With The Matrix Resurrections, Lana Wachowski looks to bring The One and a franchise back to life. Is it a successful reboot or a system crash?
Similar to the code that designed the eponymous Matrix, it feels as though many of 2021’s films have been programmed to tap into a deep rooted state. Nostalgia.
Just look at Ghostbusters Afterlife and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Full of references, callbacks and fan service designed to provoke a positive emotional response in the audience. Looking at the box office receipts, it appears to be a winning formula.
Despite some scepticism, it actually feels surprisingly comfortable going “back where it all began. Back to The Matrix”.
The reason? Well, for a film that came out in 1999 that told of a world where humans were enslaved as batteries to a race of machines, it is ironic that the Wachowski’s vision of the future wasn’t far off. Albeit that we are slaves to technology where we are plugged in to our mobile devices 24/7.
The first act of the film once again forces the audience to tumble down the rabbit hole. It is a dizzying delight. An incredibly creative, inventive and meta examination of the original film and its place and influence on popular culture.
The exact nature of how the film brings this into play and how it affects the character of Thomas Anderson/Neo has been kept tightly under wraps so far. To paraphrase Morpheus, no one should be told exactly what the twists and turns of The Matrix are. You have to see it for yourself.
The issue with the franchise, and it is a problem highlighted by Cypher in the original film, is that the scenes within the Matrix are so much fun that why would you want to leave? The sequels suffered from a focus on the human struggle against the machines in the real world, where the real action was taking place inside the virtual world (albeit with questionable CGI).
The filmmakers have thankfully worked on the CGI since 2003 but while it might be nice to look at, underneath the visuals, the coding and execution leave a lot to be desired.
Some things in life are unchangeable. Constant. Like death, taxes and Keanu Reeves’s likeability and ability to never age. He slips back effortlessly into the role of The One. His trademark naivety working perfectly as he once again navigates his way through his character’s journey.
It is disappointing however that the world around him has not evolved as much as it should. In the original film Agent Smith explains that they had to keep changing the code and experience to keep the humans engaged and plugged in. That is something they fail to do here.
The Wachowskis changed the game with the original film when it came to action. Mainly thanks to “bullet time”. One hoped that with a brand new upgrade, Lana Wachowski would have a few new tricks up her sleeve to once again redefine the genre. Instead the fight scenes feel tired and familiar. That sense of deja vu filtering through all aspects of the film.
Despite making bold assertions on being its own thing, Resurrections is too beholden to the original’s programming. Where it does differentiate, it exposes major glitches. The villains here are a poor imitation and unable to escape the shadow of Hugo Weaving. Smith was arguably as important a part to the success of the franchise as Neo and Trinity.
Never mind blue pills and red pills. The bitterest pill to swallow is the fact that The Matrix Resurrections is okay but it is not The One.
The Matrix Resurrections is in cinemas from December 22
Director: Lana Wachowski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff
Runtime: 148 minutes