Cyberpunk Review: The Matrix Resurrections
Well folks, the day I waited for with infinite zeal finally arrived: December 22nd, 2021, I finally saw The Matrix Resurrections in theaters! In a giant IMAX theater in the heart of London, no less!
I have a lot of thoughts about the movie and I want to do it justice, so let’s dive right in: Here is my (mostly) spoiler-free review of The Matrix Resurrections, and why you should definitely go see it as soon as you can–although I strongly recommend rewatching the initial trilogy before you do so. Even though it makes enough callbacks and flashbacks in case you forgot, it’s still better to have the trilogy fresh in your mind before losing yourself down the rabbit hole once again.
Familiar Scenes and Repeating Loops
The Matrix Resurrections is about a lot of things, and I’m sure countless articles will be written about its symbolism and intent, just like the trilogy did. What’s different with Resurrections is how meta it is–it’s incredibly self-referential.
It begins with the same Trinity scene in what looks like the same hotel. It has many of the same lines from the first Matrix film. Then as the film progresses, we see new characters offering the same choices to the same titular character.
But something’s changed.
We’ve seen this all before, and yet the story is different. It’s looping, referring to itself in different ways.
Thomas Anderson doesn’t know what’s real or not, but not because he thinks he’s dreaming. This time it’s because he has memories that can’t be real, and hallucinations during his waking hours that makes him question reality and his own mental state.
As with the first film, right off the bat we have a fast-paced action scene where we’re not quite sure what we’re looking at. Suddenly a chase ensues without us understanding the stakes, which makes me wonder whether the audience felt the same way watching Trinity escape from these mysterious men in suits for the first film.
A Quick Start that Briefly Slows Down
Despite a quick start, the pace then slows down a little as Neo, or Thomas Anderson, tries to make sense of who he is and what has happened since we last saw him. This leads into part one of the film, which is the audience following the newcomers (Bugs, Lexy, Seq, and a new Morpheus) trying to reach Neo and free him from the Matrix.
Social Commentary we’ve come to expect
In the process we are privy to a host of meta messages about the original Matrix trilogy, and the world’s apparent response to it. In it Lana none-too-subtly pokes fun at those who aggrandize her own work, from mega-fans to the production company Warner Brothers itself, and even seemingly making a statement of our current society and its addiction to social media.
In this Matrix society, everyone goes to the gym, sips lattes, and is appropriately woke while working at a mostly cubicle-free environment where it’s casual Friday and staff want to be supportive and encouraging, while in reality being maddeningly annoying.
After a bit of fast-paced action to end the first half, the movie enters the second half, which begins with explaining what happened to the world since we last saw it, and then leading very quickly into unplugging someone else from the Matrix–heist part two, basically.
And this is where the pace speeds up, and doesn’t stop until the end of the film. This movie is, in general, incredibly fast paced. A bit like the original trilogy, the moments where it takes a breath is few and far between, and because of that, we don’t have enough time to process what is happening, and yet it’s exhilarating as a result.
What’s the focus?
While there’s a lot of action in this film, the action doesn’t seem like the main focus. It also feels a bit like two heist movies in one, as a team tries to free and disconnect two different people from the Matrix. This film, however, is really a love story at its core between Neo and Trinity. It asks a lot of questions of what it means when they’re apart, when they’re together, and when they’re seeking each other. This is a perfectly understandable focus when we revisit the motivations for Lana Wachowski to revisit the Matrix world after saying she never would for over 20 years. Neo and Trinity returning helped her process her grief when her parents passed away. She explained:
“My brain has always reached into my imagination and one night, I was crying and I couldn’t sleep, and my brain exploded this whole story,” Wachowski said. “And I couldn’t have my mom and dad, yet suddenly I had Neo and Trinity, arguably the two most important characters in my life.”
Other changes compared to the original trilogy
Gone are the green and blue hues, as now Lana Wachowski likes shooting with natural daylight, something she learned when filming Cloud Atlas and then Sense 8. Similar to the beautiful sunrise Sati created at the end of Matrix Revolutions, everything is bright and modern in this film, except for the real world which still remains relatively blue and dark, although even the real world has some new changes. Also gone are the phonebooths to leave the Matrix, as a modern era rarely uses phonebooths anymore, with everyone having smartphones. Instead, headsets and mirrors are used. A final important change is that big bad agents are no longer used–the machines have other ways of keeping humans in line in the matrix. Oh and despite being serious, this film is actually quite funny at times–a lot more than the original trilogy ever allowed.
A Musical Soundtrack to make Don Davis Proud
Another one of my favorite aspects of the original trilogy was the incredible soundtrack Don Davis produced, in particular with his use of a Pile Driver and a full orchestra to create the iconic original soundtrack to the films.
For Matrix Resurrections, the new musical composers are the duo Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer, who composed a very brief song for the club scene in Matrix Resurrections called In My Head (the duo were members of the band called Pale 3). I am happy to report that although the duo are no Don Davis by far, the soundtrack is actually quite excellent. Apparently, after the script was written, a storyboard was drawn up and the duo composed the musical soundtrack for the film before the film was actually shot and edited, in order to make the movie match the soundtrack and not vice versa.
It’s fast, epic, bombastic, and filled with plenty of strings and trumpets, with many throwbacks to the original Matrix score. You can listen to the entire Original Soundtrack now on Spotify.
One Critical Note
So far you might think that I thought the film to be perfect, but that is sadly not the case. There is one thing that stands out as different compared to the original trilogy, and that is the quality of the action sequences. While the chases were fun enough, especially in the finale, the fighting sequences were cut fast, a bit shakily, and it is difficult to see them clearly. Especially the dojo scene, the choreography just isn’t as beautiful as what it once was, and it’s very noticeable. One possible reason is that due to the pandemic, they weren’t able to bring in talent from Hong Kong that paralleled the artistic talent of Yuen Woo Ping. Another possible reason is that Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss are a lot older than they once were, and as a result their fluidity of movement is simply hampered by age. Whatever the reason, don’t except the same classic fights like against Neo vs. Seraph in the tea room, or Neo vs. Morpheus in the Dojo. It won’t compare, but it’s good enough, I suppose. Another interesting note is that throughout the entire movie, Neo never picks up a gun. This was surely done intentionally, but if you’re looking forward to a massive shootout with Neo like he did in the first Matrix film, it’s best you rid yourself of that expectation now.
Final Verdict: 10/10
Despite its action sequences, I still loved this film from beginning to end. Maybe it’s because the Matrix has such a special place in my heart, but there was enough new technology, enough social commentary, and enough action for me to like this movie. But the acting, dialogue, and music were all excellent, and along with the quick pacing of this film made it a fun, thrilling, and thought-provoking movie for me to give it a top score. So don’t raise your expectations too high–it’s nothing industry-breaking–but don’t listen to the haters either. This was a divisive, yet wonderful, fun film with a lot of heart, and you’ve gotta go see it.
In case you were looking forward to more in-depth analysis, I will probably be posting a spoiler-filled deeper dive into The Matrix Resurrections sometime soon.
What were your thoughts on this movie? If they’re spoiler-free, let me know in the comments below. 🙂