Few movie fans would deny that 1999’s The Matrix was a game-changer.
Back then, this uber-stylish, martial arts-infused sci-fi mash up looked like nothing else that had gone before. It introduced the innovative ‘bullet-time’ technique and had its followers feverishly discussing what it might all mean. But then of course, its success meant that in 2003 there were a couple of over-elaborate sequels – Reloaded and Revolutions – which seemed to take the whole idea a bit too seriously for comfort. Over the intervening years, it seemed increasingly unlikely that the concept would ever justify another reboot, but nevertheless, here it is, with just one of the Wachowski siblings (Lana) at the helm. So what’s left to say?
As if to demonstrate that the filmmakers mean business, Resurrections kicks off with a lavishly mounted action sequence, where characters we haven’t met before observe others, who resemble ones we already know. A confusing fight scene ensues, guns fire, people run up walls and vehicles dutifully explode, while the protagonists mumble things that might mean something to me if I’d only watched the three previous films recently… but it’s been years, and the mutterings mean zilch.
Then the plot kicks in and things don’t really get any better.
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is an award-winning designer of a video game called The Matrix. A fellow worker grumbles that ‘Warner Brothers’ are keen for Thomas to produce a sequel, but he’s not sure that’s a good idea. (See, we’re really going meta here!) Thomas has other things on his mind. In a coffee shop he visits regularly, he’s started noticing a woman called Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), who looks uncannily like his old flame Trinity. Hmm. The names are similar. Could she still be alive, despite having died in an earlier film? Thomas’s analyst (played by Neil Patrick Harris) assures him that he’s just getting mixed up between what’s real and those crazy video games he creates. But Thomas can’t help but wonder. Is his ‘reality’ real … or just another cunningly crafted construct of The Matrix?
Take a wild guess.
For all of its attempts at ‘nod-wink-cleverness,’ Resurrections feels like it’s trying to be a greatest hits package, only – where the original was fleet-footed and powered by its own internal logic – this just feels bloated and, for the most part, incoherent. Still, familiar scenes keep popping up with annoying regularity. Red pill, green pill? Tick! A reprise of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit? You got it! Morpheus (this time played by Yaha Abdul -Mateen II) crossing his arms and firing two automatic weapons simultaneously? It’s right there, baby!
But where the original was nimble, Resurrections feels lumbering and confused. It’s really coming to something when you can’t follow a simple punch-up without wanting to rewind it for a second look. Reeves stumbles through this mess looking bewildered. Perhaps he’s wondering why this isn’t another John Wick movie. He’s not helped by brief cutaways to the original film, where he looks more awake and like he actually knows what’s happening to him.
And then in comes Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, who, being older – and therefore supposedly wiser – than most of the other characters, speaks like a collection of audible fridge magnets. At which point I kind of give up on trying to follow the ridiculously complicated storyline. I think it basically comes down to everyone trying to reunite Thomas with Trinity, whilst destroying an awful lot of vehicles and buildings in the process. And it’s important for them to be together again, because… nope, sorry. Must have missed that.
The simple truth is that The Matrix was a smart little movie that never needed to be remade, reloaded, rebooted or – as is clearly the case here – reheated. The film runs for a formidable two hours and thirty- five minutes, but trust me, it feels much, much longer than that.