When I saw the first official assets of The Matrix Resurrections, my main fear was that it'd become a bad parody of what the original trilogy was, or that it'd end up being just like a longer, more expensive Sense8 episode. These two foresights have become true, at least partly, but not always in the worst sense.
Lana Wachowski is totally aware, from the first minute of the footage, that she wants to do an auto-referential flick. But not like a reboot or a remake, but in a very peculiar way, with an ingenuous device that's used at several levels. Firstly, it places Thomas "Tom" A. Anderson in a world, and with a job, that gives free rein to his psychiatric conflict. Without spoiling the key here, let's say that the programmer of this nowadays is much closer to gaming, and that that idea allows the director to blatantly throw in pictures from the original movie as if they were memories from the characters... or from the fans themselves.
This insolence with auto-reference dilutes the risk of a cheap rehash in a nice way. Each shot that has been copied (and there are a ton), every nod that the fans will want to catch, and allow me my own pun, is there with purpose. Besides, it turns out that one of the things that work in The Matrix Resurrections, more so during its first half, is its sense of humour. Keanu Reeves's performance, one of the more colourful in his career, dealing with his apparent craziness, helps the collection of jokes about those old movies, their characters, and what they meant, cause more grins than eyebrows raises.
Thus, we go from the western combined with a kung-fu movie to a pseudo-romantic comedy or drama interwoven with action sequences, all bringing to the table two or three topics to reflect about. Some come evolved from the originals (control, illusion, choice), while others are based on today's society (connection, perception of oneself, conformism, metaverse), all presented with Wachowski's trademark, but more the recent than the old one.
This is an ad:
What does that mean? That dialogue grows beyond those monosyllables that would feel archaic today, that there's less abuse of slow-mo and too-literal martial art moves, in search of more fluidity or brutality, or that colours fill the screen at any given moment. In fact, all the photography 'tastes' like Sense8, which is just natural as it shares parts of its cast and crew.
But also from that style come a few silly moments, some almost-pathetic, badly-executed sequences, and I'm not talking about bad jokes precisely. I do really love that Resurrections opted for not taking the heart of the matter too seriously, don't get me wrong, but the elaboration of certain parts does demand a more serious finish... and at times, again, purpose. In this sense, there are two or three portions that could have been cut out completely or that feel too long, and among the former there are a couple of the more forced cameos.
On the other hand, the way in which Resurrections continues the story some time after the events of Revolutions isn't really bad at all. Again while avoiding spoilers, there are a bunch of decent devices from a narrative point of view, which lead to certain revelations that feel almost brilliant or exciting, but that always stays at "almost". Those who love to explore the science-fiction lore will find material here of different qualities, from nice inventions and answers (I loved the Neologists movement or what's going on among the machines) to plot holes and filler fantasy (like most of the gizmos).
Perhaps this potpourri would've left a better taste in the mouth with an ending note as high as The Matrix or Reloaded, but the final stretch of the roll, mostly due to its action sequences, do more bad than good to the whole, even though it's when the love story tries to peak. The parallel montage that Wachowski has done so many times before doesn't really click here, to the point of breaking a pace that was struggling already. And while the plot tries hard to find freshness in the final outcomes, it's a pity that it doesn't get the spectator to care much.
This is an ad:
Lana Wachowski is honest and humble, while adventurous at the same time, when it comes to paying tribute to the work that changed her and her team's life, and that left a mark in a whole generation. The structure and proposal of Matrix Resurrections even surprise in how they use the source material, but this so different fan service isn't enough to hold the more insignificant humanist story, the lack of background, the loss of comedy, or the irregular action sequences. And the same happens to the good roles played by Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Keanu Reeves or Jessica "Bugs" Henwick, compared to the rest of the cast, who go downwards. That being said, I'd recommend every Matrix fan watch Resurrections now or when it lands on HBO Max, even if it's just to enjoy that interesting core device, or to see how the fiction progresses in the timeline to provide an epilogue that feels both familiar but quite different in its tones.