We have seen many critical movies that set several milestones in action filmmaking, changing the genre over the decades. Some of them even broke the limits that neither viewers nor producers could believe to be successfully attempted on-screen. And it is The Matrix that takes a lead in achieving this in the first few years of the millennium. Honestly, it is possible to classify most sci-fi movies according to the appearance of The Matrix: the previous ones and the later ones. Not only did it refresh Hollywood filmmaking’s atmosphere but it was also such a memorable moment that deeply affected our society by lots of debate and analysis. It became a piece of action work facilitating the main character, young Keanu Reeves, to be famous and unluckily, a source of parodies for various MTV Movie Awards. The film’s huge popularity spawned two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, which were filmed back-to-back in one continuous production run and released in the same year of 2003, despite each sequel receiving declining critical reception despite being box office hits. The Animatrix, a series of short anime films, was also released as a result of the developing franchise. Needless to say, Warner Bros. wanted to pay every cost to go on producing the series Matrix.
After a long wait, it was finally announced the sequel’s comeback in 2019, resulting in many rumors about the concept approached by the creators as it was their own giant doubt even when they worked on other products such as Jupiter Ascending and Cloud Atlas. Lana Wachowski eventually returned to direct and co-write The Matrix Resurrections on her own, alongside her Sense8 series finale partners David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon — which, if you’re familiar with the Netflix show, should give you a hint about the type of sequel movie you’re in for. Led by those 3 people, this movie turns into such a meta and historically romantic one, raising in us a question of instinct to approach nostalgia, our dependence on sequels and reboots rather than truly fresh concepts.
The setting of The Matrix Resurrections was about 2 decades later than the previous movie, which is, accidentally, similar to that amount of time for this sequel to return. In the movie, Neo (Reeves) is leading a seemingly ordinary life in San Francisco as Thomas Anderson, a virtuoso game programmer whose most popular and award-winning project to date is, predictably, The Matrix. Also, he constantly visits his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), who prescribes him suspicious blue pills when he confesses to having strange visions and dreams, as well as the weird hope to try jumping off buildings to see if he can fly, indicating the troublesome life he suffered previously. Moreover, he also finds a woman (Carrie-Anne Moss) attractive, who pays regular visits to a coffee shop near his office and tries to get rid of his anxiety to approach her. With a high requirement for a novel Matrix game offered by Anderson’s business cooperator, Smith (Jonathan Groff), Neo gets into a spiral of ennui and creative listlessness, which is abruptly broken when he’s approached by two strangers, the blue-haired Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a man claiming to be Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
Let’s put the plot of the movie aside, there is a question of what is your plan after you have successfully broken the limits as far as action filmmaking desires? For Lana Wachowski, she evidently wants it to entail textually battling with making Resurrections in the first place in order to focus on the broader question looming around this sequel: cultural contribution to the franchise. Wachowski’s writing, at least in part, acts as a voice for her to make one thing clear to viewers: the overlords at Warner Bros. were preparing a Matrix sequel with or without the original creative team, as Groff’s Smith so openly states to Neo. It’s a both lighthearted and sarcastic moment in the film: Another Matrix film is desired to be produced by audiences? Now that you have it, it’s up to you to take it or leave it. When work on Resurrections was halted due to a pandemic, Wachowski reportedly considered abandoning the project and had to be persuaded by the cast to return and finish it. When work on Resurrections was halted due to a pandemic, Wachowski reportedly considered abandoning the film and was persuaded by the cast to return and continue filming, a fact that makes the scenes in the movie even more meaningful.
Obviously, the return of Wachowski is totally worthy as besides a variety of action scenes and philosophic issues between free will and choice and manipulated feelings in the latest Matrix, it is also clearly a love story indeed. In such a world defined by technology and science, it is fate that illogically connects both Neo and Trinity the most. Despite the fact that they don’t know who the other is or what they mean to one another before the film begins, there is an unconscious charge that occurs the first time they shake hands, a magnetic pull that keeps them in each other’s orbit despite stronger forces striving to keep them apart. Their romance isn’t implied in any way in this film, and Wachowski’s unreserved affection for the story is evident throughout every emotional sequence of the script. From that point on, his love for her informs every decision he makes. We can see the sincerer love between those characters in every moment of the movie, no matter when it is a non-verbal conversation over the table in a coffee shop or when they are standing on a skyscraper, questioning to jump off together or not.
Amazingly, even the simplest thing like the newcomers or the franchise’s legacy players can touch the audience’s heart. For example, Bugs, played by Henwick, is the protagonist whose unrelenting optimism propels the tale along as she works diligently to release Neo from the Matrix. Morpheus, played by Abdul-Mateen, is less of a guiding figure in this latest installment and more of a force meant to shock Neo out of his complacency while also injecting lots of levity. While Harris’ role as the Analyst gives him a lot of the sequel’s metaphysical monologues with a mix of danger and joy, Groff, as the newest incarnation of Smith, makes a feast out of the scenery, shifting between charming and terrifying intensity without missing a beat.
However, there is a minor failure in Resurrections’ action making. One more time, it focuses on how Matrix escapes several physical laws with exciting visuals but sometimes, it couldn’t manage to keep the previous film’s special wire-fu and broad camera angles. As a result, certain passages include a lot of frantic and close-up viewpoints, making it difficult to follow the action. Though it’s a minor issue in the plot’s overall delivery, it is one example of where relying on nostalgia is better than attempting anything so different in terms of camerawork.
Before this movie, some even wondered about the worthiness of starting this sequel. However, The Matrix Resurrections is the answer of Wachowski to this question by sending her the most fascinating story ever. It is undeniable that this film is such a respectful successor as it emphasizes providing a sequel that will elicit a lot of discussions, encourage us to decipher the story code, and ultimately linger in our minds long after the credits have rolled instead of worrying about fan’s expectations.
The Matrix Resurrections is released in theaters as well as on HBO Max on December 22.