The Matrix was first released in Spring 1999, a year where Y2K aka the Millennium Bug, was quite a frenzy with all kinds of doomsday theories. Some thought it was the apocalypse because of a widespread computer flaw wrecking havoc as the year changed from 1999 to 2000. In many ways it was the perfect time to release a movie dealing with evil cyber-intelligence.
I remember going to the movies to see The Matrix and like many people was in awe of the action stunts and imaginative visual style that made me go ‘whoa.’ It was fresh and new at the time… the frozen, 360-degree camera angle as Trinity is kicking through the air, lobby shootout, gravity-defying Kung Fu, the bullet-time scene, etc., there were a bunch of innovative special effects that have now been copied countless times over.
Grossing nearly half a billion dollars, the movie spanned two sequels: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions released in 2003, which were shot back-to-back, along with video game Enter the Matrix. Confession: I had not seen any of the Matrix sequels. No particular reason, I just was never that interested in them and quickly forgot all about this franchise altogether. I didn’t even pay that much attention about this fourth movie, that is until the trailer was released which got me somewhat intrigued. Intrigued enough in fact that I posted an extensive trailer spotlight on it. The trailer spun ton of questions for me, well, I can’t say all of it were answered by the film itself.
Twenty two years after the original movie, Keanu Reeves is back reprising his role as Thomas Anderson, aka Neo. He’s now a game developer who’s famous for a particular sci-fi video game called… yep, you guessed it, The Matrix, with characters who look and behave like those in the movie version. It’s all pretty meta which starts out pretty amusing. Thomas is a restless soul plagued with visions (or are they dreams or memories?)… whenever he visits the local cafe with his colleague, he keeps seeing a woman named Tiffany who reminds him of Trinity he sees in his dreams. Clearly he has trouble distinguishing between dreams vs reality and the movie makes us question it too, as Tiffany reveals Thomas that she’s aware that a female heroine in his game looks like her.
The video game plot line somewhat reminds me of FREE GUY, the Ryan-Reynolds action comedy released this past Summer. Obviously it’s got a completely different style and tone, but both have that self-referential and self-awareness vibe that toys with our perception. While Free Guy gleefully pokes fun at itself, this movie tends to take itself a bit too seriously.
’Tis seems to be the year where directing siblings are venturing solo. While the previous three Matrix films were directed by the then Wachoskis brothers, this time it’s only Lana Wachowski returning to direct. She also co-wrote the script with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon. I read that the plot for this one was born out of loss of Lana’s parents, apparently the idea of Neo and Trinity reuniting helped her cope. Thus the story feels personal and even intimate but that also explains the morose, even gloomy tone at times.
With popular franchises like this one, fan service is to be expected… but while some are done well (such as the latest Spidey movie), some can feel overindulgent or worse, stale. Unfortunate that’s how I feel about this movie. While the idea was initially trailblazing, its novelty is wearing thin… my mind wandered as to what it was that made me love the first Matrix. Perhaps the fact that I hadn’t seen the two sequels might have dampened my enjoyment, as the movie kept referencing things that happened in previous movies. In fact, 10-15% of its 2.5 hour running time was made up by existing footage in the form of dreams or flashbacks. Even its opening scene was a shot-for-shot of the original movie but with new actors.
As much as I love Keanu Reeves, he just looks lethargic here as he spends most of the movie looking either confused or concerned… with his long stringy hair he looks like John Wick. Now, that franchise is still quite exciting to me as he seems to be having a lot more fun playing the character.
SPOILER: It’s also quite meta to see Chad Stahelski who directed all the John Wick movies in a cameo as Tiffany’s husband… it’s even more amusing as Chad has been Keanu’s longtime stunt double for this franchise.
It’s cool to see Carrie Ann Moss as well back as Trinity. She still looks amazing after 2 decades and her character’s arc is just as intriguing as Keanu’s. That meet-cute at the cafe looks like something out of a rom-com, perhaps someone’s already done a trailer this one recut as a Christmas rom-com, ahah.
As for the supporting cast, well I’m not as impressed with them compared to those in the original. Yahya Abdul Mateen is a good actor and I like his casting as young Morpheus but sorry, he ain’t no Laurence Fishburne with his icy glare and iconic deep voice. Jonathan Groff with his cute face is no Hugo Weaving either as Agent Smith, even the fight scenes with him feel uninspired. Don’t even get me started with Neil Patrick Harris as Neo’s shrink… it’s as if I were watching a TV movie every time he shows up.
But the most distracting casting was Jessica Henwick whom I’ve only seen in The Defenders series. Somehow her look and mannerism reminds me so much of Henry Golding it’s uncanny! That said, she has a pretty big role as Bugs and looks pretty cool doing all the stunts. I hope to see more of her in future projects.
Visually speaking, I can’t really point out some imaginative scenes that blew my mind from this one. With more money and better computer technology, I expected to see some new avant-garde scenes to marvel at. The underworld labyrinth where the actual matrix itself exist have some striking imagery, but I feel like we’ve seen those before in better, more exciting sci-fi movies.
One thing for sure, I spent a great deal of time being discombobulated or bored, there were barely any uplifting moments that got me engaged or made me want to cheer. I knew that it’d be tough for this one to recapture the magic of the original movie, but still, it should’ve been much better than this. If I had known what a dull ride this would be, I might as well had taken the blue pill. The title might say ‘resurrections’ but some things ought to just stay buried.
Have you seen The Matrix Resurrections? Well, what did YOU think?