Written by: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff
Well-established brands and stories come with expectations of what they must deliver in order for a certain level of entertainment reached by those consuming it. This endless need to meet said expectations has driven a good percentage of modern blockbusters to feed a level of fan service that may be enjoyable for die hard fans but does nothing necessarily engaging with its material. Something very much on the mind of The Matrix Resurrections as it stands as a film reckoning with its own existence while also doubling down on the true meaning of what came before.
Working as a famed programmer, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) continues to have strange dreams about events that have happened in some distant past. He then gets alerted to there being something more as Bugs (Jessica Henwick) tries to release him and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) from the stranglehold of this new version of the Matrix.
In the effort of being fully transparent, there will not be many more individuals out there who love every fiber of every Matrix film like me. Films that became the entryway for my love for the science-fiction genre and the way a feature can have incredible action while also navigating extraordinarily enlightening philosophical ideas. With a masterpiece initial film and sequels I will defend until my dying breath, the idea of this film seeing its release came with quite the mix of emotion. Yes, the excitement any fan of a property has when they’ll receive more from beloved characters but confusion as to where the story would go considering how the original trilogy ended. To no surprise, Lana Wachowski delivers not only elements that made her first three films so special in my heart, but also the larger battles artists must navigate with such personal material.
As a whole, it becomes difficult to see this film as just something simply trying to deliver entertainment, which some may see as the entire point of movies. Wachowski nearly completely deviates from this because of the personal nature of this story as a whole to her. The meta-commentary it delivers on the state of modern blockbuster filmmaking and that this film would be made with or without her truly hits hard because of the accuracy. This gets expressed explicitly in the story where Thomas and his team must create a new sequel for the Matrix games, which becomes his backstory in order to pacify his memories.
Wachowski evidently did not want to make this film but with Warner Bros and other studios’ insatiable need to mine IP for new material, she managed to have the gall to make a story criticizing the very idea of it existing and what point it serves. Even with her not wanting to do it, this feature, however, does give the opportunity for her to embolden her themes and do-away with the horrid co-opting of what the previous films have accomplished. All of the nonsense others have tried to warp the red pill-blue pill choice among those ideas. Here, she sets the record straight, as the co-creator of this universe that this story has always been about identity and the beautiful love story between Neo and Trinity.
The impact Carrie-Anne Moss has had as an action icon cannot be understated and this film serves as an act of reverence towards her seeing as after Neo’s return to the real world, everything else becomes about getting Trinity out as well. There’s different world-building going on, for sure, but Neo and Bugs are willing to risk it all because of Trinity. Considering where else the film goes with Trinity’s arc in the story, it became difficult not to get emotional with the reiteration of what the character represents, especially when viewed from a larger scale encompassing all four films. This becomes even more hammered home with Bugs and other female-identifying characters like Lexi (Eréndira Ibarra). They idolize Trinity because of what they know she accomplished alongside Neo. No longer will this story necessitate the idea of “The One,” but more so what these two mean together and what they can create and emit evidently.
One aspect this film will not satisfy general audiences comes from the shoddiness of its action sequences where they’re filmed in a fairly average manner. Coming from a franchise, which essentially crafted an entire blueprint of what action would look like heading into the 21st century, the expectations once again came with what would occur here. For some, they associate these movies with the action, but I, and apparently Lana, lean much more into philosophy of identity and choice. The action scenes appear added in almost in an obligatory manner rather than with genuine interest in creating something compelling. More so just to push the narrative along. Again, Wachowski is not out here trying to give audience members fan service, seeing as there’s no shortage of it in nearly every other studio product out there trying to utilize nostalgia to make money. Plenty exists but Lana knows very well what she wants to focus on in this narrative and the larger conversations navigated here bring so much thoughtfulness.
Without a doubt this film gets messy with how it tells its story but it wholly remains the Wachowski way of formulating narratives. It becomes easy to not pay much mind because of the beautiful intention and execution on display, especially when doubling down on the sheer earnestness of this story and series of films as a whole. When one of the major moments of this feature hinges completely on a cordial conversation between Neo and Trinity, it further unveils what Lana wants to achieve in this story. Not everyone will be a fan of it, which is perfectly okay but it became both everything I wanted and nothing I ever expected a sequel could be. Radical in its construction and deeply profound in its execution. A film more so about the Matrix rather than actually operating as a pure sequel. Something incredibly special.
Confusion comes as a natural response to what this film does with reincarnations of characters and explanations, but the greatest thing The Matrix Resurrections accomplishes comes from its ability to create incredible threads for individuals to follow. Almost like chasing the white rabbit as Lana Wachowski seemingly lifts the middle finger to the current state of cinema and the way something she has created has been horrifyingly misconstrued since the release of the original trilogy. Sleek, emotionally captivating, intellectually riveting, and very much a sole directorial vision, this feature truly has it all.