Review: ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ Is All Nostalgia With No Bait

In 2003, the final chapters of The Matrix trilogy arrived to mixed emotions. The Matrix Reloaded lived up to the hype of the original, but the “final” film left a bitter taste in the mouths of critics and general audiences. In part, the latter film was met with contentious reactions because it was billed as the end of the franchise, but there were still doors left to explore, leaving them open for a fourth film. A fourth film that finally arrived after eighteen years.

The Matrix Resurrections is disconcertedly aware of itself in a way that no other sequel film has ever been—nor could any sequel film get away with it as well as it does. Early on in the film they even point out that Warner Bros. is demanding a sequel out of The Matrix franchise and throughout the film audiences are reminded that the franchise is kind of goofy. From jests about Neo’s slow-motion action sequences or to blatant hero worship and the refutation of the “Chosen One” trope—the entire film is one giant piece of meta, wrapped in even more meta. Are we in the Matrix because we’re watching Thomas Anderson watch Neo? Seldom are films as self-referential as The Matrix Resurrections.

The Matrix Resurrections
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

For fans of the original Matrix trilogy, who watched the franchise for the romance between Trinity and Neo, this film is a perfect conclusion to their relationship. It’s a coffee shop AU, wrapped in an amnesia plot, and neatly finished off with the fated mates trope. At the beginning of the film, the camera focuses on a neon hotel sign with the letters “HEA” and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was an intentional setup for, as romance readers will recognize, a happily ever after. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss slip back into their roles so seamlessly, you’ll almost forget it’s been nearly twenty years since you last saw them together.

The Matrix Resurrections relies heavily on nostalgia, like many films this year, but it never feels wholly like nostalgia bait. The film walks in the footsteps of its predecessors but then it veers off in its own direction and proves its own existence. Some of the most clever ways that it reinvents itself is in the unexpected resurrection of Agent Smith and Morpheus with new performers taking over for Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne. The film’s ensemble cast do the absolute most to keep audiences tapped in and for the first half of the film, and you’re left wondering what’s real and what’s not, right alongside Thomas Anderson.

The Matrix Resurrections
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Bugs (Jessica Henwick) often feels like an audience insert, as she has been looking for Neo for years, and she has this deep admiration for him and what he stands for. It’s a little on the nose, but equally so, the film acknowledges it and embraces it. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II makes the role of Morpheus his own, replicating some elements of Fishburne’s performance, while also reinventing the role. Two unexpected stand-out performances were Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff who break out from the boxes they’re typically restricted to on-screen. In addition to Neo and Trinity, Jada Pinkett Smith is back in the role of Niobe, and an older Sati is played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The Matrix Resurrections is a bold return to the Matrix, filled with applause-worthy performances, a litany of inside jokes, pointed self-awareness, and most importantly, romance. In a world of divided audiences, The Matrix Resurrections is a rare one because as much as it loves its own existence, it also loathes the fact that it was made. What other franchise can complain directly to its audience about the fact that it was made? This is one movie you won’t want to dodge.


The Matrix Resurrections

9

The Matrix Resurrections is a rare one because as much as it loves its own existence, it also loathes the fact that it was made.

9.0/10
Managing Editor of Entertainment at Your Money Geek | + posts

Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and News Editor at Collider. She has had bylines at Inverse, Polygon, and Dorkside of the Force. She is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.

When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or on her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.