It’s the future but it’s somehow oddly familiar. Police arrive. They burst in to find a leather-clad girl in a darkened room. Downstairs more agents appear. Leaning against his car, the police chief assures them that they can “take care of one little girl.” To which he gets the answer, “No lieutenant. Your men are already dead.”
Sounds familiar? Well, it should. To successful game designer Thomas Anderson, he’s been here many times before. Responsible for creating the award-winning game, The Matrix, Thomas is now struggling with flashbacks to a past he never had. -Or did he? Because looking through the shutters of his creation is a new generation of characters with only one thought on their mind. To save him from The Matrix…
... There's a really bitter-yet-strangely-enduring pill waiting for you to take.
What is immediately clear from The Matrix Resurrections is that Lana Wachowski isn’t the same director that co-created 1999’s The Matrix (or its two subsequent sequels). Sure, the same leather-clad sunglass posse are back in their dimly-lit streets as before but this is a very different kind of Matrix film. If you’re looking for more elaborate fight choreography, pounding music and murderous robots, then prepare to be challenged. Lana has realised that didn’t work in the previous sequels and The Matrix Resurrections is a far more subtle and probing film because of that.
Acutely self-conscious and yet still comfortable enough to be self-referential, Lana Wachowski is instead holding up a mirror to not only the ongoing story of Neo but also whether a fourth movie might even be necessary at all.
Crammed full of sly references and nice subtleties, The Matrix Resurrections is definitely a film you have to see twice. This is because having seen it again, a lot of what initially felt jarring now feels both intentional and valid. Gone is Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus and in comes a tonally on-point Yahya Abdul-Mateen. Also absent is Hugo Weaving as the slurring yet sinister Agent Smith, who has now been swapped out for Hamilton‘s Jonathan Groff, who exquisitely nails his character’s coding. However, whilst Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss commendably squeeze as much heartache as they can out of Neo and Trinity, Jessica Henwick as Bugs is neither trapped by the past nor the future. Singlehandedly grounding her expositional duties with a much-needed lightness of touch, she is the real winner here (together with Groff) of the first viewing, whereas Keanu and Carrie-Anne’s tenderness wrests the honours back on the second.
You see, if anything, this is a Matrix film is at ease with itself. Whereas newer, better and “biggerer” ideas might have been “the new sexy” on the cusp of the millennium, this is clearly a film that could only have been made in the wake of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Lana’s own exemplary series Sense8. Willing to attack the very things that marked it out as revolutionary (for instance “bullet-time” where a camera rotates around a single, suspended moment) everything now feels up for grabs and spread-eagled on the operating table. So, if you’re looking for an explanation of exactly what The Matrix is, then this isn’t your movie. Instead, this is a movie about what the ongoing story could have become and didn’t.
Feasting off the twin energies of fear and desire, The Matrix Resurrections is in fact the most linear of the Matrix movies so far. Deliberately gifting Carrie-Anne Moss with its one “Hell, Yes!” line of dialogue, there are plenty of spoilers here together with a Thelma and Louise ending which refreshingly subverts the presumed gender narrative up until now.
So, innovatively for a film that credits as almost as many stunt performers as it does CGI compositors, this is a Matrix film with no CAPS-Locks left to give. Free of justifications and action-led explosions, this is a far more cerebral conclusion than many of you might have been expecting.
So, go and reboot yourself into The Matrix Resurrections now and open yourself to its possibilities. There’s a really bitter-yet-strangely-enduring pill waiting for you to take. You just have to decide if you want to.