Way back in 1999, the idea of a Matrix sequel was a no-brainer. Neo had just destroyed Agent Smith, warned the artificial intelligence that he was going to set everyone’s minds free, and flew off into the sky like Superman. Four years later, the two-part sequels released and were a bit of a letdown, to say the least. We got what we asked for, but were disappointed in what we got. At that point, we realized that the original Matrix was a unique moment in film that probably should have been left to stand by itself. I’d like to think Hollywood learned its lesson and that’s why there aren’t sequels to Interstellar or Inception.
Of course, Hollywood’s lizard brain usually makes the decisions because MONEY!!! Now we have another Matrix sequel – Resurrections. And, not just any sequel, but a sequel that doubles as a remake. This makes sense when you consider that pretty much everyone disliked the sequels, so what better way to atone for them than to bring back as much of the original as possible? And, since it’s The Matrix we’re talking about, a reboot/sequel can easily be explained because <insert computer jargon here>.
(SPOILER ALERT – There is no spoon.)
In case you did not see how the trilogy ended, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) die. Not in the Matrix, but in the real world. The film ends with the Oracle and the Architect discussing if the peace between humans and machines will last and agreeing to free any humans who wish to leave the Matrix. It’s a pretty definitive conclusion to the story, with the only untied string being a final question- if we will see Neo again – thrown in because Hollywood just can’t resist.
Decades later, the Matrix is stable and the human city of Zion has been renamed Io and filled with humans no longer worried about killer sentinels coming for them. The film opens with a replay of the original film’s opening scene. You know the one. Trinity (or a woman who looks very much like her) is in a deserted hotel room, cops bust in to arrest her, and she does the kick where bullet-time cinematography blows our minds away. Except, this time, different agents chase Sort-of-Trinity, and we’re watching it from behind a wall with Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a hologram of Bugs’ handler, Sequoia (Toby Onwumere). This piques our interest, especially when Trinity is captured on a rooftop, rather than escaping. At the same time, Bugs ends up being discovered by an agent and another chase ensues, where she ends up trapped in a secret room with an agent. But, not just any agent, but one that is actually a program embodying Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Bugs helps him escape the Matrix and into a body consisting of nanobots in the real world. Confused yet? Welcome to the new Matrix.
It turns out that many of the machines decided to cooperate with the humans and help them with various tasks like growing strawberries. No, seriously. Blueberries too. This will freak out Neo, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Neo (who is back to his ignorant human self, Tom Anderson) is now a prominent game-developer in the Matrix. He is most famous for creating the Matrix game, which is the movie’s way of winking at the audience in a quasi-fourth-wall-break kind of way. Incidentally, the movie will also make multiple references to the original trilogy in the same way, including kind of taking a dump on bullet-time. Then, the movie will tell you how Warner Brothers is forcing another Matrix sequel and, geez, we get it already.
Anyway, Tom is seeing a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) because he is struggling to keep reality and fantasy separate in his head. Tom is also having meetings with his business partner, Smith (Jonathan Groff), who Tom also discusses his struggles with, in addition to the new game Tom is working on. A montage of days go by where we see Tom continuing to struggle, ingesting blue pills prescribed by his therapist, and having daily brainstorming sessions with his developer group about the Matrix sequel. We all know this can’t last, but we also are wondering how Tom is even alive, since Neo died in the old trilogy. Then, Trinity shows up in a coffee shop when Tom is there and we’re like “finally!” Except, Trinity is just a mom named Tiffany, with two kids and a husband and we’re like “oh, come on!”
Eventually, we get to the part where Tom is freed and becomes Neo again, this time by Bugs and Morpheus. There is gobbledygook about Neo having created a modal for them to find (the original Trinity scene), but we have no idea what that means. I work with software developers all day and I have never heard that term. But the film is going to pretend that the audience isn’t completely confused and just move on with what it really wants to do – nostalgia.
And thus we come to the real issue with this film – what is the point besides nostalgia? The nostalgia is laid on so thick that we literally see clips of scenes from the original trilogy sprinkled throughout the film. In addition to the modal, Agent Smith reappears, but as Tom’s business partner (Groff), we get a tweaked reprise of the dojo training scene with Morpheus, Neo’s body being retrieved from the battery-pod, and even the Merovingian because why not? And still we’re wondering, how is Neo/Tom still alive? And, Trinity/Tiffany for that matter.
Well, I’ll leave that explanation for the movie to give you, and you should know that it is long. Really long. And done in a way that Lana Wachowski (Lilly was not involved for this film) thought was clever, but comes off as a bit of a slap in the face to the audience. To be fair, maybe that slap was just to wake us up because the scene is just so boring. The villain has the ability to move at Quicksilver speeds and monologues while everything around him, Neo included, barely moves. It’s not a fun scene to watch nor is the monologue particularly interesting. The entire scene reinforces the notion that the original film was a unicorn.
Throughout the film, I kept wondering what the actual story was and what was at stake. The first film very clearly establishes the stakes – saving the human race. The two sequels continue with the same concept – saving the human race, with the subplot being the love story between Neo and Trinity. Resurrections does not appear to care even a tiny bit about the fate of the human race, even going out of its way to point out that there is a peace between humans and machines to the point they are literally cooperating with each other. Instead, the film really leans into the love story that was over at least one movie ago.
(Side note: one element of the story is that the machines are at war with each other over an energy shortage. This makes no sense for so many different reasons. Why can’t the machines build something that goes into space to collect energy? Are the machines reproducing themselves like humans, with no regard to resource requirements or how much the planet can sustain? Does artificial intelligence really just mean acting like stupid, selfish, violent humans?)
Convoluted story aside, maybe the most disappointing aspect of the film is that nearly all of the aesthetics from the original trilogy are gone. The martial arts and fight choreography were practically non-existent, the bullet-time is gone and even derided by the movie, and the score was both unmemorable and often didn’t fit the tone of the scenes. Plus, the sheer amount of footage spliced in from the original trilogy became tired. At first it was cool, then it just felt lazy and unnecessary. It was like watching a flashback episode of a sitcom, which is always the episode you could tell was done out of sheer convenience for an easy paycheck.
Don’t get me wrong. I did somewhat enjoy going back to the Matrix and there were some bright spots. The actors not named Reeves and Moss were clearly thrilled to be in a Matrix movie. While Reeves and Moss all but sleepwalked through a script that gave them little to do, the rest of the cast was relishing a chance to be as cool as the original cast looked (especially Groff, who really made Smith his own). To be fair to the film, I’m going to watch it again, and maybe there are things I missed that will make me enjoy it more. I just did this with James Bond: No Time to Die and it was definitely better the second time around. Granted, I enjoyed No Time to Die on the first viewing a lot more than I enjoyed Resurrections. Maybe I just need another reboot.
Rating: Ask for seven dollars back for what felt like discount Matrix.