A (mostly) Spoiler-Free Review of The Matrix Resurrections
Before I begin my critical review of the fourth entry in the Matrix franchise, I want to be clear that I am a huge fan of the original trilogy. I grew up watching all three films, the Animatrix and playing almost all of the video games. My brothers and I acted out several of our favorite action sequences in our living room, and I even learned to crack all of my knuckles on demand by clenching my fists because of the films. However, my fanaticism wasn't enough to prevent me from taking issue with several elements of the newest film. I did enjoy the Matrix Resurrections, but it lacked the same magic that made the first three films so well-loved.
Fans of the Matrix will find a few things to like from the Matrix Resurrections. There are really clever easter eggs throughout for the sharp-eyed viewer, and if you can, I highly recommend re-watching the first three to really appreciate them all. However, it's been over 10 years since I watched any of the original Matrix films and still caught several nods to those first movies. If you're an action sci-fi fan you will also find the movie enjoyable. It's well-paced with adequate character development and has plenty of action sequences in between the 'slow parts'. I found the first 45 minutes of the movie to be my favorite part, and I wish it continued on in a similar way for the remaining 100 minutes. The Matrix Resurrections isn't the worst franchise reboot to come out in the last several years by no small margin, but it still leaves much to be desired.
My strongest criticism for the Matrix Resurrections can be boiled down to this: It is a watered-down and declawed version of one of the most influential films to come out of the early 2000s. The original trilogy, but mostly the first Matrix, was groundbreaking in many areas- its integration of CGI and practical effects changed the way action films would be made for at least a decade; it asked philosophical questions that no blockbuster film had dared to ask before; it created a counter culture scene that affected an entire generation; Most importantly, it turned Keanu Reeves into an action star and household name.
None of those elements exist in the Matrix Resurrections. It's effects are fine, but they're mostly CGI and there is no compelling cinematography work to speak of. It lacks the philosophical potency of the first film, and the questions it asks the viewer are a practice quiz at best compared to the first Matrix. Instead of attempting to influence culture, the film is content to be influenced by today's culture and includes all the acceptable features an action film is expected to include. Finally, the Matrix Resurrections relies on the star power of its original lead roles when a passing of the torch may have been more appropriate.
I detest the portrayal of the merovingian in the Matrix Resurrections. His character is one of the most striking in the second and third films. He is NOT that in the fourth. Instead, he is used as some cheap attempt at comic relief in an otherwise tense moment, but he is so unrecognizable that the joke is lost. The resulting scene is just awful. If you need a bathroom break, the merovingian's return is your cue to leave the theater.
If you are looking for an entertaining cinema experience with your adult family members this holiday season, you will not be disappointed with the Matrix Resurrections. However, if you are a fan of the franchise and are looking for a return to the magic of the original trilogy you will not be pleased with the fourth addition. There are elements I think everyone can enjoy in the film, but it misses the mark that the Matrix historically hit with marksman-like accuracy 23 years ago. If fans do get two more installments from this reboot I hope they can hone the edge that Resurrections has dulled.
The Matrix Resurrections can be seen at a Theater near you!