Home Culture The Matrix Resurrections – A Cyberpunk Review

The Matrix Resurrections – A Cyberpunk Review

by Chad Sanders
The Matrix Resurrections

Keanu Reeves in the Latest Matrix Movie Packs a a Cyber Punch

It finally happened to The Matrix. Captain Hollywood, who we all know is in charge of the Nostalgia and Branding department for whatever megacorp that’s currently running things, has pulled the trigger on a new Matrix movie. And just in time for the holidays, too! Remember to thank Santa, if this is indeed what you asked for. If not, well just try it anyway. You might grow into it. 

The Matrix Resurrections is the latest installment of The Matrix franchise. It finds Neo alive and back in a new version of this simulated reality. Strange things are happening, again. A team from the real world wants to set Neo free, again. Will he break on through to the other side, again? 

Yes, it seems to repeat itself. But is The Matrix Resurrections playing the hits or simply comforting the mind with familiarity before it goes bonkers? 

WARNING! Spoilers ahead for The Matrix Resurrections. User beware.

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss return in The Matrix Resurrections
Keanu Reeves and Carrie

The More The Matrix Changes, the More it Stays the Same

Lana Wachowski is helming solo directing duties for The Matrix Resurrections. She brought back many familiar faces (Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss) to tell the story while simultaneously introducing new characters (Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris). Some of these faces are “new” new and some are “old” new. Basically,  there’s no Hugo Weaving or Laurence Fishburne. Those have been recast for Jonathan Groff and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Of course, you don’t know that at first. 

They do a pretty good job at trying to recreate classic Matrix lore and action without making it seem stale. The results aren’t bad at all. Not groundbreaking, nor lazy. It’s entertaining and enjoyable.

Once you figure out what’s actually going on, it’s pretty straight forward. The machines kept Neo and Trinity alive. The humans are successful at getting him out. They spend the rest of the movie trying to get Trinity out. The movie gives specific reasons, but you’ve seen how movies work. You get it. 

The Matrix Resurrections Metacommentary

In modern Hollywood sequels, it’s easy and often preferred for the film to basically pull a Force Awakens. This means somewhat remaking a beloved classic while trying to have the film also work as a sequel to start a new trilogy. The idea being that if enough people feel that nostalgia tingle while watching it, people will continue coming back. 

As time passes, we see that this method may sell tickets at the box office on opening weekend, but doesn’t hold up over time.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus ( or is he?) in The Matrix Resurrections
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus ( or is he?) in The Matrix Resurrections

Just look at Letterboxd reviews for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. That’s a movie that tries to pull a Force Awakens and the reviews all over the place.

That’s the thing when dealing with a beloved IP like The Matrix. The audience response is personal and nuanced.

But what makes The Matrix Resurrections unique is that it does this in order to not do it. The opening scene is a recreation of the opening scene from the first Matrix movie, but with a twist. Bugs (Henwick) and Sequoia (Toby Onwumere)  are off to the side watching it, debating how realistic it actually is to what happened. As it progresses, you realize that it’s not actually Trinity kicking agent butt. It’s someone who looks like Trinity. Then she loses. That didn’t happen. That thing with the truck and the phone booth happened.

And then there is Neo. He’s alive, living in a new version of this simulated reality. But instead of a lowly programmer, he’s the genius behind a beloved online sprawling multiplayer. The game? The Matrix. Yeah, they did it. They went meta on it. Like, a Dan Harmon amount of meta. It’s crazy and weird and I’m here for it. 

For the first act of the movie, you have all these characters talking to Neo about why they love The Matrix while he is teetering on a psychotic break from reality. He doesn’t know if The Matrix story was real or not. Neither does the audience. Wachowski does such a great job and messes with your mind while watching that I never stopped second guessing the movie. Even when I was like “Man, they’ve been in the real world a while now”, I still wondered if this was part of the simulation Neo is experiencing. A simulation wrapped inside a riddle soaked in a conundrum. He wasn’t. It was just the first mind fuck still mind-fucking.

That’s something that The Matrix Resurrections was able to pull off that many other legacy sequels struggle with. It captured the magic of the original without rehashing old material. We forget that audiences in 1999 had no clue what was going on while watching The Matrix. Well, I had no clue what was going on watching The Matrix Resurrections. That’s not an easy feat to pull off. 

The Meaning Behind The Matrix Resurrections

The reason why so much of The Matrix Resurrections work is that it still chooses to have all of the decisions be based in the same melting pot of ideology. It still questions the status quo. It still throws in tidbits of eastern philosophy. It hammers home the allegory of everyday, boring life where humans accept things as they are as sci-fi prison built by machines. 

The main difference for The Matrix Resurrections is how it updated this for 2021. 

Towards the end, main villain The Analyst (Harris) breaks it down for Neo. He goes on and on (but in a fun, mustache-twirling way) about how he doesn’t have to change facts for humans to stay stuck in the matrix. All he has to do is manipulate other people’s emotions. And he’s not even in charge of everything. He just gets how humans work so he’s good at his job. 

The reason this hits home is because it’s true. He basically is Ben Shapiro, albeit a much more successful version of him. 

Wachowski is updating the prison allegory to include our manipulation by the elite. She does this by hitting hard on a commentary involving nostalgia culture and political discourse. That’s smart, and The Matrix has always been smart. In that way, The Matrix Resurrections succeeds. 

But when it comes to basic plot, action scenes and character development, it didn’t substantially evolve. The action is good, but not amazing. Coming from a franchise that completely redefined the way Hollywood made action movies, that can be disappointing for those who constantly want something groundbreaking. 

But being groundbreaking is hard. The Matrix already did it once. IMDB currently is rating this movie as a score of 6.1 out of 10. That’s more than fair. Hardcore fans will rejoice. Casual fans will be entertained. Incels will be pissy because there’s only one Marvel movie to yell “woke police” at, and probably already saw Spider-man:No Way Home.

For diehard cyberpunks, you know you’ve gotta see The Matrix Resurrections. It will be on HBOMax until January 22, 2022. It is currently being shown in IMAX, which is the superior way to see any movie, especially a Matrix sequel. 

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