Film Review of “The Matrix Resurrections” (2021)

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I just finished watching The Matrix Resurrections (2021). I found it in the “new movies” DVD section at my local public library, so renting it costs me nothing. Watching it cost me time (2 hours and 28 minutes) which I’ll never get back.

First of all, I went in with not great expectations. Actually, I didn’t know what to expect.

What I found was that for the first half to two-thirds of the film, I toggled back and forth between interest and boredom.

I probably missed a lot of references to the previous trilogy. While I’ve watched the original The Matrix (1999) dozens of times, I’ve only watched the two sequels one time each. I wasn’t particularly impressed and didn’t see the need to re-watch them, let alone buy the movies.

The first half of this film is a lot like watching the original with an additional overlay of something else. I think that’s what Lana Wachowski and company had in mind. It was a little like what I imagine watching Tom Stoppard’s 1966 absurdist play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead would be like (I’ve never seen the play but I have read it). It’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” told from the point of view of two minor characters.

The movie is really long, and in fact, overly long. I first realized I was bored at around the 15 minute mark, then the 30 minute mark, and then the 39 minute mark. Yes, I kept watching the time and the little, blue progress bar was hardly budging.

I know that Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving were probably not interested in reprising their roles as Morpheus and Agent Smith respectively, which was fine. The whole thing is a simulation so anyone can look like anything and it doesn’t matter.

I actually liked Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus but for some reason, whoever costumed him made him dress like a 1970s stereotype of a black pimp or drug dealer. Everyone else was given halfway reasonable clothes to wear. Also, since he had been living as an Agent and was in fact, a sapient (not sentient…sentient just means something feels sensations like pain or pleasure…a dog, a sheep, a chicken is sentient but not particularly bright…do none of these science fiction shows and movies hire someone to research and define words?) computer program, why did he work out at a gym, shower, shave? He could just be turned on and off.

Also, when computer program Morpheus fought computer program Smith, why did Smith win so easily but took so much more time in fighting the human Neo (Keanu Reeves)?

I generally liked Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and her crew but absolutely detested all of the computer programmers Tom Anderson worked with. It was a weird set of scenes with the programmers because Warner Bros in fiction wanted that company to create a fourth iteration of the Matrix game, while in real life Warner Bros. wanted a fourth film in the Matrix franchise. Both were probably mistakes as we saw in the after credits scene.

The movie got interesting after Neo kicked Smith’s digital ass and the Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) was revealed as the real villain of the piece and the entity running this upgraded version of the Matrix.

After Neo is once again freed from his little battery pod (it was supposed to be as dramatic as the first time, but it’s hard to get excited when you know what’s going to happen), he realizes that Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is still alive. He’s interacted with her counterpart “Tiffany” in the Matrix but she’s now married with children.

There’s stuff that didn’t make sense such as why 60 years have passed while Neo has only aged 20 years, both in the Matrix and outside of it. The film brings up the question but never explains it. Same with “Tiffany”. Maybe because of how the machines resurrected them and why the new system needs Neo and Tiffany to be near each other but not too near. Supposedly if they touch, all metaphorical hell breaks loose.

What’s the point of the movie? I’ll get to that in a moment. I mean why regurgitate the same stuff with a twist when there’s no story left to tell?

I know Wachowski (who is trans) says that the movie is a metaphor for trans identity. She said the original was the same metaphor, but I never saw it that way. I’ve looked and I still can’t see it, but then again, I don’t have that perspective.

Even in the movie, when the programmers are trying to answer the question, “what makes the Matrix special,” one of the answers was that it’s a metaphor. Because both the game and the film casts life as an artificial construct, they can get right in your face about what they’re doing. It seems made up, but an artificial construct, by definition, is made up.

The “rescue of Trinity” from the pod had a very Mission: Impossible vibe with Sati (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) narrating “the plan”.

Everything hinges on Tiffany accepting that she’s Trinity and wanting to leave the Matrix with Neo.

The Analyst is way ahead of Neo, able to manipulate time so that it’s impossible for Neo to do anything against him. To finally confront Tiffany, Neo has to walk into a trap along with Bugs’ crew. All looks lost when Tiffany tells Neo she can’t be the woman in the game. Her “family” is prompted to take her away on some pretext, but of course, at the last possible second, she realizes who she is and fights back.

Our team on the outside extracts her body from the pod and they’re off.

Lots and lots of action and destruction. Neo has kind of an explosive force field power, but frankly, no one seems as agile with reality-bending abilities as the first three films. Neo can’t even fly.

In a round two, Smith puts the Analyst down. Smith is free because of Neo, but with the Analyst apparently out of the way, all bets are off and Smith calls for a surge, basically taking control of everyone in the city and having them attack our heroes all at once.

Neo and Trinity take off on a motorcycle, just like old times, leaving the crew to hijack two or three cars and attempt to escape on their own. The rest is impossible, even by Matrix standards. If hundreds of thousands of people, who don’t care about being hurt of killed, want to stop you, even if you’re in moving vehicles, eventually they’ll stop you. Add to that two armed military helicopters and forget it unless you’re superpowered. Only Neo is, and not at his previous levels.

The crew should have died, but Bugs pops in (she was out helping with Trinity’s physical rescue) and machine guns everyone attacking her crew. It works and none of the “good guys” dies and get out.

But Neo and Trinity can’t get out and end up on a building roof. So many scenes mirrored the first three movies. I know it was meant to be that way, but like I said, too much of a repeat drains the drama.

With no way out, and with the current version of the Matrix dependent on their presence, they both jump off the roof supposedly to their deaths. Except they stop falling because…you guessed it, Trinity gets to fly this time while Neo can’t. He uses his force field powers to deflect a missile from one chopper to the other and then they go up, up, and away. She’s also super strong to be able to support the weight of a full-grown man using one arm.

Happy ending.

The Matrix is now unstable as evidenced by a few quakes and the side of the Analyst’s apartment having been ripped off (the rest of the city seems fine). Tiffany and Neo show up and Tiffany bashes and smacks the Analyst’s face off but uses her powers to put him back together again. The Analyst figures he still has the upper hand because only he understands people and the Matrix, especially controlling people.

Then Harris gives the most wonderful and probably true speech about the 21st century I’ve heard thus far:

Turns out, in my Matrix, the worse we treat you, the more we manipulate you, the more energy you produce. It’s nuts. I’ve been setting productivity records every year since I took over. And, the best part, zero resistance. People stay in their pods, happier than pigs in shit.

He even calls people “sheeple” and says that people love the predictability and how they don’t really want freedom. They want security.

Wow. Someone actually said it out loud in a movie and they are right. Of course, you can say, “that’s just the bad guy” but this time, the bad guy was absolutely spot on.

But Trinity and Neo didn’t come to negotiate or cut some sort of deal. They really are going to remake the Matrix as they see fit. We don’t see them actually do it, but at the very end, both Neo and Trinity have flight powers and shoot across the sky above San Francisco.

And here’s the point according to ScreenRant.com:

In a world that feels darker and more desperate every day, the ultimate message of The Matrix Resurrections is that there’s no stronger force on Earth than humankind’s genuine love for each other.

At one point in the film after Neo is freed, he says that nothing has changed. There’s still the Matrix and people are still slaves. Although Bugs makes a good point about the things that have changed, really, things seem better because everyone has given up. No one wants to “free minds” anymore. No more incursions into the Matrix in guerrilla actions.

There were points in the film where Neo’s age sets him apart from the much younger crew (Reeves) is 57. It was a little like watching Star Trek: Picard or any show that recycles a franchise by bringing one or a few of the original (older) actors to play alongside a bunch of younger ones who can handle all the physical action/adventure. The older people don’t seem to fit into their old roles anymore.  These days, Reeves could get more traction out of playing John Wick than playing Neo.

Yes, we have a happy ending but nothing has really changed, at least nothing we can see. We don’t know what Neo and Trinity are going to change, but they’re not going to be freeing people from the Matrix. Maybe they’ll make life inside the Matrix better, but that’s pretty complex when you’re dealing with a world population (as of 2022) of 7.9 billion human beings.

It may be a “feel good” ending, but it’s also a hollow one.

Nice action adventure if you can get past the long, boring parts, nice special effects, but a so-so story. I could have lived without this movie just as well as I’ve lived without the other two sequels. I’ll stick with the original and the classic.

2 thoughts on “Film Review of “The Matrix Resurrections” (2021)

  1. Unless one is into Matrix stuff you won’t know that Morpheus is dead from the outcome of a game storyline. Hence the different actor portraying Morpheus.
    Unlike yourself, while I found the film imperfect (but what is perfect? Perhaps the first Matrix film), it still managed to engage me. There again the Matrix’s examination of philosophy with some cool Kung-fu. I’m easily pleased that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s going to be variability in reception based on taste, expectations, and so on. As far as Morpheus being dead, a computer program can be designed to look like anything. That said, human actors cannot.

      Liked by 1 person

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