“Maybe this isn’t the story we think it is.”
Story: You remember Neo, right? The One? Well, it’s been twenty years since Neo sacrificed himself for the good of humanity. And he’s a game developer whose weekly appointments with this therapist make him just regular folks. But wait – didn’t he die? And what is this, if not the Matrix itself? And who are these new rebels? WHOA.
Genre I’d put it in: Mind Boggling Sequels
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: The fourth film of the Matrix series. Also takes in bits of the Animatrix series and the Matrix video games.
Gotta say: To say I’m a casual fan of the Matrix movies is an understatement. I saw – and loved – the first film. Watched the second in theaters and thought “oh, okay.” And the third? I can’t remember watching the third, but I’m sure I did. But bear in mind that I find William Gibson’s writing amazing, but beyond my grasp. You’re dealing with a luddite here. That said, I absolutely love the world building and mythology the Wachowski’s brought to life. It’s fully fleshed (pun not intended but hey), deeply immersive, and completely believable. So what’s my childhood trauma? There’s a whole lot going on, and just when you think things are wrapped up, a new wrench gets thrown in. I’m not a fan of “but wait, there’s more!” plotlines that seem to come out of nowhere. Looking at you, Wheel of Time Book series; that’s why I quit at book nine. (But not you, Amazon series. Nothing but love, honey.)
Resurrections is kind of a mess. I’d go so far as to say that if you’re not a die-hard fan that is well versed in all the lore? You’ll be lost. I was lost. There are characters that enter the story, and I’m guessing I was supposed to go OOOOOH, but instead I had no idea who that was, or why I should care. I didn’t know, because the character has changed a bit since the last time we’d seen them. I didn’t know why I should care, because it was a pop-in/pop-out that felt more like fan service than anything else. I only knew that character was who they were because another character used their name. So it’s either fan service, or something worse; a tidbit for the next film in a new trilogy. Which, if this film’s lack of coherency is any indication, would not be a good idea.
Why not? Well, as much as Lana Wachowski’s big brain is amazing at coming up with sci-fi concepts and ground-breaking mythos, Resurrections feels like it needed her sister Lilly to balance out the frenetic energy Lana brings to this film’s table. Of course, both siblings brought us Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, so perhaps that wouldn’t be the panacea I’m thinking it’d be. But at least Ascending was Grade-A bombast of the campiest order; Resurrections is a watch-checking two and a half hours of beautiful shots, signifying nothing.
Okay, that was mean. Resurrections does signify a turning point in Neo’s story, and if the film wasn’t so busy making sure you remembered the original films, I’d have been interested in seeing how things have changed in this universe. Especially as there are new characters that I was very interested in learning more about, especially why they’d joined the resistance, and how they did it…but nope. We get these new characters, and the interact with our trusty OG crew, but it all feels like background noise to the clips from prior films, and the time ticking until a character we know suddenly does something we’d seen before. Maybe I’m just not the audience for this film, or maybe this film relies way too much on what’s come before for any casual viewer to truly become invested in anything beyond Wow That’s Cool.
And believe me, this movie is indeed cool. Lana knows how to shoot a scene, and some of her camera choices are absolutely incredible. There’s a particular shot where a helicopter is absolutely raining bullets, and we watch the shell casings fall from an angle I’m shocked I’d never seen in a film before. Bravo, girl. And of course the creatures and action sequences have great CGI. Nothing ground-breaking like the original film, but breathtaking nonetheless. I even liked how a few things we’d seen in prior films were turned on their head, something that you’d expect from an advance in the story’s timeline. And do pay attention to reflections in mirrors; no spoilers, just an FYI.
Speaking of spoilers, I can’t get too much into performances by individual actors without letting things slip. But I can say that Keanu is wonderful here, Jessica Nenwick’s Bugs is a character I’m officially a big fan of, and Jonathan Groff lets his action flag fly and it’s fantastic. Everyone else is part of the vast ensemble, and though everyone is bringing their A game – no, their A+ game – many fade into the background under the sheer weight of other characters and the many moments of “hey, remember this” cutaways. Special shout-out to everyone’s favorite black cat, Deja-Vu. I want a movie about him/her, and I want it, stat.
Tl;dr? Resurrections will most likely whet the appetites of hardcore Matrix fans, because it’s got everything you want. Callbacks, an expanded universe that has been developed well, and plenty of boom boom pow. But if you’re a casual viewer/newbie/fan from the 90s who barely remembers what was going on? It’s messy, convoluted, and overlong. So yeah, if you’re in the mood for a messy, beautiful film that harks back to old times while doing very little with the new bits a story teases out? You’ve found your nirvana. Whoa.
#Protip: Stay through the end credits for a little tidbit that has nothing to do with the story proper, but is just a bit of fun.