THB #60: Review - The Matrix Resurrections (spoilers)
An Indie Romance Set Inside The Matrix Cinematic Universe
It’s impossible to review this movie without spoilers because the idea of this movie is a spoiler, in and of itself. Indulge me a bit, as I really never write much story plot in my reviews, but feel compelled to quickly set things up here.
When the film starts, there is an immediate sense of “here we go again” coming off of Spider-Man: No Way Home. What is this thing called “meta?”
There are voices over the green Matrix code that we know so well… but we don’t know those voices. Cut to a very clever water reflection gag and suddenly we are back in the original The Matrix with Trinity in the black latex. But when we get the close-up reverse, it’s not the Trinity we know. (Is it Lauren Cohan from The Walking Dead? She’s not credited.) Heart o’ The City hotel sign. Then there is an agent who looks like a young Morpheus. “Your men are already dead.” There are new characters watching “Trinity”’s engagement with the police.
Eventually, the newcomers become part of the action. One connect with the new Morpheus… and we are trying to figure out what is going on.
Next up, Neo/Mr. Smith is a videogame maker famous for making his game, The Matrix. He has a geek sycophant who seems like a stand-in for someone. They go for coffee and there is the real Trinity aka Tiffany. They know they know each other, but they don’t know.
Next, Neo meets the new Smith, who is his boss at the videogame company. He explains that Warner Bros is going to do a Matrix reboot of the trilogy whether the creatives want to or not. Neo even says, “I didn’t think they could do that.” “They can,” is the reply… seeming awfully like a direct comment from Lana Wachowski on why she is making this movie.
The commentary continues to come through in development meetings for “the new game.” I’m guessing they are quotes from the many irritating things The Wachowkis heard about the original and potential new films over these years. Defining and analyzing the films to death… and usually with a heavy addition of stupid.
I’m going to stop giving you the story of the film now… you know all you need to know. Because what the movie turns out to be, from start to the last frames, is what a single act of most movies would be… it’s an entire movie about getting Neo and Trinity back together. And in the end, giving her equal power to him, so there is no One, but The Two.
Mostly, the matrix is a background to this story of a love rekindled at all costs. Unlike the original film or the 2 sequels, it’s not really about saving the world this time. It’s not really about The Resistance. It’s not really even about breaking free of the matrix.
My take on The Matrix trilogy was always that it was a guide to the religions of the world, the first film leaning hard into the Christ story. But the was plenty of Buddhism, Judaism, Islamism, and more running through those films. Neo was resurrected by love in that first film. Reincarnation was there. But there isn’t much religion to chew on here… just a deep believe in the power of love.
There are plenty of guns. Lots of kung-fu. An interesting and diverse cast. Maybe my favorite Jada Pinkett performance ever as old Jada Pinkett. There is even a big character reversal that I won’t discuss here.
But ultimately, it is about Lana telling you how stupid some ideas about the original trilogy were, how stupid some of the ideas were regarding rebooting the franchise, how she was forced to make this movie by the studio (or see someone else do it without her involvement), and how middle aged people can still be sexy and in love.
She stuck this kinda basic idea inside a giant machine movie. She really didn’t push to create new visual ideas, as every one of the original three do. There are some beautiful new machines and they don’t use payphones to leap anymore. But most of the action is dark and unclear and very PG-13, even though the film is rated R, like the trilogy was.
There is plenty of fan service. But Ms. Wachowski isn’t really interested in fan service… only in as much as it gets her back to the love story.
The film asked endless questions about the nature of life in the first trilogy. Here, the film only seems to want to question its own history, verbalizing issues about the originals throughout.
I think my favorite self-reflective chunk is the return of Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian. I love Lambert Wilson when he gets on his high horse. Here, he turns up in a sequence as “an old acquaintance” of Neo, whining about how Neo screwed up his happy, privileged life. “We had grace.” “In my time, we had conversation, not this pee pee pee pee pee pee,” said as he mimics a smartphone. There is every visual indication that Wilson showed up one day on a set with no one else there to do his wonderful weird speech without being threatened by COVID. He is always in a single as dozens of people fight somewhere nearby, with a stand-in in the costume shot from behind for a couple shots.
This is right before Neo and Smith end up back in the subway - aged a lot - for a fight reminiscent of the original films… but not as motivated or interesting or memorable as the first subway fight. Oy.
Remember how emotional it was when Cypher, in the ship, was about to pull the cords on characters who were in the matrix? Or when you genuinely wondered what would happen to each character? Not going to get a second of that in this movie.
Very little is motivated in any significant way. Not the good guys. Not the bad guys. They all express motives, yes. But… nothing that interesting.
Action is good… but not compelling. None of it seems permanent. The stakes are super small.
In just under 2.5 hours, the storytelling has really just begun. First act. Find the new gang. Get the central relationship back on track.
I don’t mean to dismiss it all. There is good stuff. Performances are uniformly excellent. Keanu couldn’t be more zen. Carrie-Anne Moss and he are stunning genetic specimens who do not seem to age much at all. Neil Patrick Harris is stuck with some serious Basil Exposition work… but unlike The Architect, it just feels like exposition. NPH wrestles with it valiantly. But it’s telling instead of showing, whereas The Architect was a true mindfuck.
But until the next movie comes out… we don’t even know the idea here anymore. Except for the power of love. Always the love. 2.5 hours of The Love.