MOVIE REVIEW – “Neo lived, Neo lives and Neo will live” – that’s the classic Lenin quote to epitomise the big return of the best Matrix, which returns with a divisive but clearly spectacular and attention-grabbing year-end cinematic blockbuster. The Matrix Resurrections is now directed by Lana Wachovski alone and stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss, but Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne are now absent. Is this strange sequel viable – or even viable at all?
“I was at home and I got a text from Lana Wachowski, the director and writer, and she said, ‘How about another Matrix movie?’ And I said, ‘Oh, that sounds fantastic, but I’m dead’. He said, ‘Really?’ and I said, ‘Go on. And he wrote a beautiful, beautiful script, a wonderful story.”
This funny story was recently told to the press by Keanu Reeves, who has become perhaps one of the biggest stars of our time, now in his old age, playing Neo again 22 years after the first film, still in The Matrix and, most importantly, alive and well. Okay, maybe ‘thriving’ isn’t the best word, as he is constantly plagued by visions of being in a virtual world, looking different and surrounded by illusions. Which is, however, somewhere, for us, theGeek gamers, a special joke:
Neo is now a video game designer who made The Matrix!
Yes, the same Keanu Reeves who is now also the iconic protagonist of Cyberpunk 2077, released a year ago, the sequel to the old franchise whose fame he owes to, which is now almost completely intertwined with his name and which has always been (also) a kind of allegory of video games, is the father of the video game realisation of the Matrix trilogy in the new story. In other words: in Neo’s own Matrix, he has created the Matrix trilogy in the form of a video game and everyone is in it, including himself and Trinity, of course, who Neo is still in love with. Could anything be more “meta”?
While Lana Watchovski (now single) supposedly revived the Matrix franchise because her parents died in 2019 and she wanted to at least relive her favourite superheroes then, this Resurrections is full of funny self-reflection and kicka-knocks, quirky (and also funny) or at least extremely creative and cleverly recurring old characters, and a central love motif that tells the story of Neo and Trinity’s big, repeated reunion (and its pitfalls).
Of course, we learn from the story that Neo and Trinity may have survived after all – despite what we saw at the end of The Revolution, and what happened to Smith, Neo’s eternal adversary, and Morphes, the great master teacher. Some of the explanations are pithy and funny, others are a bit forced and hard to believe, but overall the story is well written by Wachovski, sufficiently twisty, exciting and relatively easy to follow despite its convoluted nature.
Will Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne be missed? Of course. We’re talking about the most iconic actors of The Matrix and the characters they played. But this Matrix is not the same, it’s not the same, and it was a very conscious (and I think justified in terms of story) decision to cast Jonathan Griff as the ‘new’ Smith and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the ‘new’ Morpheus. Both characters have been brought into the story in extremely creative and exciting ways (although they are not so central figures anymore) and both actors are great in portraying these two iconic figures. (Especially Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who after the Hook Hands reboot has once again shown what a great actor he is.)
Is the old Matrix back?
However, this is not the Matrix you got to know in the film trilogy. The action sequences are not as bombastic, amazingly creative and revolutionary as they were when the Watchovsky’s turned the action movie industry on its head. I did like the action sequences, they were spectacular and exciting, but they were nothing compared to the incredible creativity of the first Matrix movie twenty-two years ago.
We also don’t have the incredibly well done soundtrack like in the first film when Neo wakes up and Dissolved Girl is playing softly in the background, or when he meets Trinity in the nightclub where Rob Zombie’s Dragula and Prodigy’s Minefields are playing and later Marlyn Manson and other huge rock hits of the time are playing. But where are all these rock stars now, with the Prodigy singer having committed suicide more than two years ago, Manson probably in a police station because of his harassment cases, and the other legends of the past. It’s not Wachovsky’s fault, but rock stars and iconic music of this calibre are no more, and that’s why the music in The Matrix: Resurrections is inherently weaker than in previous episodes (especially the first).
It’s not back and that’s why it’s something new
So this Matrix is no longer “the” Matrix, but that is why Wachovski’s film is able to show something new – to entertain and to make you think at the same time. As we watch Hollywood films in a universe full of sequels, reboots and superheroes, and constantly retconned IPs, over and over again. A Hollywood where imagination has become the easiest thing to buy and sell. And yet here’s Lana Wachowski, defying the tired mould and offering audiences something fresh, weird and funny as hell.
I think it’s all good in this new Matrix: if not revolutionary in the elementary, 1999 sense of the word, it’s still new, creative, amusingly self-reflexive, exciting and, for all these reasons, hugely entertaining. You may have been longing for Hugo Weaving, 22 years your senior, to shout “Mister Anderson!” (even “many times over”) and then beat the crap out of each other with Keanu Reeves as the camera spins around them, but I wanted a creative sequel like this, with new actors (too), lots of meta references, but with an exciting story starting from a new point. If the Matrix Resurrections is not perfect because of its muddled, much less focused story, sometimes clunky dialogue and one less punchy action sequences, I still wanted a sequel like this, not the same recipe for a fourth time. If you’re like him, you won’t be disappointed with the new digital adventure from the elder Neo (“Mr. Anderson!”).