Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Neil Patrick Harris
Priyanka Chopra Jonas
THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS
Years after the Matrix Trilogy redefined the science-fiction blockbuster in explosive fashion, director Lana Wachowski delivers this long-awaited sequel with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss returning to their iconic roles.
It's hard to describe to someone who didn't live through it just how huge the original Matrix movies were back in the early 2000's. The first two films especially, but all of them, felt like they were part of a Lord Of The Rings-level epic for the cyberpunk genre. Those movies having ended on the promise of the movie's virtual world getting rebooted, quite literally, this seemed like an easy franchise to continue and build on. However, with half of the cast not returning and co-director Lilly Wachowski not wanting to take part in revisiting the past, there were concerns prior to the film's release that this sequel would just... not be the same. That said, a reboot not being the same could've been exactly what such a franchise needed.
And so we have The Matrix Resurrections, which sees Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) live out his life on a steady diet of game developing, therapist visits and blue pills. The events of The Matrix now feel like a cross between a distant memory and a game he's designed before himself. Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) is a stranger to him and Morpheus is a copycat program embodied by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (and not, regrettably, Laurence Fishburne). Meanwhile, a young woman called Bugs (Jessica Henwick), through studying old code and fighting Agents, attempts to free Neo and Trinity from this new version of the Matrix as new (and old) programs attempt to counter this revolution or, rather, resurrection.
There are appealing ideas in this latest take on The Matrix: the Analyst character steering Neo in a very specific direction, the survivors in the real world having to work with machines in this sort of Cold War against those that created the Matrix, old programs being altered and manipulated to confuse our heroes, even the rejection of a traditional reboot scenario has potential because, through this specific franchise, a valid Hollywood critique might've been valid, really interesting even. Unfortunately, and I assume you've guessed from the rating and the tone of this review so far, this Resurrection is a massive disappointment.
This is, and I can't stress this enough, NOT a fun movie. Between the sluggish pacing, endless mundane Matrix-set scenes, yawn-inducing action sequences (with one notable exception), soporific performances, grating comic relief and hard-to-give-a-s*** plot this is a challenge to sit through, to say the least. Despite the understandably hefty budget (nearly $200M), Resurrections somehow feels like a straight-to-Netflix production and the only sequences that hint at how expensive this film actually is are the squid machine parts and the bike & rooftop sequences near the end. Speaking of which, these last couple of action sequences, though primarily the bike chase, are the only moments when you feel that Lana Wachowski is having fun with this and delivering the goods.
The rest of the time, Wachowski appears to want to torture us with a passive aggressive meta parody poking fun at Hollywood execs and writers, reluctantly presenting us with a sorta actual Matrix movie along the way. Some scenes clumsily throw fans under the bus as the studio spitball sessions bring up ideas for Matrix sequels that fans of the franchise no doubt would have welcomed over this cynical, dull mess of a movie. It doesn't help that Keanu Reeves gives his sleepiest and flat-out worst performance in a very long time while the waking up of Trinity takes forever and, in the end, still feels rushed and unearned.
And the less said about Jada Pinkett-Smith's unconvincing make-up as an old Niobe the better. New characters also fail to impress, whether it's forgettably feisty rebel Bugs, Priyanka Chopra's odd addition Sati or so-called Agent Smith Jonathan Groff. Only Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Carrie-Anne Moss seem to care enough here to at least try.
Needless to say that Matrix Resurrections could have been a treat. A glorious, cathartic way to end a year as dire for movies as 2021. Had it been shallow spectacle alone or, alternatively, rewardingly deep and cerebral in a Ghost In The Shell (or, dare I say, Matrix?) kind of way it still might not have lived up to the original film but it would have at least been a fun time at the movies. And yet, sadly, we are left with what can only be described as a disaster. A criminally boring, ugly and pretentious snooze with the biggest amount of wasted potential this critic and, judging by the reviews and box-office performance so far, many others as well, has seen in a long while.