Wachowski takes back her legacy in this bold sequel
By Diana Beechener
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves: Bill & Ted Face the Music) is hanging on by a thread. The designer of a popular video game trilogy, The Matrix, he’s just found out that the parent company that owns the rights to the games is demanding a sequel. If he won’t do it, Warner Brothers will move ahead without him.
But here’s the problem: The Matrix wasn’t just a game for Thomas. He truly believed he existed in a simulation run by evil machines and became a god named Neo who was fated to sacrifice himself for humanity. With lots of therapy and only a bit of excessive drinking, Thomas thought he put Neo and his delusions behind him. Pulled back into a world he’s tried to forget, suddenly reality begins to fray again.
Was The Matrix real? Or is Thomas Anderson still chasing white rabbits?
Let’s get this out of the way now: The Matrix Resurrections is easily the best sequel in the whole franchise. While fans may think that’s damning with faint praise, I promise, the film itself is pretty fun. Nearly 20 years ago, the Wachowskis created a sci-fi flick that became a pop culture phenomenon. Sadly, the plot of the franchise seemed to collapse under the weight of its own self-importance, but the films, and the philosophies behind them, became cornerstones for many. Unfortunately, those cornerstones have mutated and taken on a life of their own (ever heard of getting “red-pilled”?), in some cases moving far away from what the Wachowskis intended.
With The Matrix Resurrections, writer/director Lana Wachowski (Sense8) takes back her legacy. She’s got plenty to say about pointless sequels that just rehash better films, toxic fandoms, and studio marketing boiling every property down to bankable buzzwords that ultimately mean nothing. The first 45 minutes of the movie feel like Wachowski railing against her critics and studio culture in general. It’s a surprisingly sharp, funny turn for a series that had a tendency toward self-serious philosophy monologues.
Don’t worry, eventually we get to kung fu, too.
Back in black are Reeves and his original film co-star Carrie-Anne Moss (Tell Me a Story). The duo maintains their lovely chemistry and still manage to pull off some great fighting set pieces. Reeves in particular, whose star has risen with the John Wick franchise, is in fine form for his lickety-split fight scenes.
Though there are a few favorites returning, the movie essentially recasts (reprograms?) a few key roles. The results are mixed. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Candyman) takes his version of Morpheus pretty far from what fans would remember, but his natural charm saves him when the dialogue doesn’t. The real surprise in the film may be Jonathan Groff (Hamilton), who brings a fresh, fun take to his performance. It’s reminiscent of the original character without ever being a parody.
Back also are some spectacular action sequences. The Matrix was always known for its innovative technology, but Wachowski wisely pulls back a bit in this new film. Instead, the action feels more grounded and real, which makes the battle royale all the more enjoyable.
There are still a few bugs in the movie’s code, however. Wachowski has never met a metaphor she didn’t want to beat to death. That hasn’t changed here. It’s amazing that anvils don’t drop from the coded ceiling in a few scenes. And this is definitely a reset of the franchise. Wachowski is calling out some fans, correcting the trajectory of the series, and making some pretty big changes. That means it could polarize fans (if you hated The Last Jedi, keep that in mind before you buy a ticket).
Still, if you’re a fan of the original film (or somehow managed to sit through movies two and three), The Matrix Resurrections is a refreshing return to form.
Good Sci-Fi * R * 148 mins.
The Matrix Resurrections is in theaters and streaming on HBOMax.