Written by: Hannah Tran | December 22nd, 2021
The Matrix Resurrections (Lana Wachowski, 2021) 3½ out of 4 stars.
The conversation around Hollywood’s so-called creative bankruptcy probably sounds nearly as tired as the content that continues to propel it. 20 years after the previous Matrix movies, The Matrix: Resurrections might superficially be dismissed as part of this culture of nostalgic fan service that so many love to hate almost as much as they love to consume. Director Lana Wachowski realizes this, of course. With a plot that feels nearly identical to that iconic first film, however, this return to The Matrix almost immediately refutes the notion that it’s even possible to resurrect the original’s impact. And while it heavily engages with its past, its creative risk-taking and barefaced reflection on its own reputation gives it new meaning and a deeper purpose.
Beyond the themes within the film, what really sells them is their refreshing packaging. Resurrections is a fast-paced, idea-driven screenplay that dares to be controversial and challenging without being obtuse. Some dialogue may feel forced or on-the-nose, but it usually manages to balance its forwardly philosophical side with its fun and campy action moments. There’s a lot of humor to be found in its aggressively meta elements, and there is something so uncomfortably intriguing in its determination to so directly examine its own legacy.
Moreover, the potential interpretation of its messages, whether they regard the movie industry or political ideologies, lies entirely in the mind of the viewer. While it is certainly unafraid to throw in politically buzzy terms and rhetoric, it doesn’t yield to simplifying its original concepts into a more digestible narrative for audiences in the moment. The communication of the ideas here definitely feels contextualized by the present, but the ideas themselves are straightforward enough that they remain timeless.
And whether or not you care to engage with these elements, the look and sound of this film is engrossing enough to carry you through them. The cinematography of John Toll (Harriet) and Daniele Massaccesi (Natale a Beverly Hills) captures the spirit and tone of the original and even manages to show off fresh ingenuity with its unique effects, framing, and perspectives. The combination of footage from its predecessors is strikingly blended through these elements via its rigorous editing. Much like the songs included in this wide-ranging soundtrack, these callback sequences are commonly used, but Wachowski never fully gives into them without quickly reminding us of what movie we’re actually watching.
And beyond its technical and ideological features, where Resurrections succeeds is in its deeply romantic and carefully sentimental moments. The cast, including all of the new additions, are perfect in their roles. A number of these additions may feel slightly underdeveloped, but the enduring connection between Keanu Reeves’ Neo and Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity makes up for any lack elsewhere.
In Resurrections, Wachowski finds a new way back into the world of The Matrix. Fun, strange, and daring, this edition combines the new with nostalgia for something singularly unique. Although it may occasionally meander while it reaches its theses, the thoughtful reflections and exciting techniques it contains open an engaging and foreseeably lasting world of conversation.