Sparking a cultural revolution upon its release in 1999, the original Matrix film was a novel piece of science fiction, taking audiences down the rabbit hole to introduce them to the potential of cinema on the horizon of the new millennium. Changing the way we perceive the modern blockbuster, directors Lana and Lily Wachowski infused the film with an innovative take on film itself, from the high-wire stunts to the influential special effects to the cast of culturally diverse characters.
Armed with a crucial self-awareness that was wired into its very mainframe, each of the Matrix sequels were constructed with knowledge of their place in the modern movie industry, often toying with the very fabric of the medium itself. Speeding up and slowing down time whilst bringing attention to the camera with innovative ‘bullet time’, the Wachowski’s built the franchise in response to the ever-more technological world they saw around them at the turn of the new century.
The Matrix: Resurrections, the fourth film in the (ongoing?) franchise follows suit in such innovations, recognising its place in the contemporary film industry before constructing a world to suit that reality. Armed with a sharp self-awareness, the 2021 film goes about dismantling the very constructs of modern cinema before it goes about trying to implant its own ideas as to where the future of the industry should lead.
Whilst the latest film in the series is certainly an interesting addition, it would be difficult to ignore the fact that it pales in comparison to the original film, standing beside the quality of the sequel, The Matrix: Reloaded whilst being superior to the third film, Revolutions. Though whilst many audiences are willing to simply disregard the film as ‘another failed sequel’, there’s simply too much that The Matrix: Resurrections gets right to ignore it altogether.
Trapped captive in the latest version of ‘the Matrix’ by the Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), the mind of Neo (Keanu Reeves) is kept busy by believing that the insane dreams of his ‘past life’ was merely the fictional story of a fabricated video game. Now a world-famous game designer, Reeves has made three instalments of his Matrix game and intends to make an original game next named Binary that will change the course of his series forever.
In the construction of such a feat, we follow Neo as he is told by his manager that Warner Bros want him to go back into the Matrix to give fans what they want, requirements explained that are mocked by the team of game designers who question how they make ‘bullet time’ “new” and infuse the game with a refreshing philosophical angle. It’s all a little too ‘on the nose’ to ignore and with reports that Warner Bros was intending to make the fourth instalment with or without the original filmmakers, it feels like a knowing nod of acknowledgement from Lana Wachowski. If The Matrix was to return it would be done her way.
Doing away with the groaning call-backs that such recent franchises like to roll out, from the appearance of Lando Calrissian in Rise of Skywalker to the several eye-rolling moments of repeated dialogue in Ghostbusters: Afterlife to the 147 minutes of fan service in Spider-Man: No Way Home, such simply doesn’t exist in Matrix: Resurrections. Sure, the film references the original movies, a bunch of times in fact, but each callback is made with a narrative purpose in mind, rather than simply recalling the past for the sake of it.
In its sheer idiosyncrasies, it should be celebrated, choosing to advance the franchise of The Matrix instead of retreading old ground and relying on tired cliché. Trying to heave the modern blockbuster into the future like moving a dead corpse, the latest Matrix film attempts to leave the predictability of franchise filmmaking in the past, suggesting the creativity and unpredictability of future filmmaking. Such can be seen in the diverse cast of non-binary and gay actors and characters who inhabit the world of the film with effortless ease, presenting a revolutionary film in its own right that celebrates the diversity of the contemporary world.
In its well-constructed self-awareness, The Matrix: Resurrections carries a unique identity that questions the sheer film industry it operates within, picking at its innards as it carefully tries to undo its stitching. In its sheer obviousness, the title of the film itself seems like a knowing nod to the endless cycle of reboots and remakes, with the films final after-credits sequence also making reference to the sheer pointlessness of such a trend.
Whilst The Matrix: Resurrections does not reach the heights of its predecessor, it’s crucial to admire the fact that this was never really its intention. As an enigma of modern cinema, a message to contemporary movie-making and a strange bookend to the Matrix saga, it should be celebrated.