Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The defining action film of the 90s, The Matrix, popularized slow-motion violence and cerebral sci-fi that dozens of movies afterward tried to replicate with little success. This iconic movie remains my favorite film from the Wachowskis, who have carved their own niche in out-of-the-box genre filmmaking. Now, more than twenty years after the original movie exploded into a bonafide pop culture phenomenon, The Matrix Resurrections is here! With leads Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) returning, despite dying in the concluding chapter of the trilogy, I was completely puzzled with how Lana Wachowski (who takes over the director’s chair alone this time around) would spin this new chapter. It turns out the answer is far more intriguing than just a simple continuation. Wachowski injects a heavy dose of heart, humor, and meta commentary on the franchise as a whole, making The Matrix Resurrections an extremely memorable new entry.

Thomas Anderson (Reeves) lives a relatively normal life as an acclaimed video-game designer. His Matrix trilogy is widely considered to be among the greatest games ever made, and now he is being forced into crafting The Matrix 4, lest the greedy Warner Bros. heads charge on, and make it without his input. Thomas snowballs ideas with creatives, including his business partner (Jonathan Groff), but something feels off. He cannot shake the sense of deja vu that emanates from everything in his daily life, down to the familiar-looking woman, Tiffany (Moss), he keeps spotting in the local coffee shop. How can Thomas break free from the monotony? The answer may lie in the choice between a red and blue pill…

From the second I saw the first trailer, I knew we were in for a vastly different brand of Matrix film than we have ever seen before. The Matrix Resurrections succeeds by asking the audience the tough questions—are they content merely to bask in the comfort of nostalgia, or do we crave a deeper meaning? There is a double-edged sword here; this film is virtually inaccessible to anyone without previous Matrix knowledge, yet it also accomplishes the impossible by only embracing the past when entirely necessary for the narrative. In the best way possible, The Matrix Resurrections is Wachowski’s New Nightmare. This film features Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, and Agent Smith, but none are as we remember them.

The Matrix Resurrections is incredibly difficult to discuss without going into heavy spoilers, but I found it to be satisfying on a level few late-entry franchise blockbusters can accomplish. This is not some quick cash grab, but a movie that has been meticulously thought out. The heart and emotion poured into Neo and Trinity’s relationship hits hard. The devotion to the characters, as well as maintaining a consistent storyline while delivering new material, is no easy juggling act. The film is deeply personal for a variety of reasons—primarily, Lana Wachowski uses this reunion as a means to cope with the death of her parents merely weeks apart from one another. Wachowski was aided by Sense8 collaborators David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon to forge new ground in this world. As a huge Sense8 fan, I happily spotted Brian J. Smith and Max Riemelt in key roles.

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss slide back into their legendary roles with ease. I absolutely adored the Neo/Trinity connection, and the way it plays out over the course of Resurrections. The new players are just as vital as the old ones. Iron Fist star Jessica Henwick scene-steals as new character Bugs, and Candyman’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is majestic perfection despite the massive shoes he has to fill. Jonathan Groff surprised me, but not because I underestimated him as a performer. Groff has neatly filled villainous roles in Hamilton and Glee, but The Matrix provides an entirely different type of sandbox to play in. Neil Patrick Harris is maybe the one performance that did not fully gel for me, though he does have his moments.

Back in 1999, the Matrix was described as “a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change humans into batteries.” How it functions beyond what appeared to be a peaceful conclusion in The Matrix Revolutions makes perfectly logical sense. The script itself enriches, critiques, and expands upon everything that came before it, with a fresh energy and perspective that only time away can bring. I have no doubt The Matrix Resurrections will prove to be sharply divisive—the focus is on character and story over excessive action sequences—but the legacy does honestly speak for itself. When the final act rolls around, all the pieces slide into place for an uproarious and energetic conclusion. If this is truly the last trip we ever take to the Matrix, I must applaud Lana Wachowski and everyone involved on a passionate, perplexing, and visually-stunning swan song.

The Matrix Resurrections is now playing in theaters everywhere, and streaming on HBO Max.

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