The Matrix Resurrections (2021) – Self-aware, Fun and Refreshingly New

by Zebediah Oke

The Matrix Resurrections continues the story of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie Anne-Moss) to sequel not only 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, but the entire cultural machine that spawned The Matrix back in 1999. The film has a very direct response to the theories, fan-fictions and criticisms of the sci-fi series, calling on a fresh-faced cast to carry a trippy new premise. We’ll be looking at the ebbs and flows of The Matrix: Resurrections

Flows

Script

Some find the lengthy exposition that is endemic to The Matrix sequels evidence of its depth. I’ve personally found it superfluous, especially in Reloaded where the The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) talks as if he was coded by Ben Shapiro to play devil’s advocate against left-wing feminists in the comment section of #metoo articles. Resurrection, however, shows restraint on the pseudo-philosophical, nature-of-morality psycho-babble. There are parts that strike as a little try-hard (the quips about techbros, social media, obsessive stans and the abolition of binaries feel more shoehorned than naturally occurring) and the attempts at comedy fall a little flat (Berg and Lexy, played by Brian J. Smith and Eréndira Ibarra respectively, have an aside to discuss whether Neo is “the one”, which is meant to be whimsical but only really reminds us Berg is the cop from Sense8) but it still manages to streamline its intention into being a film about choice–which is all The Matrix ever really was about.

Pod Heist

When Sati (Priyanka Chopra) enlists help from Niobe to retrieve Trinity from the Matrix, she runs everybody through a plan to infiltrate machine city. Using the instantly recognisable style of a heist montage to present was a slice of genius I never knew I needed–and is one of my favourite film sequences of the entire year.

Chase scene

As Trinity and Neo motorbike through the city in the film’s penultimate chase, the impressive scale of the scene is striking, with people swarming from all angles and streets to apprehend them. Mirroring the aesthetics of a zombie film, the scene is intense and executed excellently with constantly rising stakes and threats which keep you on the edge of your seat.

Boomer Merovingian

A down-trodden Merovingian ranting about social media zombification and lamenting a bygone golden era of culture is a stroke of genius I didn’t know I needed.

Ebbs

Action

The fight scenes are hit and miss here, with too many instances of hand-to-hand combat scenes that lack inventiveness and rely on slow-motion smashes and sonic accentuations to be impressionable. This, of course, isn’t something new to action films, but it is noticeable.

Romance (?)

I’m going to go ahead and say it: Carrie Anne-Moss and Keanu Reeves don’t have great chemistry. Maybe it’s because they both play stoic characters but they’ve never felt like a good fit to me. This becomes even more apparent in Resurrections, where the theme of love-finding-a-way is even more of a combustible resource than in the previous films. Nothing about them tells me that this is a love story that can transcend the domination of a highly advanced race of machines and, beyond that, Neo’s own desire to be reunited with Trinity at any cost shoulders a shivering indifference to the fate of the human race that he sacrificed himself for just a movie ago.

Neil Patrick Harris

My inability to see Neil Patrick Harris as anything other than Barney Stinson aside, Neil Patrick Harris is an American national treasure but a terrible casting choice for this film’s villain. He has none of the gravitas of Helmut Bakaitis’ Architect and none of the ominousness of Hugo Weaving’s Smith. It’s 2021, guys. We’re craving emotionally complex and charismatic villains.

Conclusion

Of the two films in cinemas that are currently capitalising from the euphoric nostalgia of their franchises, The Matrix Resurrections exceeds its predecessors unequivocally. This isn’t a difficult feat, however, as The Matrix Trilogy was always based on a great premise yet haunted by a less-than-great execution. By cutting back on verbal grandiloquence and self-impressiveness and replacing it with mystery and a more fleshed-out plot, Resurrections helms a story that will likely polarise its entire audience. If I were to put my thoughts about it in a nutshell, Resurrections is a sci-fi version of Eminem at the end of 8 Mile–cinematically dousing itself with gasoline and setting itself ablaze as a festival of violence against those who want to tear it down. Does this aggressive self-referencing clear up past misdemeanours? Not as satisfyingly as Spider-Man No Way Home, and admittedly–not always, as some of the dated mistakes of The Matrix persist into this one. The combat sequences chop, swipe and clatter away from the noticeably lack-lustre choreography. There’s a heavy reliance on slow-motion destruction as fists and bodies fly into (and through) brick and woodwork. This visual language, exacerbated for dramatic effect, was growing tiresome in 2002 and is beyond so now. However, where this film fails, it makes up for in the only realm that truly matters–enjoyment. The premise of the The Matrix is technological incarceration, and despite such a harrowing, Descartian subject matter, Resurrections finds a way to be self-aware, fun and refreshingly new all at the same time.

Did Matrix Resurrections match your expectations? Let us know in the comments!

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