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Review : The Matrix Resurrections – More Simulation, Less Stimulation

Warner Bros

A clever poke at the Hollywood sausage factory quickly loses steam as nifty ideas fall prey to franchise pitfalls in “The Matrix Resurrections”.

While 1999’s “The Matrix” – and, to a less extent, it’s visually impressive but less enjoyable 2003 sequels – will forever be the remembered for breaking new ground in the special and visual effects arena, director Lana Wachowski’s belated revival film will ultimately be remembered only for a killer logline.

Neo, now middle aged and as gloomy as a grey sky, is back living (?) under his normal name Thomas Anderson. He’s an acclaimed video-game maker these days, one best known for his top-selling – wait for it – “Matrix” series of games.

Anderson’s dejected existence, anchored by a seemingly caring therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), is interrupted by the arrival of an activist named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a renegade agent (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who has recently discovered he’s the revived Morpheus.

The duo advises Anderson of his real identity, and that he’s trapped back within an imaginary world, and the revelation is confirmed when Thomas’s smug employer Smith (Jonathan Groff) reveals himself to be a new version of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving’s role from the originals).

Now that ‘Neo’ is awake, he wants to also bring his beloved Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) – also trapped in the ‘Matrix’ and operation as a disappointed mother and wife named Trixie – back to reality, too.

While rather clever, the libretto, which Wachowski wrote with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, is a little half-baked. Seemingly working a lot better on paper, the set-up ultimately loses fizz as the scenario gets muddy with questionable elements like interlaced film clips from the earlier films (it’s a game, right? So why does the game look so much like a movie? And why is the creator starring in the film!? Yes, your head will hurt!) and a lack of tension.

There’s fun to be had in Wachowski’s dig (sibling Lily, who co-directed the other films, sits this one out) at the studio system, and the film’s commentary on franchises in general, but as if studio notes demanded the whole idea is dropped quarter way through the film, “Resurrections” abandons it’s only adroit component and gives into being another slothful, exposition-heavy stroll around VFX backdrops, fixing on situations and characters that the audience ultimately won’t feel that invested in. Seems the producers didn’t go back and read the main criticisms of “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Resurrections”.

Maybe if the film’s few action sequences incorporated anything as fresh as ‘bullet time’ from the original, let alone were choreographed and edited better, there’d be less reason to regret taking the red pill again.

There are irregular moments of fun to be had in the film – for one, the finale embodies the kind of tension and energy sorely lacking from the rest of the film – and some of the supporting players, including welcome new additions Jessica Henwick and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II , help divert from Reeves’ stilted performance, but not enough to warrant the price of admission.

Some might say Wachowski’s latest “Matrix” plays more like a political commentary on the covid argument, with the whole Red pill vs. Blue pill dilemma really a crank on whether to get vaccinated. Whether that’s intentional or not, it’s yet another of the film’s interesting ideas poorly executed.

This time, the machine(s) won.

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