Back in 1999, one question raced through the minds of movie-goers: ‘What is the Matrix?’
It was an ingenious idea to center the marketing for the Wachowskis’ sci-fi actioner around that enigma: it whipped up a frenzy of curiosity, and delivered on it, with a true cinematic game-changer.
Now, however, everyone knows what the Matrix is. It has seeped deep into the public consciousness, just like the virtual dreamworld it speculated. ‘The Matrix’ trilogy spewed a slew of copycats and has been parodied to an inch of its life. Now, eighteen years after the disappointing trilogy finale ‘ The Matrix Revolutions’, Lana Wachowski has brought us back into this cyberpunk universe (Lily Wachowski, her sister, and co-creator, is not involved).
The question is, does Wachowski have anything up her sleeve that’s worth the wait?
If you’re fearing a case of ‘same-old, same-old’ then rest assured… this is a sequel bursting with ideas and unafraid to stand apart from the previous films. Wachowski has collaborated with ‘Cloud Atlas’ author David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hermod to create a smartly meta screenplay.
Keanu Reeves reprises his role as Thomas Anderson in the fourth installation of the beloved series.
The character is now a successful video game designer behind a revolutionary trilogy of games called… you guessed it… ’The Matrix’.
While he appears to have it all, Anderson is a troubled man. He has regular sessions with a psycho-analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) about his trouble distinguishing his reality from the fictional world he supposedly created.
His already fragile mental state begins to crack when his business partner Smith (Jonathan Groff) informs him that their parent company Warner Bros is demanding a fourth ‘Matrix’ instalment.
From there, Anderson begins to fall down the rabbit hole once again, rediscovering his true identity as Neo, humanity’s hope for survival against the machines.
This film has a fascinating interplay with the past films, frequently cutting back to old snippets, with an interesting self-aware subtext about its own cultural legacy, and the nostalgia we feel for it. Strangely, ‘Resurrections’ has quite a lot in common with Danny Boyle’s sequel ‘T2: Trainspotting, a film which similarly grapples with time and our connection to the past.
Rather than tie up loose ends, ‘Resurrections’ adds layers upon layers onto an already complicated saga.
While the film’s first half is an intriguing setup, the plot becomes increasingly confusing, creating more questions than it answers.
For some, these may appear to be infuriating plot holes, but the Matrix has always rewarded repeat viewings, and there’s plenty of room for interpretation for those looking to dig deeper. For armchair theorists, this is a funhouse of a film. For more casual filmgoers, this may be a head-scratcher.
Regardless of whether you understand it all on your first time around, the film still works as an overall experience, and it’s a thrill to see Reeves and Carrie Ann Moss reprising their roles, still kicking arse and looking damn good doing it.
Jessica Henwick is a charismatic new addition as Bugs, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II bravely takes on the ‘Morpheus’ role, and makes it his own.
There are definite shortcomings, however. The action is remarkably mediocre. It’s botched by quick cutting, a choppy mish-mash that gets tiring fast. This is all the more disappointing when held in comparison to the originals, in which the stunts played out in gorgeous wide shots. Every punch, kick, and flip was meticulously storyboarded. Here, it just feels lazy.
The same can be said for aesthetics. While Lana Wachowski should be commended for seeking a fresh look for this instalment, the cinematography looks largely televisual, lacking the elegant, graphic novel-style compositions of the previous films.
Still, ‘The Matrix’ has always been about ideas first and foremost. In a climate of box-ticking, ultra-safe sequels, this is a bold piece of work, made by an artist more concerned with challenging fans than servicing them. Take the red pill, and open your mind.
Flawed, but fascinating. The compounding plot may test your patience, but this is a sequel that’s packed with ideas and will linger in your mind long after. Falling down the rabbit hole is still one hell of a trip.
Bruce Micallef Eynaud is a creative director and filmmaker, working mainly in commercials and short films. He’s also a movie geek with an MA in Film Studies. His favourite filmmakers are Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson and Richard Linklater.
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