THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS
Keep taking the pills?
RELEASED OUT NOW! 15 | 148 minutes
Director Lana Wachowski
Cast Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne-moss, Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul-mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris
Early on in The Matrix Resurrections, Yahya Abdulmateen II’S Morpheus 2.0 gives the artist formerly known as Neo a familiar choice. This time, however, those iconic red and blue pills are delivered with a knowing wink, and an acknowledgement that boiling life down to a simplistic pair of binary options is nonsensical. The scene is a neat encapsulation of everything that unfolds in this surprisingly meta return to The Matrix.
Eighteen years after Revolutions effectively put a full stop to the franchise, this fourth instalment is a mass of contradictions, a movie few were calling out for yet still feels worthwhile now it’s arrived. It’s built on opposing truths that shouldn’t co-exist, yet seamlessly combine to create one of the weirdest, most unconventional slices of nostalgia you’ll ever see on the big screen.
Despite setting out to exploit the same joyous corners of our collective cultural consciousness as The Force Awakens, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Spider-man: No Way Home, it does so with a perspective all of its own – for better and for worse.
Because The Matrix Resurrections is simultaneously clever and stupid: funny yet deadly serious; obsessed with the past but still fresh and new; both a continuation of canon and a parody of its many clichés. It’s also, at times, giddily entertaining and disappointingly familiar. Red or blue pill? Let’s hedge our bets and say purple.
Admittedly, the chances of anyone walking into a screening of Resurrections having never seen a Matrix movie are practically zero, but few sequels or reboots rely quite so heavily on an encyclopaedic knowledge of what’s come before.
While the phone calls, white rabbits and cascades of green numbers alone are enough to transport you back to the mainframe, the movie’s opening sequence is also a Back
To The Future: Part Ii-style riff on Trinity’s first, genre-redefining appearance 21 years ago. It’s déjà vu with a twist, a glitch in the Matrix that works on numerous, Inception-like layers of reality.
This inventive first act is where Resurrections really comes into its own. Here, the older, not-dead Thomas Anderson (the returning Keanu Reeves) is a successful videogame developer whose career was built on a popular trilogy of games called… The Matrix. Trinity (Carrie-anne Moss), meanwhile, is now Tiffany, a married, motorbike-loving mother of two who frequents the same coffee shop, the wonderfully named Simulatte.
When Anderson’s bosses Warner Bros decide the time is right for a lucrative fourth instalment – quite possibly the point where the nudges and winks reach critical mass – Anderson is thrown into a downward spiral, despite the best efforts of his attentive Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris). As various co-workers brainstorm the direction of the new Matrix – essentially a bunch of uber-fans casually tossing around references to familiar characters and bullet-time – the movie skirts perilously close to smashing the fourth wall. And yet this never quite happens.
That’s mainly because returning director/co-writer Lana Wachowski (sister Lily decided not to plug in for a fourth time) delivers the story with so much self-awareness, emotional intelligence and fun – words rarely associated with the previous Matrix sequels – that the more ridiculous aspects of the plot barely register. Most impressively, the movie just about makes sense within the internal logic of the universe, though it does demand your full concentration if you want to keep up.
Ironically, it’s when Resurrections returns to more familiar territory that it falls flat.
In the “real” world of the future, the more nebulous motivations of the post-truce humans and machines lack the elegant “We just want to kill each other” simplicity of the original saga. Along with an Agent Smith (now played by Frozen’s Jonathan Groff ) who’s surplus to narrative requirements, this lack of focus leaves an already overlong film floundering in its final act. It also suffers in comparison to the groundbreaking nature of the original. In the end, Resurrections is a self-consciously clever, surprisingly fun way of bringing back a franchise that already had a definitive end, a movie that doesn’t detract from what came before yet doesn’t add much to the canon either. Seeing as contradiction is seemingly hardcoded into its soul, that feels entirely appropriate.
John Wick director Chad Stahelski was Reeves’s stunt double on The Matrix, and plays Tiffany’s husband in Resurrections.