Are there any new and original ideas in Hollywood? Every year it seems there are fewer big-budget productions that aren’t a sequel, prequel, spin-off or adaptation of some other series that has already made a billion dollars.
Granted, there are plenty of original films by amazing filmmakers, but these are often smaller independent films that only play in big-city theaters. But for the multiplexes near you, the movies making the most money on the weekends are ones with names the average person recognizes.
Such is the case with “The Matrix Resurrections” the long-awaited fourth film in the science-fiction franchise by the Wachowskis coming 18 years after the original trilogy wrapped up. Who knows if they really wanted to make this one — Lana is the only one involved while Lilly pursued other projects — but chances are it wasn’t quite a passion project.
When “The Matrix” was released in 1999, it changed how movies were made and what movies would look like in the early 2000s. While it did draw on inspiration from ancient myths, modern philosophy and Asian cinema, it was, for the most part, an original story with an original vision.
But when this fourth film intercuts clips from that first film, makes direct quotes and recreates scenes from that first film, even showing some of the characters in this fourth film watching the first film on a torn, battered movie screen, all it does is make me want to rewatch “The Matrix” and never really give “The Matrix Resurrections” a fair chance.
It’s been 20 years since game designer Thomas Anderson (played by Keanu Reeves) created the groundbreaking video game series “The Matrix,” but the company he works for wants to make a fourth entry. But after the huge impact it had on his life, Anderson is struggling with his mental health and constantly wondering if life is real or is he really in The Matrix.
When he’s visited by a mysterious person named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) Anderson, better known as Neo, will have to choose to head down the rabbit hole once again. If he's learned anything, it's that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of — or into — the Matrix.
With visits by old friend Morbius (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and enemy Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff), Neo already knows what he has to do, but what he doesn't yet know is that the Matrix is stronger, more secure and far more dangerous than ever before.
The “dream within a dream” choice of making the events of the trilogy a video game series Neo created in this new version of the Matrix can make for some clever commentary and is a fun way to acknowledge the importance of those films while also poking fun at how meta and self-referential this sequel is going to be.
Unfortunately, its meta and self-referential choices break the fourth wall in more ways than one, and can only go so far before it becomes tired and repetitive. Having an entire sequence where the fictional video game employees talk about their favorite things about “The Matrix” and what they should include in this new video game (i.e. the movie we’re watching) is the worst sort of pandering and world-building.
But as the characters remove themselves from the Matrix and come back into the real world, so to speak, that’s when things begin to pick up. Reeves is once again excellent, though I’m not sure if Neo is sick of the Matrix or Reeves is sick of “The Matrix,” but his tired, reluctant and aged hero continues to inspire, especially since he still does all his own stunts.
Even if it’s beyond cliche at this point, the visuals and production style as a whole is fun to see, especially following the progression of what everything was supposed to look like in 1999 and moving that vision 20 years into the future. While the GCI and action set pieces aren’t groundbreaking like they were in that first film, they’re still pretty cool.
For those who loved “The Matrix” and think it’s one of the greatest movies ever made, some will love this one and others will hate it. But for those who thought it was fine, you could take or leave this fourth one others will hate it. As for the rest of us, you could take or leave this one without missing much.