The Matrix Resurrection (2021) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): The Matrix Rehashed

“The Matrix Resurrection” is more or less than a rehashed product mixed with some self-conscious stuffs to amuse any fan of the previous trilogy for a while. Although it is engaging and ambitious to some degree thanks to several intriguing story ideas, the movie is still stuck deep in the very familiar territory of the previous trilogy without transcending or surpassing it at all, and I often felt impatient and dissatisfied as not caring that much about whatever is revealed along its rather incoherent narrative.

At first, the movie seems to be trying something really different. Keanu Reeves, who previously played the messianic hero of the previous trilogy, is back, but his character in the film is still Thomas A. Anderson, who has worked in some big video game company as one of its key developers since developing his very popular video game named, yes, “The Matrix” many years ago. As a matter of fact, his game was already turned into a trio of blockbuster films by a certain famous movie company, and the company has already been planning on making another sequel based on Anderson’s iconic video game.

However, things have been not that good for Anderson these days. He has been pressured a lot by his boss to focus on the current development project as well as the new version of “The Matrix” which will be the basis of that upcoming film, and he also has been struggling with a seemingly serious mental issue. As often consulting with his psychiatrist and then getting medicated with pills of a certain color, Anderson tries to keep things under control, but, of course, things become all the more confusing for him as several mysterious figures subsequently appear in front of him.

I will not go into details here, but what follows next will not surprise you much if you are familiar with the previous trilogy like me. While our hero is getting more confused with lots of things happening around him, we get a number of very familiar action scenes including the one clearly reminiscent of the electrifying opening action sequence of “The Matrix” (1999), which is frequently quoted along with its two following sequels throughout the film. Although the action scenes in the film are a bit too choppy and busy compared to the ones in the previous trilogy, they are executed fairy well on the screen at least, and Reeves, who is having another peak of his career mainly thanks to the recent considerable success of “John Wick” (2014) and its two sequels, looks convincing just like several main cast members in the film including Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, and Jonathan Groff, who often has a ball with playing his villainous supporting character.

In the meantime, the screenplay by director/co-producer/co-writer Lana Wachowski and her co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon attempts to expand and then advance with what was initiated, developed, and then resolved in the previous trilogy, and that brings us back to a bunch of familiar story elements in the previous trilogy. Personally, I enjoyed watching how Jada Pinkett Smith reprises her role while looking quite older, and Smith has a little fun with her supporting role as playing as straight as possible.

I surely felt a bit nostalgic as observing these and other recognizable things in the film, but I also could discern how it often stumbles as trying to juggle lots of different things besides action. In case of its usual philosophical mumbo-jumbo, I assure you that there is plenty of that in the movie, but they are still rather superficial as before, and the same thing can be said about one supposedly humorous discussion scene on how the Matrix trilogy can be interpreted. As your average seasoned amateur movie critic, I was not so impressed because there is nothing particularly new for me in that scene, and I dare to bet that one inconsequential gag scene at the end of the end credits will linger on my mind longer than that.

As going back and forth between nostalgia and disappointment, my mind came to muse on how much things have changed since “The Matrix” came out in 1999. Although I was not very enthusiastic about it in contrast to many of you, it was surely an industrial game changer, and it remains iconic even at present although its many supposedly cool aspects are not that fresh these days. During last 22 years, actions and special effects in the film are much more technically advanced, and nothing in “The Matrix Resurrected” feels ground-breaking to us, except frequently reminding us of how eye-popping “The Matrix” was to us at that time.

In my humble opinion, the Wachowskis simply brought some extra style and mood to quite old and familiar science fiction ideas when they made “The Matrix”, and that was the main reason why they spectacularly failed in “The Matrix Revolution” (2003) after trying to soar higher in “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003). In case of “The Matrix Resurrection”, the movie sincerely tries to go further than that via its new story ideas, but, again, it eventually resorts to its old playbook for more nostalgia as eventually running out of new story elements, and the overall result is as disappointing as Jason Leitman’s “The Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (2021), which also sticks to its old playbook too much just for pleasing its target audiences.

In conclusion, “The Matrix Resurrection” is a nostalgic disappointment, and I and a friend of mine were not particularly excited when we came out of the screening room with other audiences at last night. I felt quite tired at that time, but I decided to show my friend Alex Proyas’s underrated SF gem “Dark City” (1998) right after that, and I think that compensated enough for our disappointing time at the movie theater. To be frank with you, I would rather recommend “Dark City” instead of watching “The Matrix Resurrection”, and I assure you that you will have a much more interesting time.

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