BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It has been 18 years since the last film in the “Matrix” trilogy messed with the minds of audiences with its blend of psychological and technological babble. Because there has been such a long hiatus away from the franchise, the question is whether a new film would be a red pill of enjoyment or the blue pill of failure.
In the case of “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long wait has not hurt the franchise. There are a few signs of rust and aging but overall, the new film from filmmaker Lana Wachowski once again mixes a story that will make your head want to reboot with an avalanche of high-flying action.
“The Matrix Resurrections” looks at a world of two realities. There is the one that we all appear to be living and the one where humanity has been reduced to little more than triple-A batteries in an alien environment.
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is living what appears to be a normal existence as the world’s greatest video game programmer. In one of the most inspired moments in the script by the team of writers in Wachowski, David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, Anderson has earned his fame by creating a trilogy of video games known as The Matrix. There is even a chance to poke fun at the film being made after such a long break as Anderson is informed his parent company will make a fourth game in The Matrix series with or without him.
Anderson is not dealing with life too well as he has visions of being part of the video game world he has supposedly created. His inability to separate fact from fiction has brought him to a very understanding therapist played by Neil Patrick Harris.
The fact a crew from what is actually the real world is trying to save Anderson – or Neo as they know him – draws him closer and closer to which reality is real. His drive to find the truth is also motivated by a need to reconnect with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who exists in his fabricated world but they are not together.
One of the joys and frustrations of “The Matrix” is that the stories have always been deeply complicated. The trio of writers have not simplified the story in “Resurrections” but have given it a slightly more linear design. It can be reduced to being simply a tale of the revival and rush to reconnect by Neo and Trinity. But this is layered under mounds of more complicated elements.
There are definitely some plot burps including never giving a truly plausible reason why Neo and Trinity were not just eliminated by the controlling aliens because they pose such a threat. It is one of several instances where it is necessary to focus less on what is being said and more on what is being done.
“Resurrection” has massive fight scenes and the action flows through the film. What is missing are any memorable special effects moments like the ones that made the original film such a landmark work. Whether it be Neo’s back-bending skills to avoid a hail of bullets or Agent Smith duplicating himself at will, the original films had unforgettable moments.
Despite the joke in the film that a fourth offering in the series would be made with or without its original star, there is no way “The Matrix Resurrections” works without Reeves and Moss. The film gets away with a redo of the character of Morpheus with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II taking on the role that was played originally by Laurence Fishburne. But, such a move would not have worked with the two central players.
The gap between “Matrix” offerings doesn’t seem quite as massive because of Reeves. The fact he played a very Neo-like character in the “John Wick” movies kept the image of this fast-shooting, hard-punching, black coat-wearing character in the minds of moviegoers.
Nothing will ever eclipse the first “Matrix” movie as it remains a milestone in cinema. It set such a high standard than even the two sequels that immediately followed paled in comparison. “The Matrix Resurrections” also fails to meet the high standards of the first film but it does feature enough clever writing, big action scenes and the return of two of the central players to make it a film that doesn’t shake the reception of the franchise reality but also doesn’t short circuit it.
“The Matrix Resurrections” is now in theaters and will be available to subscribers of the streaming service of HBO Max for the next 31 days.
Movie review: 3 stars
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathon Groff.
Director: Lana Wachowski
Rated: R for violence, language
Running time: 148 minutes.