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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 5.88%
Pretty Bad: 35.29%
Total Crap: 11.76%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Matrix Resurrections, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Ignorance Is Bliss"
2 stars

After bringing the “Matrix” saga that they began with the groundbreaking original 1999 film to a conclusion in 2003 with the sequels “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” the writer-director duo The Wachowskis used the clout that they amassed from their enormous commercial success to put forth a number of equally elaborate projects, such as “Speed Racer” (2008), “Cloud Atlas” (2012), “Jupiter Ascending” (2015) and the TV series “Sense8.” With the exception of the vastly underrated “Jupiter Ascending,” these efforts were not entirely successful—to this day, the only concrete memory I have of “Speed Racer” is of the brutal migraine I was left with after watching it—but they were undeniably ambitious works that suggested that the Wachowskis had more on their minds than simply trying to redo their biggest hit over and over. Alas, none of those subsequent efforts have come close to having the same kind of financial or cultural impact that “The Matrix” did and so it is perhaps inevitable that, in an era in which one long-dormant intellectual property after another is being revived, it would also return despite having come to a seemingly definitive conclusion nearly two decades ago.

The decision to another “Matrix” film was probably easy enough to make—after the commercial indifference to their last few efforts, it would give the Wachowskis a chance to make another large-scale film and if it hit as big as its predecessors, it would restore their box-office credibility and give them leeway to continue to work on the bigger canvases that they become accustomed to over the years. The more pressing question—how do you go about bringing back a franchise that last appeared in theaters around the time that Olivia Rodrigo was still in diapers and make it as daring and cutting-edge as it was when its combination of heady philosophical concepts and state-of-the-art special effects first blew the minds of moviegoers? Like the famous red pill/blue pill choice found in the original film, it could go one of two ways—either it could do something audacious and groundbreaking in the way that the original “Matrix” was and trust that audiences would follow along on the journey as they did before or it could just offer a rehash of ideas given just enough of a spin to make them seem ostensibly “new,” though not so much as to potentially upset those who just want more of what they liked the first time around. As it turns out, “The Matrix Resurrections,” which marks Lana Wachowski’s debut as a solo director (sibling Lilly having no involvement with the project), pretty much embraces the second choice throughout and the result is a disappointing film that has a few interesting ideas here and there but drowns them in a lot of narrative clutter, half-baked intellectual musings and surprisingly half-baked action beats.

The film starts on an intriguing note as it reintroduces us to Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) and informs us that he is the semi-legendary designer of “The Matrix,” a video game trilogy that helped revolutionize the industry but which almost caused him to lose his mind at one point. Thanks to a regimen of pills (guess which color) and regular visits to his smarmy analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), he is fine now but when he is informed that the company he works for wants him to do a reboot of “The Matrix,” things begin to occur that once again have him questioning reality, such as an encounter in a coffee shop with Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), a seemingly ordinary woman with a husband and a couple of obnoxious kids who he has evidently never seen before but who nonetheless seems strangely familiar. Is his anxiety over having to return to the Matrix causing him to lose his grip or is there something stranger going on? The question seems to be answered when he is visited by no less a figure than his one-time sage Morpheus, though even that raises new doubts since a.) Morpheus is supposedly dead and b.) this one no longer looks like Laurence Fishburne (and is played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Some of the opening scenes of “The Matrix Resurrections” are intriguing in the way that Wachowski and co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon take a frankly meta approach in order to comment on both the challenges and anxieties inherent in returning to the “Matrix” franchise after so many years and the thinking of many that such a move is little more than a cynical cash grab from a filmmaker whose last few projects have floundered and who is in obvious need of a hit. The problem is that it plays the self-referential hand pretty heavily during the first half-hour or so and while there are a few funny observations here and there, especially a few jabs at how some of the ideas in the original film have been hijacked by the incel movement over the years, none of it is quite as clever as the film seems to think that it is. (For an ideal example of how this approach can work and hilariously so, get thee to a copy of “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” as quickly as possible.)

When the film finally slips into full-on “Matrix” mode, that is where the wheels really begin to come off. The story is little more than a half-baked amalgam of concepts already explored in the earlier films, new conceits (such as a possible alliance between the oppressive machines and the heroic rebels trying to buck the oppressive system) that are not integrated particularly well and philosophical musings that too often feel like a college bull session gone wrong and which grows more than a little wearing at a bloated 148 minutes. Presumably to help attract younger viewers, a slew of new characters have been included—besides those already mentioned, there are appearances by Jessica Henwick as the requisite ass-kicking babe, Jonathan Groff as a “new” nemesis and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as some kind of all-knowing presence—but none of them make a fraction of the impact that the characters in the original did. Among the returning members, Jada Pinkett Smith fares the worst—not only is her character largely inessential to the goings-on, she has been slathered with old age makeup so unconvincing that it is hard to keep a straight face during her scenes.

Even the stuff from the earlier films that would seem to be foolproof—the mere presence of Keanu Reeves, the undeniably charismatic pairing of him and Moss and the jaw-dropping special effects and action beats—are nowhere near as effective this time around. In the case of Reeves, that is hardly his fault and indeed, his Zen-like reaction to the lunacy surrounding him is pretty much the single most effective element of the entire film. However, while he is the central character in theory, it doesn’t always feel that way and there are long stretches where he seems to have been banished to the sidelines to watch while all of the other crazy mix-em-ups are going on. As for he and Moss, the two still give off undeniable sparks in their scenes together but the requirements of the story insist on them being kept apart for far too long and when they do get together from time to time, they only serve to remind of how little we have invested in the new characters.

As for the action scenes, they are big and elaborate in both conception and execution, but none of them stick in the mind in the way that the best bits from the earlier installments did. There is a strange lack of clarity to the fight scenes this time around that makes it hard at times to figure out what is going on or where the characters are in relation to each other at any given time. Basically, the action and fight scenes look like all of the similar sequences over the years that have tried to emulate the startling visuals and the precise sense of movement that made the scenes in “The Matrix” so striking and, like the vast majority of them, they don’t hold a candle to their predecessor. The stuff there stuck in the mind and deservedly entered cinema history while the stuff here is little more than eye candy and not quite the top shelf stuff either.

Look, I am not one prone to over venerating the “Matrix” franchise—it admittedly took me a couple of viewings of the original before I fully caught on to its wavelength and I still persist that it might have been more effective if the two sequels had been streamlined into one killer story instead of two occasionally effective but oftentimes bloated films. That said, those films, even in their weakest and loopiest moments, had a sense of creativity and ingenuity that “The Matrix Resurrections,” for all of its efforts, simply lacks. This film, by comparison, is, like “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” little more than two and a half-hours of relentless fan service, albeit without the wit, ingenuity and genuine emotion that film was able to muster during its best moments. Hard-core “Matrix” buffs may end up getting more out of it than I but I suspect that many of them will find themselves coming out of it wishing, as I did, that Lana Wachowski had taken all the considerable time, talent, energy and money that went into producing this behemoth and used it to create something completely new instead of retreating to the site of past glories.

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originally posted: 12/22/21 03:09:52
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User Comments

1/21/22 morris campbell decent i agree with Moop about the 1st two films 3 stars
1/07/22 Moop Better than revolutions, first two films superior though 3 stars
12/28/21 morris campbell not bad better than revolutions 4 stars
12/26/21 MsAshleyM Waste of time. 1 stars
12/23/21 Sue Lori Elmoy Isn't Keanu a a bit long in the tooth for this now? 1 stars
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  22-Dec-2021 (R)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2022



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