There is no Neo—just a man named Thomas Anderson who’s yet to take his red pill and realize that he’s living in a fabricated world. Are we talking about The Matrix or The Matrix Resurrections, Lana Wachowski’s 2021 sequel to the revolutionary action flick? The fact that you can’t tell is the point. Matrix Resurrections isn’t a normal sequel. There is much to discuss, to say the least.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Matrix Resurrections?
Andrew Gruttadaro: The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced this is one of the smartest movies, if not the smartest movie, I’ll see in 2021.
Katie Baker: A meet-cute in a coffee shop named Simulatte? This movie is a rom-com.
David Lara: Imagine if they redid the original Matrix but couldn’t get Laurence Fishburne.
Arjuna Ramgopal: A sad reminder that sometimes it’s best to leave a franchise dormant instead of resurrecting it.
Miles Surrey: Resurrections boldly takes the mantle from The Last Jedi as a blockbuster more interested in interrogating its franchise’s legacy than in giving fans a rush of nostalgia. The least surprising thing about Resurrections is that it’s already proved to be polarizing, but make no mistake: This is a masterpiece.
Ben Lindbergh: A relentlessly self-referential and defiantly genre-nonconforming tribute to how well Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss have aged.
2. What is the best moment of the film?
Surrey: The opening half-hour with Thomas Anderson as a video game designer being forced by Warner Bros. to make a sequel to his beloved trilogy. (The “Matrix is …” brainstorming montage is absolutely brilliant.) This is maybe the most meta moment in an established franchise since Wes Craven made Freddy Krueger a fictional movie villain who invades the real world to terrorize the cast of A Nightmare on Elm Street in New Nightmare.
Lindbergh: Exactly what we all expected it to be: a montage set to “White Rabbit” in which game designers debate the essence and meaning of The Matrix as an executive played by Christina Ricci presents focus-grouped keyword associations with the Matrix brand, highlighted by the delicious line, “The top two being ‘originality’ and ‘fresh,’ which I think are great things to keep in mind as you begin working on Matrix 4.”
Ramgopal: The more subtle stuff with Neo at the beginning of the movie is at least chaotic and somewhat interesting. I loved seeing Mr. Anderson rebooted as a successful video game developer going through life.
Baker: The best moment of the film was afterward, when I went straight to YouTube for a dose of very patient videos explaining to me what I just saw and I learned that the guy who plays Chad is (a) Keanu’s stunt double from the very first Matrix; (b) is the director of all four Johns Wick; and (c) is named Chad. Chad!
Lara: I actually really liked the Morpheus-Neo fight scene. It wasn’t as good as the OG, but hey, Neo still knows kung fu.
Gruttadaro: The “What’s The Matrix about?” scene. In under five minutes, Lana Wachowski and Co. take a shot at a host of factions who’ve blindly thrust their own, often messed-up worldviews onto the original film, as well as the deeply IP-obsessed film industry. It’s hard to describe how thrilling it is to see a filmmaker stare down an audience so accustomed to fan service and be like, “Nah, I’m not giving you what you think you want.”
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Lara: While I enjoyed Jonathan Groff, Agent Smith is just played out. That dude will not get deleted.
Ramgopal: There are some really weird framing issues. The scenes between Neo and the Analyst specifically look really, really bad. Baffling, almost.
Baker: I was really rattled by the bot-bomb imagery!!! I assume that was the point, but it was hard to see.
Surrey: Resurrections doesn’t do anything as groundbreaking as the original Matrix’s “bullet time” effects or Reloaded’s highway sequence, but those might be impossible bars to clear, anyway.
Gruttadaro: Most of the action sequences in this movie are … extremely lackluster. I’ve seen the argument that this is intentional, and I actually love that theory—but still, the movie gets a little boring anytime the action ramps up. Swarm Mode is not as fun as Neil Patrick Harris says.
Lindbergh: Resurrections confirmed what Midnight Mass suggested: Hollywood has learned how to make anything look convincing, except aged-up actors. Menacing, multi-tentacled flying robots? Easy. People transforming into angry AI bots and hurling themselves through their windows? No sweat. Jada Pinkett Smith, but she’s 80 instead of 50? Get outta here. Old Niobe’s makeup looks like it’s from that Star Trek: TNG episode where an ancient admiral ODs on a rejuvenation drug. Big-budget aging effects are barely better than a student in a school play trying to pass as an octogenarian by wearing big glasses and a shawl, walking with a limp and a cane, and faking a quavery voice.
4. Does Resurrections hate that it exists?
Lara: One hundred, 1,000, 1 million percent.
Ramgopal: It has to. The movie feels like a bad cash grab that had an interesting idea but didn’t know how to execute it, and gave up on caring to explain what was going on halfway through.
Baker: On the spectrum of RSS (residual self-regard), Matrix Reloaded is waaay out on one end and Matrix Resurrections is all the way on the other, for sure.
Gruttadaro: It doesn’t hate that it exists, but it certainly hates the homogenized, nostalgia-infatuated culture that prompted its existence.
Lindbergh: I think the filmmakers found purpose in spiting or subverting the expectations of all parties involved in sustaining the sequel-industrial complex, from superfans to media hype machines to the bean counters at “our beloved parent company, Warner Bros.” Even the post-credits scene takes the piss out of post-credits scenes. I’d love to know what the studio suits said when they first saw the script.
Surrey: It’s pretty obvious that the Wachowskis want to craft more original stories, which is increasingly harder to do in Hollywood’s IP-driven landscape. The tragic irony is that an original sci-fi blockbuster like The Matrix would struggle to be green-lit without making major compromises to its budget in 2021. But while Resurrections is openly disdainful of the current blockbuster ecosystem, you also get the feeling that Lana Wachowski is protective of the franchise: If Warners is gonna force a sequel on her, she’s still going to try to knock it out of the park.
5. Does this movie have enough action?
Gruttadaro: It has enough. It’s just that none of it is all that compelling.
Lindbergh: Although I really liked Resurrections, the movie spends so much time mocking everyone else’s interpretations of what a Matrix movie should be that I’m not sure it ever settles on an answer of its own. (Perhaps the point is that there is no single answer.) I’m all for Matrix mind porn, but at the risk of sounding like the game designer who says the Matrix sequel should be “big, loud, and dumb” with “guns, lots of guns,” yes, I would have welcomed more action. For better or for worse, Resurrections roundly rejects Jude’s assertion that “We need a new bullet time.” Latter-day Neo’s bullet blocking seems more efficient, but it looks less cool. I did enjoy the Train to Busan–style “swarm mode,” though.
Ramgopal: It doesn’t have enough good action. The original trilogy wasn’t flawless, but it had some of the greatest action sequences in cinematic history. This movie … opts for some type of weird brawling that shows the age of all of its stars.
Surrey: The action feels perfunctory, but the film still has a standout moment: when Neo and Trinity jump off a building, well, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss actually did that IRL. Jumping off a building is a drop in the bucket compared to all the stunts Reeves executes in the John Wick franchise, but that doesn’t take away from the scene being awesome.
Baker: I was fine with the action levels but totally understand that it was probably a letdown for most viewers. Side note, between this and Gone Girl I’m beginning to worry about Neil Patrick Harris’s neck …
6. What is your take on the resolution?
Surrey: Anyone surprised by the “love conquers all” ending clearly hasn’t been following the Wachowskis’ work closely post-Matrix.
Ramgopal: I actually didn’t mind the movie going all in on their relationship.
Baker: I felt like Neo and Trinity had better chemistry in this movie than in all the others combined!
Lindbergh: It reminds me of when Homeland spent three seasons insisting it was a tragic romance. I didn’t care at all about Carrie and Brody’s love, but I still liked the show. I feel the same way about Trinity and Neo: I guess I’m glad they got back together and flew off into the artificial sunset, but their relationship was never why I watched.
Gruttadaro: The ultimate message that there was never a “One” but a “TWO” is wildly corny, haha. But at the same time it’s very heartwarming that Lana Wachowski came to this conclusion in the wake of her parents passing away. It’s her franchise and she’s more than allowed to use it for therapy if she wants.
7. Who is the sneaky MVP of this movie?
Lara: Groff. We stan a hotter Agent Smith!
Surrey: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jonathan Groff were given the unenviable task of playing new incarnations of Morpheus and Smith, but they both crushed it. Morpheus 2.0 was pulling off eccentric fits, and the new Smith was so charismatically weird that I honestly grew to like him?
Lindbergh: It can’t be easy to play a different-looking version of an iconic character after the original actor drops out because of a scheduling conflict, but Groff monologued and sneered so authentically that he made me believe he was Smith. The only letdown was that he and NPH didn’t do a musical number instead of a fight scene. Forget Rogers: The Musical; give me Matrix: The Musical.
Ramgopal: Jessica Henwick’s Bug makes the movie somewhat interesting.
Baker: Christina Ricci definitely had the best efficiency stats and inspired me to fantasize about a Matrix/Yellowjackets crossover event of a lifetime. I also enjoyed the Analyst (and loved this essay by Emily VanDerWerff on the film’s portrayal of therapy and trauma).
Gruttadaro: I did not expect to leave a movie theater in 2021 going, “Wow, I’ve really missed Neil Patrick Harris.”
8. Does Resurrections change how you feel about the original film/trilogy?
Surrey: No amount of time or critical reappraisals will change my view of Revolutions being hot garbage, but three out of four Matrix movies being good-to-all-time-great is a very solid return.
Gruttadaro: One hundred percent—it’s reminded me that the Wachowskis are some of the boldest, most unflinching creators in Hollywood, and has retroactively convinced me that there’s much more going on in Reloaded and Revolutions than I’ve long thought.
Ramgopal: Not really. It reminds me of a lot of other long-awaited sequels to old franchises that end up being completely superfluous. I’ll likely never watch this along with the others. (Also, we probably romanticize the original trilogy a little too much.)
Baker: After watching Resurrections and feeling like a whole lot of it went over my head, I was reading the book Matilda to my kids and there’s a line where young Matilda tells a librarian that she doesn’t always understand Hemingway. “Don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand,” the librarian tells her. “Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music.” So in a way, I’d say Matilda was what most changed how I feel about all the Matrix movies? (Fun flicks! La la la la la …)
Lindbergh: Although the sequel features a new, extra-nefarious reboot of the Matrix along the lines of the First Order’s Empire cosplay in the Star Wars sequels, I appreciated that Resurrections took pains to preserve the significance of Neo’s sacrifice in the original trilogy (in contrast to The Rise of Skywalker seemingly undercutting Anakin Skywalker’s sacrifice in Return of the Jedi). If anything, Resurrections’ liberal reuse of footage from The Matrix reminded me how much that movie owns. It’s strange to feel nostalgic for something that seemed so futuristic. Then again, I guess it’s strange to be old enough now for a movie that prominently featured phone booths to have felt futuristic in the first place.
Lara: Every sequel just reminds me how amazing the original movie was, because none of them could ever reach that level.
9. Will there be another Matrix movie?
Gruttadaro: LOL, are you suggesting that a major Hollywood studio will let some of its major IP lie dormant?
Baker: Yes, and I hope it involves Chad.
Lara: You know it! Also, I know they were making fun of the video game in this movie but, really: BRING BACK THE VIDEO GAME!
Ramgopal: Probably not featuring the original characters, but I’m sure it’ll be rebooted again in another 10 to 15 years.
Lindbergh: In some respects, Resurrections feels like a final statement, and its takedown of sequel culture and excessive fan service might lose some of its sting if it were followed by more Matrixes. The Matrix tried transmedia storytelling before it became all the rage, and I would definitely watch a Matrix TV series, but I kinda doubt that one or both of the Wachowskis will be persuaded to return to this film franchise. Then again, Groff’s Smith says, “That’s the thing about stories—they never really end,” which contradicts the Oracle’s old assertion that “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” So, I guess, stay tuned for The Matrix Retread and The Matrix Regurgitations.
Surrey: Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.