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The Matrix Resurrections

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
The Matrix Resurrections
Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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Time Out Says

3 out of 5 stars

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss breathe just enough life into the revived franchise

Generously, the fourth Matrix film does not expect you to have closely followed the last two films to understand what’s going on. But that is both a strength and a weakness. The story this time round is much simpler, although still stubbornly noodly at times, but there’s so much time taken connecting it to the original trilogy that it winds up much heavier on exposition than excitement. The result is ultimately more satisfying than films two and three, but succeeds largely due to more modest ambitions.

If there’s one thing you need to remember from Matrix Revolutions, it’s that Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) died. Death didn’t stick. Resurrections finds Thomas Anderson, as Neo is known in the artificial world of the Matrix, alive, if only technically. He is a world-famous video game designer, whose most famous creation is The Matrix, a trilogy about people living in a fake computer world. He’s depressed, haunted by weird visions of an impossible alternate reality. He feels an odd connection to a woman (Moss) he sees in his local coffee shop. He thinks he’s losing his mind but is he just waking up to the truth?

This extremely meta opening may sound cutesy – there’s even a scene of an exec from Warner Bros., the Matrix distributor in both fiction and reality, pushing for a sequel to Anderson’s game – but it works narratively. The Matrix is a series about layers of reality, where the entire world was reset at the end of the original trilogy.

Lana Wachowski is still full of ideas, even if she doesn’t always wrangle them into a strong plot

Lana Wachowski (who directs this time without sister Lily, and co-scripted with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon) has fun with the way the Matrix and Hollywood both rely on reboots. The original films took themselves very seriously, but the opening act of this has a much lighter, gently self-effacing tone, while still interrogating the core themes of the nature of free will and the cost of living truthfully.  

As the running time swells, to an unnecessary 148 minutes, the lightness fades and we’re back to philosophical questions obliquely explored.

Broadly, the film is driven by a mission to free Neo and Trinity from the Matrix, but Wachowski can’t resist getting stuck into more mythology and call-backs to incidental plot points from past films (congratulations if you can decipher who Priyanka Chopra Jonas is playing). The new good guys make little impression, though the villains, who we won’t name, are enjoyably eccentric, if unclear in their motives. 

The film comes to life when Reeves and Moss are reunited, which is disappointingly seldom. They have a calmly simmering chemistry that injects even coffee shop chats with a hit of potential danger. When they’re in full Neo and Trinity mode, the film recaptures some of the magic of the first film, though the action this time is surprisingly flat. Moss and Reeves are both in their mid-fifties, so it’s reasonable that they can’t do all the old athletics, but Wachowski’s set pieces lack interesting ways of responding to that. More often than not, Neo merely deflects attacks with his invisible forcefield, not the most cinematically riveting power. If you could rely on one thing in the original trilogy, it was elegant, clear action. Here it’s scrappily edited and looks under-rehearsed. Blows land as if choreographed, not thrown.

Trinity’s major gripe with her current life is that she’s ignominiously been renamed ‘Tiffany’

It’s a shame that after the spirited opener the film doesn’t establish any major stakes for the rest of the plot. Most of the inhabitants of this new Matrix seem reasonably happy. Trinity’s major gripe with her current life is that she’s ignominiously been renamed ‘Tiffany’. Even the visual cues, with the original trilogy’s dreary strip-lit green tint replaced with a jewel-bright, metallic slickness, make it all seem quite pleasant, not the drone-like existence of old.

And the humans living outside the Matrix have a relatively peaceful life now, albeit still confined to ugly knitwear and bleak caves. The real world remains a soggy wasteland where people can make nano-robots but never think to apply a cheering lick of paint to anything. If Neo’s mission doesn’t succeed it seems that only about seven people will care.

Wachowski is still full of ideas, even if she doesn’t always wrangle them into a strong plot, and there is much to enjoy in this revisit to one of cinema’s most original worlds. The ending suggests more story to tell. If it involves a lot more of Reeves and Moss sharing the screen, great, but their presence is the selling point, not the sense that this franchise is still bursting with untold story. Resurrections isn’t merely Rehashed, but neither is it fully Reinvigorated.

In US, UK, Hong Kong and Singapore cinemas Dec 22. Out in Australia Dec 26.

Written by
Olly Richards

Cast and Crew

  • Director:Lana Wachowski
  • Screenwriter:Lana Wachowski, Aleksandar Hemon, David Mitchell
  • Cast:
    • Keanu Reeves
    • Carrie-Anne Moss
    • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
    • Jonathan Groff
    • Jessica Henwick
    • Jada Pinkett Smith
    • Priyanka Chopra Jonas
    • Christina Ricci
    • Neil Patrick Harris
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