‘The Matrix Resurrections’ Gives Us The Sequel We Always Deserved (FILM REVIEW)

RATING B+

Strictly speaking, no, we did not need another Matrix.

That’s arguably been true since 1999 when the first movie came and blew everyone’s minds with its reality-bending story, mind-melting effects, and evolution of the cyberpunk aesthetic that felt perfect for the turn of the century milieu in which it existed. The next two movies kind of proved that assertion, with The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire of needlessness that sullied the reputation of the first, groundbreaking film.

And we are, two decades later, and another Matrix to talk about. Just as much as the previous two entries into the franchise, there’s no real reason for The Matrix Resurrections to exist. Yet, unlike the movies directly preceding it, this film remembers that The Matrix, with all its philosophy and pondering, was meant to be fun.

Which isn’t to discount the philosophy and pondering inherent in the original film. You can’t really separate the narrative from the questions it’s trying to ask. But most people can’t stomach philosophy in major doses. It helps to make it entertaining. The sequels leaned too hard on convoluted narratives and silly premises and, unfortunately, missed the boat.

Which I guess makes The Matrix Resurrections the second-best movie in the series, not that this means much. The goodwill built by the first movie was pretty swiftly destroyed by the next, so much so that, these days, the second two movies are rarely talked about and have yet to be given a critical re-evaluation. But maybe that’s unfair. And maybe that’s the best thing Resurrections could do for the franchise.

Director Lana Wachowski, who co-wrote the film with David Mitchell and Alexsander Hemon, has, yes, resurrected The Matrix, crafting a film that’s part sequel, part reboot, and part remake in order to bring The Matrix into a new era and give it new relevance. It is, put simply, the sequel to The Matrix that we always deserved.

In this version of the story, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a successful video game developer who, two decades ago, rose to fame with his beloved trilogy, The Matrix. Now his studio’s parent company, Warner Brothers, is forcing him to make a sequel, which they plan to do with or without his help. Meanwhile, in the real world, Captain Bugs (Jessica Henwick) is searching for Neo, the former hero of humanity who is said to have been Resurrections in the matrix. 

This setup is an interesting way to explore the concepts of reality that the first film toyed with all the way back in 1999. Anderson has spent the last decades of his life fighting against mental illness and the belief that his game world was real and actually happened. The Warner Brothers nod is a nice meta-acknowledgment of the circumstances surrounding the development of this film and leads to some interesting analysis of not only what The Matrix is but also how it’s remembered. This creates a recursive look at the original movie, the franchise, and its appeal that forms the foundation of the new story.

And it somehow all works. Sure, it’s not as mind-blowing as the original and there is a definite feeling of futility about its existence, but Wachowski (working here without her sister Lily) somehow manages to make a film that is both nostalgic and new all at once. As tired as we all are of remakes and reboots, it makes a kind of sense that The Matrix would find a way to do to it that acknowledges that fact and subverts the standards.

As much as it doesn’t need to exist, The Matrix Resurrections embraces its position and makes a movie that’s entertaining and updates the narrative for a new age. There are a billion different ways that this could have gone, most of them disastrous. Instead, Wachowski manages to thread the need to create a movie that’s both fun and respectful of its lineage without feeling too terribly needless. Update, reboot, sequel…whatever you want to call it, The Matrix Resurrections is still a pretty good time at the movies. The Matrix Resurrections is now playing in theaters everywhere and is available to stream on HBOMax.

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