There is very little doubt that the original Matrix movie, released way back in 1999, changed cinema forever. For years directors like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg had been at the forefront of changing the visual look of the films that we went to see in cinemas. Suddenly this action film came from some unknown Australians that visually looked like something that had never been seen before. The film itself took the action style of Hong Kong martial arts films and mixed it with mind-bending special effects that quickly won over a legion of fans.
The thing about the original film, and something that became painfully obvious as the sequels were released in subsequent years was that while The Matrix looked good the storyline itself was a bit of a weakness. It is the kind of story that people either never fully understand or find themselves thinking about so much that they end up developing their own theories which may or may not be along the lines of the what the creators were hoping to achieve.
Now comes the fourth instalment in the franchise – The Matrix: Resurrections – and the general consensus among fans is the fact that they hope this film answers some questions from the past films while also helps them to forget some of the franchises’ shortfalls.
Directed and written by Lana Wachowski (Jupiter Ascending) the film finds Neo (Keanu Reeves – John Wick) working as a games developer and completely unaware of the Matrix and his involvement in it. In fact his only awareness of his past is what he thinks was a mental breakdown, something that he meets with his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris – How I Met Your Mother) to regularly talk about.
But soon his mundane life is turned upside down when he meets Bugs (Jessica Henwick – Game Of Thrones) and Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Aquaman) and they begin to fill in some blanks that soon has him realising there may be more to the connection that he seems to have with a mysterious woman who he meets in his local coffee shop, Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss – Memento).
That plot-line does sound very thin and to be honest that is the biggest weakness of The Matrix: Resurrections. Once again we have a Matrix film that looks brilliant, but once again we also have a film where the plot is dangerously thin and at times is attempted to be fleshed out by exposition.
Probably the best way to approach the film is to see it as something that is visually going to wow you but isn’t going to win any awards for screenwriting. I would be lying however if I said that this film doesn’t draw you in – it certainly does that.
The most intriguing part of the film is watching Neo trying to put together all the jigsaw pieces in his head. And to Lana Wachowski’s credit that does work although perhaps it could have been done in a faster way. Like always although the plot itself is thin the script is convoluted and to be honest there are a number of scenes that feel like they shouldn’t even be there… especially given the long running time.
There are times throughout the film were the film almost seems aware of itself as the characters talk about reboots and franchises etc and while on the surface it appears smart after reflection it feels a little out of place, especially given that this film works best when it is delivering on action or the suspense of the ‘rescuers’ trying to recruit Neo and find Trinity.
As we have come to expect from this franchise the best thing about is the visuals. The action sequences captured by Wachowski and cinematographers Daniele Massaccesi (Under The Skin) and John Toll (Braveheart) are brilliant, creative and to be honest are the heart and soul of this film. While the screenplay maybe lacking the action set pieces certainly aren’t.
When it comes to acting Neil Patrick Harris steals the show. He is brilliant as The Analyst and not only does he steal every scene that he is in but he seems to find the best of a weak script and makes the character truly his and a remarkable villain. Jessica Henwick is also great as Bugs and she does such a good job that she is a character that needs to be explored more if we see more Matrix films.
As a bit of a downer though it does become obvious that this film is let down by the fact that Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne don’t return to their iconic films. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jonathon Groff (Frozen) doing an okay job in the roles, but it certainly isn’t the same.
The Matrix: Resurrections is one of those films that will wow you with its visuals but don’t expect anything special when it comes to plot or screenplay. The story is paper-thin and at times will have you thinking ‘huh?’ Sadly this is no better than any of the other Matrix sequels but hopefully it is setting us up for something special in the future.