The Matrix was never a movie that needed a sequel and the Wachowski sisters originally wanted to do a prequel that eventually became The Animatrix “Second Renaissance” shorts. Instead, we got the controversial Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. I personally loved the movies more for their world-building than their actual content. I was very excited but somewhat iffy about a fourth movie in the franchise since I wasn’t sure where the movie could possibly go.
Hilariously, the first thirty minutes of The Matrix Resurrections is pretty much an extended commentary on how the Matrix trilogy stands alone and doesn’t need a sequel. There’s literally a scene where Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), now trapped in the mundane life of a video game designer (Jonathan Groff), meets with his business partner who informs him that they’re making a fourth installment with or without him.
Thomas is thus forced into dealing with a much younger crew of people who loved The Matrix (here a popular series of video games) in junior high and proceed to lecture him on what made the series work. They talk about trans allegory, crypto-fascism, bullet-time, and armchair philosophy while Thomas just stares blankly forward. This isn’t so much subtext as clearly text of Lana Wachowski’s feelings on being paid gobs of money to return to a project they feel they’ve done all they can with. It’s hilarious, almost like Galaxy Quest really, but doesn’t bode well for the rest of the movie.
Subtextually, the movie is about retelling and restructuring stories in the same way Scream 2 was about sequels. The Matrix meant a lot of things to a lot of people in RL, and Thomas Anderson finds himself surrounded by the descendants of those he freed who want to pull him out of the Matrix again. Bug (Jessica Henwick) and Morpheus II (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) are actors trying to fill big shoes but give a game performance.
The real stars are Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss, though, and why we’re here in the first place. The lack of Lawrence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving is felt considerably, though. Putting Jade Pinkett Smith in old age makeup also detracted from her own efforts. Priyanka Chopra Jonas made a surprising appearance as Sati (the now-adult little girl program from Revolutions) and while distracting, did a decent job. Note, I keep using somewhat guarded descriptions. No one is terrible but no one is really standing out except for our returning heroes.
Indeed, the biggest problem of the movie is the fact it plays it safe and feels like a tamer watered down version of the Matrix. None of the action scenes feel like they have any real weight to them and none of the characters feel like they are in any real danger. The original The Matrix killed the entirety of the Nebekenezer‘s crew to let you know how serious the bad guys were. Here, the “Bots” are unable to do any damage whatsoever. I was surprised Zion was destroyed (replaced by Io) because the new villains seemed so lacking in menace.
I got some serious Star Wars sequel trilogy vibes from the setting as well, which I wouldn’t put past Lana having done deliberately. The First Order Suits rise to power and overthrows the New Republic Machine-Human Alliance after blowing up Hosnian Prime Zion to restore the old status quo. Perhaps the worst part of it is that Neil Patrick Harris’ Analyst lacks even General Hux’s menace and comes across more like his Barney character griefing noobs in online multiplayer than the master of a vast electric fascist empire.
The movie is not bad, certainly, but the action feels tepid and danger-less while no one has much meat to their performances. It feels less offensive than The Last Jedi but it also doesn’t take the sort of risks that actually elevated that material to have a decent commentary on sequels as well as fan expectation. Really, the weirdest thing I can say for the movie is I was most interested in the mundane lives of Thomas Anderson and “Tiffany.” Why make Neo rich and famous rather than just miserable all the time? Were Tiffany’s kids computer programs or reprogrammed children? Are they children made from her DNA in the real world? Was her husband an Agent? I would have preferred that movie and I love Jessica Henwick.
In conclusion, I am going to give this movie a 6.5 out of 10 or maybe a 7 because it revives a franchise that didn’t need reviving as well as has some decent things to say. I think I might have actually preferred they do it full Galaxy Quest with deranged Matrix fans kidnapping Thomas Anderson for comedy for the first hour. Either that or lean hard into the R-rated action, cursing, anarchist sentiment, and scariness of the machines that made the originals so good. On the other hand, unlike a few other reboots, this is neither a shameless cash crab nor something that completely ruins the franchise. It’s just kind of there and mostly amusing.