Title: The Matrix Resurrections (2022)
Director: Lana Wachowski
Writers: Lana Wachowski (characters), David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris
It is finally here. You have waited for this, haven’t you? Or perhaps you didn’t know you did? But if you didn’t, who did? Everyone, it seems, and no one. You waited for this even if you didn’t know you did. Whether you did or not, The Matrix Resurrections is here.
When the first three films in The Matrix franchise came out, I became Norway’s big The Matrix nerd. One of our leading film critics, having just watched The Matrix Reloaded, admitted to not understanding a single thing about its story, plot and characters. Representing one of Norway’s two largest media companies, she challenged anyone to write in and explain the film’s plot and what it was all about. Already thoroughly captivated by the brute force philosophy and quasi-spiritual symbolism of the two first films in the trilogy, I wrote in to explain my thoughts, and it seems I was the only one who did. Or at least, the only one who did with such enthusiasm.
One week later, I was standing on the roof of the media company’s building, wearing an oversized black coat and sunglasses, with a camera pointing at me while explaining, on national television, what The Matrix was all about. For about 15 minutes of fame, I was Norway’s The Matrix expert and the country’s biggest nerd.
I’m not sure I could explain it all again. Rewatching the first trilogy recently, I felt something had changed. It felt like the trilogy (I always enjoyed all three, which I have watched many times) had fallen behind somehow. Or maybe it’s just me. I still enjoyed watching them, but besides overly stylized action and great characters (especially Hugo Weaving’s Smith), I was unimpressed by that same brute force philosophy, quasi-spiritual symbolism and intense fashion posing (and inexplicable and seemingly universal use of sunglasses indoors) that so captivated the younger me.
And here we are again. I was somewhat surprised when this fourth film in The Matrix franchise was first announced. I always felt that the three films in the first trilogy stood well on their own (many would say the same for the first film alone). But we’re still deep into the “age of the franchise” after all, and after some terrific trailers that hinted at a different take on the concept, I found myself very intrigued. So will The Matrix Resurrections manage to tell its own coherent story without losing itself in its ideas and world-building?
To be sure, there is a coherent story to be found in The Matrix Resurrections, although, after the first viewing, I found it difficult to grasp it at times. Lana Wachowski is going solo this time around, bravely challenging the fandom by changing things around with a story more centered around dreams, deja vu and rebirth. Part reboot and part sequel, the story starts again, exploring The Matrix from different angles while throwing some intense world-building and meta-narratives into the mix. I know that the younger me would have been thrilled by the new batch of explanations of how “everything works” in the Matrix and the real world. This film is a gold mine for those in The Matrix fandom who likes to dig and analyze!
Explaining the story in detail wouldn’t work here, and it isn’t easy to describe the setup without going into spoiler territory. But an attempt would look like this:
Meet 50-something game developer Thomas Anderson (played by Keanu Reeves). Having achieved success in the gaming industry with his mind-bending Matrix games trilogy (yes, I just wrote that!), Thomas now looks for meaning in a life that seems somehow wrong. He is depressed, and his psychiatrist or “analyst,” as he calls him (played by Neil Patrick Harris), writes out prescriptions for his daily dose of blue pills. And then there is the woman coming to the coffee shop sometimes (Carrie-Anne Moss). Tiff? Tiffany? Trinity? Where has he seen her before?
This is, of course, all in the Matrix. Over in the real world, many years after the Siege of Zion and the events in The Matrix Revolutions, strange things are taking place. An agent program (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) has begun to wake up and discover his true purpose, taking on the role of the now-dead prophet Morpheus, and thereby starting his search for Neo/Thomas Anderson/The One. This triggers Thomas’ awakening and resurrection into his true self Neo, and the whole cycle begins again. But with Neo’s awakening comes his dark side and nemesis, Smith (played by Jonathan Groff).
The original The Matrix trilogy often asked a lot of viewers, and The Matrix Resurrections is no different. You can, of course, sit through the film and enjoy the incredible, almost anime-like action sequences and great characters. But the film challenges the earlier three films with some surprisingly exciting world-building and changes that will also anger many fans of the original trilogy.
Gone are the blatant spiritual symbolism and religious imagery. Gone are the brute-force philosophy and large exposition dumps. More than its predecessors, The Matrix Resurrections employs a show-don’t-tell way of storytelling, with some criticizing jabs at “big tech” and waking up from over-dependence on always being online and plugged in. It quickly gets very meta and high-concept, sometimes too much for its own good. Like the sequels to the original The Matrix, this film will divide the fandom and inspire discussions for years to come.
The Matrix Resurrections is a reboot that still holds on to the originals, sometimes going as far as showing clips from them on projector screens within the scenes of the film itself. So, as an old fan of the original The Matrix trilogy, do I love it? I’m not sure yet. I enjoyed it, to be sure, but like its predecessors, it needs to be rewatched and pondered before I can decide.