It’s all in the title, folks.
The Matrix Resurrections is about bringing things back to life: characters, storylines, themes, a franchise.
That being said … I liked The Matrix Resurrections.
Bear in mind that I did not conduct a Matrix series re-watch before seeing Resurrections, but I watched the other Matrix movies enough over the years to generally remember the major beats. What I remember most is LOVING The Matrix, finding The Animatrix really cool, hating The Matrix Reloaded, and being okay with The Matrix Revolutions.
The Matrix Resurrections most resembles the original Matrix is that it splits its time pretty evenly between the digital world and the real world, which I appreciated. I also loved the fact that The Matrix Resurrections found itself far more interested in further exploring Neo and Trinity’s relationship than anything else. I won’t go so far as to say that this is a “character driven” movie, but those two were definitely the driving force of the film.
I also enjoyed the fact that, in this film, Trinity is “The One” for Neo, whereas Neo was “The One” to the entire world in The Matrix. Only “The One” could save the world, but what if “The One” needed to be saved by his “The One” in order to do so? It’s a fascinating development appropriate to this day and age. I wouldn’t say Trinity was treated only as a plot device in the previous movies, but she’s certainly given far more importance in The Matrix Resurrections. (Of course, if you know the background of the film’s creators and their evolution over time, a rather complex think-piece could be written exploring “artists and their art.”)
Consequently, Resurrections establishes that a certain “happy ending” occurred thanks to Neo and Trinity’s previous sacrifices, one that I found hopeful. Equilibrium … balance … these seem to be important themes in The Matrix Resurrections.
In keeping with that idea, I was thankful that they did not touch up Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss’ appearances in Resurrections. These are two beautiful people, obviously, but they clearly look twenty years older than their original introduction. In fact, the filmmakers go out of their way to make Neo unkempt and unfashionable compared to his previous incarnation. People age, and, as Resurrections conveys, with age and experience can come wisdom and self-realization.
Part of the reason I loved The Matrix so much was because it introduced some very big, even mind-blowing, ideas. Resurrections never achieves that level of ingenuity, but it does indeed call out our society over the last few years. There are several lines about falling victim to fiction and believing big lies that did not go unnoticed. I suppose, though, that compared to other recent movies, a blockbuster sci-fi film driven by love is pretty rebellious.
Finally, The Matrix Resurrections seemed a little more willing to laugh at itself this time around. There were several metafiction gags that brought forth a chuckle.
On the flipside of that, though, those gags came dangerously close to becoming cringeworthy. Furthermore, some of the characters, such as Morpheus, were making fun of themselves while never clearly establishing why. I’m still not exactly sure who “Morpheus” was in this film, by the way–a facsimile or the original? A hybrid program? I considered this a shame because the original Morpheus was such a cool “wizard/mentor” archetype.
Which brings me to another point: I was confused for quite a bit of this movie. I didn’t totally understand the primary antagonist’s motivations, I didn’t fully grasp former villains’ new roles, nor did I comprehend Neo’s “the matrix” within “The Matrix.” I think he called it a “modal.” Why did he make it? What purpose did it serve?
I also thought the film kept one foot a little too much in the past. There were many, many literal flashbacks to the other films, and many of the scenes themselves mirrored scenes from the predecessors as well. A touch would have been fine, everybody loves nostalgia, but it got a little heavy-handed.
On that note, The Matrix Resurrections didn’t appear to break any new ground regarding visuals, which I found very disappointing. The Matrix melted my mind back in ’99. I saw things in that movie I’d never seen on screen before. Resurrections had some cool moments (mostly revealed in the trailers), but nothing that made my jaw drop. With today’s technology and the filmmaker’s trailblazing spirit, I honestly expected revolutionary special effects. We didn’t get them.
In the end, though, Neo and Trinity proved more than enough. They were the heart and soul of The Matrix (along with Morpheus, who sadly got sidelined in this film), and seeing them on screen again together more than made up for any of the film’s shortcomings. They’re older and grayer, to be sure (aren’t we all?), but they are also more fully rounded and emotionally realized.
Full disclosure–I didn’t like The Matrix when I first saw it. I didn’t get it. However, after dozens of re-watches over the years, I fell in love with it more and more. It’s entirely possible I didn’t completely understand The Matrix Resurrections on my first viewing. I absolutely plan on watching it again and I’m sure I’ll pick up on some new things and better comprehend the plot. But the good news is that I did indeed like it. Do I want more from The Matrix universe? On the one hand, I’d watch anything with Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves acting together. On the other hand, I don’t see much potential for this story to continue in fresh, innovative ways. The Matrix Resurrections seemed to be a nice send-off for the characters rather than a launch pad to new horizons.