Right off the bat, 20 minutes or less after the first action beat and intro to a “still alive” Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), The Matrix Resurrections does not give a s*** if you didn’t do your research. It daringly jumps right into the deep end of the lore pool head-first, expecting you to remember the sequences and key points of the Matrix trilogy back in the late 90s and early 2000s.
That’s going to be a sticking point for movie-goers, because the film takes place a number of years after the end of The Matrix Revolution. For some reason, Thomas Anderson, our main protag from the past films, is alive and well and has a high profile game designer job making Binary, an MMORPG(?) title that is similar to the Matrix adventures he was embroiled in. Elsewhere, an operative named Bugs (Jessica “The Good Part Of Netflix’s Iron Fist” Henwick) and a rogue program named Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) team up to help Mr. Anderson figure out if his reality is a construct or not like in the last film.
A Bogus Journey?
There are numerous throwbacks here and there, with a blatant scene taking place in a broadway theatre playing the first film’s key revelation scenes on a projector just to hit the point home. And there’s a lot of dialogue added in about the supposed purpose of sequels and remakes, as if it’s trying to jab at blockbuster cinema culture but the irony is lost when you remember who publishes this film. Then again, the Matrix films were anything but subtle, and it’s nice that director Lana Wachowski had reins to the narrative and script so she can continue the story in a way that makes sense.
So, does the whole story and its explanations make sense without being huge info dumps and expositions? Yes and no; there’s an attempt at forwarding the plot but a lot of the technobabble and philosophy talk is what you expect: it’s there and moves at a breakneck pace, though not as insanely agonizing as Matrix Revolution.
At the very least the action balances everything out. While the action scenes are competently done and are a heckuva spectacle, with special props going to the second half and the “suicide bombers” segment, there isn’t anything revolutionary and trend-setting about it. Then again, the 1999 Matrix and its sequel Matrix Reloaded set the bar way too high; the Wachowski sibling settled for “just good enough” to placate your jollies, with a good mix of practical and digital work that is more sleek and easy on the eyes. If anything, there’s a lot more saturation in this show’s make-believe world and even key scenes outside of The Matrix so you can easily tell what’s going on amidst the quick cuts and close-ups.
The Matrix Resurrections is clearly focusing the spotlight on Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss (as Tiffany/Trinity, who also ended up alive for reasons explained in the film) as two characters trying to reconnect through the course of the story while keeping it serious and emotionless; basically keeping true to the trilogy.
The standout performance has to go to Neil Patrick Harris as Mr. Anderson’s psychiatrist who ends up being a major part of the story later. Suffice to say, he adds colour to the already 4K saturated landscape with his delivery and panache. Jessica Henwick and Yahya’s Bugs and Morpheus are fine as new characters entering the Matrix fray; they serve their roles well and look cool doing it with their trademark look. Jessica with her blue hair and nimble frame, and Yahya with his yellow suits and lady boner-popping pecs.
I’m not sure if the entire world is clamouring for a revisit to The Matrix and the drab world Thomas Anderson/Neo is stuck in, but it is nice to head back to that Warner Bros. universe using a 2021 lens and viewpoint, especially with the work Lana Wachowski put in the narrative and continuation of the trilogy. Are non-Matrix fans and newbies going to get lost in this film? Should you have watched the Matrix trilogy that’s been around for 18+ years so that you’re kept up to speed before diving in? Is this the sequel that sticks to its roots without being so far up its own ass? The answers are a resounding “yes”.
Long story short: welcome back, Mr. Anderson. We miss you, kinda.