Review: The Matrix Resurrections - why the old code sometimes works better
“Why use old code to make something new?” asks a character early on in The Matrix Resurrections.
“Reboots sell,” says another, a little later.
If winking at the audience has become a de facto get-out-of-jail-free card for Hollywood filmmakers overly reliant on reviving decades-old franchises, the new Matrix movie goes out of its way to call out almost every gripe you may have by turning its first act into a thunder-stealing commentary on its own creation.
The original’s ingenious “What is the Matrix?’ marketing campaign, its innovative “bullet time” action sequences, its canny mix of Baudrillard and bloodshed, even the desire of backers Warner Bros to cash in on the characters with or without the involvement of Keanu Reeves – it’s all referenced in a reality questioning plot that re-imagines what’s gone before as an all-too-real video game franchise designed by one Thomas Anderson (Reeves) sometime around 1999.
It’s all very meta, very Charlie Kaufman-lite.
Nevertheless, it does give returning director/Matrix co-creator Lana Wachowski a way to let rip with some playfully imaginative visuals that comment on the power of nostalgia in thematically interesting ways.
A scene, for instance, where Reeves’s Neo walks through a torn cinema screen running footage of his fresh-faced younger self functions as a sly acknowledgment of how easy it is to co-opt our own movie memories and transform them into “content”.
That said, it does feel like a loss of nerve that there’s no similarly self-reflexive appreciation of just how rubbish the Matrix sequels were, perhaps because while this film is superior, some of the elements that made them rubbish resurface once Resurrections gets up and running.
That happens when the reality of an oblivious Anderson/Neo — last seen being transformed into a sacrificial digital Jesus at the end of The Matrix Revolutions — starts fracturing once again.
In therapy to deal with his inability to distinguish fiction from reality, he starts going through the looking glass once more after being tracked down by a group of digital natives inspired by the legend of Neo and Trinity, who, like Neo, is also back from the dead, albeit in the rather less kick-ass form of a mother-of-two named “Tiffany”.
Once again played by Carrie-Ann Moss, she’s unaware of her own past as a PVC-clad hacker extraordinaire, though Wachowski — working from a script co-written with Cloud Atlas novelist David Mitchell — uses the chemistry between these alternate versions of Neo and Trinity as the driving force of the film, with the reintegration of Trinity into the story eventually becoming its entertaining raison d’être.
As for Reeves, his Neo still knows kung fu and it’s great to see him regaining his mojo.
Perhaps inevitably the film can’t quite find a mind-blowing way to also reinvent bullet time – even slower slow-motion feels like a cheat – but in Reeves and Moss it shows why the old code sometimes works better.
3 out of 5 stars
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