The disappointing reality of ‘The Matrix Resurrections’
JP Spoonmore | Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Few films have aged as well as the Wachowskis’ “The Matrix.” Not only was it a technological breakthrough, bringing the late 90’s, cubicle-office-setting into the future with unprecedented special effects, but it also introduced martial arts to Western audiences. The Hong Kong master, Yuen Woo-Ping, and the power of Hollywood funding proved to be a combination that would cement the Wachowskis in history.
23 years later, Lana Wachowski returned to make the fourth film in the series, “The Matrix Resurrections.” The idea behind this film is surprisingly good: Neo (Keanu Reeves), the film’s protagonist, is a video game designer known for creating the hit video game, The Matrix. But as he develops the game, it tricks his mind into thinking he himself is both trapped inside the simulation and is actually its main character. Slowly, Neo realizes that his senses might be telling the truth, and the people around him aren’t employees but guards holding him captive.
Reality is questioned in every scene. “Safe markers” from the previous trilogy are made trivial, sending us down a spiral of misdirects and meta jokes that send viewers into an existential prison. The past rebellion is hailed as a success, but the movie’s “present” seems far too familiar for any of the sacrifices to have been worth it. I loved the nihilistic slap in the face, even though the story loses this tone halfway through.
Once the plot reenacts key moments from the original film, the driving narrative force is replaced by muscle memory. However, this play at nostalgia misses its mark since it adds nothing new to a series built on innovation. There is no new cinematic technique or clip-worthy fight scene; the best parts of the movie are either simplified renditions or direct footage robbed from previous films. I knew it wasn’t going to be as good as the original, but honestly, the three words that fit the title better than “Resurrections” are reduced, reused and recycled.
The movie’s concept is brilliant, but the execution is rushed, crippling the entire production. Visual effects and fight choreography are intense commitments that take months to perfect; it’s clear the creators decided to speed through the production without the necessary elements.
When looking at this film by itself, I can ignore the odd choices in character and scope, but the lack of quality in the visuals and choreography is too much to ignore. If they were going to film one kung fu scene but rush the stunt work, only to chop it to shreds in the editing room, why film it in the first place? The action ironically slows the pacing with its deflating energy. I enjoyed the first half because it was just Neo questioning his existence, no bullet time or motorcycle chases needed. Unfortunately, though, as philosophical as “The Matrix” series wants to be, half of its soul still relies on the action. There is no Matrix without kung fu, just as there is no Neo without Trinity and just as there are no robots without humans — for the creators to ignore the importance of the fight scenes shows where their priorities lie.
The film contains multiple surprises. For the first twenty minutes, I was intrigued, as this fourth film has somehow managed to render the question of what constitutes reality even more mind-numbing than the original. But the movie manages to undercut this atmosphere of mystery and existential uncertainty with scenes that are, frankly, a bit more lowbrow — for instance, the moment wherein Neo fights zombies with a forcefield. Essentially, the passion in this film’s foundation is inconsistent. There are parts where I was fully invested (and it seems like the creators were, too), but others where I wrote it off as a cash grab. The story flips back and forth, and might have stuck the landing if it had ended on the right note, but Wachowski chose to pitch a future trilogy instead. That’s when the movie lost me for good.
Sometimes, there comes a time when a story needs to end. For “The Matrix,” that time came over two decades ago.
Title: The Matrix Resurrections
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss
Director(s): Lana Wachowski
If you liked: “The Matrix,” “Inception”
Shamrocks: 1.5 out of 5