Eighteen years after Revolutions, The Matrix has returned for a fourth film this week with The Matrix Resurrections appearing simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. If the trailer is any indication, this film aims to make The Matrix relevant again after two widely panned sequels, return Keanu Reeves to the role of Neo, and further develop the legacy of the series. The result is more or less a fun remix of the originals, especially for those like me who saw the first movie as a teenager and had their world changed after seeing it.
SPOILERS for The Matrix series, including Resurrections, below.
The Matrix Resurrections is an interesting movie experience since it builds on past movies, literally replays scenes from previous movies, and yet adds new philosophies to the already robust thinker of the first trilogy. The retread of old scenes is smartly developed by writer and director Lana Wachowski, giving the movie a unique remixed feel. That familiarity is nice, but be way too much at times — if this film was made without either Wachowski involved, fans would likely call this a cash grab that rips off the original too much.
That said, a lot of the remixing ends up feeling like important reminders of who Neo is, what he stands for, and his forever battle with Agent Smith. That’s right, Agent Smith returns, along with Morpheus, although he’s more remixed than you can possibly believe. That ends up making the old feel new again, especially with the film taking advantage of advanced CGI.
Seeing Neo fight Morpheus in the dojo again is a thrill, which somehow retreads the need to open Neo’s mind by upping the stakes. At this point in The Matrix Resurrections, Neo has been wakened from the goo-coffin like in the first film, but instead of simply opening his mind to his abilities, he’s actually going to die due to his addiction to the Matrix. Subtle twists on familiar scenes run throughout the film.
Resurrections does suffer from a very long runtime of 2 hours and 29 minutes. At its core, this is a love story and a hero’s journey in understanding what he lost, but since it does retread scenes and replays dialogue from previous films it can feel a bit tedious in certain moments — especially if you rewatched the originals in anticipation of this movie. Take away the legacy of Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss in these roles and the nostalgia their portrayals provide, and the film’s fat is more evident.
If you loved the original films you’ll love the fact that this film is about Neo and Trinity’s true love, which at this point is the equivalent of Shakespearean romance. There is also the complicated relationship between Neo and Smith, which shows up here, but also feels unfinished.
This film also manages to make some sense even when it faces the hard truth that Neo died and the machines lost in the third film. Filled with explanations and answers, Resurrections does an admirable job filling us in on what happened after Neo died. These explanations along with evolutions of the relationship between man and machine and new technologies introduced all add up to making this an advanced sci-fi adventure.
Neo’s journey as a character offers real growth, which is nice to see. Like a middle-aged man who goes through a midlife crisis, it’s clear Neo has been subdued by the Matrix itself and must realize that even at an older age he has potential. That’s not quite what his personal journey is in this film since he is a prisoner, but the metaphor is obvious. The basic setup of the film allows Neo to essentially relive his journey to understand his potential, relearn his abilities, and become again the hero we will cheer for.
That said, similar to the recent Spider-Man: No Way Home, this film is a joy to watch because it revels in remixing and retreading familiar themes, characters, and lines of dialogue. It’s fascinating that Spider-Man and The Matrix Resurrections understand our relationship to these characters and themes are ingrained and a part of us. It makes these films feel like old friends you wouldn’t want to forget or escape if your life depended on it.
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