22 years after the first Matrix movie, The Matrix Resurrections finally hit theaters and is available for streaming on HBO Max. Directed by one half of the Wachowski sisters, Lana Wachowski, the film features Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss reprising their legendary roles as Neo and Trinity.
One of the most anticipated films of the year, The Matrix Resurrections, however, has received mixed reactions from critics and viewers. One verdict is unanimous across the board, though, that the fourth installment in the franchise isn't nearly as iconic as the first one.
The Matrix Resurrections does include some exciting new additions to its cast. Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Priyanka Chopra and Jessica Henwick are among other prominent actors in the sequel.
Set sixty years post the events of The Matrix Revolutions, this reboot mixes nostalgia and self-referential callbacks along with some amusing self-aware commentary on the needlessness of this sequel.
'The Matrix Resurrections': Déjà vu indeed but at what cost? [spoilers ahead]
Where are they now?
After Neo managed to broker peace between humans and the machines at the end of The Matrix Revolutions in an anticlimactic end, the trilogy left no scope for a sequel until now. The Matrix Resurrections begins with a recreation of the very first scene from The Matrix, with the addition of Abdul-Mateen's Morpheus acting as the main agent and Jessica Henwick's Bugs watching the fight unfold.
When viewers first meet Keanu Reeves' Neo/Thomas Anderson in The Matrix Resurrections, he's not the lone coder from the first movie, but a celebrated video game designer. Interestingly, the video game he created is based entirely on his life and adventures throughout the Matrix realm.
In this latest version of Matrix simulation, Thomas and Tiffany (Trinity) have no memory of their previous selves and are mere acquaintances. Additionally, Neo also has a billionaire boss (Jonathan Groff) and a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), who is trying to help him cope with the visions and memories of the previous Matrix events.
The crux of the Matrix movies has always been Neo and Trinity's love saga. In The Matrix Resurrections, their love story becomes the central focus of the plot, to an extent that makes Neo seem amnesiac or unconcerned about anything else.
The single-minded focus on reuniting Neo and Trinity as lovers takes away crucial opportunities and plot points that could have been explored better. Their arc seems disjointed at best. Moreover, Trinity's role has been given little importance until the movie's eleventh hour.
Choice, as it is revealed, is a mere illusion and Neo already knows what he needs to choose when the familiar red and blue pills are presented before him. "I'm back where I started," says Neo, when he is once again led down the rabbit hole by a new version of Morpheus.
After Neo once again escapes the simulation, The Matrix Resurrections features various flashback scenes from previous movies, reminding viewers of what they need to know to make the required connection while watching this one.
Not only does that seem like a lazy effort to introduce uninspiring nostalgia, but it also makes the plotline seem all the more chaotic. The convoluted plot seems like a mere stacking up of events and themes that, albeit great ideas, lack proper execution.
Unimpressive action, villains, and other additions
Introduced as supporting characters in Neo's life, Jonathan Groff and Neil Patrick Harris ultimately turn out to be the villains in The Matrix Resurrections. Though impressive as individual actors, their roles didn't have the same charisma as previous Matrix villains.
Moreover, both Groff and Abdul-Mateen II had huge shoes to fill, with their roles of Agent Smith and Morpheus, who were previously played by legends Hugo Weaving and Lawrence Fishburne. Other than these three, the film's other new characters seemed to be serving a singular purpose of hero-worshipping Neo.
Let's not even begin with the fight sequences featured in The Matrix Resurrections. After stylized action and distinctive stunt work in previous installments, along with Reeves' breathtaking action work in John Wick movies, the action sequences in this movie appear bland and stimulating.
In addition to Keanu Reeves' apparent aging, his character's demeanor and attitude seem capitulated as well. Moreover, the bullet-time action sequences cardinal to the Matrix movies were also missing from this one.
All in all, The Matrix Resurrections does a great disservice to the trilogy, that had already begun to deteriorate progressively after the first movie but still managed to stay afloat. The third movie was where the franchise ran out of steam and the Wachowski sisters' initial call about not making a sequel seemed justified in hindsight.
The latest Matrix movie opens with a fantastic early execution, including an amusing meta reference to the nature of sequels and to Warner Bros. However, it soon ebbs into disappointment and goes on for a tedious two hours.
Back in 1999, The Matrix introduced the world to a mind-boggling cinematic universe that delved into the humans versus advancing technology debate. Prescient for its time, the film sparked a volcanic discourse regarding the topic, giving rise to several pop culture offshoots based on this Matrix-esque phenomenon.
The sheer innovation and perceptiveness that popularized the mix of sci-fi, cyberpunk and action genres back in the day lacks distinctiveness today. This is probably one of the biggest reasons for The Matrix Resurrections landing flat for the Matrix fans.
The Matrix Resurrections was released in cinemas and on HBO Max on December 22, 2021.