Premise: Return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more.

Eighteen years have passed since the Wachowskis concluded The Matrix trilogy and were met with varying degrees of disdain and disappointment from the fan base. Now, Lana Wachowski (sans sister Lilly) has brought audiences back into the Matrix with The Matrix Resurrections. With this installment, Wachowski reintroduces us to Neo and Trinity and some familiar (and not so familiar) faces as they find themselves once again at the whim of machine overlords who’ve imprisoned humanity in a simulated world.

Given the simultaneous finality and ambiguity of The Matrix Revolutions‘ conclusion in 2003, it’s hard to imagine how Resurrections can even justify its existence. The film skirts the line of convolution a few times as it works to explain why it exists as a film but, for the most part, it does a fine enough job at it. Along the way, however, there are instances of eye roll inducing over-explaining done to bring us back up to speed and an overabundance of meta fiction utilized in the first act. These elements do drag the film down considerably but before long, we’re back in the throes of Matrix mythology and, for the most part, it is a satisfying experience.

The homages and callbacks are fairly relentless in the first act as it quickly becomes apparent that the film thinks it’s more clever than it actually is. It is inherently fun to revisit certain Matrix iconography in a different context. There’s no denying it. However, the meta fiction elements are just too much and too prevalent early in the film. They wear out their welcome and become a burden to the experience. This is especially the case when it comes to references that stop the film’s pacing in its tracks, such as a meta reference to “bullet time” and a far too cheeky treatise on action versus art in a corporate boardroom setting.

Looking past the meta fiction elements, the story and purpose behind The Matrix Resurrections lies in the bond between Neo and Trinity and the power of their will to find each other. When comparing Resurrections to its predecessors in the franchise, this new film feels much smaller in scale. Humanity isn’t mounting an all-out war against the machines and there’s no veiled (or, let’s face it, incredibly overt) Christ parallel to be found in Resurrections. Instead, the focus is on Neo’s fight to get Trinity back. At its heart, Resurrections is a celebration of these two characters and Wachowski leads them down a satisfactory path.

What’s important to note about this film’s smaller scale in the greater context of the franchise is how it allows the film to be read as a potential parable for the trans experience. While the Trilogy was perhaps never truly a masculine lensed story specifically, it did have a super-powered man playing out a Christ allegory at its center. When we meet up with Neo in Resurrections, though, he is listless and a near lifeless husk of a man. He’s in therapy due to constant near psychotic breaks and has no memory of the events from the Trilogy. He’s a shell of a man. As the story unfolds, he reawakens to the importance that Trinity held in his life and embarks on a quest to save her and awaken her as well.

This is where the (admittedly loose) trans parable comes into play. Where the Trilogy gave all the power to Neo, Resurrections transfers power and a pivotal choice onto Trinity. As it’s pointed out in the film, the most important choice of Neo’s life is not his to make. It’s Trinity who holds the power and even Trinity who has prescient dreams in the film. Not Neo. Any subtext from this gender inversion may seem like a stretch but it is of particular note as Lana Wachowski is a transgender woman. This brings a unique perspective to the mythology of the series, even if the rest of the movie doesn’t quite work as well.

The Matrix and its sequels were groundbreaking displays of action and science fiction. Unfortunately, Resurrections doesn’t carry that lantern terribly well considering its smaller scale. The action set pieces are interesting enough, if a little dry. The best sequences are, unfortunately, reserved for the sections where the movie is in the playground of the original trilogy’s iconography. Outside of the Matrix itself, it is only mildly interesting to see the progression of humanity after the events of Revolutions. The film provides some brief glimpses at tech improvements in the real world that would have been more intriguing with more screen time but they are simply window dressing and don’t serve much purpose to the plot.

One notable change in the programming of the Matrix involves the Agents. Instead of suited g-men, the Matrix implements Bots to inhabit groups of bystanders to attack in a swarm at any given time. The concept is slightly clever from a computer programming perspective. However, the execution of this concept turns The Matrix Resurrections into a less than imaginative zombie movie by the final act. The lackluster action of the swarming Bots, at points, undermines the emotional journey of our characters. It isn’t fresh and interesting like the horde of Smiths in the Burly Brawl in The Matrix Reloaded. It just feels like a retread of World War Z or really any fast zombie movie that’s been made in the last 18 years or so.

There’s plenty of fan service big and small in Resurrections and, because of that, the film is a fairly enjoyable trip back down the rabbit hole. When it isn’t over-playing meta references, the film can be subtle with nods to the original trilogy. A shot of Neo eating noodles is a nice callback to a single line from the original film, for instance. And the story of an older Neo “waking up” in the Matrix is engaging once you pass the expository gymnastics the film has to go through. The whole affair is just a little tonally inconsistent. Resurrections feels like it needed more time for Wachowski and co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon to develop the story prior to production.

The potential was just left on the table. If it didn’t have to contend with an abundance of meta references and some lackluster changes to the Matrix code, The Matrix Resurrections could have been a better fleshed out movie. As it stands now, it’s simply a trip back into the Matrix to honor two beloved characters. And even with those imperfections, the final product is just perfectly okay.

The Matrix Resurrections premieres in theaters and on HBOMax on December 22nd.


About the Writer: Matt Hurt is the creator of ObsessiveViewer.com. He also created, hosts, and produces The Obsessive ViewerAnthology, and Tower Junkies podcasts. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and lives in Indianapolis with his cat Pizza Roll. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.