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
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Last Words

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The Matrix


The Matrix

Keanu Reeves demontrates proper Bullet Time technique.

(1999) Science Fiction (Warner Brothers) Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Belinda McClory, Anthony Ray Parker, Paul Goddard, Robert Taylor, David Aston, Denni Gordon. Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski

Reality can often be a four letter word; dull, vicious, cruel, lonely…reality sucks for most of us. However reality is a matter of perception and perception can be messed with. What we see, feel, experience is always – always – a product of our senses. What if those senses were wrong?

Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is a cubicle code writer by day and a hacker who goes by the handle Neo by night. His dual existence is dull and boring, but he is eager to discover the nature of something called the Matrix, cryptic references to which he’s found on his computer. A fellow hacker named Trinity (Moss) confirms that there are answers out there and guides him in the direction of a legendary hacker named Morpheus (Fishburne).

However, not everybody wants Neo and Morpheus to meet. Government agents, led by a man named Smith (Weaving) arrest Mr. Anderson and grill him on Morpheus and the Matrix, but Neo knows nothing. Undeterred, Neo meets with Morpheus who gives him the choice of a red pill and a white pill to take. The white pill will merely give him a good night’s rest; the red pill will show him the truth about the Matrix. Neo takes the red pill.

He wakes up in a nightmarish world, in a small pod filled with liquid. Morpheus rescues him and takes him aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, a high-tech airship. Morpheus explains that the year isn’t 1999 but closer to 2199 and that mankind lost a war to sentient machines of their own making, who have made the surface nearly uninhabitable. Humans are used for their bioelectric energy which is harvested; the humans are kept docile by having their minds plugged into the Matrix, a computer-simulated world of 1999 that fools the human race into thinking that everything is okay. Morpheus and his group which includes Trinity, Cypher (Pantoliano), Tank (Chang), Mouse (Doran), Dozer (Parker), Switch (McClory) and Apoc (Arahanga) are part of a resistance movement fighting the machines. They are headquartered in Zion, a hidden underground city that the machines have as yet been unable to locate.

Within the Matrix, the resistance is able to act with superhuman abilities because of their knowledge of what the Matrix is. Neo is trained to do this as well. Morpheus believes Neo to be “The One,” a messianic person who has been prophesized to end the war and put the humans back in control. Neo isn’t so sure but is willing to be examined by The Oracle (Foster) who is the one who made the prophecy to begin with.

They take Neo back into the Matrix to meet the Oracle who implies that Neo isn’t the one, but he will have to make a crucial decision that may result in the death of Morpheus. Shortly thereafter they are ambushed by Agents and Morpheus allows himself to be captured so that the others may get away. However, there is a traitor in their midst and not all of them will make it back. The future looks even more bleak for the humans now – unless Neo can realize his undiscovered potential.

This is one of those movies that is a game-changer. The Wachowskis, who had previously directed the critically-lauded Bound proved that they had an amazing cinematic vision. The look of movies, particularly action films, has been heavily influenced by this movie from their super slo-mo “bullet time” effects shots to the shades-and-dusters costuming. Turn of the millennium hip was largely defined by The Matrix.

Reeves will most likely be most identified with this role. Having achieved stardom with the Bill and Ted movies he became in every sense an A-list actor with this. His Neo was cool and hip, but also had doubts and fears. He’s heroic but someone people could relate to. I think most adolescent boys in 1999 wanted very much to be Neo.

But the acting is not what drew people to this movie. It’s the incredible visuals. How many computers in 1999 had screen savers with the “raining” numbers graphics that made up the Matrix? How many movies had the “bullet time” slow motion bullets with liquid contrails? Sure, there were plenty of antecedents for this movie – no movie exists in a vacuum – and the Wachowskis were almost certainly influenced by the films of Sam Peckinpah, the art of H.R. Giger, anime, Hong Kong martial arts movies and the fiction of William Gibson, but they drew all those elements into a nice package that resonated with people all over the planet. The Matrix isn’t a perfect movie – the second half isn’t quite as good as the first – but it is a movie that almost 15 years later continues to influence the way movies are made and is just as entertaining now as it was the first time we all saw it.

WHY RENT THIS: Visuals that are just as dazzling now as they were back then. The ultimate cyberpunk movie.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Sort of loses its way near the end.

FAMILY MATTERS: A whole lot of violence and a little bit of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Neo is an anagram of One.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO FEATURES: The original DVD release included a White Rabbit feature in which when activated a white rabbit would flash in the bottom right of the screen; if the enter button was pressed on the remote, a featurette would run explaining how that sequcnce was made. The Blu-Ray edition expands on this.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $463.5M on a $63M production budget; the movie was a blockbuster.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Johnny Mnemonic

FINAL RATING: 9.5/10

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