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MOVIES: The Matrix Resurrections - Review

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There was a time in action cinema before Lana and Lilly Wachawoski’s genre-defining The Matrix, and there was a time after. The original film redefined an entire genre, creating a whole new legacy that has been used for both good and for ill. The Matrix Resurrections is aware of the rich tapestry of history surrounding the iconic actioneer, and plays into that, creating a meta-environment that acts as a commentary on the state of reboots, remakes and legacy sequels – to the point where even Warner Brothers is mentioned. Not a direct retread, this film instead casts Thomas Anderson as a game designer behind the legendary Matrix game, so iconic in its own world – and gives him the tools that he needs to build his own fantasy. Because fantasy, it seems – is so much more entrancing and hard to escape from than reality.

Weaponised nostalgia plays a big part in The Matrix Resurrections. There’s nothing that comes close to matching the iconic bullet-time action sequences in the first one – but again, Lana is aware of that. They’re aware of the legacy-sequels, they’re aware of the philosophical nature of the first one – the early twenty minutes is basically a summary that address all the major discourse surrounding the first film, as Thomas is pulled back deeper and deeper into the world of the Matrix – with uncanny editing that mixes the old with the new, older footage blends in seamlessly with the modern day environment, recreated as though it was a perfect computer code. The film itself is a visual treat in its own right – DOPs John Toll and Daniele Massaccesi make The Matrix Resurrections a visual treat, eye-poppingly spectacular with enough heart to carry the franchise. Both worlds outside and within the Matrix have their own unique feel and the tone and despair of the dystopian future is presented here with gripping attention to detail.

The film understands the Trinity and Neo relationship better than few others – it has been a core at the heart of the franchise and the single constant of the trilogy. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss recognise this and their chemistry has not lost one bit of its magnetic appeal, which instantly makes up for the bland, sexless major blockbusters that are a dime a dozen. The whole thing has just about more personality than a good portion of films released in the last ten years – it’s unmistakably a Lana Wachowski film and all the better for it, her vision is audaciously bold, even the first twenty minutes, decried for underwhelming editing, feel intentional – the sped-up, hyper fast cutting a commentary on modern day blockbusters. The film is way too on the nose for it not to be – Thomas’ bosses are literally Warner Brothers, and they are the ones who want him to make – at great personal cost – The Matrix 4, which would see him return to his life when he was younger.

There’s a series of people sat around a stereotypical tech office making jokes about Bullet Time being the thing everyone remembers about The Matrix, weaponised nostalgia is decided as the main way to keep the inhabitants of The Matrix under control, but perhaps most importantly, The Matrix Resurrections makes it abundantly clear that the franchise is seen as an allegory for trans identity – correctly, by Lana herself. This, thankfully – is all about reclaiming the narrative – the wonderful cast is inclusive, naturally so and the themes are as welcoming as possible – so many people are going to hate the direction that The Matrix Resurrections goes in – especially Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump, who were both told to get fucked by Lana on twitter. It reclaims the red pill from the far-right – in a world where the red pill/blue pill meme that has often been adopted against the creators’ wishes. This film is Lana saying how she wants The Matrix as a whole to be viewed (if it wasn’t clear enough already); much of the struggle is centred around Trinity’s choice, and in this film, it’s all about Trinity. Although Neo is our way into The Matrix Resurrections, Trinity is its beating heart – with Carrie-Anne Moss excelling from the returning cast.

As from the new, they are all stellar additions. Sense8 fans will absolutely love this reunion and spot a few familiar faces, but the film does not ignore its stars that aren't just Trinity and Neo. The new Morpheus as well, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II - is a highlight, as expected from an actor with a career like his. He owns every scene he’s in, and gets a significant portion of the narrative dedicated to his origins whilst fully aware of his new status. In an age where so many movies now have character arcs for maybe the lead and one other at best, The Matrix Resurrections makes the choice that every character matters, and it doesn’t feel bloated and never once feels its 148-minute runtime. But the true star of the film is Jessica Henwick, as Bugs, who we first meet eavesdropping on a recreation of the first scene of The Matrix that plays out a little differently from what you remember. Henwick has charisma to spare and then some – feeling like she always belonged in that world.

If Spider-Man: No Way Home was a film that tried to have its cake and eat it too, an endless fan-service nostalgia-fest with underwhelming narrative and a lack of any heart being the quintessential example of a theme-park ride blockbuster with the same amount of artistic licence as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that follows one safe bet after the other in a way that takes next to no risks for a comforting crowd-pleasing experience, this is the opposite. In fact, the very film asks the question: is it possible to blend both art and commerce? - which No Way Home did not. The Matrix Resurrections is a true example of what independent, bold, audacious, and truly risk-taking movie franchise cinema looks like. Nothing is played safe; nothing is taken for granted – this is not the movie that you think it’s going to be and it’s all the better for it - go in with an open mind and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Matrix Resurrections is playing in cinemas now.

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