Once upon a time, The Matrix took the cinematic world by storm. The action, the ideas, everything. It truly felt like something new. Whether you loved it or just thought it was fine, nearly everyone united in acknowledging that the film was about as original as it gets. Then came the sequels. The Matrix Reloaded teased out more of the lore while succumbing to all of the issues that plague a middle chapter. Of course, then The Matrix Revolutions bungled the handoff, leading to a less than satisfying conclusion. Nearly two decades later, The Matrix Resurrections is here to try and course correct. The sequel is a definite recalibration and a distinct improvement on the sequels, but pales in comparison to the original. With this movie, it’s just a matter of proper expectations.
The Matrix Resurrections wipes away the bad taste left by the sequels, while also trying to forge its own path ahead. It’s somewhat of a legacyquel, though it doesn’t go too hard in that direction. Mostly, it’s trying to tell a new chapter in this universe, one populated by some of the same characters. The ideas here are some of the best since the first one. Truly, they’ve managed to engage your mind. There’s even way more humor than expected (this is a weird flick, as you’ll find out). However, the action disappoints and the sense of something new is long gone. It’s a solid sequel, but unfortunately, not much more than that.
Taking place years after the original trilogy concluded, humans and machines are once again at war, with the virtual world of The Matrix more vivid than ever. While soldiers on both sides continue to do battle, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is once again living as John Anderson. Now an award-winning video game designer, he’s plagued by visions of what we know to be his prior life as The One. He’s channeled it into successful games, including a trilogy called…The Matrix. With a sequel being forced on him by corporate, as well as his partner (Jonathan Groff), the delusions are getting worse. Talking to his analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), just leads to a steady stream of blue pills. He knows something is off, but doesn’t want to believe it. Hell, when he runs into Tiffany/Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) at a coffee shop and they feel like they’ve met, he does nothing. Even when a new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) arrives and offers him the red pill, he resists. Of course, when Trinity is in danger, that changes.
Thus begins a new adventure, as Neo teams up with Morpheus and a plucky captain in Bugs (Jessica Henwick) to try and save Trinity. Obviously, that will prove difficult, with enemies both old and new rising up to stop him. Everyone wants Neo for their own purposes, dead and/or alive, but what’s his role in all of this? That’s better left discovered on your own, but there are at least some answers here, as opposed to just more questions.
Keanu Reeves delivers his best performance within the franchise to date. He knows the role well, but also elevates it with a world-weariness that can only come from age. Especially early on, he’s quite good. Carrie-Anne Moss is in the film less, but a lot of the same things go for her as well. Returning player-wise, they’re the highlights, as you’d expect. Without spoiling their roles, Jonathan Groff and especially Neil Patrick Harris are having the times of their lives here. In terms of pure fun, Harris shines. Jessica Henwick is a solid addition, though Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is mostly wasted. The supporting cast includes Priyanka Chopra Jones, Toby Onwumere, Christina Ricci, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lambert Wilson, and others.
Co-writer/director Lana Wachowski throws almost more comedy into this film than fight scenes. The Matrix Resurrections is still a science fiction action outing, but she leans into the weird as much or more than the guns. Along with co-writers Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell, they satirize the sequel element of it all. The scenes at the video game company are actually the best in the movie. Visually, it still all looks great, with cinematographers John Toll and Daniele Massaccesi delivering. The score is fine, courtesy of Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, but isn’t anything iconic. Wachowski is at her best here with the ideas at play, as opposed to the action. That’s not to say that the fights aren’t strong, but they’re not breaking any new ground.
The Matrix Resurrections is designed to wash any lingering bad taste out of your mouth from the sequels. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions are now in the rearview mirror. While this flick won’t remind you of The Matrix, it does present an interesting path forward. If this leads to more outings that build on this, then we might finally see this franchise reach its full potential. Even if the series is over now, at least it’s wrapping on a better note. If you’re a fan of Neo, Trinity, and the rest, this is the follow-up you likely always wished you got.