REVIEW: The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Keanu Reeves is back as ‘Thomas Anderson’ in THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS — Photo: Warner Bros.

Directed by Lana Wachowski — Screenplay by Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, and Aleksandar Hemon.

After the events of The Matrix Revolutions, in The Matrix Resurrections, Thomas Anderson (still played by Keanu Reeves) is somehow still alive. However, something is off about him. He is now a video game developer, and the creator of The Matrix, which the people around him claim to be a video game. But he has these dreams, and every time he crosses paths with a woman named Tiffany, she looks just like Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss). He is prescribed blue pills by his therapist (played by Neil Patric Harris) to keep his dreams and visions in check. However, right as his business partner (played by Jonathan Groff) tells him that they have to make a new Matrix game, he encounters a young and different-looking Morpheus (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who asks him to take the red pill.

The Matrix Resurrections has, so far, been met with mixed reviews and it has also, I think, divided the fanbase quite a bit. I think that there are a lot of things to like in it, frankly. Even though I do also agree with some of the criticisms that I have heard. For one, this film is needlessly overlong with a runtime of almost 150 minutes that I’m not sure the film really justifies (it may be a little bit too talky). I also think some of the effects are a little bit unconvincing and too bright. My biggest problem with the film, though, is that the action is extremely underwhelming. The original Matrix film was lauded for its action, but in this sequel it feels like an afterthought, especially since Keanu Reeves, arguably one of the biggest action stars right now, mostly looks like he is just using some kind of force push. While the action may feel like an afterthought or lazy, I do think there are some really fascinating things about this legacy sequel.

I, frankly, love the meta-narrative of the film and how it is done. This film literally has a scene where a creator is forced to make a sequel to The Matrix, because if they don’t then Warner Bros. will just give the property to someone else. Yeah, it can feel like Lana Wachowski is flipping the bird to Warner Brros., toxic fandom, ‘film bros,’ writers’ rooms, think groups, and much more. There is a reason why Lilly Wachowski didn’t want to be a part of a new film, and Lana may have felt similarly. That possible frustration with going backwards is literally baked into the film, and I actually really like that the filmmaker opted to do that, and I loved that Warner Bros let them do it. The film stops just short of calling people creatively bankrupt. Some of these toxic fandom scenes fall right in line with 2022’s Scream legacy sequel as it too was a film, to a certain extent, about modern fandoms. That is certainly an interesting trend, and I think it is quite bold.

In a sense, this is still a film with love as a central part of its narrative (I love how one of its ideas is about becoming ‘one’ together), and it is undeniably really exciting to see Reeves and Moss together again here (in fact, I think their connection is what holds the difficult second half of the film together). However, I do also think it is a great shame that Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne are nowhere to be seen here (except for in flashbacks). As has been seen in trailers, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays some version of Morpheus, and, while I really like the actor a great deal, I have to say that I didn’t really warm to the idea of another playing Morpheus. I missed Fishburne. Abdul-Mateen II’s interpretation of the character feels much looser and modern to me (though there is a reason for this in the film). However, in general, I really liked most of the new cast. Jonathan Groff clearly had a lot of fun with his mysterious character, and I wanted much more of Jessica Henwick, who, you get the sense, could be the star of a new series of films. The best surprise, though, is Neil Patrick Harris. He hasn’t been this entertaining to watch in a major film in many, many years.

While I don’t love it as much as its biggest fans seem to do, I will say that I really dug this one. I love everything about the meta-narrative, and I think it is a really fascinating cinematic statement on the state of the industry, as Lana Wachowski is reckoning with inevitability of a legacy sequel in this very film, all the while taking ownership of what she, and her sibling, brought into the world. Although it perhaps never reaches the action movie highs of Reloaded or Revolutions (the new action here is just not as smooth or inventive), I do think The Matrix Resurrctions is arguably the best Matrix sequel.

7 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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