The Matrix blew everyone away when it was released in 1999. Its makers, then billed as the Wachowski Brothers, had only one previous feature under their belt – the clever indie thriller Bound – yet their confidence in unspooling an original, mind-bending sci fi blockbuster was stunning. As the years go by, it appears more and more as though The Matrix was a one-hit wonder for the Wachowskis, at least as far as the public is concerned. Warner Bros. should be lauded (or ridiculed) for giving them epic budgets for risky, often half-baked movies that mostly flopped (the two Matrix sequels made lots of money, but were panned by critics and audiences), but now I can't help but wonder if the Wachowski dream machine has finally run out of juice.
With her brother-turned-sister now retired from filmmaking, Lana Wachowski revived the Matrix franchise for another go in 2021, eighteen years after the series' previous and supposedly final chapter. But The Matrix Resurrections was a box office bomb, suggesting that few cared to see fiftysomething Neo and Trinity (original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss) relive their past glories.
Well, I saw The Matrix Resurrections in the theater, and I'm here to tell you that if you're wondering, "Is it worth seeing? Did Wachowski do something fresh with the material? Or is the movie just a rehash?" then my answer is, "Sorta, sorta, and sorta."
The first act of Resurrections is pretty meta: after a whirlwind opening featuring new characters, we are reintroduced to Neo, who's back in his clueless pre-red pill alter ego: Thomas Anderson, computer programmer, now middle-aged. We are told that he was the visionary behind a hit video game called The Matrix, as well as its two sequels, and that now, years later, his software company's parent – literally Warner Bros. – is requesting a sequel. Thomas is trepidatious, to say the least, as his earlier games drove him to suicidal insanity. He really thought he was living in The Matrix, you see? And that he broke out, became Neo, and saved humanity. But, his analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) assures him, it was all just a delusion. He's not Neo. The Matrix isn't real.
Of course it turns out that The Matrix is totally real, and Thomas Anderson really is Neo. So the film abandons its meta-ness and dives in to a fairly routine plot in which Neo once again red pills out of the Matrix – this time not just to fight the computer bad guys but to save Trinity, the love of his life. The thing is, the equally middle-aged Trinity hasn't red pilled yet: she's now a Matrix-bound wife and mother named "Tiffany" and seems content – even if she senses a sort of yearning when she bumps into Thomas in a Matrix coffee house. So the question is whether this older, reprogrammed Trinity will agree to red pill, rediscover her powers, and upend The Matrix.
The film is mostly what you'd expect: nifty fight scenes that lack the visionary surprises of those in the first Matrix, Keanu's sincere but stiff acting, plenty of callbacks, and concepts that range from "wow, that's cool" to "none of this makes any sense".
I'd say the worst thing about The Matrix Resurrections – besides its fundamental inessential-ness – is that Carrie-Anne Moss, for all her talent and charisma, disappears for a huge stretch of the picture, with Trinity relegated to being an offscreen damsel in distress. Wachowski and her cowriters (Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell and Bosnian writer Alexsandar Hemon) really did the actress a disservice. Otherwise, Resurrections isn't a total waste of time. It's certainly better than its two predecessors, although nowhere near as effective as the 1999 original.