It has been twenty-two years since the first Matrix movie asked us whether it was better to be blissfully ignorant or fight the hard fight. Eighteen years ago, Neo made the ultimate sacrifice and brokered peace between the sentient machines and the humans. Who knew we would be back all these years later plugging back in? Once more into the program, we go to see old faces and new in Lana Wachowski’s indulgent, glorious love letter to sci-fi fans favorite hacker, and the family that never gave up on him. The Matrix Resurrections is everything I hoped it would be and more.
Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, The Matrix Resurrections is emotional, ridiculous, poignant, and easily one of the best nostalgia manipulators I have ever seen. Nostalgia is a powerful tool. It’s used in advertising, team building, behavior predicting, and entertainment. Countless reboots of the ’80s and ’90s hope to scratch the same itch that the original did while taking advantage of better technology and optimistically improved storylines. Unfortunately, not many are successful because the voices leading the path fail to consider the human element of memory.
Memories shift over time and are resonant with every individual differently. One person’s Can’t Buy Me Love is another’s Side Out. You just never know what will work across a broad base. That is unless you are Lana Wachowski and you have such enduring love for the characters that you can resurrect a long-dead story with the power of conviction alone. There are cheeky nods to the reductiveness of this retread. Jokes at the expense of the studio who produced it, punny titled coffee shops(Simulatte…I see what you did there), and direct hints everywhere if only people put down their phones and noticed the absurdity that peppers every shot.
Just as in the trilogy, The Matrix Resurrections has some impressive set pieces and incredible S and M costuming with a strangely lighter touch. For every laced corset this time there are dayglow orange pants. It’s a jarring dichotomy of mismatched things that speak to who the Matrix has become. What was once, dark, dirty, and brooding is now more optimistic. New Zion makes strawberries, and hardly anyone dies anymore. Although the stakes don’t seem as high for most people now, there are those who still remember.
Some key players are older, others mysteriously younger, and a few aren’t recognizable at all until they open their mouths and echos from the past come pouring out. Wachowski weaves together bits and pieces from the previous movies projected on a movie screen here or a bathroom wall there to help remind you where we have been and who we went there with. Clever uses of Matrix cannon allow for some of the bigger character surprises. It makes a weird kind of programming sense where time and self-perception are easily manipulated. These calls from the past, although obviously as Machiavellian as one of the greatest underappreciated villains that didn’t fare so well from the system reboot, make you smile instead of wince.
For all the speculation on how and in what form some of our favorites would take, most of that is thankfully just white noise lost in the cacophony of the machine. In the end, Morpheus’ younger appearance makes sense and Jonathon Groff’s revamped Agent Smith is appropriate for a new Zoomer age. However awesome Hugo Weaver was, and he was, Groff’s sockless slickness and his perfectly coifed hair feel updated for today rather than necessary because Smith aged. All of the new additions are excellent.
Neil Patrick Harris is smart and arrogant in all the best ways. He is a standout as snarky, patronizing The Analyst, and once his blue spectacles come off, he is scene-stealing. Harris is clearly enjoying himself, and it shows. New hacker Bugs, Jessica Henwick from The Defenders and Game of Thrones, gives a delightfully grounded performance that displays impressive fighting prowess. In fact, all of the action sequences are as good as the originals. If new ground isn’t broken, it is used in interesting ways. For example, bullet-time, which was once a powerful weapon of Neo’s, is used cleverly in the finale.
Keanu Reeves “dudes” his way through scenes with the gravitas of The One and the humor of a dad. He is a tortured soul gaslit by everyone around him. Mr. Anderson may be neutered, but Neo is silently waiting, coiled ready to fight. Carrie-Anne Moss breathes hopefulness and feminine potential into every line. Moss and Reeves have an undeniable chemistry that hasn’t withered no matter how many years have gone by. These are characters I would follow forever. If love never dies, neither do Trinity and Neo, regardless of what they call themselves now.
Wachowski and her sister Lilly have written so many great stories about the power of love and the ability to find strength within. V for Vendetta and Sense8 were some of the bests. Lana Wachowski strikes that same sort of delicate balance between heart-pumping action and heart-pulling emotionality. If you cried during Sense8 at least once, you will love The Matrix Resurrections. Those who found Sense8 sappy will find those same flaws in the fourth film in the franchise. Undoubtedly, you will think Warner Brothers stuck their fingers in the pie too much. The too-cute now human-friendly robot for example screams for a toy. For all those flaws, there is the core of what The Matrix is and what the Wachowski’s do so well that hold everything together.
At the end of the day, The Matrix Resurrections continued on the theme that it did so well in the first three movies. Everyone from The Merovingian to the Oracle to Agent Smith understood that everything is binary, just like the programs that made up the Matrix. For every cause, there is an effect, every choice has a consequence, every 1 a 0, and every shadow has a spark. While this movie won’t thrill everyone, it feels like coming home for those of us of a certain age. It is the inevitable march of time. Being middle-aged doesn’t mean you are obsolete, even though you can feel that way when your teenage kid side-eyes you on the way out the door. Love and struggle are universal and never-ending. The Matrix Resurrections makes that beautiful.
The Matrix is a love story for those who love it. It’s about finding faith and family in unexpected places and hope in the darkest of holes. But, the Matrix Resurrections was always about more than just a computer simulation that acted as a way for AI’s to use humans as batteries. It was about self-discovery and courage between all the metaphors for change and social commentary. Faith and freedom mixed with a mind-melting amount of fate. Maybe it doesn’t matter what pill you take. Just decide to engage. You can jack me in any day for that ride.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.