The Matrix Resurrections is a strong, meta-driven return to the iconic franchise. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss effortlessly return their roles while Lana Wachowski brings a bold artistic vision.
The fourth film in the Matrix franchise, The Matrix Resurrections brings back many familiar faces. Reeves and Moss are back as Neo and Trinity, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jessica Henwick bring freshness to the series. 1999’s The Matrix redefined blockbusters and left an imprint on cinema that reverberates to this day. The two direct sequels continued to break ground and changed the way studios made movies. The Matrix Resurrections is not like its predecessors, but it subverts expectations and challenges the audience just the same. Brilliantly written and toeing the line between nostalgia pandering and hero-worship, The Matrix Resurrections forces the audience to question the entire purpose of the franchise.
The Matrix Resurrections boasts large-scale action sequences with a strong narrative through-line. The Matrix series has always been known for redefining action on screen, characters were always put at the center of the story. The franchise that has dabbled in religion, ethics, morality, and the chosen one complex, is now looking at a new lens, love. Both Reeves and Moss bring a heartfelt performance to the table as Neo struggles to discern reality from fantasy. The Matrix Resurrections is primarily focused on the bond between Neo and Trinity, which serves as the emotional core of the film and forces the audience to reexamine the original trilogy in that same light.
While legacy characters are the highlights of the film, there were many great performances to round it out. Jessica Henwick plays Bugs, a new addition to the franchise and one of the best parts of their film. Her performance is multi-layered and Henwick is more than talented to lead her franchise soon enough. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II meanwhile, tries his hand at Morpheus. Already one of the most talented actors of the generation, Mateen brings a strong and dynamic performance to the iconic Matrix character.
The Matrix Resurrections continues to subvert the genre and expectations of typical blockbuster storytelling while presenting new and profound themes, such as its predecessors. This time around, meta-storytelling takes center stage. The film is very self-aware of its existence. Wachowski brilliantly provides commentary on today’s blockbusters relying on nostalgia. To some, the over-referencing and meta nature will be seen as a double-edged sword. At times, the film used the original trilogy for jokes and comic relief. One can make the case that even the jokes represent a deeper thematic thread to the overall franchise. At times, it can be a little hit-or-miss, but the thesis that Lana is presenting remains strong.
Nostalgia has staying power in today’s Hollywood. With sequels, reboots, and bringing old actors to iconic roles the new name of the game, The Matrix Resurrections takes part in it as much as satire it. The original Matrix trilogy, despite some sequel flaws, is considered one of the greatest contributions to cinema. No matter what Wachowski brought to the table for the 4th entry, it would not be better than the magic of the 1999 original. To combat that, there is a purposeful deconstruction, not only of the prior films but Hollywood itself. Ironically, a comparison to Toy Story 4 is apropos, as that also deconstructed the themes and nature of its iconic trilogy.
Surprisingly, much of the futuristic, film noir visual style and color-grading that was iconic to the original trilogy was absent from The Matrix Resurrections, which is indeed a shortcoming. On the action side, while sprawling set-pieces continue to be tremendous, the hand-to-hand combat is truly lacking in this sequel. One of the biggest highlights of the original trilogy where the fight sequences that left everyone in awe. Gone is the martial-artist Superman that was present in the two Matrix sequels, and in came a new approach. The choreography is still strong overall, but can’t help but miss that original feel.
Overall, Lana Wachowski delivered a great sequel to the iconic trilogy.The Matrix Resurrections continues the trend of genre-defining storytelling, subverting audience expectations, providing thoughtful commentary on the state of cinema, and is filled with incredible performances throughout. Engaging, innovative, but very self-aware, The Matrix Resurrections will likely be divisive among audiences. Perhaps that’s exactly what Wachowski is aiming for.