In the distant 1999, a groundbreaking movie changed our perspective of the meaning “blockbuster”. In the years, where practical effects were mostly used and CGI butchered anything it touched, the Wachowski brothers took a big risk in making a movie, relying entirely on CGI. Thus The Matrix was born. A movie touching deep philosophical topics while at the same time delivering awesome action scenes. Man vs The machine is a tale as old as time, seen in numerous books and movies. But here, there was something different. The Matrix talked not so much about the war, but about the free will. Are humans happy with being ruled over or they want freedom. It was indeed a mindbender, taking several time re-watching to understand it. Not to mention the awesome bullet-time, which from then on, was used in almost every Sci-Fi movie. The movie made CGI popular, turning itself into an all-time classic.
After the huge success of the first movie, Warner Bros decided that it has to make it a franchise. Thus they shot two sequels back to back, deciding to release them in two separate years – 2002 and 2003. Those of course were The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Both tried to tap in and further explore the philosophy of the first movie, but unfortunately, failed miserably. Even though the budget was increased, The Matrix Reloaded, didn’t deliver on both effects and storyline. The awesome kung-fu scenes were reduced to long and boring fight sequences, the philosophical storyline was reduced to bloated conversations filled with empty words. Of course, there were awesome scenes, but mainly along the action sequences. The Matrix Reloaded, was the pebble that caused the franchise to stumble.
Then came The Matrix Revolutions and it completely lost itself. The second movie ended on a cliffhanger that made fans anticipate the final movie. What will happen with Smith? What will happen with Neo? Where is he? And once all those questions were answered in 2003, fans were disappointed. No more philosophy, no more character development. This movie was all about action, action and more action. The battle for Zion took good 1/3 of the movie and as awesome as it is, it just felt flat. I think that all of the budget of the second and third movies, went into the latter. The final showdown between Smith and Neo probably costed as much as the GPO of a small country. Nevertheless it was awesome, but not what The Matrix was about. In the end it turned into a Sci-Fi action movie. Still its end was somewhat satisfactory, restarting The Matrix and the machines releasing all people that wanted to be released from it. Or so we thought.
And so we come to 2018. Keanu Reaves reaped huge success with the John Wick franchise and somehow all of his latent projects were put back on the table. One of those was the 4-th instalment of The Matrix franchise, later on named as The Matrix Resurrections. And so, several days ago it was released in theatres. What could possibly be said more about the franchise? What topics can it take on, that haven’t already be explored? Some of the original cast returned, but not all. So I went to see it, filled with reservations. And here is my take on The Matrix Ressurections!
This instalment was directed only by one of the Wachowski brothers or now sisters, after they changed their gender – Lana Wachowski. The cast that returns include Keanu Reeves as Neo, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe and Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian. All of the other cast is full with new faces. From now on, there will be SPOILERS!
So, the major topic in this 4’th part is of course GIRL POWA! The never-ending Hollywood pitch about political correctness of course makes it into this movie as well. Women captains of ships, women leading the new city – Io, women saving the day and so on. But I have to say that, unlike other movies, here this topic is not shoved down the viewers throats. The are plenty of male leadership presented as well. It is more of a balance. They wanted to present females as strong and independent and stress on Trinity’s badassery (not like we don’t know about it), but at the same time not to make Neo irrelevant. Both of them are what make everything whole.
NPH (Neil Patrick Harris) enters the franchise as The Analyst. If you remember The Architect from the second movie, well this is the same “role”. The program, that made this new version of The Matrix, based not on equations and math, but purely on feelings. The original Matrix had green scent, this one looks like the real world. Humans are no longer “stimulated” to produce energy by designing complex stories for them, but simply by making them feel. His version of The Matrix actually presents the modern world. And in it, both Mr. Anderson and Trinity reside, drugged and hidden. But they died in the thir movie, you will say and yes they did. So how are they back?
With some bio-machine Deus ex Machina. This is the time to say, that the movie is actually aware of itself and constantly mocks it. The Matrix is presented as game series, designed by Neo in 1999. At the same time, The Analyst plays his shrink, keeping him grounded and making sure he takes his blue pills. Trinity is given a family with somewhat abusive husband. The Analyst “found out”, that if Neo and Trinity are kept close, but not too close, the energy they produce is enormous. So, they kept them in pods, drugged for more than 60 years.
Another new face is Jessica Henwick as Bugs. She plays a captain of a ship, seeking Neo within the new Matrix. In her search, she find out a “modal”, which recreates the opening of the first movie. Trinity being found out and agents arriving at the scene, engaging in one of the coolest rooftop chasing sequences. This “modal” was created by Neo himself, basing it on his “memories”, as he believes his old life was all in his head. There she finds an agent, that is actually “awake”. This turns out to be Morpheus or more precise a mix between Morpheus and Smith, as Neo remembers them. The role is played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
This is actually a very cleaver way to write off both Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving as they are not returning. The actual reason for that is not disclosed. Speaking of agent Smith, it is not a Matrix movie without him. Here, he is “represented” by Jonathan Groff. After the events of the third movie, Smith almost took over The Matrix, so the machines wanted to eliminate him. Obviously they didn’t manage to do so, thus putting him in a new body as the Co-Seo of the company that created the Matrix. He is once again “released” when Neo realizes that he is still in The Matrix and busts out. To be honest Jonathan Groff plays an awesome Smith. Mimicking Hugo Weaving ‘s performance almost perfectly, he brings life again to one of the best antagonists in movie history.
So what happened to the original Morpheus? Well according to Jada Pinkett Smith ‘s Niobe, he became leader of Zion and later on, helped in creating Io. However, thinking that everything is over and what Neo did was enough to stop the machines, he failed to notice the rising of The Analyst. This is actually pretty cleaver, as the narrow thinking actually pretty well describes the original Morpheus. I must say, that the reasons given for writing off some of the famous characters are pretty good. They are explained well and actually make sense.
So with the introductions completed, it is time to talk about the actual story of The Matrix Resurrections. And to put it mildly, there is none. The whole movie feels like an origin story. The new crew, has to bust again Neo and this time Trinity from The Matrix. There are no agents here, but The Swarm. A hive minded bots that once set in “pursuit” mode, will stop at nothing to complete the mission, unless they are evaded. So once again we got a captain, who “has to free Neo” and breaks the general’s orders to do it. Later on does the same for Trinity. That is basically all of it. The movie relies mainly on nostalgia and pop culture references to complete this. I will give it credit for actually doing this blending pretty well. Millennials will sink in nostalgia and gen-z will love the pop culture references. It just works.
One thing that actually bugged me was Keanu’s acting. Now let’s speak some truths. Keanu is not a good actor, he never has been. He has charisma and his dedication to his roles, makes him an awesome action hero. However once he speaks all of that fall apart. And in a franchise that is all about speaking, his emotional range is like a white wall – none. The other actors are doing very well and actually manage to make the audience feel something. Keanu looks like he’s half asleep during the first two acts of the movie. He finally “awakes” in the third, giving his first good performance when he and Trinity finally “connect”. Most if that might be nostalgia, but it did send shivers down my spine. Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff just steal every scene they are in.
Another issue I have is with the effects. They are inconsistent in their quality. At some points, there are awesome and in others, they look like the return of the “rubber smiths” from the second movie. For certain those will not withstand time and in several years they will be extremely bad. This was one of the main issues with The Matrix Reloaded and it seems that it will translate here as well.
As final thoughts I will simply say that it is not a good movie and feels forced. It even jokes with how “WB will continue the franchise, whether people want it or not!”. As mentioned the movie is self-aware. That however doesn’t excuse it’s lack of originality and something simple as plot. It relies on nostalgia and pop culture reference, both of which will shift in several years. That said, overall I liked the movie as an action and ass-kicker, mainly because the new cast is very good. I love these actors and they do perform. As an action movie it works, as a Matrix movie it actually continues the bad trend, but is entertaining. As a kick-off for the franchise, wanting to revive it however it fails miserably. The trailer is more engaging and emotional than the whole 2h and 30 minutes this movie somehow stretches through. Watch it or not, you will not miss anything. If you want another brainless action movie with awesome fighting scenes and great cast, you will like it. If you want the original Matrix experience, where every question asked was a mindbender, better sit this one out.