At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Matrix Resurrections “2021”

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Sci-Fi Action/ Stars: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lambert Wilson, Daniel Bernhardt, Eréndira Ibarra, Max Riemelt, Brian J. Smith, Toby Onwumere, Christina Ricci, Telma Hopkins, Ellen Hollman, Andrew Caldwell/ Runtime: 148 minutes

I think it is fairly safe to say dear reader that in the aftermath of close to going on a decade of a fairly astonishing degree of financial and critical success, the trend in the land of movie magic known as the “remakequel” is one that still has more than enough fuel in the tank to keep going for a while. For those of you who, even in the aftermath of such triumphs as this year’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and especially 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, are unaware of this trend and/or what it consists of then please allow me to explain. It would seem that for a while now the main idea that exists in the land of movie magic would be that there are just no positives to be found in either completely and utterly remaking a highly beloved slice of cinema or for that matter in giving the continuity a series has established up to a specific point in time a complete and utter reboot. Instead, the land of movie magic has hit upon the idea of choosing to bring some long-dormant franchises back from the proverbial cinematic graveyard by crafting new chapters that both continue on from the previously existing narrative whilst also containing enough winks and nods to the past to appease long-time fans of the franchise and remind them of why they fell in love with the series in question in the first place. Suffice it to say that with all of the franchises that have gotten this treatment it should come as no surprise to learn that the next film franchise up at bat for this particular treatment is none other than the truly iconic sci-fi franchise The Matrix. It is with that in mind that the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, The Matrix Resurrections, is one slice of cinema that most assuredly matches the above description perfectly as we are able to see that what was in the past has once more managed to become part of the here and the now and that the film’s helmer, one Lana Wachowski, does seem as if she is desperately trying to redeem herself and her sister Lilly for how off the rails the previous two installments managed to go. It is when looking at this slice of cinema through that distinct lens that we can see that it is by and large a fairly successful outing. Indeed this is one slice of cinema that manages to build on what has managed to come before, has a fairly intriguing enough reason for taking audiences back into the world and in bringing back the key characters from said world, and unleashing upon audiences not only fairly well-done performances from its gifted cast, but also a collection of truly dynamic action beats. At the same time though, I think you have the right to know dear reader that this is also one slice of cinema that also has the distinction of being jaw-droppingly uneven in its method of execution. Indeed the first act of this slice of cinema is one that is an absolute blast in every single sense of the word…..only to have the second act prove to be a complete and utter snooze fest that is filled a bit too much with way too many familiar moments as well as an overabundance of narrative. Thankfully lest you think this slice of cinema is going to turn out the way the last two did this one is blessed with a third act that is wonderful and solid to just the right degree in order to make amends for all the mistakes that the second act managed to bring to the proceedings. Thus no this slice of cinema is nowhere even close to being as great as the film that started it all, but it is a step above Reloaded and Revolutions from 2003 and that is an accomplishment in and out of itself.

The plot is as follows: The slice of cinema that is The Matrix Resurrections picks up a solid two decades after the events of the first three movies and proves to be our reintroduction to a very familiar looking man by the name of Thomas Anderson. Mr. Anderson, we are quickly able to ascertain, is an internationally renowned and immensely skilled designer of video games as well as the co-founder of a company known as Binary. He also is a man who as of late has found himself in possession of some severe psychological issues. This is because even though our hero is typically able to keep his mind in one place and live his life to the best of his ability, we see that Thomas is also every now and then stricken with feelings of uncertainty about the world around him. Feelings that his psychologist is more than willing to help him deal with courtesy of putting him on a very familiar looking blue pill (no not THAT blue pill) in order to keep our hero at ease. However we soon see things start to take a turn for our intrepid hero mostly due to a pair of events occurring. The first of these is that we see Thomas cross paths with a woman by the name of Tiffany who despite never having interacted with her he strongly feels like he knows from somewhere. The second is that Thomas crosses paths with a programmer by the name of Bugs. She, we soon learn, has been let loose from that infamous thing we all know and love as The Matrix and in the process met up with an alternate version of the legendary Morpheus who has sent her to try and locate Thomas (gee I wonder why). From there we see that it isn’t long before Thomas is once more set for a very familiar tumble down a very familiar rabbit hole. A tumble that will not only help him see once more the distinction between what he thinks is real and what is fabrication, but also may prove to be the key to reacquiring a passionate love he thought he lost that once upon a time was able to change literally all of existence as the world knew it.

Now it might be quite odd for me to say this, but the first act of this slice of cinema is nearly too amazing. I say this because the beginning to this film is able to conjure up a bar that sadly the remainder of this slice of cinema is not quite able to make it to. Indeed in the aftermath of darn near close to two decades of the Wachowski Sisters repeatedly and firmly saying no to another installment out of fear that it would be seen by audiences as nothing more than “an easy way to make some money”, the first act of this slice of cinema is able to release upon the viewer an extremely high amount of cynical meta that is just a true delight to behold right down to a new take on an iconic character from the previous installments being established in this chapter as Thomas’ business partner and their latest success is a new take on a product called (get this) The Matrix. Suffice it to say this film’s director is obviously enjoying this opportunity to tear corporate Hollywood a new one (heck just wait till you find out who the parent company of Binary is) and this slice of cinema is able to do a wonderful job of constructing its narrative side by side with these satirical elements as we see that Thomas is operating as the cinematic surrogate for the director who is not only having trouble distinguishing between not just commercialism and art, but also imagination and reality as well. Sadly it is at this point in the review where I must mention that this slice of cinema is not quite able to keep up the wonderful aforementioned vibes as its narrative begins to kick in. I mean don’t get me wrong: at first this slice of cinema is able to accept how much it is a reflection in certain aspects of what occurred in the first movie right down to characters not only familiar with what occurred, but also being aware of what is similar and what is different this time around. Yet it is not long before this series of winks heads to the background and is replaced by this slice of cinema choosing instead to give us components that are way too familiar whilst also bringing us up to speed with other “important items”. Thus after giving us a beginning that proves to be such a powerful statement for why this film needed to exist, the midsection unfortunately falls prey to the same issues that the 2nd and 3rd films did. Sure the film does attempt to make up for it courtesy of a giant combat scene in a warehouse that is fairly engaging, but it is a bit of a letdown given what the film gives us from there. Indeed this slice of cinema is so plagued with issues for quite a while that even I was starting to get worried that it would not be able to make up for it. Yet somehow, in a fairly uncommon moment, this slice of cinema was able to actually prove me wrong on that front and gives the viewer a triumphant resolution that succeeds on the level it does mostly due to how passionate the director is in regards to 2 characters in particular. I mean this slice of cinema’s stab at taking action beats to the next level, something known as “Swarm Mode”, doesn’t entirely meet the instant iconic level of cool that “Bullet Time” did and if I’m being honest it really does feel a bit too familiar to what I have seen in certain other films. Yet this level of crazy does manage to keep our two heroes at the core of everything and the film works on the level that it needs to due to how authentic and potent the bond between them is. Yes the gun battles and kung-fu is still just as awesome as ever, but thanks to the aforementioned relationship it’s also made infinitely more satisfying as well.

Yet more than the aforementioned ingredients however, perhaps the singular best ingredient this slice of cinema has working for it would be the truly gifted cast of both several returning stars and a collection of newcomers operating within its framework and giving it the life it desperately needs. This, no surprise here, starts with the work done in this by returning star Keanu Reeves and, again no surprise, he is terrific as Thomas/….well you know who else so honestly why put it here? Indeed Reeves does a wonderful job at giving us the character we all know and love, but also updates him in enough ways such as not only making him a lot more jaded and cynical than previous entries, but also in keeping the John Wick beard and hair to show the passage of time for this go-around that this feels like a genuine continuation of this truly iconic character. I also feel the same could be said for the also returning Carrie-Anne Moss as Tiffany (or another person you might also remember from the original trilogy). Indeed not only does Moss reprise the character in a way that is both a reminder of why audiences loved her character in the first place, but is actually (without spoilers) a very integral part of the narrative this go-around. Make no mistake dear reader: for all the flaws that this slice of cinema possesses, the work done and chemistry shared by Reeves and Moss in this is most assuredly not one of those flaws. At the same time, this slice of cinema is also the blessed recipient of performances from several of the new kids on the block that are just as terrific as that of their veteran co- stars. This starts with Jonathan Groff who is terrifically shady and slimy in his role as Thomas’ business partner and goes all the way to Jessica Henwick whose portrayal of Bugs is so terrific that if future installments are made I would love to see her reprise the role, Neil Patrick Harris whose supporting turn as Thomas’ psychologist is downright wonderful and engaging, and Yahya Abdul-Manteen II whose take on iconic series character Morpheus is faithful enough to remind you of what Fishburne brought to the part yet also novel enough to be its own wonderful thing among others you’ll just have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say every person in this cast did their homework on this particular franchise and it shows in every single performance no matter the size of their respective role in the proceedings.

All in all I cannot lie to you dear reader: the fact that there are some incredibly wild swings of the cinematic pendulum to be found in this slice of cinema do mean at the same time that I can pretty much guarantee that this distinct slice of cinema is one that will most assuredly acquire a response that is not overwhelmingly positive nor overwhelmingly negative, but instead will be mixed in the best sense of the word. I mean I can guarantee you that you, the movie goer will most likely appreciate the components of this slice of cinema that work as efficiently as they ought to, despise the components of this slice of cinema that swing and miss, and how you ultimately feel about the overall film will be determined ultimately by which emotion stands out the most when thinking back on everything that this slice of cinema chose to throw your way. Yet whatever your overall impression of the final product may be, there can be no denying (at the least in the eyes of this reviewer) that, flaws aside, this slice of cinema is an intriguing and riveting homecoming to the foundation of one of the more iconic slices of sci-fi cinema in the past 3 decades to say nothing of the finest follow-up to the original Matrix that audiences have managed to get to date. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Matrix Resurrections a solid 3.5 out of 5.