It’s been more than 20 years since the original Matrix redefined the concept of being “woke”. Face it, though. That movie was really better off as a standalone. But given the magnitude of its turn-of-century success, the 2003 sequels had to happen. To recap, Reloaded was serviceable, but Revolutions was universally deemed to be a weak conclusion. Now, here comes The Matrix Resurrections to undo the damage, though only minimally.
Only ½ of the Wachowski Sisters (née Brothers) returned for this belated follow-up. Lana’s (née Larry) back as director and co-writer. Lilly (née Andy), on the other hand, had been averse to the idea since promoting 2015’s Jupiter Ascending. The title pretty much gives away how the original trilogy ended. Neo and Trinity were killed in the Machine Wars. Now, they’re back. Apparently, in this version of dystopia, they can “re-plant” the dead and re-program them with brand new memories. “Harvesters” can also opt to modify the aging process, which explains Neo and Trinity looking 20 years older, even though this film is set 60 years after Revolutions. So, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss didn’t really have to undergo prosthetic work. It was Jada Pinkett Smith who earned the brunt; she’s unrecognizable as the aged Niobe.
In this reboot, machines have re-established dominion over the real world, and a new Matrix was since created. Neo’s plugged back in, once again under the alter-ego Thomas Anderson, a video game programmer. He neither remembers being The One nor ever meeting Trinity, known in the simulated world as familied woman Tiffany. At best, his memories haunt him through his dreams, which he discusses in vivid detail with his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris), who seems to have ulterior motives. And, boy, does Harris ham it up later on.
Enter a new bunch of rebels headed by Bugs (an enthusiastic Jessica Henwick), this reboot’s “White Rabbit” and a fun addition to the proceedings. In her quest to retrieve and re-awaken Neo, she joins forces with the new Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who’s no Laurence Fishburne) before they all go against the new Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff, who’s no Hugo Weaving). Returning for this go-round is Sati, a program who took the form of a little girl in Revolutions. Here, she’s now grown up and played by Priyanka Chopra-Jonas.
What transpires is essentially a retelling of the first movie, from the initial unplugging to the stunning visual effects-laden action sequences. It was groundbreaking in 1999. In the 2020s, however, the underlying premise can no longer be considered novel. Fans are bound to appreciate the quick fix and throwback. But with not much fresher insights added, first-timers might opt for the blue pill.