There are very few films in the action genre that are as influential and timeless as 1999’s The Matrix. Not only was the film singularly fantastic with absolutely brilliant world building and genuinely compelling, deep themes – but it was so well done that it set a precedent for most action films that followed. Anything that came after would have to either top the top-notch choreography that the Wachowski’s accomplished, or make their films even more thematically rich – both of which were, and still are, hard feats. So now that we’re about twenty years removed from the sequels that were met with a fair amount of criticism (even though they have many fans, myself incuded) and the world getting eerily more reliant on AI and technology – it seems like the perfect time for another Matrix movie.
I don’t want to spoil the plot of this one, because the trailers have been pretty vague with the mystery of how certain characters return and how the Matrix universe has evolved since 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions. I can honestly say, warts and all, this film did something that not a lot of blockbusters do nowadays – it genuinely surprise me. While hardcore fans of The Matrix might have a certain idea of where the story could go, I was still shocked to find that this is the most “meta” of the entire franchise thus far. Everything I previously mentioned about how “influential” the original film is to the genre and how the sequels are mostly sidelined in the culture is half of what this movie is about. It truly feels like the most artistically-driven return to a franchise in quite sometime, and it’s all the more compelling to know that Lana Wachowski, one of the original creators, is the one telling this story.
Sometimes when franchises get to the point of repetition and they try to incorporate more meta elements to acknowledge fans’ frustrations or anxieties of the franchise, it can be truly forced and poorly done. But The Matrix Resurrections feels like an extremely personal movie for Lana Wachowski, almost like she’s expressing to us how she feels about the state of the industry and her role in revolutionizing the action genre/industry as an artist herself; and that’s what makes this stand-out amongst all the yearly reboots we get. It’s not only genuinely clever and funny, but feels like it has narrative and thematic purpose as it comes directly from the creator of the original films.
Undeniably, The Matrix Resurrections is a bit of a mess and falls into a lot of the same issues the other two sequels do with exposition and storytelling. But it’s also a truly audacious and fascinating piece of work that I think pays off greatly by the end, with wonderful action, truly gorgeous cinematography, and a surprising amount of heart to tie it all in. It doesn’t work on every level, but the film is unlike any other blockbuster playing right now and is all the better for it.