“Nothing comforts fear like a little nostalgia,” says Morpheus in The Matrix Resurrections. This is a not-so-subtle assault on the onslaught of reboots and remakes that dominate our culture – revisiting characters and stories we already know is safe. Audiences know what to expect, and it’s a better choice for risk-averse studios. Of course, Morpheus (now played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen) also comments on the film in which he starred.
More than twenty years after The Matrix fundamentally changed genre cinema, director Lana Wachowski is finally diving back into the universe that made her and co-director Lilly Wachowski famous. After all this time, is it really worth going down the rabbit hole again or is this just another simple franchise cash graph?
The answer to this question depends on what you want in a Matrix sequel. Like The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions before, Wachowski (along with co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon) isn’t interested in just repeating the past with resurrections. Instead, it is a film that draws on its legacy, our relationship with its characters, and the high expectations that fans (and studios!)
As someone who adores the original film and has gained a lot of respect in the much maligned sequels, Resurrections feels like made for me. It’s intoxicating, exciting and unabashedly romantic. But, judging by the polarizing early critical responses, it is clearly not for everyone.
Small spoilers ahead.
It’s hard to talk about what The Matrix Resurrections is without describing the basic buildup, most of which you can glean from the movie’s trailers. Keanu Reeves returns as Thomas Anderson, a programmer floating in a world that doesn’t make sense to him. He meets a woman played by Carrie-Anne Moss, but this time around, she’s not the agent-beating Trinity, she’s just your typical (albeit strikingly beautiful) mother. The two immediately feel connected. Thomas is eventually torn from the world he is in thanks to a brave new character named Bugs (Jessica Henwick), he finds the real world and yadda yadda, you get the picture.
Now you may be wondering, “Didn’t Neo and Trinity die in The Matrix Revolutions?” I can only point to the title of the film – what did you expect? This time around, Anderson is a renowned game developer known for creating a popular trilogy of games that retell the entire Matrix story. When we first meet him, he faces a new challenge: a fourth entry. He approaches it with the same fear the Wachowskis likely had of tackling a potential Matrix 4. A number of brainstorming scenes feel like they came straight from their own hellish meetings with Warner Bros. Anderson’s team can only focus on the surface – how do they go beyond bullet time? What if they just focus on more pointless action? – rather than something really substantial.