Movie Review: “The Matrix Resurrections” should have remained buried

It returns to life as a lark, a self-aware send-up of “The Matrix” as the pop culture-devouring entity it once was. “The Matrix Resurrections” opens at a video gameworks where employees, led by a master designer, are “going to make a sequel to our beloved Trilogy.

Damned if that designer isn’t named Thomas Anderson, and damned if he isn’t played by the ageless Keanu Reeves.

As premises go, this “meta” twist on the green neon universe of “modals” and “sentients,” that they’re all the mad fantasy of a master video game craftsman, is daring, and in the first act of “Resurrections,” it plays as downright whimsical.

There’s deadline pressure. There are semi-comical tech nerds who idolize our “hero” and bosses who badger him for results. Got to get this “sequel” to the marketplace, come what may. Christina Ricci sparkles (in a single scene) as the marketing director talking up how to sell it.

Anderson, whose alter ego Neo is a part of the “game,” is kind of on task. But he’s noticing things. And he’s in therapy (Neil Patrick Harris plays a shrink who adds to the comic-ironic feel).

 “Thomas. You seem particularly triggered, can you tell me what happened?”

Anderson is off-balance, troubled. “I saw this pattern, and it was EVERYwhere…I know this story. Is this how we began?”

And then there’s this overwhelmingly familiar stranger, a married mother of two with haunted eyes whom Anderson bumps into in a coffee shop. Whatever name she (Carrie-Anne Moss) goes by now, if there’s a “Neo” inside of Anderson, he’s going to recognize “Trinity” in or out of The Matrix, with or without the appearance of a triggering kitty cat.

“Have we…met?”

Eighteen years after the last “Matrix,” years only partly-filled by the addition of video games in that universe, director Lana Wachoswki returns to the franchise that made The Wachowskis sci-fi film cinema legends. But the movie she delivers shows not just indifference to the material. It’s like she’s pissed to be back here again.

Those set-up scenes — more coherent and straightforward than any “Matrix” movie that came before –promise something that’s both sequel and prequel, with more modernish red and blue pills, more existential angst over the choice between seeing things as they “really” are, and self-narcotized delusion.

The object of “the game” that these movies have always been is simpler here. Reconnect with Trinity, take the right pill and either “fight” to figure out what is really going on, or look for “happiness” with her.

No, Laurence Fishburne isn’t back. But a younger Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is, still here to hector Neo to act.

“The only thing that matters to you is still here. I know it’s why you’re still fighting, and why you will never give up!”

Hugo Weaving’s Smith is now played by Jonathan Groff, and isn’t the sunglassed menace we remember.

And as “Resurrections” stumbles into the second act, we figure out all-too-quickly that this “reluctance to make a sequel” joke might be expressing how Wachowski really feels about this dubious enterprise. Almost everything about the last 100 minutes of this movie feels like an assault punishing the audience, “the fans,” for daring to beg for another film and Warner Brothers for demanding it be made.

If that sounds extreme, it is. The middle acts shift from the gloomy, familiarly paranoid dark shadows and green color palette of “The Matrix” and into over-saturated yellows and bright-bright whites. You’re sitting in a dark movie theater watching slightly-upgraded versions of the famous effects — “Bullet time” is a punchline here — hurled at you in light so bright it’s designed to strain your eyes, to make you close them.

Does Wachowski want to hurt or seriously discomfort the viewer? It sure as hell feels like it.

I was reminded of Lou Reed’s infamous “contractual obligations” LP, “Metal Machine Music,” the most notorious “let me make something so atonal and jarring and assaultive and unpopular that they’ll let me out of my contract” act ever committed by a commercial artist. Is that what Wachowski was shooting for here? Killing this thing off?

I love the fact that Moss was brought back, that no recasting of the two leads was attempted to make this “younger.” But that just makes the absence of Weaving and Fishburne, the ways they grounded these movies with their performances, their gravitas and their function as “icons” within this world, more jarring.

The story turns simpler and yet so convoluted as to be even harder to follow. Incidents have a randomness that seems dictated by “We need a chase/fight/shootout here” action film story structure rather than anything organic.

New characters stand around the periphery and aren’t developed beyond their “function” in Neo’s renewed quest.

I was never a huge fan of the original trilogy, but the films were novel, innovative and pulse-pounding and the effects eye-popping. Once you “got it” they pretty much held your interest between action sequences.

That isn’t true here. I was delighted at the beginning, and steadily more appalled at most everything that followed. There’s no sugarcoating the fact that I look forward to never seeing this “Resurrection” again.

Rating: R for violence and some language

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne Moss, Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Christina Ricci, Jada Pinkett Smith and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Credits: Directed by Lana Wachowski, scripted by Aleksander Hemon and David Mitchell, based on characters created by Lana Wachowski. Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 2:25

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Movie Review: “The Matrix Resurrections” should have remained buried

  1. Jay Doidge says:

    The writer of this story blatantly claiming to have never been a fan of the original story is proof this person clearly doesn’t get it. I believe this person is probably the last that should have been writing this and the editor should take a gander at their staff choices. The matrix films birthed new ideas in the real world like “are we all living in a simulation?” and “how do you define what is real?” And literally everything in-between.

    This writer must not be aware of the impact it had on society and perhaps is either too young or nieve to comprehend it at the time of consumption.

    • Roger Moore says:

      Take away the plainly “just fell off the wagon” fellow from San Francisco, and most reviews of this have been middling to negative.
      “Impact on society?” “Bullet time” and financing a couple of expensive public “transitions” and what else? An increase in the sales of sunglasses, Men in Black suits and…
      This is on a par with “Speed Racer,” and not remotely as ambitious as the “Cloud Atlas” and “Jupiter Ascending” debacles. As in “She’s lost the plot.” Or “she resents having to repeat herself.” And if you don’t see the annoyance and panic in Wachowski realizing that and taking it out on the audience, you need to get out more.
      You’re the one who’s coming off infantile, chief.

  2. Cher Schleigh says:

    IMHO Roger is spot-on with the review. I am an avid fan of the first 3 movies….well at least the first one anyway. M4 is the most horrible bit of offal there is. I think it was made to try to have Lana become part of the Matrix legacy. I said Lana who at first because she came out of nowhere. Also, Reeves probably did the movie out of loyalty and Moss just did the movie for the $$$$. I want to compare the movie to Alien 3 (horrible). No doubt this movie will make some money but it really should have gone straight to DVD.

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