By Juan Calvillo
“The Matrix Resurrections” uses nostalgia, updated special effects and a bit of philosophy to reinvigorate the franchise with predictable, but entertaining success. The newest entry into “The Matrix” franchise answers the question of what happened to the main characters of the series. It accomplishes this by using fun call backs to the original movies and continuing the story of individual choice.
Keanu Reeves returns as the main character of Thomas Anderson, also known as Neo in the real world. Carrie-Anne Moss returns playing her character from the original trilogy, Trinity. The rest of the cast, with the exception of Jada Pinkett Smith, who returns as Niobe, and Lambert Wilson, who returns as the Merovingian, is brand new. Jonathan Gruff takes the role of Smith instead of Hugo Weaving. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays a very different version of Morpheus. Jessica Henwick plays the new character Bugs and Neil Patrick Harris plays the new version of the original Analyst.
The main story of the franchise is focused on the result of a human-machine war that leaves earth a hollow shell. The machines come out the victors and enslave mankind, primarily using humans as batteries. Humanity is kept in check in an artificial world known as the Matrix. The original trilogy ended with an apparent peace being negotiated that had main character Neo saving both human and machine worlds. At the beginning of the film it seems things did not end where the original trilogy ended.
Neo is once again trapped in the matrix, being held against his will and is manipulated into thinking that his time in the ‘real’ world was a mental breakdown. From there it’s the work of a new Morpheus and Bugs to bring Neo back into the real world. The story continues showing the struggle people have when it comes to making choices in life. Neo must come to the realization that the machines have once again stacked the deck against him when it comes to making real choices. Once Neo decides what his new chance at freedom of choice entails, the film becomes a similar battle to the original Matrix movie. It comes down to each character making the choice between freedom and choice, versus the illusion of both.
The first movie in the franchise, “The Matrix”, set the standard for what special effects could accomplish when it was released in 1999. This time around the special effects are just as awesome to see. Despite Neo’s abilities having been scaled down for this film, it’s still fun to see his telekinetic powers stop bullets and redirect explosions. Couple that with the beautiful designs for the machines, mechanical creatures that exist in the ‘real’ world, and this film is probably the slickest of the four movies in the franchise.
The fight choreography is just as interesting and multileveled as the original movies in the franchise. The hand-to-hand combat done in this film is a bit slower than in the previous movies, but it stays in line with the changes made to the characters. In the original trilogy, Neo was typically more of an offensive fighter. This time around he is more on the defensive side. There is even a part of the movie where the character says that he is done fighting. Of course that doesn’t mean he has lost his skills as a fighter. Moss and Reeves both put on great fight sequences. A lot of the moves, stances and even strikes are reminiscent of their fights throughout the franchise.
The heart of “The Matrix” films, of course, is the character interactions between Reeves and Moss. That is not in doubt in this film. Reeves plays the traumatized character of Anderson/Neo perfectly. His anxious hand rubbing and the far off looks he gives in the first half of the film are powerfully done. Moss is awesome to watch as she plays the subdued version of Trinity in the Matrix then switching to the defiant and strong Trinity character. The crux of the movie revolves around the pairing and their relationship. One of the standouts is Smith as Niobe. Smith plays the aged captain with gravitas and guts. It’s one of the more interesting characters in the film. It is truly unfortunate that she is only in a handful of scenes.
“The Matrix Resurrections” is interesting and although there is no word on whether this is the start of a new trilogy, the ending is ripe for future stories. The movie’s end can be seen coming from a mile away. The fun part about it is that it truly cements the link and relationship that Neo and Trinity have within The Matrix’s franchise.
“The Matrix Resurrections” is out now in theaters and can be streamed on HBOMAX until January 21. The movie is rated R for violence, mild nudity, violence and some language.