The Matrix Resurrections | movie review
Plunging back down the rabbit hole.
Movie summary: Return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. (IMDb)
While I don't dislike the second and third Matrix movies, they are at least a clear step down from the original and the general opinion of The Matrix Resurrections on its release was that it was an even bigger step down from said sequels. Having now watched the latest - and surely last? - Matrix movie, I can't agree with that assessment at all.
Just to be clear, the original is still by far and away the best movie in the series, but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie for just how different it was to what we've already seen - a point actually discussed in the story, where the events of the first three films are depicted as nothing more than the events of a highly successful video game series, made by one Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves).
Anderson's latest game, Binary, is struggling and so the company decides to make a fourth Matrix instalment (can you see where this is going?), trying to break down what the original trilogy was about, how it was intended to be perceived, the audience reactions to it, what stuff should be kept and what new things should be brought in to freshen things up - yeah, The Matrix Resurrections isn't exactly subtle about this shit.
The fact that all of this is discussed in front of Tom, the creator of the games, with people arguing about what it meant in front of him must be similar to meetings that Lana Wachowski (sole director here and co-director with her sister of the original trilogy) has had over the years. It's an interesting dissection of the fanbase, but both amusing from a meta perspective, and yet also sad to see Tom struggle to enjoy going through this.
Matching the first film, Tom is broken out of this new version of the Matrix by 'real' humans who remind him of his past as Neo, 'the One', and the adventure kicks on from there. I will say as a criticism that there's a bit too much plot stuffed in from this point on, with more than enough material that could easily be fleshed out into something more substantial, but instead quickly races by to keep things going.
I can see why people who love the series, especially the first film, might not like this because the action is far less stylised and messier, although not as badly choreographed as some people might think - if anything, the fighting feels more real due to how its depicted here, and some moments feel far more brutal than any of the hits from the original trilogy as a result.
There's also the fact that The Matrix Resurrections doesn't engage with the same grand scale themes of free will and the nature of reality, but I'm glad it doesn't. The original trilogy exists for that and, while this movie certainly calls back to those movies in a major way, I'm glad that it isn't just re-treading the same material we've already experienced and instead focuses on people - namely Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss).
Because, as it turns out, the two of them are key to the new status quo - with a division in the machine ranks of those who work with the humans and those who keep them enslaved - with their love for each other being crucial. As Neo believes he is Tom, a lonely game developer, Trinity believes she is Tiffany, a motorcycle enthusiast who is married with kids.
If there's one theme that does carry over from the original trilogy to The Matrix Resurrections, it's about the nature of control. Tom is successful but unsatisfied with his life, while Tiffany is happy with her family, but wonders if it's what she really wants or if things only happened because society 'programs' women to become wives and mothers.
As the movie brings up, the original trilogy can very easily be read as a trans allegory and the same is true here, with the Matrix making Tom and Tiff look different to other people, while forcing them to suppress their true identities as part of an effort to keep them under control. Hell, Trinity outright rejects her 'real' name at one point, reclaiming the name she feels best fits her identity - again, this movie isn't subtle about this stuff.
The only real issues I have with The Matrix Resurrections is that there's so much plot to race through that interesting ideas are left unexplored, while new characters drop in and out of focus as the story needs them to, rather than letting the audience get to know them properly - a shame considering some of them are very engaging to watch and I would've loved to spend more time with them.
Again, I can see why people who want or expect certain things from a Matrix movie based on how the original trilogy unfolded might not like this film, but I like it precisely because of how different it is. Despite the vast number of call-backs and references, this movie looks, sounds and behaves completely different from anything else that has come before in the series - take the movie on its own merits and not what you think/hope/expect it should be and you might enjoy it too. Free your mind.
The Matrix Resurrections is a fun movie I'd happily watch again in the future, although it is quite different from what came before - if you're after more stylised action sequences and philosophical musings, then this isn't the film for you. Instead of any grand ideas or bigger picture, this is more of a love story than anything for Neo and Trinity, while making some pretty sharp observations on the nature of reboots and remakes.