One of the things that The Matrix: Resurrections does is acknowledge that it feels pointless to make a sequel to a movie nearly 20 years after the supposed final entry. Much of the dialogue consists of self-referencing the series in its heyday and how audiences love the idea of a nostalgic throwback to something they loved when they were younger. It’s very much Lana Wachowski’s version of New Nightmare but comes across as so smug and self-satisfying in its criticism of popular culture that it forgets to be good.
It’s one thing to have fan service in a movie be so obvious and eye-rolling. It’s another to have fan service, but then simultaneously insult the fans for which the movie was made. The Matrix: Resurrections does the latter. At one point, it toys with the idea that the Matrix was all just a game, and Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) was too far down the rabbit hole to realize that his reality was nothing but an empty shell of his Neo character. Clever? Sure. But the idea of retconning the whole series comes off as a slap in the face.
Some of the self-referencing is clever, such as when Neo attempts to fly again and realizes he’s too past his prime to do it now. But most of it just feels too much like the movie is saying, “Hey, do you see what we’re doing?”
Wachowski knows the idea of a Matrix sequel is terrible. Heck, I’m sure Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and others who returned to the franchise were thinking the franchise should have stayed buried after the third. All of their effortless commitment shows onscreen. The performances are lackluster, even by some of the newcomers. Yahya Abdul Mateen II takes over as the new Morpheus and his character knowingly tries to come across as cool as Laurence Fishburne’s original before giving up and just playing an alternate version of the character. Jonathan Groff of Hamilton fame is the new Agent Smith and is nowhere near as intimidating as Hugo Weaving’s interpretation. Neil Patrick Harris is Neo’s therapist, but is also known as The Analyst. He later proves to have a much bigger involvement in this new version than anticipated. Harris is having the most fun with his performance, but it still isn’t something worthwhile.
One of the things that were lackluster about The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions was its overuse of poor special effects. Whether it was the duplicates of Agent Smith going and attacking Neo or Neo spinning out of the attack, those effects came across as way too cheesy. Then again, back in 2003, the technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. Cut to 2021, and the special effects are still just as terrible when characters jump from one building to another or attempt to fly. It’s unsure if Wachowski wanted to keep it that way for the fans or if she just didn’t care. Either way, it doesn’t look good.
Even when Neo reenters the Matrix and we get to the fight scenes and the big, lavish spectacle of the world, it all results in one big shrug. The movie asks if a Matrix sequel was truly needed. The audience will ask the same question once the credits roll.
The Matrix Resurrections comes to 4KUHD/Blu-ray from the folks at Warner Bros., which also gets a reference in the movie. One of the upsides to this release is that it is packed with special features, more than what usually come in a new Blu-ray release. The special features include:
- No One Can Be Told What The Matrix Is
- Resurrecting The Matrix
- Neo x Trinity: Return to the Matrix
- Alllies + Adversaries: The Matrix Remixed
- Matrix for Life
- The Matrix Reactions