The Matrix trilogy is a type of comfort food for many as a source of late ’90s/early ’00s nostalgia. It is an iconic series that has embedded itself into the millennial imagination (not least with the term “redpill” taking on a subcultural life of its own). As such, it makes sense that Matrix Resurrections (2021) is less a continuation of the series and more a rehashing of what made the originals popular.
The film introduces us to an aged Neo (Keanu Reeves), who goes by his old name of Thomas Anderson and works as a renowned video game designer in a city resembling Seattle. Although he is successful on account of his game, The Matrix, he frequently experiences anxiety attacks and déjà vu brought on by reminders of things he can’t seem to remember, including the sight of a married woman at a local coffee shop who reminds him of the character Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) from his game. Neo lacks contentment in life as he struggles to get along with his geeky coworkers and his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), who prescribes blue pills to help him keep his sanity.
Unbeknownst to him, Neo has been resurrected and trapped in the Matrix by a program known as the Analyst – who is also his therapist in his Matrix life. The Analyst has discovered that when Trinity and Neo work together, they overcome the Matrix. However, when kept close (but not too close) within the Matrix, other humans are more accepting of the simulation and produce more energy for the machines. After being rescued from the Matrix, Neo joins forces with the human crew of the Mnemosyne to rescue Trinity and defeat the Analyst.
I found the first half of the film to be creative and interesting to watch. Aside from Keanu Reeves staring into space and saying “What?” in different tones at least a dozen times, the banality of Neo’s work life in the Matrix is humorous. Once the pace of the movie picks up, all the things that made the original trilogy exciting are fun elements to see repeated. The martial arts, slow motion bullets, technological loopholes, semi-philosophical conversations about what constitutes “reality,” and awesome cyberpunk fashion are cues for the audience to remember what they liked about the older films.
That said, the positive elements of Matrix Resurrections are limited to fun visuals and other fan service. The film drags quite a bit and the plot is often confusing. The same elements that made the series conceptually groundbreaking are not as exciting as they used to be.
I think this film could have been good if the director, Lana Wachowski, had attempted to preserve the original concept of the first film while adding to and updating it. This is a pattern that has seemed to work well for the MCU movies. As it is, this film is a dry repeat of the content in the originals. While it is a fun watch, it is not worth seeing more than once.
- Director: Lana Wachowski
- Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jada Pinkett Smith
- Producers: James McTeigue, Lana Wachowski, Grant Hill
- Production Companies: Village Roadshow Pictures, Venus Castina Productions
- Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures