These days movies are regularly remade, rebooted, reimagined and regurgitated. But none of those terms capture how Warner Bros has brought back one of their most famous and ground breaking franchises.
The new Keanu Reeves movie isn’t simply a return to the Matrix, the simulated reality created by intelligent machines to pacify humans and steal their energy, it’s a resurrection. After eighteen years, Neo has been raised from the dead by Lana Wachowski in “The Matrix: Resurrections,” now playing in theatres.
The last time we saw Neo (Reeves) he made the ultimate sacrifice, giving himself to create peace between machines and mankind. His death would allow people to finally be free of the virtual world of the Matrix.
In “Resurrections” it’s twenty years later. Neo now goes by his real name, Thomas A. Anderson. He is the “greatest videogame designer of his generation,” with an ordinary life, save for the visions that plague him. “I’ve had dreams,” he says, “that weren’t just dreams.” His analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) has him on a steady diet of heavy therapy and blue pills, meant to quell the strange delusions.
Anderson’s regular life is turned upside down when his business partner Smith (Jonathan Groff) announces that their company will be making a sequel to their most popular game, “The Matrix.” As his team works on the new game—“It’s a mindbomb!”—his memories become more intense and soon he has trouble distinguishing fact from fiction.
Or is it all real?
When people from his past, like computer programmer and hacker Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an alternate reality version of the heroic Matrix hovercraft captain who first believed Neo was “The One,” appear, Thomas fears he is losing his mind.
Things become clearer—Or do they?—when the new Morpheus offers Thomas/Neo a choice of pills. The blue ones will keep Thomas’ state of mind status quo. The red ones, however, will take him down the rabbit hole, into the heart of the Matrix. “Nothing comforts anxiety like a little nostalgia,” says Morpheus.
Pill popped, the simulated world opens up to reveal a dangerous place in need of a hero. Teaming with a group of rebels, Neo battles a new enemy and secrets are revealed. “The Matrix is the same or worse,” says Neo, “and I’m back where I started. It feels like none of it mattered.”
“The Matrix: Resurrections” may be the most self-aware movie of the year. No instalment of “The Matrix” will ever match the whiz bang excitement of the first film, and “Resurrections” knows it. It comments on itself and consistently winks at its legacy.
“This cannot be a retread, reboot or regurgitation,” says one of the “Matrix” videogame designers.
“Why not?” says another. “Reboots sell.”
Like the movie’s story, the film itself attempts to blur the line between the reality of the story and the very act of watching the movie. It is simultaneously self-depreciating and cynical. It’s OK to have a bit of good fun with the story, especially given the oh-so-serious tone of the previous “Matrix” movies, but by the time Thomas meets Trinity at the Simulatte Café, the jokes have worn thin.
The meat of the story, a search for truth, is the engine that keeps the movie motoring along, but the endless exposition, a torrent of words, seems to be the fuel that keeps things running. When a character says, “That’s the thing about stories, they never end,” it’s hard to disagree as the movie gets mired in mythology and world building.
It becomes a slog, without enough of the trademarked Wachowski action scenes to help pick up the pace. When the movie does dip into bullet time and the action that made the original so memorable, it feels like a pale comparison. There is nothing much new—“I still know Kung Fu,” says Neo—just frenetic action and nostalgia for a time when a slow-motion bullet made our eyeballs dance.
“The Matrix: Resurrections” does try to recontextualize the existing mythology. This time around the all-you-need-is-love-story between Neo and Trinity is amped up and there is some timely social commentary about control, whether it’s from the government or a virtual reality machine, but, and there is a big “but,” as much as I wanted to enjoy another trip to the Matrix, I found it too meta, too long and yet, not ambitious enough.