Warning: this review contains mild spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections based only on trailers and promotional materials, as well as spoilers for earlier films in the series.
From AOL chat rooms to the general fear of Y2K, The Matrix was seminal in showcasing society’s view of technology back in 1999. After two sequel films and an animated anthology film all released in 2003, The Matrix Resurrections marks the first Matrix film released in 18 years. With Lana Wachowski as the solo creative this time around (for the first time without her sister Lily Wachowski), Resurrections provides a modern, innovative, and refreshing return to the world of the Matrix — a return that fans might not expect. Wachowski did not make a safe sequel film that exists in a cultural vacuum. Instead, Resurrections defies all expectations of what a Matrix movie should be. Though the film suffers from some pacing issues (especially in the film’s second half), heavy handed commentary, and overly nostalgic moments, Resurrections delivers a worthy sequel that feels more emotionally sound, mature, and grounded than previous entries.
Resurrections follows the return of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) years after the events of The Matrix Revolutions. As the Matrix has evolved, newcomers Bugs (Jessica Henwick), Sequoia (Toby Onwumere), and Gwyn (Christina Ricci) must locate Neo and Trinity to help bring balance to humans and machines once again.
Like the change in technology from 1999 to 2021, the visual representation of the Matrix has changed significantly. For example, Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus has been replaced by the excellent Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen, Candyman) and Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff plays a new and more mature version of Smith (even Rage Against the Machine’s iconic ending song “Wake Up,” from the first film in the series, is covered by Brass Against).
Moreover, the days of the iconic green Matrix filter are gone, as Resurrections uses a wide colour gradient to make each scene pop with blues and reds that look absolutely stunning. Unlike the first film, Resurrections makes you want to take the blue pill and truly live and thrive inside the Matrix. As the first film depicted the Matrix as dirty, overly corporate, and ultimately mundane, Resurrections’ Matrix is an enchanting dream world of pure bliss. With the creation
of role-playing games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Grand Theft Auto, Wachowski has done a great job in tapping into these gaming innovations to provide depth and modernization to the world of the Matrix. This world building helps provide a good backdrop for the film’s nuanced but slightly heavy handed commentary on auteur ownership, mental health, and artistic integrity — especially in the film’s impressive first half.
At its heart, Resurrections is a movie about companionship and grief, with Neo and Trinity at the centre of these themes. For those who believe The Matrix was always about Neo and Trinity’s journey, Resurrections will not disappoint. Though, there are also plenty of nostalgic moments, cameos, and callbacks to the original films to keep fans satisfied (I highly suggest catching up on previous Matrix films before watching Resurrections as it does get very lore-heavy at times).
Performances by Reeves and Moss are excellent as they play Neo and Trinity as seamlessly as they did 18 years ago. Moss’s performance is powerful but limited as she grapples with Trinity’s death at the end of Revolutions and her reintegration into the Matrix — I just wish Moss had been given more screen time for these ideas to develop fully. As a result, new characters such as Bugs, Sequoia, and Gwyn represent mere transports to progress Neo and Trinity’s story. However, these new characters at least help aid in developing Resurrections’ themes and give the film emotional depth while not overcomplicating the narrative away from Neo and Trinity.
As The Matrix was a product of 1999, so too is Resurrections a product of 2021. From its discourse on grief, corporate control, and technological innovation to the modernization of its artificial world, Resurrections does a lot right in providing a worthwhile sequel to the iconic film franchise. Aside from a few overly nostalgic on-the-nose lines and a more conventional second half, the film will easily shine as one of 2021’s hidden gems.