Not Gon Lie, Y’all Had Me in the First Half
The opening act was disorientating, but it was also its only service. It’s downhill after that but not smoothly you know, like skiing? Nah, nah, nah. The Matrix Resurrections goes full Homer jumping the Springfield Gorge.
There were some really dope meta-within-meta plot points at the beginning of the movie. It was as if it took itself seriously. As the movie goes further into a Penrose staircase of self-reference, it starts to lose track of any gravitas the original trilogy built up. As an audience member, you get the feeling that Lana Wachowski didn’t have a great time making the original films and is taking it out on Warner Bros. The problem: fans of the franchise get caught in the crossfire.
Whatcha Say, Whatcha Say, Whatcha Say, What?
The writing in Resurrections was not inspired, at all. With so much plot, exposition was packed into the explain-y dialogue that there are moments where characters are literally impossible to hear. A lot of those were given to Jessica Henwick’s character Bugs (yes, as in ‘Bunny’, another coded dig at Warner Bros and reference to the ‘white rabbit’ from the first Matrix. She even says, “what’s up Doc?” early in the movie). You can boil quite a few parts of this movie down to, “Wait, what did they just say?”
Acting performances were decent throughout the movie, especially Jonathan Groff as Agent Smith. Keanu and Carrie-Anne pick up where they left off with Neo and Trinity with little effort. Henwick’s rebellious Bugs is tolerable but not as dynamic as she could be as the main character. Yahya Abdul-Mateen’s Morpheus/Smith was strange. I’m sure he did his best with the awkward role and the direction given, but it never truly landed or paid true homage to either character. The only other stand-out is Neil Patrick Harris’ turn as “The Analyst.” He hams it up, as the script demands, and it’s cool and funny until it isn’t.
A very touching nod to supporters of The Wachowski’s work, a large part of the main cast of Sense 8 play roles in The Matrix Resurrections. On one end, it is beautiful to see these actors again and to see their solidarity with Lana Wachowski. On the other hand, it took me right out of the movie to see them all. The movie didn’t go many places, so it was a little distracting to always see one of them onscreen. That might be because I adored Sense 8 though. On the other side of that, huge shout to casting Thelma Hopkins aka Aunt Rachel from Family Matters. Didn’t see that coming, and it was pretty cool.
Your Weakness is Not Your Technique
Yeah, it is. The fight choreography in Resurrections is so painfully weak and unintentional it hurts. Yuen Woo-Ping took months to teach each of the lead actors a particular martial arts discipline for the original trilogy, and it showed. None of that kind of artistic integrity shows up in any of the fight scenes. Typically, that wouldn’t matter, but this is The Matrix – the fights are as pivotal to the story as the dialogue. This was not it. Especially when your franchise is known for the clean fight work that is technically sound and easily seen. Resurrections had fight scenes that were so convoluted (on the bullet train in particular) with slowed shutter speed and close-ups just shy of a Jason Bourne movie. It was very Train to Busan but with none of the satisfaction. We’re not even going to discuss that random battle royale in the abandoned building with The Merovingian’s goons. Yikes.
Every Beginning Has an End
Empty character cameos and a weak story truly take away from the deeply philosophical, scrappy, and clever world the Wachowski’s designed to begin with. Like, how do you shortchange The Merovingian? How do you boil that character down to just complaining about social media? Somehow, this movie makes the gigantic world of The Matrix feel small and crowded. Super real talk, The Matrix Resurrections left me with the feeling that the Wachowski’s might’ve never really known how their work had spoken to the downtrodden and ostracized. The Matrix Resurrections comes across as an angry letter from an artist to a corporate giant, but not in a good way. A cinematic middle finger to their parent company that offends diehard fans yet entertains newcomers and (hopefully) piques interest in the previous movies.
P.S.: It Felt Like Dying
If you don’t know what impact The Matrix had on the refinement of my political views, peep here. Even if you didn’t know me from a femme in a red dress, you can read the disappointment in my spirit. This movie had all the tools it needed to be great. The lost potential here is staggering. In real life, where what the first Matrix posited as the scariest outcome for humanity is our actual day-to-day life; this movie couldn’t recall that idea. What could have been the most powerful place for a critical analysis of corporate media tactics, Resurrections makes fun of but then exemplifies. The movie becomes the exact same fluff the original movie forced you to question.
So much of what is wrong with this movie comes down to the beginning of the credits. The familiar electric guitar riffs swell with the political angst of the late-90s. Rising to a shrill but needed release into Rage Against The Machines’ classic song, the aptly titled, “Wake Up.” Only for a band other than RATM to hit that opening, “Come on!!!” lyric!?!?! Are you serious? Did y’all really do that? No shade to the band that performed the song, Brass Against. But you will never know the pain I felt in that moment unless you were there: Madison Square Garden in 2001 when Knicks legend Patrick Ewing missed an open layup on a fast break to give the San Antonio Spurs a championship.
The Matrix Resurrections really felt like a visual monologue of an ‘old head’ scoffing at the new technologies of the next generation. There are moments, few and far between, that remind audiences of The Matrix that was. However, everything in Resurrections falls short of any of the passion and drive of the message synonymous with the arc of the first trilogy. It really just falls short.
You can watch The Matrix Resurrections at home on HBOMax or brave movie theaters nationwide.
Cover Image via Vox.com