crucial choice to decide to fight before the fight can even begin.
There’s an illusion of choice that Neo is given. He’s given the blue pills to keep himself locked within the Matrix. He could choose not to take them but then he’ll start learning the truth.
Learning the truth is only half the battle. Deciding to do something about it is another story. It’s why the returning character of Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) finds herself too wary to carry on the fight.
Freedom of choice becomes a central focus for the war. Neo didn’t choose to be revived or be placed in this simulated state. The same goes for Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who is also in need of being reawakened so she can kick ass once more.
Questioning The Matrix
The film spends much of its first half criticizing its own world. Aside from the meta angle, there’s a mystery once more. The status quo becomes something that should be questioned when something seems amiss.
Relics from the past come about once more. Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) remains as a sleeper agent among the program’s…well, agents. Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff) is also present but questioning what worth he has in a world he no longer controls.
One of the more fascinating cameos is the brief return of The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). What exactly does he have to do? Well, nothing much more than rant and rave about the emptiness of franchises.
Too on the nose? Maybe but that sort of bold commentary makes the film all the more appealing. It’s choosing to not only address current political and social issues through its allegory but the never nature of film trends as well.
That kind of knowing writing goes a long way in evolving the story. It’s sure to draw a lot of comparisons to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare for deconstructing its own fame. There’s a lot of intrigue in such a picture being aware of its external presence.
Even with this meta angle, The Matrix still hasn’t lost its edge as an action saga. The war between humans and machines is still on. Leading that charge is the newest hacker on the block, the blue-haired Bugs (Jessica Henwick).
She still infiltrates the simulation shades, leather, and guns blazing. Her quest to unearth the old leads to plenty of exciting sequences. True to Matrix form, the battles are quite elaborate.
Consider how much grander the fights grow as time progresses. In the first fight, Bugs and Morpheus flee a half-dozen agents in pursuit. By the climax, our heroes are battling an entire town of people attacking them, from the streets to the skies.
These sequences are not only a lot of fun in their freneticism but hold up as their own fights. There’s no exaggeration of bullet-time or wirework. The nods and winks are more nuanced in this explosive exchange of fists, bullets, and explosions.
Conclusion: The Matrix Resurrections
Resurrections isn’t just a strong sequel but perhaps one of the most necessary sequels in the current movie landscape. It has the guts to experiment with its own world as well as reflect our own. The wonderfully meta nature makes the questioning of existence all the more compelling.
More importantly, the film highlights what makes The Matrix so great. It’s not the bullet-time, shades, and leather, as numerous films have attempted to replicate. It’s the big ideas that criticize our world and rally against complacency.
So, yes, this is every bit the Matrix movie fans have been waiting. It blows up new ideas, retools old ones, and always keeps a grander theme of choice in mind. This is more than worth another dive back into a virtual reality action, intrigue, and hacking.
The Matrix Resurrections is now playing in theaters and on HBO Max.