Glitch Aesthetic – The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Remakes, reboots, sequels, and reimaginings are par for the course in Hollywood right now. There has been at least one major studio release in all of those categories for the several release weeks. What that has done to cinema is a conversation for another time, but we work with what we’ve got. Reactions to this latest franchise entry have landed all over the spectrum, but that was to be expected in a space where it was never going to replicate the impact of the original. The Matrix Resurrections finds its own narrower space within the franchise by holding a mirror to its own existence and still providing everything you’ve come to expect from the series.

This sequel to the original three films picks up well down the line and finds Neo struggling to discern between whether or not his experiences in the prior films were real or just an elaborate psychosis. As he pulls at that thread (again), his existence begins to spiral out of control until he’s confronted by his past. While it retraces the steps of its predecessors, it does find some things left along the trail from the first time through.

Lana Wachowski was back in the proverbial driver’s seat calling the shots

Lana Wachowski returned to the franchise and doesn’t pull any punches with the “meta” approach. Her screenplay, written with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, dives right into the deep end of the self-awareness pool taking aim at the studio and the franchise’s own history as a piece of pop culture to be milked for all its worth at the expense of any remaining artistic integrity. It’s actually pretty bold and designed to be humorous in a way that the other films aren’t, so I can see that may have been offputting to people who weren’t expecting it but it works, especially well, if you aren’t holding rigid expectations. 

I had already watched the original trilogy multiple times over the years and still like the second and third films more than most, so I was pretty familiar with the material, but I decided to watch them all again, in order, before seeing the newest installment. It gave me an appreciation for Resurrections that a lot of pedantic “fans” haven’t seemed to have. I appreciated that this approach went inward to work with what was already there, rather than reaching for something beyond its grasp, and the humor worked well for me specifically because it’s so much different than its predecessors. 

Reeves and Moss felt closer here than in any of the previous films.

Keanu Reeves Reeves reprised his role but it’s a pretty different character than what we’ve seen despite it still being the same character. I could see that maybe being offputting for some. However, he plays it well, and watching him face the possibility that his whole life experience is a hallucination mirrored his journey from the original. Carrie-Anne Moss also reprised her role and their chemistry was much better than in any of the previous films. I think the parallels between them reuniting in the story and as actors in the franchise carried over on-screen. The original trilogy sort of glossed over their love story as a plot beat and the chemistry wasn’t there when it needed to be down the stretch of the final two films, which is a part of why those were generally not as well-received. This time, we get to actually pull for them to reunite and that does more for their chemistry than some sweaty cave sex. Is it a little cheesy and corny? Of course! It’s the Matrix after all.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was a nice addition to the franchise as the new Morpheus, and Jessica Henwick was a similarly nice addition, as Bugs. I was probably a little unreasonably excited to see Jonathan Groff (because I love Hamilton) take on a very critical role, but I liked what he did. Neil Patrick Harris has a bigger part than the trailers suggest, but he pulls from his character in How I Met Your Mother and it works pretty well too. 

As you would expect from a Matrix movie, the action is still very much a part of the story and there are plenty of guns and slow-mo to go around. The VFX are cleaner but the fight-choreography is more limited physically. Overall, the action is still spectacular in the way you would expect and plays a sizable role in the storytelling.

Recommendation: I can see both sides of the equation for those who liked it and those who loathed it, but I enjoyed it plenty. Don’t go in with any expectations, embrace the comedy, and you’ll be ok. 

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