“Matrix: Resurrections” Leaves a Stain on a Revolutionary Film Franchise
“Matrix: Resurrections” pales in comparison to its prequels in almost all aspects. Lana Wachowski’s outstanding direction and fascinating exploration of binary choices is all that keeps the film from fully falling flat.
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“The Matrix” (1999) and its two sequels revolutionized the way technology was incorporated into movies, setting a bar that was close to impossible for this year’s “Matrix: Resurrections” to surpass. The recent franchise installment pales in comparison to the impact of the originals on the film industry, and its plotline is not nearly as invigorating, but it succeeds in presenting even more thought-provoking and socially relevant themes than the originals do.
The movie’s opening allows the audience to glimpse into the tormented mind of Neo, or Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), slowly revealing that he has been put back into the Matrix and convinced that his experiences were simply part of a video game he designed. While watching as Neo re-awakens his mind, the audience is introduced to a new team from the Human Resistance––those fighting against the Matrix––led by Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a new Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Maten II).
As the story progresses, its focus shifts to Neo and the designer of the latest Matrix version, who has imprisoned Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). The original “Matrix” trilogy was renowned for its technology and plotline as well as remarkable character development. Such character development is lacking in “Matrix: Resurrections,” as many of the side characters fall to the wayside, even though a handful of them are just as interesting as the original crew.
Reeves’s performance is far better than that in the original trilogy, and Carrie-Anne Moss once again shines as Trinity. Jonathan Groff also excels despite his limited screen time as the newly casted Mr. Smith––Neo’s enemy from the original trilogy. Jessica Henwick stands out in her depiction of Bugs, though it likely would have benefited from a more fleshed-out storyline for her character. The remainder of the supporting team is not particularly noteworthy, aside from Morpheus––Neo’s mentor and the longstanding leader of the Human Resistance. Abdul-Mateen II delivers an excellent and unique interpretation of the iconic character, though incomparable to Laurence Fishburne’s from the original. Neil Patrick Harris is phenomenal as Neo’s therapist in the Matrix, truly convincing the audience that the whole thing was all in Neo’s head. However, his subpar portrayal of the Matrix creator, especially relative to the stern manner of the creator from the original series, begs the question of whether his more joyous demeanor was an intentional choice or simply a product of yet another poorly developed character.
The film’s production is one of the highlights of the new installment. The story takes after many of the themes and events in the Matrix while remaining distinct enough from the original trilogy to be entertaining and not repetitive. Lana Wachowski and co-writers Aleksander Hemon and David Mitchell breathe new life into many of the visual supporting elements, including the technology used by the Human Resistance and the leaders of both sides, an effort that successfully differentiates the new film from its prequels.
Lana Wachowski’s direction in “Matrix: Resurrections” truly keeps the film afloat. The opening scenes of the movie, filled with confusion and chaos, are expertly navigated by Wachowski. The seemingly chaotic and rapid transition as Neo’s mind is awakened is again stupendously directed, filled with subtle hints and references to imagery from the original trilogy. The entire movie is fast-paced but is still remarkably easy to follow, and the film’s culmination cleans up all the loose ends without explicitly answering the key question of the films.
If “Matrix: Resurrections” is to see more success than it has enjoyed to date, it will stem from the themes explored by Lana Wachowski. Wachowski, a transgender woman (along with her sister, Lilly), acknowledged before the film’s release that her personal experiences with the concept of the binary (both in gender as well as more generally in society) would certainly be expressed in “Matrix: Resurrections.”
The prequel trilogy was based around a very binary choice: red pill or blue pill. “Matrix: Resurrections” seeks to dismantle this concept. Throughout the entire film, Wachowski subtly hints at the fact that Neo himself is not, in fact, the One; the One is a far more complicated concept than simply a person. Similarly, the line between reality and pretense is blurred throughout the movie. The Matrix has grown ever more realistic to Neo and the audience.
“The Matrix” and its two sequels enjoyed immediate success because of the revolutionary ideas and remarkable production and direction. Yet, these movies were so successful in the long run because of how the Wachowskis subtly integrated social commentary throughout the films. “Matrix: Resurrections” has not enjoyed the same immediate success because of its lackluster plotline, character development, and acting performances, and it is kept afloat merely because of outstanding production and direction.