The Matrix Resurrections picks up the story eighteen years after the original trilogy. It’s 2021, Neo (Keanu Reeves, Man of Tai Chi, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) has resumed his existence as game developer Thomas Anderson. He’s being forced into doing what he swore he would never do, make a fourth game in his Matrix franchise. He’s also seeing an analyst (Neil Patrick Harris, 8-Bit Christmas, Starship Troopers) after a breakdown that had him convinced he was trapped in a computer simulation. For that, he’s prescribed an endless regime of blue capsules.
But The Matrix still exists and may even be stronger than it was before. And once again he’s going to have to journey down a rabbit hole. This time led by Bugs (Jessica Henwick, Iron Fist, Game of Thrones) “As in Bunny” and her team.
Director Lana Wachowski (Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending) along with co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, both of whom worked on the Wachowski’s Netflix series Sense8, start the film out with a brief, but energetic sequence inside The Matrix. But then The Matrix Resurrections withdraws from the computer world and spends a good deal of time in ours.
It’s a very meta and occasionally witty way to start The Matrix Resurrections off. There are some obvious parallels such as Warner Brothers being the company forcing the fourth installment in both franchises, and by the same means. And the discussions among the programmers mirror the varying opinions of fans of the films. But mostly it seeks to create a sense of uncertainty about how real the events of the original trilogy were. Did Anderson simply have a breakdown and incorporate people from his life into his video game? And from there into an elaborate fantasy? Or is what he remembers real, but for some reason being repressed?
Of course, we all know the answer to that. We wouldn’t be watching, well I certainly wouldn’t be watching, a two and a half-hour examination of some tech bro’s mental health. But even once Neo returns to The Matrix, The Matrix Resurrections never lets itself become an empty-headed action film. Themes of our perceptions of reality and identity constantly come into play. Morpheus for example is represented both by footage of Laurence Fishburne from the trilogy and, in his current incarnation by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Us). “Is reality based on memory nothing but fiction?” he asks at one point. And that is the question that’s really at the heart of the film.
And the memory at the heart of that question is Neo’s love for Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Bye Bye Man, Silent Hill: Revelation). Whether as his partner in rebellion against the machines, or the woman he sees at the coffee shop, she occupies a place in his heart and mind and becomes the driving force in his personal resurrection. Yes, The Matrix Resurrections is also a love story.
While it can’t be all things to all fans of the franchise, The Matrix Resurrections is a damn good film and a much better sequel than there was any reason to expect it to be. Given the time that’s passed since the original trilogy, the behind-the-scenes drama and the fact only one of the creators returned to write and direct it I had my doubts it wouldn’t be anything but a bland rehash. Instead, it’s an enjoyable film and much better than the season’s other reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.