In my review of Ghostbusters: Afterlife I noted how it shares many similarities with The Matrix Resurrections. Both direct sequels to more than a decade old movies with a large portion of the original team returning. I also noted that the end-result is as night and day. Which results in a four star review for Ghostbusters: Afterlife and this one star review for The Matrix Resurrections. So what went wrong? How could a franchise like The Matrix sink so deep? Let’s take a red pill and find out.
I still remember the mystery surrounding the first Matrix movie. The bullet-time shots in an otherwise vague trailer, the website whatisthematrix.com, articles popping up how this movie could be a game changer. Remember, this was 1999 and the Internet was still in its infant stage. You had to go to Apple’s Quicktime website in order to watch new movie trailers. When I got my hand on a bootleg copy of the movie I watched it at home once a day for seven days straight. Until today it is still the only movie that managed to have me do that.
The sequels were OK. They came with a lot of hype to which they didn’t live up to (how could they?), but by 2003 we had a nice little trilogy with one perfect movie and two enjoyable sequels. As of 2021 that trilogy has become a quadrilogy. Too bad the only reason for the existence of the fourth Matrix movie is money, because it shows.
In The Matrix Resurrections Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is the programmer responsible for the immensely successful Matrix video game. A trilogy of games released from 1999-2003. His company is being forced by Warner Brothers to create another Matrix game. They own the IP, so he’s been given the choice to either make another game and keep control of the product or they will just go to somebody else. As you can tell by now, this movie is going meta to a whole new level.
Meanwhile Thomas feels like there is something pulled over his eyes to blind him from the truth. A new Morpheus offers him a blue and a red pill, he wakes up in a pod, is saved, calls himself Neo and before you know it we are watching a Kung Fu scene between Neo and Morpheus in a simulation of a dojo. Basically it’s the first Matrix movie all over again, with some small adjustments thrown in.
Done right this could have been the beginning of a new trilogy. Movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ghostbusters: Afterlife proof that dipping into that sweet notion of nostalgia can create good movies. Even if in hindsight we’re complaining that The Force Awakens was a bit too much of a carbon copy of A New Hope. When I was sitting in the audience I ate that movie up because those memberberries sure tasted good.
It’s so evident in each aspect of The Matrix Resurrections that director Lana Wachowski only took this job so she could drive the franchise in the ground herself. I’m actually kind of proud of that. She managed to trick the executives at Warner Brothers to give her a large chunk of money to destroy something they saw as an investment property. It’s kind of brilliant actually. Good for you Lana!
But that leaves us, the audience, with this pile of shit. There is of course a chance that I’m completely missing the point with this movie. That over a couple of years I will have to acknowledge that this movie is a misunderstood masterpiece. The Shawshank Redemption received bad reviews upon its release as well. So maybe I’m wrong, who knows? Only time will tell. But having watched it, the Matrix Resurrections left a foul taste in my mouth. So foul I’m hoping the corona virus will come along and take my sense of taste away.
But even with the power of hindsight, nobody in the near future can ignore the technical flaws of the movie. Especially when it comes to fight choreography and camera work. The original Matrix, but especially the first one, was shot like a graphic novel. The fight scenes were expertly choreographed by Asian choreographers and the movie is full of iconic shots. The only moments that The Matrix Resurrections comes close to decent cinematography is when it either directly copies shots of the first movie or actually uses footage of the first movie. I haven’t seen so much reused footage in a sequel since Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. At one point footage of Morpheus explaining the Matrix to Neo from the first movie is projected on the backdrop of a similar scene in this movie.
I might be too stupid to understand the brilliance of a choice like this, but for me this was the moment I started giving up on this movie. Up until this point I was still giving this whole meta approach, with the constant reuse of footage and recreation of icon scenes from the first movie still a chance. The first Matrix movie is currently at #16 of the IMDb Top 250. This movie should be at least at #16 of its worst movie equivalent.
Blue pill? Red Pill? After watching the The Matrix Resurrections I’m in dire need of some Prozac.