The Matrix Resurrections


Love what they’ve done to the place.

(2021) Science Fiction (Warner Brothers) Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci, Lambert Wilson, Andrew Lewis Caldwell, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Joshua Grothe, Brian J. Smith, Eréndira Ibarra, Michael X. Sommers, L. Trey Wilson, Mumbi Maina. Directed by Lana Wachowski

Back in 1999, The Matrix redefined action movies and took science fiction cinema in a decidedly cyberpunk direction. Two sequels were spawned in short order but although the trilogy was complete, still fans clamored for more. The Wachowski sisters, originators of the films, seemed little-disposed to returning to the Matrix, but Lana after more than twenty years of radio silence has returned to the franchise (her sister Lily chose not to “return to something I’ve already done,” as she put it).

Thomas Anderson (Reeves), whom we all know as the Messianic figure of Neo from the first trilogy, is working as a game designer whose masterwork is a game about an alternate reality called The Matrix which is a computer-generated panacea built by sentient machines to keep their human slaves docile while they harvested the bioelectricity to keep the machines running. Sound familiar? But Thomas continues to have odd dreams – or is it flashes of memory? – that have him talking to a shrink (Harris) who seems a bit unsympathetic as psychiatrists go. But something is not right. This all was supposed to have happened already, but it’s different. And why doesn’t Trinity (Moss) recognize Neo? Why is she married with two kids and going by the name of Tiffany? And why does Morpheus (Abdul-Mateen) look so much younger than he used to? And the same for Agent Smith (Groff), but Niobe (Pinkett Smith) looks so much older? Makes you want to take the blue pill this time.

The plot is convoluted and overbearing, and sitting through more than two hours of it is certainly a test of endurance. The visuals remain spectacular – Wachowski has always shown a flair for imagery – but the plot bounces all over the place and even the most focused viewers will have a hard time following it. And making the movie without Hugo Weaving (who apparently declined to participate) and Lawrence Fishburne (who wasn’t asked) was a serious misstep; the two of them constituted some of the most important elements of the earlier films. Abdul-Mateen is a fine actor, but he lacks the gravitas that Fishburne possesses, and Groff doesn’t have the slick and unctuous villainy that Weaving projected in the earlier films.

At the end of my review for The Matrix Revolutions I wrote “I’m more ambivalent about the idea of a fourth Matrix installment than I was about the second two,” and the thought of a fifth Matrix chapter is not something I’m particularly excited about – given the reception to the film, both commercially and critically, no decision has yet been announced about the series continuing and it seems at this point unlikely that it will – it feels like a movie that Wachowski didn’t quite have the passion for that she did for the first two films. It’s confusing, indecipherable and possesses an overabundance of nwhite noise from a plot point of view. Some critics are recommending that you simply turn off your brain and watch this for the plain ol’ fun of it, but that wasn’t anything like the first two movies of the sequel were like; they meant to get you thinking. The visuals continue to impress but at the end of the day, maybe it’s time for the rabbit hole to get filled in.

REASONS TO SEE: Wonderful visuals throughout.
REASONS TO AVOID: Far too much style and not enough substance.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of violence and some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the film, Trinity’s alter-ego Tiffany is married to Chad, who is played by Chad Stahelski, who was Reeves’ stunt double in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, as well as his director in the John Wick trilogy.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: HBO Max (until January 21)
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/5/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 64% positive reviews; Metacritic: 63/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Pixels
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Last Words

The Three Musketeers (2011)


The Three Musketeers

Resident Evil goes to 17th Century France

(2011) Adventure (Summit) Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Mads Mikkelsen, Christoph Waltz, Orlando Bloom, Juno Temple, Gabriella Wilde, Freddie Fox, James Corden, Til Schweiger, Helen George. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Sometimes, when all else fails, you can rely on the classics. Even if all else around you is crap, the classics can always be relied upon to be entertaining. At least that’s the common perception.

It is the 17th century and France is in turmoil. The teenage Louis XIII (Fox) is controlled essentially by the manipulative Cardinal Richelieu (Waltz) and the King’s own Musketeers have been rendered less potent. The three greatest Musketeers – Athos (Macfadyen), Porthos (Stevenson) and Aramis (Evans) are bored and frustrated at sitting on the sideline. Athos is in a particular funk after being betrayed by his lover Milady de Winter (Jovovich) when they had stolen the plans for an airship from Leonardo Da Vinci’s vault in Venice. After retrieving the plans, she’d drugged their wine and handed the plans over to Lord Buckingham (Bloom) of England.

A year has passed since then and a young Gascoigne named D’Artagnan (Lerman), the son of a former Musketeer, has journeyed to Paris to become a Musketeer himself. Along the way he fell afoul of Rochefort (Mikkelsen), captain of the Cardinal’s guard and supposedly the best swordsman in Europe who rather than duel the hot headed youngster just shoots him. His life is spared by Milady, who is also journeying to Paris.

In Paris D’Artagnan affronts all three of the Musketeers, challenging to duels at different times which all three of them unknowingly accept. However, his first duel is interrupted by the arrival of the Cardinal’s guard who wish to arrest the four of them for dueling in the streets. However the four fight alongside, winning the day despite a vast numerical disadvantage. This is witnessed by Constance (Wilde), handmaiden to the Queen (Temple). Despite D’Artagnan’s best efforts at flirting with Constance, he is rebuffed.

The three realize that D’Artagnan is an able ally and meant to be one of them, so they bring him to their home where their manservant Planchet  (Corden) waits on them cheerfully despite the constant complaining. They wind up being summoned to the palace where the King and Queen, impressed by their victory, reward them which infuriates the Cardinal who wanted them punished.

In the meantime, the nefarious Richelieu has hatched a scheme in which love letters in Buckingham’s own hand are planted in the Queen’s boudoir. Milady also steels a diamond necklace given to her as a gift by the King. Richelieu prevails upon the King to throw a ball after the King discovers the letters, and ask the Queen to wear the gift for him. If she doesn’t have them, it will mean the Queen’s having an affair and she would have to be executed and England declared war upon.

It is up to the Musketeers to retrieve the necklace from Buckingham’s own vault and to bring the culprits to justice, but it’s a nearly impossible task. Can the Musketeers avert a catastrophic war that would drag nearly the entire continent into it?

This isn’t your mom and dad’s version of The Three Musketeers (and there have been more than forty of them). For one thing, while it’s been a long time since I read the Alexandre Dumas classic, I’m pretty sure I don’t remember airships in it. Or Gatling guns. Or Matrix-style bullet dodging.

There is much more CGI than this kind of movie really needs to have. I can understand CG attempts to make the sets look more opulent, or more like 17th century France, but Da Vinci-esque airships, hidden vaults and storage rooms? It seems kind of unnecessary to me.

Unnecessary in that this is one of the best adventure tales ever written and despite all the different versions of it, it still stands up today. The best version is the 1948 film with Gene Kelly (of all people!) as D’Artagnan, but my all-time fave is the 1973 version with Michael York as D’Artagnan. It was produced by the Salkinds who would go on to make Superman: The Movie and other classics of 70s cinema.

One of the requirements for a good Three Musketeers movie is not chocolate nougat, but a good D’Artagnan. The successful ones do; even the unsuccessful ones have at least a passable D’Artagnan. This one has the latter. Lerman, who is best known here for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (in which I described him as bland) is a bit better here, but he still lacks the charisma D’Artagnan needs. Lerman has got the looks though and the long hair…ladies will and do swoon.

I was particularly impressed by Macfadyen who has been a career supporting actor, but he really shows some impressive screen presence here and with the right role could do some real damage as a lead actor on a franchise film. Let’s hope he gets the chance.

The movie has some nice casting touches (Waltz is terrific as Richelieu although we don’t get to see enough of him – when we do we get a good idea of his devious nature) and a few huh moments (Milla Jovovich seems to be channeling her inner Alice from the Resident Evil franchise which wouldn’t be a bad thing but it is distracting when she’s wearing petticoats). All in all the acting is solid and the CGI is seamless. I’m told the 3D effects are nice in places as well, although of late I’ve become as anti-3D as Roger Ebert.

This is a movie that I really wanted to see succeed. Anderson has proven a fine action director on the Resident Evil films and while I agree that there are always new ways to come at the Dumas source material, this way was too full of anachronisms and logical gaps to really fully capture my heart. However, it is entertaining even if it’s attempts at being grand fall a bit short.

REASONS TO GO: Nice special effects and some fine swordplay. Macfadyen makes a fine Athos.

REASONS TO STAY: Takes a lot of liberties with the story. Doesn’t have the wit of the 1973/1974 versions.

FAMILY VALUES: There is quite a bit of swordplay, a few things blowing up real good and some musket shooting. All in a day’s work for a musketeer.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Waltz has the same birthday (October 4) as Charlton Heston, who also played Cardinal Richelieu in the 1973/1974 versions of the Dumas classic.

HOME OR THEATER: Very much a big screen epic extravaganza.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Conviction