The Matrix Resurrections is too ambitious for its own good
Seventeen years after bidding adieu to the world Of Zion, director Lana Wachowski takes a trip back there in The Matrix Resurrections from Warner Bros. Twenty years since The Matrix Revolutions events, Neo (Keanu Reeves) lives a seemingly ordinary life under his original identity as Thomas A. Anderson in San Francisco. His therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) prescribes him blue pills to counteract the strange and unnatural things he occasionally glimpses.
One day, Thomas meets Tiffany (Carrie Annie Moss), a dead ringer for Trinity, but neither of them recognizes the other. However, the new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) offers the red pill. It reopens Morpheus's mind to the Matrix, which has become more secure and dangerous since the Smith infection. Neo soon joins a group of rebels, led by Bugs (Jessica Henwick), to fight a new enemy, an upgraded version of Smith (Jonathan Groff).
I still remember my initial reaction after seeing the original Matrix twenty-two years ago over spring break of my junior year in high school. The special effects action sequences blew my friend Lee and me away. Four years later, The Matrix Reloaded arrived, which didn't top the first film but still had some memorable sequences. Six months later, the original trilogy closed out with the less than stellar, The Matrix Revolutions. So after an eighteen-year hiatus, is the trip back to Zion worth your time?
Lana Wachowski wrote the film with David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon instead of her sister Lilly, with whom she developed the original movie. The latest entry in the franchise starts promising enough, introducing us to Bugs first and setting the film's plot in motion. We also get a chance to see Yahya Abdul-Mateen II highlight his athleticism early in the movie, which was a pleasant surprise. In addition, we get flashes of Agents early on before seeing Thomas Anderson.
Reeves generally slides back into the role of Thomas A. Anderson with ease, for the most part. I will credit the writers for the initial arc and angle they give Thomas A. Anderson\Neo, and I get what they were going for. While Reeves was already a well-known actor, when he made The Matrix in 1999, the film's success took him to another level of celebrity. While the latter part of the 21st century saw some commercial failures for Reeves, he bounced back with the John Wick trilogy.
Given where special effects are now, it's no surprise he returned to this franchise.
Carrie-Anne Moss also returns to her most famous role and has an arc somewhat similar to Reeves's Neo. It was great to see the actress back in action in a high-level project as she's focused on smaller fare for the most part. Jada Pinkett Smith also returns as Niobe, and a few other characters from the previous films also pop up.
Regarding the new additions to the cast, the highlights for me were Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Jessica Henwick. Harris has a substantial role and has some good moments with Reeves. In contrast, stage actor Jonathan Groff surprised me with his take on Agent Smith. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jessica Henwick also shine early on in the film.
Unfortunately, despite the cast's best efforts, after a promising first half, The Matrix Resurrections falls apart in the second half. There are some intelligent Meta references in the first half, and I felt that was the route Wachowski should've kept for the entire film. Instead, the film begins to drag and focuses on fan service with archive footage. I will admit that some moments made me smile and even garnered applause from me, but nothing was groundbreaking.
During the second half of the film, it also appears that Reeves & Moss are only here out of respect for the franchise fans, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jessica Henwick fall to the background. The angle they use for Morpheus in the second half is somewhat insulting to the actor's talent. Other characters pop in and out and are never mentioned again despite having some vitality to the plot.
The primary issue with the film, though, is the script. Upon exiting the theater, I told my friend that I understood what they were going for, but it didn't come together. Quite honestly, The Matrix Resurrections may have been a stronger film without Neo and Trinity in it at all. Instead, it could have focused on the newer characters, as the potential was there. What I took from the film and where it ultimately goes is that it was therapy for director Lana Wachowski as she completed her transgender journey and dealt with the loss of her parents.
The Matrix Resurrections isn't a total wash, however. It's just different from what you mayexpect. I'm sure deep thinkers will enjoy it, as will some action fans. I've always felt that The Matrix is such an iconic film. So much so that a franchise would always be a victim of its success. While I didn’t hate the movie, I wasn't particularly blown away by it either. As always, though, see the film for yourself.
Final Grade: C
The Matrix Resurrections arrives in theaters tomorrow December 22. In addition, the film will premiere on HBOMAX at 3:01 AM ET / 12:01 AM PT the same day.