Review Roundup: Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections

Critics respond the return of Neo.
The Matrix Resurrections - Lana Wachowski

It’s impossible to overstate the groundbreaking effect that the first Matrix movie had when it arrived in theaters all the way back in 1999. Starring Keanu Reeves as a hacker named Neo who makes some disturbing discoveries about the nature of reality, The Matrix blended cyberpunk sci-fi, Asian cinema-inspired action, ultra-cool fashion, and nascent fears about technology into a slick package that felt countercultural and dangerous even as it cleaned up at the box office.

Jump ahead a couple of decades — and a couple of increasingly underwhelming sequels — and Neo is back for The Matrix Resurrections. Does the fourth Matrix movie recapture the original’s magic? Or is it just a rehash of tricks that, thanks to endless films and TV shows ripping off the Matrix’s style, feels like something we’ve already seen a thousand times before?

Nick Allen, “The weakest and most compromised Matrix film yet”

Expositional philosophizing is also a part of the Matrix experience, and there’s a great line here from one of the film’s villains about fear and desire being the two human modes (you can practically imagine the line scribbled in Wachowski’s notebook). But these wordy passages also conceal the movie trying to move the goal posts, that the rules of the Matrix can change however its saga about cyber messiahs needs it to keep making sequels. And while the apocalyptic, real world action has always been less exciting than the stylized anarchy up in the Matrix, that gap of intrigue is felt even more here.

Robert Daniels, “A powerful love story allows Lana Wachowski’s meta sequel to fly”

Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections isn’t without rough patches. The director carries the metatextual jokes too far. For a large swath of time, the narrative feels aimless. New characters aren’t wholly fleshed out. Returning figures become superfluous after their initial use wanes. The soundtrack lacks memorable needle drops and the score verges on repetitive. But the bones of what makes a great Matrix movie: Neo and Trinity — are as strong as ever. It’s that timeless romance that makes The Matrix Resurrections a vivid and boundless new beginning.

David Ehrlich, “The rare blockbuster that dares to ask what else might be on the menu”

It’s the boldest and most vividly human franchise sequel since The Last Jedi (if also messier and more postmodern than Rian Johnson’s miraculous addition to the Star Wars canon). It will likely prove the most divisive as well. Doubling down on the Alice in Wonderland spirit of its franchise, The Matrix Resurrections is a movie that will only appeal to fans interested in seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes; anyone simply looking for more Matrix isn’t just shit out of luck, they’re in for an experience that will toy with their expectations for more than two hours without fulfilling a single one of them.

Amelia Emberwing, “Maybe we shouldn’t have followed the white rabbit”

I’d go so far as to say that The Matrix Resurrections is made up almost entirely of good ideas. The problem is that it’s not a good movie. It’s a bunch of individually neat ideas stacked in a trench coat like a bunch of kids trying to buy a ticket to an R-rated film. Cleverness is met with laughably bad execution at nearly every turn here.

J Hurtado, “An acutely meta evolution of the paradigm shattering classic”

Equally confounding and creative, The Matrix Resurrections is maybe not the sequel we wanted, but it may be the sequel we deserve. Reeves and Moss still have palpable chemistry on screen, and Wachowski is in complete command of her universe, enough so that she seems to feel comfortable twiddling the knobs a bit in a way that might make series stalwarts just uncomfortable enough to make it interesting. It’s a wild ride, and a worthy addition to a series to which so many feel an immense affinity. Just like the original trilogy, those who enter with an open mind may just see it expanded, but attempt to confront it with your own preconceptions and you may not understand what you’re in for.

Germain Lussier, “The Matrix sequel you’ve always wanted”

It’s clever and smart, with entertaining action and wonderful visual effects. Basically, everything you could want from a Matrix sequel to the point where I walked out of the theater with that “I just saw a great movie” buzz. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a masterpiece like the original film. There are knocks against it to be sure. But, for the most part, The Matrix Resurrections is both the Matrix sequel fans have been waiting for, and also one they never knew they’d needed.

Scott Mendelson, “A fascinatingly off-beat and unconventional bit of big-budget franchise filmmaking”

It’s a legacy sequel, but one less concerned with restarting a dormant IP than with coming to terms with the original trilogy’s complicated legacy. That includes, in ways both subtle and yellow highlighter-obvious, how the franchise was appropriated post-release, how the previous two films were received, and a current Hollywood status quo where audiences would rather watch another Matrix than discover “the next Matrix.” It’s less an epic action-adventure film and more a glorified romantic comedy, a low-stakes romp where yesterday’s heroes know that the world can no longer be saved but just want to spend what time they have with those who matter most.

Katie Rife, “More self-referential than innovative”

Like the latter-day Star Wars films, Resurrections is at its weakest when it kowtows to conventional wisdom about what audiences want from a sequel. Wachowski brings some inspired visual touches to the film, like the lines of code that crawl like ants along the edges of windowpanes in the simulation. But these are in constant tension with the dopey callbacks and tortured exposition dumps.

Joshua Rivera, “The Matrix Resurrections is about doing the impossible”

On a very basic level, it’s about the insurmountable and inherently cynical task of making a follow-up to the Matrix trilogy, one that breaks technical and narrative ground the way the first film did. On a thematic one, it’s an agitprop romance, one of the most effective mass media diagnoses of the current moment that finds countless things to be angry about, and proposes fighting them all with radical, reckless love. On top of all that, it is also a kick-ass work of sci-fi action — propulsive, gorgeous, and yet still intimate — that revisits the familiar to show audiences something very new.

Richard Roeper, “Frustrates as often as it thrills”

[T]he fourth pill in the Matrix franchise is equal parts dizzying, exciting, frustrating and just a bit too consumed with giving us a meta version of itself to make for a satisfying viewing experience. It’s cool to witness the return of Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity (among other returning characters) and there are intermittent reminders of why the Matrix trilogy left such a profound footprint on the popular culture some 20 years ago — but the plot line of The Matrix Resurrections actually undercuts some of the dramatic power of the original trilogy by telling us we shouldn’t have believed everything we experienced back then.

Emma Stefansky, “An exhilarating return to a great series”

To say that this movie feels simultaneously like returning to a home you’ve always known and traveling to a place you’ve never seen before would maybe scratch the surface of what it’s like to watch it. Lana Wachowski, directing solo this time around, has turned an already fantastic idea for a sequel into an often hilarious (and sometimes downright pissed-off) meta-commentary on the nature of IP-driven entertainment and on returning to places that once were familiar but have now evolved beyond anything you could have imagined.

Dana Stevens, “A movie interested in collapsing binaries”

At a hefty 148 minutes of running time, Matrix Resurrections (premiering simultaneously on Wednesday both in theaters and on HBO Max) may not be the most crowd-pleasing franchise sequel to be released this season. Wachowski, co-writing the script with novelists Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell, burrows into the lore of a highly specific sci-fi universe that many audiences may barely recall from nearly two decades ago. But one thing this fourth chapter can’t be accused of is failing to keep up with its times.

The Matrix Resurrections arrives in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22, 2021. Watch the trailer below.

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