The Matrix Resurrections (Review): This Time the Blue Pill Appeals

Prepare to question your reality AGAIN with The Matrix franchise’s fourth entry. Does Resurrections stack up to the original trilogy? Read on to find out…

*Spoilers for the Original Matrix Trilogy below*

A young woman named Bugs (Jessica Henwick), her crewmate, and a new ally follow a trail leading them to “The One”: a legendary hero who once saved their world. But the man they find, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) isn’t particularly impressive. He’s a mentally unstable celebrity known to question his reality, but hardly a hero. Why has be become this way, and can he reclaim his former greatness?

I won’t answer those questions for you but I can discuss how I felt about their execution. First off: You’re probably curious how Neo returned following his death in Revolutions. I know I was. And I dreaded the idea because, if Lana Wachowski failed to pull off that story thread, the Matrix trilogy might have been retroactively weakened. Resurrections knows you’re curious about a lot of things but doesn’t care to give out any answers upfront. We’re left to make our best guesses for most of the movie. In short: patience is required. You know what though? That’s refreshing. For once a mainstream movie doesn’t hold your hand or go out of its way to explain its setup. This created mystery and left me engaged.

As for the actual answers behind Neo’s return, they’re… OK. WHY “The One” still exists turned out to be more intriguing than HOW. And it’s the driving force of the narrative. There’s a tragic meta layer to Neo’s fate where he appears to wish that his resurrection never took place. Because in both our real world and the world of the movie, Neo’s return upsets the natural ending and measure of peace he found since the end of Revolutions. But the film’s narrative justifies this return by arguing that his ending was based on a lie (once again, both in our world and the movie’s world)– because as long as Warner Bros. seeks to make a profit off its IP’s, or humans in The Matrix suffer oppression, Neo will always be needed and will never be able to stop fighting.

Does Keanu Reeves still know Kung-fu? Find out.

Basically, The Matrix Resurrections admits it’s somewhat of a cash-grab, but it maintains a tad of artistic merit in the process– perhaps its own form of revolt against “the machines” in power. It’s trying to play within the system’s rules and challenge them at the same time. The story pulls this off to mixed results but I appreciate that it tried to rail against its real-world circumstances by weaving a level of creator frustration into the story.

But I also get the impression Lana Wachowski welcomed a return to the universe she created, and relished the chance to continue her story on her terms. The old Matrix movies were famously stoic and serious affairs, with all their characters clad in black leather and sunglasses (hiding many of their emotions). And the sequels tended towards a focus on plot over character. Resurrections chose to forgo said styles in lieu of more emotional character-based drama. That will either make people happy or furious. I found it felt out of step with what came before, but it also resonated with me and stood apart from the other franchise’s films in a positive way.

Neo’s main conflict notably became more personal. I always felt like he was an average guy forced into the human vs machine conflict who never REALLY wanted to be there. And he still doesn’t. But before he was the hero because nobody else could do it, and now he chooses heroism for a more personal reason (which I won’t get into ’cause spoilers). Resurrections cared about Neo “THE MAN” as opposed to Neo “THE ONE”, and I’m here for that shift in focus.

Keanu Reeves remains in fine form for The Matrix Resurrections. He’s still distinctly Neo, though with additional world-weariness and sadness. Reeves is also good in the action scenes. But thanks to John Wick, we know he never lost his touch with those.

Somewhat surprisingly, the most stand-out character in Resurrections was Matrix newcomer Jessica Henwick! The more I see her in my entertainment, the bigger a fan I become. Henwick brought a likable charm to Bugs. And the character was well realized on the page too. I enjoyed her rebellious yet calm demeanor and found she was a respectable leader as well.

Jessica Henwick as Bugs in The Matrix Resurrections

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II played an intriguing role within the Matrix. His part was unexpected, though made sense in context. The thing is: his character is made of two distinct personalities. But he mostly played one more than the other. The writers should have given Abdul-Mateen more opportunities to show off the second part of himself. It would have created more unique conflicts within the narrative. Still– Abdul-Mateen did a great job for what material he was given.

Some of the The Matrix Resurrections’ most enticing moments were those which explored the world’s history between Revolutions and now. A lot has changed. I didn’t see many of these developments coming but they made a lot of sense. Most of it should have been predictable in hindsight but that’s partially why the reveals worked. My mind (as yours might) expects certain behaviours from the humans and the machines, so to see events play out differently to those expectations made for pleasant surprises.

Resurrections’ villain was an exceptionally interesting addition to the Matrix canon. Their motivation felt like a natural extension from the old movies. Yet Lana Wachowski made their evil schemes relevant to today’s world.

Resurrections posits that our current society, dominated by algorithms feeding us content to keep us trapped in a bubble, is the modern version of the Matrix. We are so consumed with our own little worlds that we neglect to see the bigger picture anymore. At least, that’s what I took from this plot.

In classic Matrix fashion, there’s tonnes of arguably dry philosophical discussions on the nature of destiny and free will and the Matrix itself and the yada yada yada. Mileage will vary on your enjoyment of these scenes depending on how interesting you think such concepts are. But if you’ve stuck with the franchise this long, you would know to expect that (and why would you anticipate anything different?). So it didn’t bother me in the least. In fact, it gave me a lot to think about. My biggest gripe was how on-the-nose some of the dialogue was written. It lacked nuance in many places.

Most of the philosophizing is done by Neil Patrick Harris’ psychologist character.

Resurrections made me leave the theater pondering its ideas. And pondered I did for many hours afterwards until I went to sleep. And I’m still thinking about it days later. It’s not so often a film has such a lasting impact in my mind post-viewing. That doesn’t necessarily speak to the film’s quality, but it does mean that The Matrix Resurrections stands apart from most blockbusters.

Now onto my complaints: large stretches of the first act disappointed me, because it felt like the film was nearly a beat for beat remake of the original Matrix. There was a lot of meta commentary within the movie explaining WHY they chose this route. And it was ultimately cool by the time it played out. But the setup went on too long for my tastes. Resurrections didn’t need to jump right back into the world as if there wasn’t an 18-year gap, but it could have paced itself somewhat faster.

Then again, the first act’s length of time was probably the point… Based on this film’s story, I wouldn’t doubt it was intentional that it took longer to get going than the original plot. But that didn’t make it any more entertaining to sit through.

The way Resurrections handled Agent Smith’s legacy left something to be desired. I appreciated what they tried to do, but it didn’t work so well as intended. His story already ended perfectly with Revolutions, so to move it forward in any way, shape or form was bound to be disappointing.

My biggest gripe: the action was… okay. I could tell set pieces were well choreographed, and the energy dynamic. But choppy editing made it near impossible to comprehend any of that. The action was my least favorite part of the whole movie and, when we’re talking about THE FREAKING MATRIX of all things (a franchise which revolutionized action cinema), that’s a massive disappointment. I didn’t need anything ground breaking out of this film. I didn’t even need it to be as good as the originals. But I straight up didn’t like the majority of Resurrections’ action scenes.

But I wanna slip one positive into this “whining” section of the article. Lana Wachowski included a couple great visual sequences in what they refer to as “bullet time”. I know– that was a thing already– yet Resurrections found a cool way to push that concept even further. The Bullet Time moments in question weren’t even what I would call action, but were more enticing than the actual combat scenes.

I didn’t love The Matrix Resurrections; and it wasn’t a travesty. ‘Twas just alright. I probably expected too much. But there was a lot about the film which worked for me, and it wasn’t a soulless waste of my time (like most decades-late sequels). In fact– it’s got a pleasantly uplifting positivity, inspiring a degree of hope in the world.

The Matrix Resurrections, while not a strictly necessary follow up to Revolutions, is an emotionally satisfying continuation and it’s Worth a Watch.

Would you be up for a fifth Matrix film if they made one? What did you think of The Matrix Resurrections? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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