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May 2022

The Matrix: Resurrections

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Dec. 22, 2021


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Movie Review - 'The Matrix: Resurrections'

by Adam Pavlacka on Dec. 22, 2021 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson has to choose to follow the white rabbit once more.

"Reboot. Retread. Regurgitate."

A fourth-wall breaking line said by a character early on in "The Matrix: Resurrections" ends up being a good way to describe the film, as there is little here that could be described as fresh or innovative. Instead, director Lana Wachowski repeatedly goes back to the well of the original trilogy, relying on nostalgia and the audience's love of Neo and Trinity to carry the film.

The nostalgia callbacks start with the very first scene, with new actors playing out the opening sequence of the original film while Bugs (Jessica Henwick) watches from the sidelines. A new character and one of the highlights of the film, Henwick's Bugs is a human ship captain who was freed from the Matrix and is now determined to discover the truth behind Neo and Trinity's disappearance. It's her eagerness and willingness to ignore authority that pushes the plot forward — what little there is of it, at least.

Instead of telling a new story, "The Matrix: Resurrections" essentially repackages the highlights of the original trilogy. There's no mystery here, nothing intriguing to discover, and no statement to be made. Despite joking about it early in the film, the script behind "The Matrix: Resurrections" feels like it was written by committee, focusing on elements that would test well with studio executives instead of what creates a compelling narrative.

There are occasional hints at deeper ideas, such as the concept that stories and reality are intertwined, and the question of self and self-realization, but they're merely flirted with and then dropped without any introspection or elaboration.

The focus on fan service also means that characters are included in the story without having any real purpose other than to call back to the older films. The most obvious instance of this is Jonathan Groff as Agent Smith. This isn't a copy or a new "version" of Smith. Groff's Smith is supposed to be the same character originally played by Hugo Weaving and Wachowski goes to great lengths to make sure there are no questions about it.

Smith's identity was already revealed in the trailers for "The Matrix: Resurrections," and the movie uses the same direct approach. Instead of hinting at Smith and slowly revealing his identity, Wachowski intercuts footage of Weaving as Smith with Groff as Smith, with both saying the same line. There is as much subtlety here as an excited child showing off a great idea to a parent. They're basically screaming to the audience, "ISN'T THIS COOL?"

Unfortunately, the answer is no. As much as he tries to mimic Weaving, Groff never manages to replicate Weaving's imposing nature or gravitas when delivering lines. It's just as well because Groff's Smith serves no real purpose to the story other than fan service. There's no in-universe explanation for his resurrection and no real explanation for his actions. He's just there to fight Neo.

The same can be said for the Merovingian and the exiles. They appear for a fight, but their presence does nothing for the plot. It's another contrivance that exists solely for fan service. It also contradicts existing Matrix lore, as we're told after the fight that the exiles were weak because they were old. In the original trilogy, the exiles were to be feared precisely because they were old. They had survived previous iterations (and deletions) of the Matrix and were survivors above all else.

An overreliance on fan service could have been overlooked if the action excelled, but even here, "The Matrix: Resurrections" was lacking. Whereas the action in the original films was tightly choreographed, for this outing Wachowski focused more on quick cuts and less on impressive choreography. The end result is a lot of random carnage with little to tie it together.

One fight sequence occurs on a Japanese bullet train and could have easily rivaled the freeway sequence from "The Matrix: Reloaded." Instead of impressing the audience with the skill of the humans or the agents, it just felt claustrophobic. The climactic battle at the end of the film has the entire city hunting down our heroes in an obvious callback to the end of "The Matrix: Revolutions." Instead of being imposing or threatening, it was more reminiscent of a Back 4 Blood level. There are no calculating programs here, only mindless zombies trying to swarm.

Despite seeing "The Matrix: Resurrections" in the theater, none of the action felt like it was shot for the big screen. Yes, the budget was obviously there, but no part of it wowed to the point where I felt like I would be missing out if my first viewing had been at home on a TV screen.

While the original Matrix trilogy wasn't perfect, it did try to play with deeper themes. We saw programs that loved each other and people who were willing to betray others to the machines for their own benefit. It was the simple question of, "Is free will real?"

"The Matrix: Resurrections" could have easily expanded on that base and incorporated some of the issues that society has faced (and failed to address) over the last two decades. Instead of continuing the series trend of commentary, "The Matrix: Resurrections" leans fully into nostalgia for a quick cash-in.

If you thought "The Force Awakens" relied too much on fan service to carry its story, "The Matrix: Resurrections" wants you to hold its beer. This is a nostalgia machine on overdrive and little else.

Score: 5.0/10

"The Matrix: Resurrections" is rated R and has a running time of 2 hours and 28 minutes. It is showing in standard theaters, in IMAX theaters, and streaming at home on HBO Max.

Editor's Note: There is a sequence at the very end of the credits, but it is a throwaway scene that doesn't involve any of the main characters.

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