"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “The Matrix Resurrections”

It is a rare case that in such a short period of time I have to think and write about more than a single movie. This usually happens either when I really want to see particular movies with premiere dates close to each other or when I accidentally (i.e. when invited by someone else) go to the cinema. Well, for better or worse, this one was due to the latter …

One of the things that have always been weird in my life, at least as far as the cinema is concerned, is that I haven’t watched several of the movie classics, i.e. the evergreen movies that have withstood the tests of time and have been loved by generations. Until a few years ago “The Matrix” was one of them, a mistake on my end which took quite long to fix. I have to admit that the movie was amazing even though I had already seen quite a big part of it through some random videos, memes and such before that. Back then I didn’t get to seeing any of the sequels, however, due to one reason or another (don’t ask me why, maybe I just felt them unnecessary at that moment). Here we are, though, a few years later, where, a bit forcefully or not, I managed to experience the whole trilogy at once (or said otherwise – I had exactly 2 days to do so) and shortly after that also see what they’ve done this time in “Matrix 4”, a.k.a “Resurrections”.

But enough with the redundant philosophy and thinking, it’s never been one of my strongest sides anyways since I always get into unnecessary details. Instead, let’s take a look at some simple math, at least there I’m supposed to know what I’m doing (and hopefully, otherwise I don’t know how I got hired at work). Imagine that you have a variable X which is a unit of a movie. Now let’s add a few decimals to that – it came out in the end of last century, it explored somewhat unknown at that time science fiction themes but through the prism of philosophical and moral dilemmas. Now let’s add a few rising and shining stars as well as two directing brothers who were almost visionaries back then to increase the value even more. And from here onwards X’s curve starts changing a bit. We subtract a weaker sequel that’s taking a somewhat different direction than the original. We extract the sequel of the sequel too as it’s now leaning quite a bit towards an ever biggger decreasing but at least manages to finally stabilize the variable’s value with its definitive end …

Two ageless legends, two cult characters, two movie titans – sometimes I wonder if Reeves and Moss were really in cryochambers or some similar alien containers at some point in their lives.

Or does it? Years pass by, X stays unchanged but a few other things come to light which forecast an upcoming pop of its balloon. As a result, decrease its value again due to a series of unconvincing attempts of its creators to bring forward something new and original (perhaps excluding only Sense8). I don’t want to sound like a hater but subtract a bit more even because of the fact that part of these lacking projects is due to the brothers becoming a brother and a sister at first and then turning into two sisters in the end. And now divide what you got in half since apart from gender differences it seems that there are also creative differences between the otherwise close siblings and that’s why we currently have only one of the Wachowski siblings directing … as many times as I read or write the latter, it always sounds weird but it is what it is. In any case, the maths got a bit complicated again but from all the calculations so far at least a couple of things should have become clear – the variable is “The Matrix”, of course, and the result from all these arithmetic operations is its new sequel/reboot which downgrades the level of its origin quite a lot.

“The Matrix Resurrections” aims to be a contemporary reading of the cult idea about the blue and the red pill, relying not so much on updated concepts and trendy technologies like the video games as a means of socializing but on old glory and already known and established characters and heroes such as Neo and Trinity. Don’t get me wrong, the return of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss is the best thing that could have happened to the movie and perhaps they’re the two things that will attract 99% of the audience back into the movie salon, if we don’t count the title. The problem is that if we exclude them, everything else is just not right. Wachowski’s production is yet another endeavour towards rewriting and reviving the story of a classic and maybe not that obsolete franchise which is targeting the younger audience who are just getting to know the franchise, as well as trying to integrate and pass the baton to the younger generation of actors who are unfortunately unconvincing compared to their more experienced colleagues.

The truth is that in their experiments to create something modern and original but relying on already known to the audience concepts, Warner Bros. have given green light to the creation of something which among the fans is also popular as “same old, same old”. The undying screen love between Neo and Trinity and the chemistry between them which hasn’t changed at all even 20 years later are carrying the movie on their shoulders and it’s rather obvious because every other scene is deprived of any emotion. Jessica Henwick, Nick Jonas’ wife and NPH save things to some extent for the newcomers, bringing in some signs of life, but the others don’t even deserve any comments. And yes, I’m saying it – the attempts to re-introduce and reincarnate Morpheus and Agent Smith were simply tragic. I appreciate the dedication of Jonathan Groff to fit in the role of the relentless artificial intelligence and the charisma of Yahya Abdul-Mateen The Second as the notorious hacker but to be fair, the short nostalgic cuts with scenes with Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving were more than enough and everything else were pathetic tries to bring back to life characters which shouldn’t have been touched in the first place.

If we didn’t have any references like the famous “blue pill or red pill”, the movie could have easily been the beginning of an entirely new, different and completely independent franchise which had its own face.

The interesting thing is that for a movie from 2021 and especially under Wachowski’s directing we would expect the effects and the sci-fi tone to be the strongest part of the movie (excluding the plot which we already discussed). This is not the case, however – the aliens and the futuristic technologies in general looked the exact same way they have before 22 years and the fighting sequences were quite chaotic. The cinematography was mediocre at best on all paragraphs and the camera kept on playing around the heroes, not allowing the viewers to properly comprehend what’s happening on the screen, especially in the hand-to-hand combat. If it wasn’t the modernization of the old way of escaping the Matrix with a stationary phone/cabin I would have thought that the understanding and the scientific achievements in the last 20 years haven’t really changed or improved a lot. From the musical surrounding I also expected more and it should tell you enough what the soundtrack is when you know that the final song is a cover of Rage Against The Machine’s original song from the previous entries.

If I have to sum up all that’s been said so far, “The Matrix Resurrections” asks and answers a few important questions: Was it necessary? No. Was it worth it? Somewhat. Do we need a new part? Definitely not. What bothers me though is that, by the looks of it, the frachise will follow in the “Star Wars” footsteps and we all know what the last trilogy there happened to be. The problem both there and here is that the trending in recent times reboots/remakes/restarts/sequels/whatever else you might think of depend a lot on the original material and its strongest aspects without building on top of it or giving the viewers something more or at least a solid basis to make us say “Oh, yeah, this movie was worth it”. It’s a well-known fact that Keanu Reeves is widely loved and respected (even after Cyberpunk 2007’s failure, although it wasn’t really his fault) and that we will watch “John Wick 4” only because of him (as redundant as it is, in a franchise that tells the same story every time) but honestly I personally hope that he will come to his senses and even if he comes back for a potential fifth part (as it might be suggested by the movie’s open ending), it will be the last one for his good and maybe for that of his most famous character. Or if he still wants to be a part of the Matrix universe, then let’s hope that he will at least direct his and his team’s efforts towards a full quality videogame which we all want. As an example, the tech demo of Unreal Engine 5 with his participation – The Matrix Awakens, was simply phenomenal.

And since lately it always happens that I finish with some sort of a saying, I’ll allow myself to use another one here as well – people have said that everything new is well forgotten old and this is where the problem with movies such as “The Matrix Resurrections” stems from. The fourth part about Neo is “more of the same” in all aspects compared to the original source but unfortunately worse in most of them (i.e. we exclude from this statement mainly the cast’s work and particularly that of the main acting characters). The movie is watchable and can even be intriguing for those who are not familiar with its subject but in the end it ends up being quite mediocre and if Warner Bros. and the Wachowskis keep working in the same spirit then we as viewers really have to consider whether it’s not high time to stop taking the blue pill they’re supplying us with.

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