When the first Matrix movie hit in 1999 it blew people’s minds. With an intriguing plot, great cast and never-before-seen special effects, the film quickly became embedded in pop culture with its impact still resonating today. Just mention bullet-time or the red pill and chances are high that everyone will know what you’re talking about. I was so enamoured with the Wachowskis‘ film that I watched it at least 7 times in the theatres when it was realised. A little obsessive I know, but I hadn’t seen anything like it at the time and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
As such, the two sequels that followed were a little disappointing. Burdened with topping the first film, it felt like the directors threw everything and the kitchen sink to make the two films an even bigger spectacle featuring a heavy use of CG and delving more into the lore they had started to layout in The Matrix. But bigger is not always better. The action scenes all felt a little too long, the story became convoluted and not as approachable as it had been in their predecessor. The CG, while good at the time, still felt off and over the top. And of course, there was the infamous rave scene that could have easily been excised. Not a great end to a franchise that showed a lot of promise.
So, 18 years later it was hard to tell if the fourth film in the franchise, The Matrix: Resurrections, was going to be another breakthrough in cinematic history a la the first movie or a more tepid output like the previous sequels. And for me personally, Resurrections is sadly the latter.
While I am sure, much like all the Matrix movies, there will be ongoing conversations about the deeper themes laid out by Lana Wachowski and repeat viewings may make this film a cult classic, on face value it just felt like the film was trying too hard and there was an overabundance of the reliance of nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong. Nostalgia is a powerful tool when used correctly. Take Spider-Man: No Way Home for instance. That film utilised 5 movies worth of history to pack a punch that is really connecting with audiences. Resurrections on the other hand uses nostalgia like a blunt tool, on numerous occasions literally replaying scenes from the first three movies, almost as if they are worried that the audience hadn’t done their homework and wouldn’t get what was going on without being reminded.
When you couple this with all the meta-commentary about the past movies, you start getting the feeling that the film thinks it’s smarter than it is. There were so many tongue-in-cheek references to events that had happened before and even jabs at the current movie itself and the current Hollywood obsession with sequels. I think what made the first movie work was that it was a self-contained, smartly written film with no baggage. While it hinted at a wider world, it also didn’t let itself get bogged down by exploring too many things. Resurrections by contrast is a bit too self-referential and doesn’t have enough new ideas to ultimately leave any sort of impact.
It’s a shame really because the movie world owes a lot to the original matrix and the ideas it pioneered. Like the aforementioned bullet-time, the first Matrix was one of the earlier examples in Western cinema where the principal cast did a lot of their own stunts. This mixed with practical effects gives the action scenes a bit of heft that is lacking in the latest film. In terms of effects or action, there is nothing really in the movie that makes you stop and think “Oh my god!!!”. It’s ironic really because all the concepts laid down by The Matrix have been aped so often in Hollywood that it is now all common-place and Resurrections fails to bring anything new try as though it might.
In fact, the action scenes were one of the biggest disappointments for me. The sequences were shot with the camera up close with short, jerky edits that it was often hard to take in what was going on, which is a shame really because I am sure the actors and stunt choreographers put in a lot of effort into the fights. The action scenes were a highlight of the first movie, so I am surprised with Lana’s decision to shoot the fights in this way. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it was the right choice.
The Matrix: Resurrections is a good-looking film, with a lot of beautiful in-camera cinematography, and it was also a blast to hear the themes from the Matrix soundtrack on the big screen once again. But all in all, while the movie is better than the previous sequels it’s nowhere near as good as the original film that started it all.
If you do decide to check out The Matrix: Resurrections, then it would pay to either do a rewatch of the original trilogy, or check out a recap video like this one.
I give Matrix: Resurrections a 6 out of 10 and yes there is an end credit scene right at the end of the film, but I wouldn’t bother waiting for it. I suggest trying to see the clip online.