Fail once, try again. Fail twice, you deserve my wrath. In an attempt to atone for the third Matrix movie, a tepid and anticlimactic picture assimilated by cheesy philosophizing and bad special effects, Lana Wachowski (sans Lilly) somehow managed to make a fourth one that is ten times worse, a sad, empty vessel of an action movie that lacks the boldness, exciting action, and purpose the original trilogy delivered.
We can all agree, statistically, that The Matrix is by far the best of the bunch, followed by Reloaded—which despite poor writing and some silliness boasted some incredible action sequences. The majority of people would say the third one sucks, for reasons they don’t entirely remember because very few people ever go back and watch that travesty.
With The Matrix Resurrections, the hope was that somehow, someway, Wachowski would rekindle the magic of that first film, focusing more on the action and characters than politics and mythology that led the trilogy to its ho-hum conclusion (if you don’t recall, instead of defeating the machines, Neo sacrifices himself for a peace agreement… or something like that).
Instead she double downs and delivers an incredibly boring, slow, poorly written and largely incomprehensible action film without a single good action scene.
Within the first 30 seconds something feels amiss. The writing and dialogue is as bad as from the sequels, and it feels like you’re watching a fan film remake of The Matrix. We finally get to Keanu Reeves, who looks as confused as the rest of us as to why he is back in the Matrix or why anyone showed up to watch him (sadly, he doesn’t get much better, failing to deliver the awkward yet confident energy you expect from the action star). Then one of the characters starts referencing The Matrix and Warner Bros. and how they want a fourth entry following the original trilogy, and whoa this has gotten way to meta. It’s terrible.
After a lot of talking and nothing happening, 50 minutes into this two-and-a-half hour disaster (I know because I checked the time for the first of many times), something happens where you expect things to kick into gear. There is a tiny bit of unimaginative action and then more talking happens, highlighted by a 20-minute stretch involving Jada Pinkett Smith in questionable old woman makeup that literally could have been cut from the movie without any effect to the plot.
Wachowski, decades after the original, appears to have completely forgot why people loved The Matrix in the first place. Gone is the creativity, the energy, the forward momentum. The desire to deliver cutting edge action (even the third one, though it ultimately failed, tried to do something new or at least breathtaking) is nowhere to be seen.
The casting is terrible too. Neo and Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) aside, some other returning characters have been recast, seemingly intentional but extremely awkwardly. Yahya Abdul-Mateen is absolutely terrible as a flamboyant version of Morpheus, though how much of it is his fault versus the writing is up for debate. And the reimagining of Agent Smith is confounding, primarily because the actor doesn’t even act or behave like Neo’s arch nemesis. It’s offputting and not flattering; again, The Matrix Resurrections feels like a fan film that couldn’t afford action scenes.
The movie also lacks a solid villain, despite having two to choose from. The decision to have both villains “talk hip” was a poor, poor, poor mistake that even God won’t forgive. The Big Man would say the baddies are some of the worst written antagonists put to film in quite some time.
The ending too is quite awful, in part because The Matrix Resurrections doesn’t have a real reason for being or any real semblance of an end goal the audience can comprehend. The final ten minutes, when Wachowski pulls a random feminist twist out of her sleeve, is eye-rollingly bad.
The Matrix Resurrections is an action movie without good action, or without much action at all. It’s boring and tedious and pointless. It’s stupid and confusing and overtly complex. It’s a bad, bad, bad movie, and not in a sexy way. This is a travesty of filmmaking, a stunning disappointment to cap off the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.